Workshop Lighting???

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Forum topic by Kevin Wells posted 05-17-2013 12:52 PM 3093 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Kevin Wells

28 posts in 1839 days

05-17-2013 12:52 PM

Topic tags/keywords: workshop lighting workshop

My workshop is also my 2 car garage. It has a fluorescent 4 tube fixture currently, which is in need of replacement. Other than that my only light source is either natural light from the windows or the single light bulb in the door opener. I am planning on replacing the one fluorescent fixture but was wondering what additional fixtures would be ideal? The space is 22’ x 23’. The one fixture is centered in the room. I have considered two more fluorescent fixtures (48” – 4 tube units) or possibly track lighting with each tool having its own track light. I also want to start shooting videos in here so I figure I need to increase lighting for that as well. What do you all suggest?

-- Kevin, Chuckin' Wood,

17 replies so far

View brtech's profile


1029 posts in 2923 days

#1 posted 05-17-2013 01:19 PM

I think 3 fixtures of 4×48” tubes is probably not adequate.

You might consider 6×2 tube 8’ HO arranged 3×2. Not sure track lights add a whole lot, and unless you used CFLs in them, they will be very inefficient. I’ve got 2 of those fixtures in my 2 car garage (which is not my workshop) and it’s surprisingly bright in there, although probably not enough for a shop. If I was you, I might actually buy 4 of them first and hang them temporarily and see if that was enough. The High Output bulbs put out a lot more light. Do think about the color temperature of the tubes, no matter what you use. There is a wide variety, and you can get a lot of different opinions on whether you want daylight or warm. Daylight tends to look “brighter” and, of course is more “natural”, but it doesn’t match what is usually used in home lighting. Depending on what you are building, it may be better to mimic the environment in which your work is used.

View helluvawreck's profile


31105 posts in 2867 days

#2 posted 05-17-2013 01:25 PM

I personally like fluorescent fixtures and would just stick with them. You just need more of them and place them properly. You can add to these dedicated work lights where needed. I would also get good fixtures. The cheaper ones are not well made in my opinion.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View RonInOhio's profile


721 posts in 2864 days

#3 posted 05-17-2013 03:07 PM

There are some good articles written on lighting and there is a science in determing how much you need. Of course there is no one size fits all because differing ceiling heights will play into how much lighting you need.

Temp color should be considered also. A high Kelvin value for temp color provides a softer light that is less prone to glare and shadows.

If you want to read an experts article on lighting. Read this . Jack Lindsey. Lighting the Small Workshop.

View Jackietreehorn's profile


150 posts in 1939 days

#4 posted 05-17-2013 05:39 PM

I’m running LEDs, but way expensive except I got them from my old work. This room is 18×12 and has four) two tube 4ft fixtures to give you an idea of light output. The LEDs are supposed to be close to t8 fluorescents, but not quite the same amount of output. So probably 8 led tubes equals 7 t8 fluorescent??? Having white walls and ceiling help too.
 photo IMG_6216_zpsd0bc0d22.jpg

This room is almost 10×10 with two fixtures

 photo IMG_5646.jpg


View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3309 days

#5 posted 05-17-2013 05:55 PM

I use fluorescent 4 ft tubes in my shop and notices an amazing difference/improvement when I switched to the daylight fluorescent tubes. Got them at Lowes. You might give them a try first…you should be pleasantly surprised…

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 1935 days

#6 posted 05-17-2013 11:13 PM

I have five 4-tube fixtures in my one car garage and I love it. Just like Greg, I bought the “daylight” bulbs and have been very pleased. I think lighting is one of those things that feels like a big waste of money when you are doing it, but is totally worth it in the end.

You might be able to score some cheap fixtures off of CL if you look a bit.

Good Luck

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

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Kevin Wells

28 posts in 1839 days

#7 posted 05-18-2013 02:54 AM

I didn’t realize there was a science to this. Actually before today I was quite dumb to the world of fluorescent fixtures. If I go by the formula in the article that Ron posted, I need 24 tubes (6 fixtures) which is close to one idea I had to place 5 fixtures.
@ Jackietreehorn, I love your bench / table saw / router setup. Great use of a small space!

