Shop lighting

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Forum topic by txn posted 10-17-2017 01:25 AM 3216 views 2 times favorited 81 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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147 posts in 2260 days

10-17-2017 01:25 AM

I am plannin I building my shop in the near future and am not finding answers I am searching for, the shop it is going to be a 30×50x10 shop with 2:12 pitch roof I am wanting led but not sure how many or what kind please help

81 replies so far

View TungOil's profile


1382 posts in 1295 days

#1 posted 10-17-2017 01:56 AM

there was a good article on shop lighting in the Jan/Feb 2002 issue of FWW. It was focused on fluorescents, but lumens are lumens regardless of the source. Try to get LED’s that are close to daylight balanced (~5,000 deg. K) to be most like sunlight. It’s difficult to have too much light in a workshop from my experience.

-- The optimist says "the glass is half full". The pessimist says "the glass is half empty". The engineer says "the glass is twice as big as it needs to be"

View jmartel's profile


8980 posts in 2950 days

#2 posted 10-17-2017 02:07 AM

Twice as many as you think you’ll need. Costco sells LED shop lights for pretty cheap. I’ve got 3 right now in my 1 car garage.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1720 days

#3 posted 10-17-2017 02:25 AM


This is a complex subject. One idea is to visit a lighting showroom and get some professional advice for your lighting plan.

In general, I find lighting performance is mostly dependent on lumens (light output) per square foot of floor area, color temperature (yellow to blue), and the light cone (the angle at which light is distributed outward from the lamp). Some additional factors such as color rendering can also be considered. I have found that LED lamps, while advertised as long lasting, are short lived if the lamp becomes too hot.

Some time ago I was wrestling with LED kitchen lighting and in doing research I came across a lighting standard for kitchens from a town in California (but I have long since forgot the web site). The standard specified 35 lumens per square foot. This standard was confirmed by a lighting designer we consulted when planning our kitchen remodel. I then applied that 35 lumen per square foot standard when I re-lighted my garage workshop. I found that the 35 lumen per square foot provides good general shop lighting. However some additional task lighting in areas where measuring and marking, sanding, carving, bandsawing/scrollsawing, and finishing are performed could be beneficial. If this standard is applied to your planned shop, 61,250 total downward directed lumens would be needed.

However, not everyone agrees the 35 lumen per square foot specification. Some specify 50 to 100 lumens per square foot. All these standards consider only the light that strikes a work surface (downward directed light).

I am getting on in years so brighter is better for me. Therefore I selected a color temperature of around 5000 degrees K to 6000 degrees K, a color temperature that indicates a bluer light and seems to be a brighter light to my eyes. The smaller values (3000 to perhaps 4000 K) produce a yellower light, similar to incandescent lamps.

Determining the area which will receive illumination, as describe by the light cone of the lamp, is important when deciding where fixtures should be placed. In my opinion light from two or more fixtures that overlap when striking a surface that is about 36” high is about right. This 36” height is the general height of most shop work surfaces and thus is where illumination is most needed.

Package labels provide output in lumens and color temperature. Finding the angle at which light leaves the lamp can be more difficult to find.

Here is an article that details lighting a workshop…

View jonah's profile


2123 posts in 4099 days

#4 posted 10-17-2017 02:49 AM

30×50 is a massive amount of space. You’re going to want a lot of 4ft LED fixtures. I’m guessing ~12-16.

I find that 4000K is my preferred color temperature, but I can live with 4500K or 5000K.

View txn's profile


147 posts in 2260 days

#5 posted 10-17-2017 02:58 AM

Thank you jbrow that answers some questions about a standard for how much light I may need I’ve been looking at highway lights on amazon but not sure if my ceiling height is tall enough for them

View mel52's profile


1509 posts in 1065 days

#6 posted 10-17-2017 03:12 AM

I have a new 16’ X 26’ shop, and like the earlier comment as to eyes getting worse with age ( as in myself ), I wanted plenty of light with enough fixtures that I could eliminate shadows. I have 9 – 4’ led lights in my shop. Mine are also in the 5,000 degrees K range. I have more than enough light in all parts of the shop than I don’t have any eye strain and can see pencil marks easily. I started with a few florescent fixtures but didn’t like the sounds, flickering and slow brightness when it was colder. I picked mine up at Home Depot a couple at a time.

-- MEL, Kansas

View HorizontalMike's profile


7874 posts in 3714 days

#7 posted 10-17-2017 10:35 AM

I am getting on in years so brighter is better for me. Therefore I selected a color temperature of around 5000 degrees K to 6000 degrees K, a color temperature that indicates a bluer light and seems to be a brighter light to my eyes. The smaller values (3000 to perhaps 4000 K) produce a yellower light, similar to incandescent lamps.
Here is an article that details lighting a workshop…

- JBrow

This is an important point. Unless you light your entire house at those higher values, you will have a difficult time matching stains & finishes on any refurbs/restorations. I suggest making at least one corner of the shop lighting to match the color temperature of your home lighting (the more yellow incandescent values).

