light blubs & safety

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Blog entry by woodsmith posted 03-04-2008 06:58 PM 1290 reads 0 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I read that the feds are going to ban the sale of incandescent light blubs in order to conserve energy. I have always heard it was not safe to have only fluorescent lighting around power tools. I have two questions.

1. Is it true?
2. If it is true what are we to do?

I have always had both fluorescent and incandescent in my shop.

-- woodsmith

20 comments so far

View Damian Penney's profile

Damian Penney

1141 posts in 3412 days

#1 posted 03-04-2008 07:26 PM

I found this information regarding tubes..

“It’s also important to note that fluorescent bulbs cast light in pulsating waves. When used in temperatures below 50-degrees F., this can cause an annoying “flickering” effect, especially in garage shops that are located in cold climates. In some instances, it’s also possible for these fluorescent light pulses to harmonize with the movement of power tool saw blades and distort their appearance. As a result, your eye receives an optical illusion that the blade is moving slower than it actually is…or that it’s even stopped. This effect is entirely possible…though unusual…and can be minimized by lighting areas with a minimum of TWO fluorescent tubes.”

Sounds like it’s pretty much a non-issue.

-- I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso

View Damian Penney's profile

Damian Penney

1141 posts in 3412 days

#2 posted 03-04-2008 07:28 PM

You could always just add a couple of LED lights to compliment the CFLs if you were still concerned.

-- I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso

View MrWoody's profile


315 posts in 3195 days

#3 posted 03-04-2008 07:36 PM

I have always been told to use incandescent lighting for the lathe and I always have but I don’t use the lathe a lot. Perhaps some of the people who use a lathe constantly could tell us if flourescent is alright to use.
The province of Ontario has announced a date when they will ban incancescent (2009 I think).
There are some exceptions such as flood lights and specialty bulbs.
This is a question I’ve been wondering about as well.
Thanks for asking.

-- If we learn from our mistakes, I'm getting a fantastic education.

View jeffthewoodwacker's profile


603 posts in 3225 days

#4 posted 03-04-2008 09:26 PM

I spend a lot of time at the lathe and have no problem with fluorscent lighting overhead. If I am turning off-center pieces I will put a piece of dark paper behind the lathe bed to see the “ghost” part of the turning

-- Those that say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

View woodsmith's profile


69 posts in 3213 days

#5 posted 03-04-2008 09:51 PM

Thanks lj’s for the info!
Damian- sounds like a long as you have more than on light source even if it is fluorescent you should be ok. I have five twin tube fluorescent shop lights and four 300w incandescent flood lights and one mercury-vapor light.

-- woodsmith

View ThreeJs's profile


84 posts in 3361 days

#6 posted 03-04-2008 09:51 PM

I use both compact fluorescent lighting (general area lighting), and tube fluorescent (over my workbench) in my garage shop, and have never had any issues. Maybe if is the fact that this equates to 5 bulbs, that I have not had any of the problems mentioned above.

-- David, Charlotte NC

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3809 posts in 3443 days

#7 posted 03-05-2008 12:41 AM

The new T8 lamps use an electronic ballast, unlike the magnetic ballast used by old fluorescent lamps. Magnetic ballast lamps cycle on and off at about 120 cycles per second, which some people perceive as a flicker. New electronic ballast operate at about 24,000 cycles per second, eliminating the flicker. The “buzzing” is also gone, since there is no vibration caused by the magnetic action of a core and coil in the magnetic ballast.

I scraped this info from a web site ”.
They are my thoughts but not my words. We are changing out our fluorescents for t8’s as I plagiarize this answer.


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View Sawdust2's profile


1467 posts in 3509 days

#8 posted 03-05-2008 01:05 AM

I wholeheartedley recommend T8 bulbs. You do not have to worry about the below 50 degrees part and there is no flicker AND they last 20,000 hours AND they instantly light up.


-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1509 posts in 3546 days

#9 posted 03-05-2008 01:11 AM

What Bob #2 said, also (although it’d be a good thing to take a router or something similar with a speed control and verify this by running it through its speed range while watching it illuminated solely by a bulb of the sort you’ve chosen for your shop), I believe that Compact Flourescent bulbs update at over 20KHz (to get above the limits of human hearing), not 60Hz like the old T12 bulbs did.

