Question on shop lighting

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Forum topic by Elizabeth posted 06-28-2011 06:31 PM 4601 views 0 times favorited 75 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Elizabeth's profile


823 posts in 4219 days

06-28-2011 06:31 PM

Topic tags/keywords: shop electricity

I have a garage shop in a freestanding garage. It has five incandescent bulbs in the ceiling, though one of them is a dead bulb that I haven’t bothered replacing because it’s covered by the garage door when the door is open. These bulbs are 100 watts. The ceiling is nine feet up.

I am not interested in putting fluorescent strip lights in because I’ve heard they’re horrible for woodworking. I would like better light, but I have no electrical experience and don’t really want to have someone come ina nd mess with the wiring if I don’t have to.

I have heard that halogen flood lights (are halogena bulbs the same thing?) would be good for in a shop. My question: Can I simply replace the incandescent bulbs with halogen floods or halogena bulbs? What wattage would it be able to support? If there is not enough information here for you to say how much it could support, what information would you need? (info from the fuse box?)

When working in summer I mainly leave the garage door open to let in light and air. If I’m in the back of the shop or in the evenings I supplement with the overhead lights but for much of the day they’re not necessary. In the winter (much less woodworking going on then) I will need to use the overhead lights. I don’t mind if they put out a lot of heat because it gets cold in there in the winter! I have an electric heater in the wall which I run sometimes.

Suggestions welcome!

75 replies so far

View Dan's profile


3653 posts in 3956 days

#1 posted 06-28-2011 06:46 PM

I am curious what you have heard negative about fluorescent lights and woodworking? I have fluorescent strip lighting for my shop and I have no complaints at all. They work just fine for me so I wonder what negatives you heard.

Halogen lights are supposed to be used in the bucket fixtures and I believe its due to the heat they give off. I have heard that if used in a standard light fixture there is a risk of it over heating. This is just what I have heard.

I have Halogen floods in my house and I hate them. They are always burning out and IMO they don’t produce great lighting. I have even paid the big bucks for the bulbs that are supposed to last for years and they still burn out fast.

Fluorescent strips are really easy to install, you can just detach your old fixture and wire on the new on. The wiring is easy, there are only 3 wires and you just gotta match the colors. I know you heard negative things but I guess ill argue that by saying I feel they work really well in a garage shop.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View brtech's profile


1128 posts in 3998 days

#2 posted 06-28-2011 06:53 PM

I’ve never tried it, so keeping that in mind:

Halogen is “bluer” than most incandescents. Your typically “cool” white fluorescent is also bluer. You can get “warmer” fluorescents, of course.

You can replace an incandescent with a halogen if the base type and voltage is the same. There are halogens in all wattage ranges. As long as you stay under the wattage range for the fixture you have, it will work fine. They do run hot.

I think they are pretty harsh, but you might like it.

I’d try just replacing the incandescents with warm compact fluorescents. They are so much more efficient you can get a lot of light with relatively low wattage. You can find a “200 watt equivalent” CFL that uses 40W. On the other hand, a naked bulb wastes a lot of that light.

If it were me, I’d hang some shop lights and get warm fluorescent bulbs for them. You can do both – replace the incandescents with CFLs and put some shop lights over your prime work areas.

View Elizabeth's profile


823 posts in 4219 days

#3 posted 06-28-2011 07:00 PM

Hi Dan,

I have read part of this thread about fluorescents – – but I admit I haven’t read all of it so perhaps the negatives are debunked later on in the thread.

Good point about the bucket fixtures. The bulbs I have are just bare bulbs sticking straight down from the ceiling. I think the one that is burned out probably got that way from overheating against the garage door, unless the former owner of the house put a dead one in on purpose. (I haven’t changed them since we moved in.)

BRTech – Are compact fluorescents the same as those energy-saving twisty bulbs? Because we have some of those in the house and they are horribly dim. But I don’t think they are 200 watt equivalent; more like 60 and 100w equivalent.

Part of my reluctance to hang shop lights, I think, is I’ve been having a heck of a time trying to locate the beams in the ceilings and walls when I do want to hang things. Everything has been drywalled. I want to run some dust collection ducting later this year too and am not looking forward to trying to find those ceiling studs.

View Builder_Bob's profile


161 posts in 4135 days

#4 posted 06-28-2011 07:00 PM

I have old fluorescent strips in my workshop, and they are terrible when it comes to making color decisions during the finishing progress. I carry pieces over to the basement window if I can.

