Lighting Question

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Forum topic by tat2grl posted 12-30-2007 05:02 AM 1683 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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61 posts in 4344 days

12-30-2007 05:02 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I’m using my garage as a shop. The home builders granted me 2 60 watt light bulbs for a two car garage. Obviously, this isn’t enough light to work with wood, much less FIND anything (the garage also serves as storage since the house is built on a slab and we have no crawl space or basement). Also, there’s only 2 outlets, one on either side. I’d like to install better lighting and maybe add an additional outlet. Anyone have suggestions, or a good website to look at? My electric skills aren’t much…I know the difference between a 120 and a 200 outlet, but I’m not afraid to tackle anything provided I’ve done the research and I’m not rushed. Thanks for the help!!

-- "Creativity is...seeing something that doesn't exist already. You need to find out how you can bring it into being and that way be a playmate with God."

13 replies so far

View Chip's profile


1904 posts in 4635 days

#1 posted 12-30-2007 05:08 AM

Hey tat, If you aren’t a licensed electrician I would suggest that you get one to do that sort of work on your home. Just from an insurance perspective it would be in your interest to bite the bullet and have it done professionally not to mention the safety of you and your family. Probably not what you wanted to hear but just my 2 cents. Good luck.

-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

View cajunpen's profile


14578 posts in 4609 days

#2 posted 12-30-2007 05:22 AM

Michele, I agree with Chip. I would go with a licensed electrician for the install/upgrade. If you were to do the job yourself and God forbid something went wrong and a fire broke out – there is a good chance that your insurance would not cover the damages. If I were you, I would figure out what I would be adding to my shop in to arrive at my ultimate shop and have the electrical work done now – or at least have him/her do the groundwork for future expansion. Good luck with your project.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View IowaWoodcrafter's profile


280 posts in 4619 days

#3 posted 12-30-2007 05:51 AM

What I did to add more light to my garage is the following…

I had three light sockets with 100 watt bulbs. I replaced these with two 23 watt, (or whatever the equivalent is to a 100watt incandescent), compact florescents in each socket, giving me a total of 6 bulbs.

The garage door opener had a dedicated outlet. I am running a single dual tube shop light off of that outlet. From a second outlet I’m running another dual tube light. The dual tube lights are over my saw and workbench. This combination of lights makes it plenty bright in the garage. Since I’m using florescents I’m drawing about the same power when compared to the incandescents.

PS, I did happen to run two additional 20amp 110 volt circuits and two 20amp 220 volt circuits to my garage. I happened to have a brother in law that is an electrician that I could talk to. He lives eight hours away so he didn’t help except to give advise.

If you do happen to run additional lines make sure you install a GFCI outlet as the first outlet in the circuit. If you are running a 20amp line you will need a 20amp GFCI outlet. Also, talk to your local Lowes or Home Depot, or an electrician, to determine what gauge wire you should use. The length of run and the amp rating will dictate the gauge. If your panel is full don’t despair, you can get dual circuit circuit breakers. This allows for two runs to be connected in the same space as a normal single breaker. These breakers have two smaller switches instead of the one large one. I used several of these to make space for the new lines I ran.

-- Owen Johnson - aka IowaWoodcrafter

View tat2grl's profile


61 posts in 4344 days

#4 posted 12-30-2007 06:31 AM

I’m agreeing on hiring a licensed pro. I thought that maybe I could switch out the light bulbs for flourescent lights, but I’m re-thinking the whole thing. I’m brave, but I ain’t stoopid…lol. I’ll use the money for a pro install and wait for my bandsaw or scroll saw next time around. Thanks for the advice and word to the wise!

-- "Creativity is...seeing something that doesn't exist already. You need to find out how you can bring it into being and that way be a playmate with God."

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4642 days

#5 posted 12-30-2007 06:46 AM

In the garage you can dramatically increase the lighting by hanging sheetrock on the ceiling. You will increase the comfort level of the house too. Install some basic lighting on one switch with additional lighting on another switch. When you are just grabbing something from the garage you do not need all the lights on. If you want to do some work you can turn on the additional banks of light.

The new T-8 lamps start and work pretty decent in a cold garage compared to fluorescent lights of the past.

I always recommend hiring an electrician too. As a pro I see a lot of scary things that people do with electric.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4642 days

#6 posted 12-30-2007 06:49 AM

I agree with Cajunpen. Do a bit of planning and let your electrician know what your intentions are with tools and he will set you up accordingly. The cheapest time to do it is when he is there the first time.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View handplane's profile


36 posts in 4403 days

#7 posted 12-30-2007 06:09 PM

Like Todd said, having a sheetrock ceiling will definately help with your lighting. In general you can maximize the light in your shop from however many lighting fixtures you have by making sure the light reflects well off the walls and ceiling. If you paint the room white you will make it seem brighter because the light will reflect around so much more. I put a white suspended ceiling in my basement shop and it helps a lot (a lot of fluorescent fixtures didn’t hurt either, but without the white ceiling it wouldn’t be the same).

When you are thinking about where to put in new light fixtures don’t forget to think about how the lighting placement might cast shadows in your shop. If you know where you might put your workbench or where you might do finishing make sure that your lighting placement will not inhibit your work later. It’s infinitely easier to plan this out in advance compared to moving your fixtures later when the shadows drive you nuts.

-- - Scott "handplane"

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4533 days

#8 posted 12-31-2007 05:50 AM

You’ve gotten some great advice here. All I can add is definately look into Fluorescent overhead fixtures. You can wire two 4 footers to a box for four total, and you’ll not be sad.

