shop lighting redo?? LED or what?

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Forum topic by Myles Standridge posted 01-02-2017 04:41 PM 2825 views 1 time favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Myles Standridge

112 posts in 3857 days

01-02-2017 04:41 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question lighting

We’ll be moving soon and I’ll have a 30×30 garage that will only be for a shop (stealth gloat!). It’s not insulated and some of the existing drywall is badly damaged so I’m probably going to strip it and start over from studs. So my questions are about adding power and lighting. It will probably need a new panel and more circuits.

1. add new wiring before drywall or after?? I’m assuming it’ll be cheaper before since there won’t be any conduit needed, any real disadvantage to doing it this way?
2. Lighting, so much going on in this world, LEDs etc. What to do about color etc.? CAn someone point me to a recent article on the subject? My searches show old info on fluorescent lighting.

Just in case more info is needed? 30×30 detached garage, 8 foot ceiling, wood stove, two single roll up doors that I’ll add insulation, one man door, currently 5 windows

16 replies so far

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1835 days

#1 posted 01-02-2017 05:24 PM


My preference for electric would be to run the circuits behind the drywall. This leaves the walls clean for hanging whatever you may want to mount to the walls. This method works best if you have a good plan for the placement of your tools and therefore know where receptacles should be located. Since there may be a need to run new circuits or extend existing circuits after things are closed in, considering how this could be achieved without a lot of aggravation could be appreciated later on.

I changed over to LED lighting in the workshop. The lighting is more expensive than alternatives, but is efficient to operate, lasts a long time, and offers the opportunity to select the quality of lighting that works best for you. I used recessed lighting but strip lighting would also work well. I like the daylight color, around 5000 K color temperature. I also used 35 lumens per square foot as my standard for how much light in areas where I do most work. The color temperature and intensity of the lighting I chose make seeing details in the shop easier for me.

Here is an article that discusses lighting a small wood working shop. It covers the various terms and types of lighting available…

View diverlloyd's profile


4029 posts in 2772 days

#2 posted 01-02-2017 05:30 PM

I just switched out my shop lights to new fluorescents. When the bulbs go bad I will switch the bulbs to led. I did that with my kitchen lights and I bought the led bulbs at Home Depot on sale for 10 bucks for a set of two. They are bright even with the diffuser on the light.

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3885 days

#3 posted 01-02-2017 05:47 PM

color is more of a personal preference.
The 5000K (daylight) color is harsh to me. Gives me a headache after a while.
My preferred color is anything under 3400K More like incandescent.
But, the daylight color is supposed to be better for true color rendention.

View Charlie H.'s profile

Charlie H.

405 posts in 1565 days

#4 posted 01-02-2017 05:51 PM

Definitely do all the wiring before drywall.
Since you are doing a new panel try to plan your layout and put 220V where big tools will reside along with 20A 120V.
I don’t think you can ever have to many outlets so go as big as you can stand.
Since T12 and T8 are being phased out and this is a new install LED lighting is probably the best route.
I just replaced three 4 tube T12 fixtures in my two car attached garage with eight (plug into an outlet style) 2 tube FEIT fixtures from Costco.
The difference in the amount of light is remarkable.
The LED light looks a lot whiter to me, I don’t remember what the color profile stated on the box was but to my eyes the quality of the light is much better.
Good luck and enjoy your new shop.

-- Regards, Charlie in Rowlett, TX --------I talk to myself, because sometimes I need expert advice.---------

View Redoak49's profile


4953 posts in 2903 days

#5 posted 01-02-2017 06:05 PM

Looking at your weather, I think you should consider air conditioning in your plan

I do not think you can ever have enough outlets. I have moved my shop around several times and having extra outlets everywhere has been useful.

I am gradually replacing lights and putting in LED ones…much better light with LED.

You might consider where to put things like a dust collector and air compressor as they are noisy.

Good luck with a new shop and house.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30576 posts in 3253 days

#6 posted 01-02-2017 06:11 PM

Not just outlets, add multiple circuits. LED lights are the only way to go.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3885 days

#7 posted 01-02-2017 06:17 PM

I wired my shop with quad boxes, each box holds two outlets, and ran two circuits to each box.
That way, if you plug two things in at the same location you can run them on different circuits.
Also, I ran all my wire in PVC conduit inside the walls. In the future if I should need to change a circuit out I can just tie the new wire onto the old and pull the new in as I pull the old out.

