Lighting and electrical for your workshop?

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Forum topic by AzChiefFan posted 04-24-2009 11:45 PM 11437 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View AzChiefFan's profile


19 posts in 3355 days

04-24-2009 11:45 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question tip

My question for everyone as I attempt to clear my garage and construct my workshop is what lighting and electrical setup do you recommend? My garage has one 60 watt lightbulb other than the light from the garage door opener and only one outlet. I was hoping you guys could help with any suggestions/recommendations or problems that should be avoided. I’m planning on doing finishing of projects as well so I know I will need to improve the lighting situation and add additional outlets. I would prefer to get an idea of what works best before setting up benches and any permanent fixtures that will get in the way.

The breaker box is right on the outside wall of the garage so not difficult at all from my understanding to do, but I have some questions. would it be best to run the electrical and lighting on a seperate circuit, how many outlets would you consider the minimum for a standard two car garage workshop, and what would be the best lighting to use?

I look forward to hearing your suggestions and comments and appreciate any helpful hints or problems to avoid that you have found in setting up your shops!


-- AzChiefFan "Measure Once, Curse Twice"

23 replies so far

View Woodchuck1957's profile


944 posts in 3792 days

#1 posted 04-24-2009 11:48 PM

Call an electrician.

View doncd37's profile


1 post in 3356 days

#2 posted 04-25-2009 12:17 AM

when i did my garage i put the lights on a seperrate circuits that way if you pop the braker to the outlet you still have lights to see with and for safty reasons to i have a 1 1/2 car garage and added 8 outlets 4 on each circuit but you would need to check your local codes first

-- Don Utah

View brunob's profile


2277 posts in 4197 days

#3 posted 04-25-2009 12:38 AM

I put outlets every four feet around the wall (I should have put more!). Every other one is on a separate circuit. I have two lighting circuits lighting 6 4’ fixtures. I also have two 220 outlets. Each on a separate circuit.

-- Bruce from Central New, if you'll pardon me, I have some sawdust to make.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18291 posts in 3704 days

#4 posted 04-25-2009 07:03 AM

Flourscent will be the most light for the buck. You’ll never have enough outlets no matter how many or where you put them. Use the existing circuit for your lights and add outlet circuits depending on the loads you anticipate.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View MedicKen's profile


1615 posts in 3490 days

#5 posted 04-25-2009 07:10 AM

I agree with Woodchuck on calling an electrician. Unless you are familiar with building and wiring codes for your area it is usually above the average person to add circuits. If you make a mistake you could cause a major problem that could affect the entire family and it may not be a positive experience. I would most definately call an expert.

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3508 days

#6 posted 04-27-2009 09:45 PM

My shop is 22 X 22, its a garage under my car garage. I put in a separate breaker box with 60 amp service coming from the main box in the garage upstairs. I installed two rows of 5 florescent light fixures in each row. They have two 48” bulbs in each fixture. I also have outlets on the walls about 6 ft apart. The outlets for 120 V are quads and I have a couple of double outlets with 220 V, one on each of the side walls. This has worked great. I also have work lights mounted on the drill press and bandsaw with a 60 watt bulb in them. I have put a retractable power cord in the ceiling so I can hook up hand tools in the middle of the shop without having power cords draped across the stationary equipment.

The shop lights are off of a breaker in the main box upstairs. No lights blink or dim when running the largest of the stationary equipment.

I like a bright shop, and I have been very happy with the way it turned out…its bright just like an operating room.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3756 days

#7 posted 04-27-2009 10:54 PM

it seems a popular way to do this is to have an electrician come in to install a subpanel on your exisitng breaker box and then wire out from there. I would add that if you aren’t already pretty sure of your overall plan, you probably should have an electrician come in. I know I wouldn’t be comfortable doing this stuff in my house. A fire in the place I live is just not worth the risk.

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3756 days

#8 posted 04-27-2009 10:57 PM

another thing. you can rarely run two tools on one standard 15 amp circuit without pushing the circuits limits. That means a DC + any other bench tool will probably pop the circuit. Also, if you have the lights on that circuit, it would be pretty bad if they went out in the middle of using your tools so another circuit sounds like a good idea there. again though, I’d talk it over with an electrician.