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View tat2grl's profile


61 posts in 4344 days

#9 posted 12-31-2007 06:18 PM

Great advice…thank you! I’m pouring over the budget right now to see what we can afford and Have already met a LJ member who knows a licensed electrician! What a fantastic community! We have a finished garage with sheetrock and I found an opening in the attic to where you can get to the ceiling part of the garage. Now all I have to do is diagram the ideas, thanks to you all and get the electrician to come over! The excitement is unbearable..haha.

-- "Creativity is...seeing something that doesn't exist already. You need to find out how you can bring it into being and that way be a playmate with God."

View jcees's profile


1078 posts in 4342 days

#10 posted 01-13-2008 03:58 AM

I had my two car garage’s electrical system upgraded professionally last year and it has paid off big time. I have three built-in closet areas with fluorescent fixtures in each and added 4 more over the floorspace with a subpanel and a couple of 4x outlets and a dedicated 220 circuit for my big stuff. All of my heavy toolage is on wheels and I push them outside to make sawdust. I made several extra HD extension cords with a 4x on each and one for the 220. Each one is mounted to a chunk of 2x material big enough to step on while you remove a tool cord. The only thing I have to watch for is a sudden shower which in Florida well… I can unplug and roll a lumber rack, miter saw station, a model 66 Powermatic tablesaw and a router table inside in under 3 minutes. And even at that speed, I still get moist sometimes. But it’s a small price to pay to not have to worry with a dust extraction system.

I just have to remember to hose off the nearby foliage before mama comes home.

-- When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -- John Muir

View DaveH's profile


400 posts in 4321 days

#11 posted 01-23-2008 01:46 AM

First thing I’d do is put a couple of 300w bulbs in the current light sockets ( if they are the typical surface mounted sockets). Then I’d look at replacing the fixtures with a couple of high output 4 tube x 4 foot fixtures.

-- DaveH - Boise, Idaho - “How hard can it be? It's only wood!”

View 8iowa's profile


1591 posts in 4304 days

#12 posted 02-10-2008 12:49 AM

It’s strange to say, but the first step in a garage lighting project is painting. Paint the walls white. I used semi-gloss. Your garage is typical electrically, and not sufficient for a workshop. Have an electrician install a sub panel in your garage that is at least 60 amps. This will allow you put in separate cirucit breakers for lighting, workbench, and tools. 15 amp circuits with #14 gauge romex is fine for lighting. 12 gauge (20amp) should be used for most tools used on 120V. Tools above 2 HP should probably be wired for 240V.

If your garage is already walled in, you can probably run shielded cable from the sub panel to lighting fixtures and wall receptacles. Check local codes first. Your electrician of course will know. I installed four standard incandescent bulb fixtures in the ceiling, with 200 watt bulbs in each. I have also installed four two bulb (4’ T-8) over my work area. The new electronic ballast fluorescent fixtures are much to be preferred over the old magnetic ballast type. The electronic ballast operates at 21,000 HZ or higher, thus no hum and no flicker. If you select T-8 bulbs with a 5000 degree kelvin rating, you will be duplicating close to natural light. The old “cool white” bulbs are not nearly as good. The 200 watt incandescent bulbs assist in bringing the overall color rendering index close up as close to 100 as possible, the natural light condition.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Alin Dobra's profile

Alin Dobra

351 posts in 4431 days

#13 posted 02-10-2008 06:31 AM


In Florida, the homeowner is allowed to install electrical wires and outlets as long as he is doing the work alone (i.e. not get a friend with electrical skills) and applies for and passes the electrical inspection. Nationwide, the electrical inspection has two parts: rough inspection (with the wall open for the inspector to see the wires) and final inspection (everything installed but the power off). In some states, only licensed electricians are allowed to do electrical work. I could not figure out within few minutes if Tennessee is such a state. If it is like Florida, you can buy a book from Home Depot that explains “kosher” practices and install the wires and outlets yourself. You cannot start work under any circumstances before the application for electrical work is accepted. The electrical inspector has office hours; you can just drop by and chat with the person to see what you are up against. Unless your house has a panel with 200 Amps (at least) and you have a some slots available, you might need a subpanel. At that point it is probably a good idea to hire a licensed (and insured) electrician.

Do not, under any circumstances, do electrical work without a permit. The inspector or the fire department, have the power to evacuate your house and ask you to strip off the walls any work you might have done at any point. Should your house catch fire, your insurance company can refuse to pay. If you ever sell the house, the house inspector that the purchaser will supposedly hire will immediately know you put some of the wires in and ask for the building permits.

Other things you have to be aware if you do the electrical work yourself:
1. All 110V outlets in the garage have to be on a Ground Fault Interrupter circuit
2. You can install a single 220V outlet/ breaker
3. You have to use wires thick enough for the breaker you will install.
4. The capacity of the outlet enclosure (goes into the wall) has to be big enough for your application (the national electrical code, which you have to pay for to read but you can find snippets on the web, provides a formula for the minimum volume).

Installing a 220V with 3 wires (all woodworking machines use only 3 wires but your dryer uses 4)
is a little tricky since you have to color the white wire as red (with a permanent enough paint to convince the inspector). Also, it is crucial to do a high quality job (wires the correct length, the wire stripped properly, etc.)

If all these details did not scare you already, find out if in your state you can do it yourself and start reading about the National Electric Code


-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

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