I located all the boxes at 52” above the floor so a 4ft sheet of plywood leaned against the wall won’t cover the outlets.

As for walls, I don’t like sheetrock in a shop, but some places require it by code.
If you are not hamstrung by stupid codes I’d use OSB for the wall covering. You can then put a shelf or hang anything anywhere you take a notion. In fact, even if I had to put sheetrock on the walls, it would have OSB under it. It only costs about $0.25 / sq.ft. around here.

View brtech's profile


1068 posts in 3837 days

#8 posted 01-02-2017 06:37 PM

Think about running a 12/3 all the way around the shop. Put an outlet every other stud bay, alternating the circuits, and a 220 every 8’. With a 20A double breaker, you can power any tool plus a vac anywhere in the shop.

LEDs are great, but pay attention to lumens (as well as color temperature). Try and figure out if you prefer that 5000K cool white vs 2700K warm light. Get the purpose-built LED fixtures, not LED bulbs in fluorescent fixtures. A few years ago I got a deal on some T5HO fixtures and strung them up. They put out A LOT of great light. It would be hard, and expensive, to replace that many lumens with LED lights, but LED lasts a long time and is more efficient than fluorescent. Also consider that relamping florescent to change color temperature isn’t too bad, but replacing LEDs isn’t practical – basically, you can’t reuse anything.

Think about plumbing compressed air around while you have the walls open. There are kits that make it easy and reasonably inexpensive to have a bunch of air outlets close at hand.

View HorizontalMike's profile


7902 posts in 3828 days

#9 posted 01-02-2017 07:07 PM

Just one suggestion if I may. Choose whatever color temperature you like for the shop, BUT try to match one area of the shop to the color temperature you have in the house. This becomes important when you are restoring parts of an item of furniture and are trying to match the stain on the original.

It sure beats hauling the project back and forth to see IF the “color” of the stain matches when inside the house. FWIW, I spent way too much time “failing” to match the stain on an old sideboard. Inside the house we had the lower temperature CFL that look more muted/yellow. The “Daylight” bulbs in the shop DID NOT help when finishing IMO. In other words, if your shop lighting does not match your home/house lighting, you should be aware at just how much that difference affects stains/finishes. Just a thought.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View clin's profile


1125 posts in 1911 days

#10 posted 01-02-2017 07:15 PM

Another vote for wire before sheetrock, lot’s of outlets. When I dedicated one garage bay of my 3-car garage to a shop space, I put a wall up, and added a sub-panel. On that new wall, I put outlets about every 4 feet both high (above workbench height) and low, below workbench. Of course put in some 240 V.

I didn’t do this, read about this idea after I was done, but put upper outlets higher than 4 ft. That way if you lean sheets goods against the wall, they won’t cover the outlets.

Put outlets in the ceiling.

Since your shop is big, I’d just put dedicated 240 V outlets at regular intervals. Obviously not as many as 120 V, and no need to go high and low, just low is fine since they would be for machines. I’m no code expert, but I think the 240 V circuits have to be dedicated, so you have to run a wire back from each outlet to the panel. That may only be for continuous loads, like heaters.

In the grand scheme of things, wire and outlets are cheap.

Keep in mind with a shop that big, you may want to put machine power overhead. So you just might want 240 V up there too.

As for lighting, I did mine about a year and half ago, I did not find LED lighting I liked. I really haven’t seen any posts about LED lighting that wasn’t much more than some Costco shop lights. Keep in mind that T8 florescent lighting is very efficient. In some case more efficient than some LED lights. In general, I do think LED light is more efficient than T8, but not by much. Don’t just assume it is.

In the end, I put in common 4’ T8 fixtures. They are inexpensive, and I will upgrade to LED sometime in the future when needed. I figure LED light costs will drop a lot more yet and I’ll probably spend less, even if I scrap the T8 fixtures.

I also, I’m consistently surprised by how little light guys works with. I’ve measured about 130 lm/sq-ft in my shop. Yes it is bright. Bright is good. Everything will be in focus better.

Here’s some online info on lighting. For a mechanical workshop, they recommend 750 lux which is about 70 lm/sq-ft.

Also, keep in mind that you need a lot more light the older you are. I can’t find a reference, but I think we need multiples of the light level at age 60 as we do age 20. None of us are getting younger, so keep that in mind.