Is there much difference in the light cast in whether or not the fixture is mounted to the ceiling or suspended via chains?

Will definitely look at the daylight bulbs. Thanks for all the great advice!

-- Kevin, Chuckin' Wood,

View RonInOhio's profile


721 posts in 2864 days

#8 posted 05-18-2013 03:24 AM

”Is there much difference in the light cast in whether or not the fixture is mounted to the ceiling or suspended via chains?”

@ Kevin

Light intensity varies inversely as the square of the distance from the source. If you move a light source 1/4 of the distance away from a worksurface, the light intensity on that work surface will decrease by more than 1/2.

Strip fixtures are designed to be mounted to a light colored ceiling. It is generally not recommended
to hang strip fixtures.They are designed to be mounted on a light colored ceiling.

If your ceilings are high enough or you have open joists, Industrial fixtures are recommended.
Industrial fixtures are equipped with reflectors to direct light downward.

Some industrial fixtures have apertures (slots) built into the reflector.
These slots serve several purposes.
They allow dust to move “through” the fixure and not settle on the fixture or bulb.
They air movement keeps the bulb and ballast compartment cleaner allowing the unit to operate at cooler temps which translates to longer life.
The slots also allow light to radiate upward towards the ceiling. This helps to eliminate the feeling of “working in a cave”

Enclosed fixtures like those with a lens and seen in offices are not recommended for a shop.

Source: Jack Lindsey's article.


Regarding your question about making videos. I notice most of the guys who have large followers of their video blogs, upgraded their shop lighting and supplement the shop lighting with photography lighting. Not sure all of that is necessary but its sort of their passion I guess.

View Holbs's profile (online now)


1870 posts in 2029 days

#9 posted 05-18-2013 03:36 AM

jackie… are those jigs on your wall? you have THAT many?

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter

View Knothead62's profile


2584 posts in 2961 days

#10 posted 05-18-2013 02:35 PM

Is your garage heated? Regular fluorescent bulbs take a while to warm up and reach full light. Mine take a while in winter. There are special bulbs that are for cold areas.

View Kevin Wells's profile

Kevin Wells

28 posts in 1839 days

#11 posted 05-18-2013 02:49 PM

My garage / shop is not heated but is well insulated. Being down south, even on our coldest days the temp in the garage never dropped below 35. Though, I do keep all my finishes and glues in a heated area during the winter, but I figure they are less tolerant to temp fluctuations.

-- Kevin, Chuckin' Wood,

View Jackietreehorn's profile


150 posts in 1939 days

#12 posted 05-20-2013 05:18 AM

@kevin, those bulbs I have are ~4100k for color. I believe they’re phasing out t12 style bulbs, t8’s are nice, but if you have the money t5’s are sweet. LEDs (at least the ones I have) have a 2&1/2 year r.o.i if they’re on for 24hrs a day so obviously for the homeowner it wouldn’t be feasible. If I were to re-do I’d go t5 in my opinion. I believe the t5 work in cold weather better than t8’s but by how much not sure, besides it doesn’t sound like the cold is too huge of a concern for you.

@holbs, I do a bit of custom car audio stuff so you never know when you need something to use as a radius or shape…


View Kevin Wells's profile

Kevin Wells

28 posts in 1839 days

#13 posted 06-19-2013 12:00 PM

Well, I installed two 48” T8 2-tube fixtures with plans of adding three more fixtures. I put Daylight bulbs in them. I have to say, “WOW” I can not believe the difference it has already made! Thank You to everyone. Your advice made a huge difference in my shop!


-- Kevin, Chuckin' Wood,

View smboudreaux's profile


51 posts in 2567 days

#14 posted 06-23-2013 02:06 AM

I feel more us better. My shop is 20×25. I have 7 4×48 4 build panels. Six over the main floor and one over my work benches. It may be a different situation. I was able to put all my lighting on a separate circuit

View Grandpa's profile


3259 posts in 2676 days

#15 posted 06-23-2013 03:07 AM

I get by with the regular bulbs in an unheated shop. I heat it when I am there but I I turn the lights on when I got to turn the heater on. The cold weather bulbs are some kind of expensive. special fixtures too. Then you are locked into the special bulbs. ??

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