FWIW, I wasted much time and stain on a refurb, until I realized what was happening because of mis-matched lighting. Just a thought.

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

View jonah's profile


2123 posts in 4099 days

#8 posted 10-17-2017 11:22 AM

Alternatively, you could just bring your test scrap piece into the house to view it under warmer light.

View chrisirving's profile


122 posts in 1232 days

#9 posted 10-17-2017 11:29 AM

The best bang for the buck in a shop that size with higher ceilings would be an LED high bay. I just built a shop with 11’ ceilings and installed 110 watt (13.750 lumens) LED high bays. They were $100 per light, I installed a dimmer on them also for early morning work when it’s just too bright. I went with the 5000K lights also. My shop is only 24×14 and I used 4 of them, it’s like daylight with light gray painted OSB walls
I used T1 high bays

View gargey's profile


1013 posts in 1576 days

#10 posted 10-17-2017 11:34 AM

Incandescent light is so much nicer than flourescent. I haven’t developed a strong opinion about LED yet.

View pontic's profile


797 posts in 1409 days

#11 posted 10-17-2017 12:04 PM

Whatever system and wavelength I would go with LED. I have 30’X35’X12’ shop. I originally used fluorescent lights.
Changing bulbs and ballasts are pain and disposing of them a real pain. I have been slowly replaceing them with 8’led “wire-in” shop lights from Menards. 4500lumens and 5000k. 110volts 45watts. they run 115 dollars or 85 dollars on sale. IMHO best buy in led shop lights for 12’ ceilings.

-- Illigitimii non carburundum sum

View Holt's profile


280 posts in 3429 days

#12 posted 10-17-2017 12:27 PM

We have one of those prefabricated barns you can have delivered setup for my wife’s stained glass shop. The ceiling joists are pretty low. Decided to experiment with some LED lighting. The 5 meter strips need to be trimmed a foot or so to fit the width of the barn. As a test, I mounted three strips, one per joist, on adjacent joists. The light is impressive. Look like we can install one per joist (about 19 total) and you’ll be able to see the thing from orbit <g>. Using strips and a power supply from Amazon. I plan on using two power supplies

Power supply: MEAN WELL SE-600-12 AC to DC Power Supply, Single Output, 12V, 50 Amp, 600W, 1.5”, LED strips:3 of LE 16.4ft 300 SMD 5050 LEDs Flexible Strip Lights, Daylight White, Non-waterproof, 12 Volt, Indoor Party Christmas Holiday Festival Celebration Decoration.

-- ...Specialization is for insects.

View Rollie's profile


16 posts in 1562 days

#13 posted 10-17-2017 12:47 PM

Don’t forget that free light has the has the best color rendering. North light is the best. Granted windows take up wall space and aren’t cheap, but you only pay for them once not every month.

There is something about free I like,

View ArtMann's profile


1480 posts in 1616 days

#14 posted 10-17-2017 03:22 PM

I am about ready to put the lighting in my new 24 X 36 shop. I am doing the shop wiring but the guy who is wiring my new house told me the most economical way to light up areas like shops and garages is to buy quality T-8 fluorescent fixtures but use LED tubes instead. I have been checking prices and so far I have found that using this combination is more economical than LED fixtures and the bulbs are replaceable. Most LED shop fixtures require you to buy a new fixture if it breaks.

The other thing I have discovered about LED shop lighting is that you can import fixtures from Chinese supplier Alibaba for about half of what you can by them at places like Costco. Of course, Costco fixtures are also made in China and likely in the same factories. However, I am a little hesitant to buy from them for some reason.

View Manitario's profile


2816 posts in 3683 days

#15 posted 10-17-2017 03:46 PM

I’m on my 4th shop in the last 8 years. Every shop has had more light than the previous, and yet still doesn’t seem like quite enough, especially when doing finishing. I heard somewhere that 600 lumens should be the target for a woodworking shop; mine is around 550. I’ve found, having had arguments with electricians for my last 3 shops, is that most non-woodworkers don’t really have any idea how bright is “bright enough” for a workshop. All of them told me that my shop would be way too bright. All my shops I ended up adding more lights after.

My current shop is 25×40 with a 10ft ceiling. I have 5 rows of 4ft 32W T8 bulbs (~80 bulbs in all). I wish that I’d gone with LED lights (would have saved me $$ in electricity but cost more at the outset). I was told that high bay lights are not as effective with ceilings lower than 12ft…

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

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