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3508 days

#9 posted 04-28-2009 12:11 AM

One thing I might add is that you should decide if you are working in the shop primarily alone, or will you have others working there at the same time. In most cases in a hobby shop its just one person, so you most likely would have only yourself, and on rare occasions, two people working at one time and because of this you dont have to go whole hog and put in tons of power.

Any outlet should always be 20 amp. 15 amp circuits are primarily for lighting, so plan to use at least 20 amp circuits. I can use my bandsaw and have the dust collector and air filter all running off 20 amp circuits and it runs fine off the 60 amp breaker box. The table saw is on 220 V and it’s on the same box.

If you are not familiar with electric work, like many have said, its best to have someone wire it for you. You should be fine though in a hobby shop with about a 60 amp box with plenty of 20 amp circuits (about 4 to a breaker) and a couple of 220s at 30 amps if you need them for large equipment like the table saw or stationary planer etc.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18291 posts in 3704 days

#10 posted 04-28-2009 12:15 AM

Any motor of 2 hp or more should be connected to 220.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Durnik150's profile


647 posts in 3349 days

#11 posted 05-03-2009 12:11 PM

The guy who owned my house before me had installed a breaker box in the garage. That was about the only good thing he did. To keep a short story short, he installed the breaker box on one circuit (15 amp) that ran off the main panel. It was like using a funnel upside down.
When I started get serious about woodwrecking, I started flipping breakers left and right. I was lucky enough to have a tax refund coming in at the time so called up a good electrician and had them add several outlets around the garage and bolster all of the circuits to 20 amps. The first thing he did was upgrade the breaker on the main panel so the garage would have enough current.
While I paid a chunk to have it done, it was very reassuring to have it done by a professional. If you are confindent in your abilities, go for it and save some cash. If not, call a pro.
As far as lighting goes, I’ve noticed that lighting is kind of like clamps, you can never have enough. I have three flourescent fixtures hanging from the ceiling of my 2-car garage and I still use task lighting at almost every work station I have. As my eyes get older I need more and more light to make sure I am working safe.

-- Behind the Bark is a lot of Heartwood----Charles, Centennial, CO

View a1Jim's profile


117126 posts in 3605 days

#12 posted 05-18-2009 04:00 AM

I have 4 outlet boxs every 3’ and 220 every 6’ the lights should be on there own breaker and if you can have a seperate service if your doing woodworking as a business. I have wired every shop I’ve every had and even if your new to wiring you will be fine as long as you pull a permit.The inspector should not let you do it wrong.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18291 posts in 3704 days

#13 posted 05-18-2009 04:07 AM

You’re right Jim, they shouldn’t. But I’ve known a number of inspectors that were not qualified to look, let alone do!! :-((

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Myron Wooley's profile

Myron Wooley

226 posts in 3924 days

#14 posted 05-18-2009 06:15 AM

When I rebuilt my shop, I went a little silly with the lighting and power. I wanted to get 100 ft candles of light everywhere, so I put three rows of three 4-tube commercial fixtures on the ceiling. They are on two separate circuits, so I can control the amount of light. One circuit is the corners and center, and the other powers the remaining fixtures.
For power, I have 5 20A circuits of 110v and 5 of 220v. I also have a dedicated 220v circuit for my Clearvue dust collector, and another one in the crawlspace under the shop for my compressor if I ever get one that big. There’s also an outlet in the ceiling for a cord reel.
Haven’t blown a breaker yet!

-- The days are long and the years are short...

View BethMartin's profile


111 posts in 3406 days

#15 posted 05-18-2009 05:54 PM

I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but around here the inspectors are very nice and helpful. I recently rewired our entire basement and added 5 new circuits. Here the inspectors will come out for a consultation before you start work and let you know what you have to do to keep it all to code. We can call them up during the project anytime and have them come out and answer questions – all covered under the price of the original permit. They always come the day after we call. It’s very handy and I learned so much. And then you have the peace of mind that it was all done right.

Good luck!

-- Beth

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