Even with high efficiency lighting, lighting a large area well can use a lot of electricity. You might consider having banks of lights. Perhaps being able to switch every other light fixture on and off separately. That way you can use half the electricity much of the time, but then light things up when needed.

In my case, in my 300 sq-ft shop I have 4’ T8 fixtures with 2 tubes in each in 2 rows of 4 fixtures each (8 total fixture, 16 tubes). I also painted my walls and ceiling white, and all my shop cabinets have white doors. I have virtually no shadows.

-- Clin

View xeddog's profile


322 posts in 3922 days

#11 posted 01-02-2017 07:24 PM

I have a 3-car garage shop that is all for woodworking. No cars. I recently changed all of my fluorescent lighting to LED and I am glad I did. I’m not sure what the color temp of the fluorescents were (there were several), but the 4000K of the LEDs I like. Not to mention cutting the amperage I use for lighting to less than half of the fluorescents. Another touchy feely benefit is that I always felt like I was going to break a fluorescent (exposed tubes) when handling long boards. While that is still a possibility with LEDs, I just FEEL like they aren’t quite as fragile as the glass tubes. Oh, and NO BUZZING!

I also did some wiring and I would suggest wiring before drywall, and I would recommend plywood or OSB instead of drywall. More freedom to hang stuff on walls. Be sure and paint it all gloss white. But back to the wiring, figure out the most outlets you will ever need and add a dozen or two more. :-) Here is something I found out here in California a few years ago. The wiring can be exposed if it’s more than 8’ above the floor.

Also, run wire using as many different circuits as you can. With all of the outlets I have, sometimes I still have to run an extension cord to the other side of the garage so I can get a tool and my dust collector on different circuits to prevent popping circuit breakers. I also assume you will be running 220V as well. When I ran my wiring, I used a different color wire for the 220V, white for 110V and yellow for 220V. I’m sure that isn’t required, but it sure made it easier to determine which was which when pulling them down the same conduit to adjoining outlets.


View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10951 posts in 4967 days

#12 posted 01-02-2017 07:32 PM

LEDs are the only way to fly!
I swapped out ALL old lights with LEDs…

I found that an advertised equiv to 60W is closer to 100W…

They are COOL… You can handle them no matter how long they have been on…

My electric bill dropped from IN Tier TWO, down into Tier ONE… I figure it will be close to 3/4 of a year and they will PAY for themselves!

Here is the BEST source I have found... They are Fantastic!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:

View Robert's profile


4148 posts in 2395 days

#13 posted 01-02-2017 08:07 PM

1. add new wiring before drywall or after?? I m assuming it ll be cheaper before since there won t be any conduit needed, any real disadvantage to doing it this way?

I would go with surface mount junction boxes fed by romex through the attic space. Just punch a hole in the drywall to 4×4 steel junction box. Daisy chain together and run flex from junction boxes to each fixture. You can supply 4 lights from 1 box. This way the mounting is alot easier and you can change or add lights very easily. May not be exactly to code but it will work. Also if you have more than one entry I would use a 3 way switch.

For the rest of the electrics I like to surface mount everything in conduit. That way I can route to a new/moved machine or add/relocate outlets as needed. Especially handy if running a dedicated circuit to a DC, compressor, etc.

2. Lighting, – mousejockey
I think the only way LED can pay is if the lights are on a lot. I’ve been thru the head scratching, and I’m sure there are charts and comparisons somewhere. Hard to figure but at some point the cost of bulbs and ballasts offset intial cost of LED + KW savings.

Bottom line if you have the budget, I would go LED. Natural light or daylight type bulbs are best IMO.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Myles Standridge's profile

Myles Standridge

112 posts in 3857 days

#14 posted 01-02-2017 08:22 PM

Thanks for all of the input guys, a lot of good info here. And yes I do need 220V for a few machines, compressor lines is an interesting thought too. Now I’ve got to get to work with a design plan and studying the lighting suggestions.

Redoak49, I’m moving from the phoenix area to 6600 ft. elevation towards Show Low AZ, four actual seasons :-), I think that I can get away with no AC up there but will definitely need the wood stove.

Thanks again

View Nick424's profile (online now)


135 posts in 1554 days

#15 posted 01-02-2017 10:42 PM

You might want to think about running some dust collection pipe in the attic space before you close it in. Cleaner than running along the floor or on the wall. 4” plastic drain pipe is not that expensive.

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