However, if you’re paranoid, and I’ve never been one to call paranoia in conjunction with power tools unwarranted, there are other sources for incandescent bulbs, might be worth rigging up a good 12v power supply and using, say, car headlights.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View Tom Adamski's profile

Tom Adamski

306 posts in 3192 days

#10 posted 03-05-2008 01:22 AM

Fluorescent fixtures are fine for abbient light, however for task lighting, I will only use halogen. It is the only light I know of that is the closest in color spectrum to natural daylight.


-- Anybody can become a woodworker, but only a Craftsman can hide his mistakes.

View IowaWoodcrafter's profile


280 posts in 3497 days

#11 posted 03-05-2008 02:39 AM

I replaced almost all of the bulbs in my house with fluorescent bulbs about a year ago. My electric bill had a noticeable decline. We use budget billing and were overbilled by almost $400 last year. The budget bill process goes by the last two years. This year alone the budget bill dropped by $40 per month just for one year of CF use.

In the garage I have 3 standard bulb receptacles. I placed a Y adapter in each of these and placed 100 watt equivalent CF bulbs. Over the table saw and my workbench I have shop style fluorescent bulbs. I don’t notice any issues with flickering. I do use a halogen light when spraying finish, (water based finish anyway).

-- Owen Johnson - aka IowaWoodcrafter

View TheCaver's profile


288 posts in 3260 days

#12 posted 03-05-2008 03:08 AM

Surely noone believes that the fed would actually attempt a ban on lightbulbs…..If you believe that, I have a bunch of items for sale :)


-- Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. -Carl Sagan

View woodsmith's profile


69 posts in 3213 days

#13 posted 03-05-2008 03:36 PM

Who would have ever thought we would run our clocks ahead, get up in the dark, go to work and come home with daylight! I still have my doubts that it saves any energy. I have changed most of the bulbs in my house to fluorescent and they do save money in the long run. Everytime an incandescent blows I replace it with fluorescent, so I haven’t seen a big drop in my bill but I can tell it is helping. Halogen would be an option I had not thought about. I will look into it maybe even if they don’t take incandescent off the market. I would love to get something a little more energy efficient. Also I plan to look at upgrading to the T8 fluorescent lights. Thanks everybody.

-- woodsmith

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1509 posts in 3546 days

#14 posted 03-05-2008 06:27 PM

Woodsmith, there’s a fairly compelling study that was just done based on Indiana’s recent switch-over to entirely daylight savings that says that daylight savings time wastes a lot of energy in additional heating and lighting in the mornings, and cooling in the afternoon.

Tom, halogens have a color temperature of roughly 3200°K, my awakening on that front came when I got an “80A” filter for photography, which corrects from the roughly 3200°K of photographic incandescent lights to something approximating daylight at 5400°K (although, to be fair, daylight wanders all over the place depending on time of day and atmospheric conditions). Yeah, halogens have a higher color temperature than stock household incandescent bulbs, but many of the better fluorescents get a lot closer to daylight (even if it is kind of absurd to measure fluorescent color with color temperature). It’s just that most of us have gotten used to the relative redness of incandescents (or, for that matter, fireplaces and candles), and have come to expect that in interior lighting.

I think the critical thing to do is to have a good idea of what lighting conditions you’ll actually be putting the piece in, and trying to duplicate that in the shop. In our case, we’re moving towards extremely white walls (we don’t choose based on color chips, we have ‘em put it straight into the computer) and fairly blue lighting, so T8s in the shop are pretty close.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View coloradoclimber's profile


548 posts in 3489 days

#15 posted 03-05-2008 07:32 PM

I read this on Wiki. I have not verified it myself but it indicates a similar conclusion, incandescent bulbs may well be on their way out.

Wiki article on CFL

“On 19 December 2007, United States President George W. Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Among other provisions, that law sets efficiency standards for electric lights that will see the incandescent light bulb phased off the US market beginning in 2012.”

A couple other articles seem to confirm the same story.

US News and World Reports Article

New York Times Article says

“The new energy bill signed this week makes it official. When 2012 hits, stores can no longer sell the cheap but inefficient incandescent light bulbs that are fixtures in most homes.”

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