-- "The unexpected, when it happens, generally happens when you least expect it."

View Elizabeth's profile


823 posts in 4219 days

#5 posted 06-28-2011 07:04 PM

Oh, and I should mention that in the winter I tend to get headaches which I have tentatively linked to fluorescent lighting in my day job workplace (and in my commute when I was taking public transport). So that has probably put me off fluorescent as well, but a combination of sources might be OK.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5294 days

#6 posted 06-28-2011 07:18 PM

No matter what type of lighting you use in your shop, your project is going to look slightly different if you put under a different light source. Since standard incandescent, halogen, and fluorescent are all so prevalent, I can’t see making color rendition a big factor in your choice of shop lighting.

If you need more light and don’t want to do any wiring, get one or two hanging fluorescent fixtures that have a plug-in cord on them. This, IMO, would be your best” bang for the buck” in terms of brightness, coolness, and energy efficiency.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5294 days

#7 posted 06-28-2011 07:19 PM

Oops… well I hit the post button before your headache comment. I guess you have to take that into consideration.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View GregD's profile


788 posts in 4212 days

#8 posted 06-28-2011 07:39 PM

I think in terms of general lighting, task lighting, and color lighting. They are kinda independent, IMHO.

For general lighting I’ve got newer fluorescent strip fixtures in my shop (garage) and kitchen. I went with T-8 fixtures with electronic ballasts (more expensive) and got rid of the older T-12 fixtures with magnetic ballasts (cheap). I also went with better quality bulbs. Noticably brighter, somewhat less power, and so far no flickering. You can pick the bulb to get the color temperature that you like best. I’ve noticed I like working in the shop when I have plenty of light.

Even when the general lighting is fine, some tasks go better with task-specific lighting, so I’ve got some small lights (and flashlights) for that.

Getting lighting right for colors is another thing entirely.

-- Greg D.

View bubinga's profile


864 posts in 3744 days

#9 posted 06-28-2011 08:48 PM

I use a combination of ,incandescent and fluorescent, fluorescent being the main light source. Incandescent is used for task lighting.
You need a lot of light in a shop ,so ,don’t skimp. put up as many fixtures as you need to light your shop ,properly. I no longer use any standard fluorescent bulbs, they are the ones that are horrible for woodworking. I use “FULL SPECTRUM” TYPE (also known as “NATURAL “or “DAYLIGHT” type) these bulbs are much better for color rendering,and are better quality, they cost a little more,but are well worth it. I put switches with pull chains in some of the fluorescent fixtures, so if I’m in one end of the shop for along time, I can turn off lights in the other end,other wise,they they turn on,and off with the wall switch.
FULL SPECTRUM fluorescent bulbs make a huge difference. No matter what time it is ,when I walk in my shop and flip the switches,it is day time in there.I say Let there be light,and there is.

Here is an after thought. You might find screw in type FULL SPECTRUM fluorescent bulbs,with high wattage at a lighting shop, or online.

-- E J ------- Always Keep a Firm Grip on Your Tool

View Dan's profile


3653 posts in 3956 days

#10 posted 06-28-2011 09:33 PM

I would find out what about the fluorescent lights gives you the headache. It could just be certain types of bulbs trigger the headaches. You may want to check into that a little and see if there are safer bulbs for people who are sensitive to the others.

Charlie’s idea of the hanging shop lights that plug in seem like a good choice if your not wanting to mess with any wiring. If you went that route you could have the hanging florescent fixtures which plug into an outlet so no wiring needed, and you could keep the lights you have now.

I am pretty sure Halogen lights need to be in a certain type of bucket fixture. They will work in your current fixtures but the bulbs will shut themselves off once they reach a high heat. Then you will have to wait for it to cool down before it will turn on again.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 4384 days

#11 posted 06-28-2011 09:45 PM

I have 26 of the 48” flourescent tubes in my shop and the light is great. I use the ”daylight” flourescent tubes and find that they give off the best natural light. My lights are switched on by 4 different wall switches so i can have full control. For me personally, I would not use anything else. I also have 10 windows and 2 sets of french doors with glass inserts that provide alot of light…but the overhead lighting is important.

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 4346 days

#12 posted 06-28-2011 10:21 PM

I too would second using the natural or daylight flourescents. You cannot beat flourescents for low cost, less heat and the amount of light.

In my shop I have flourescents overhead….a few regular incandescents and a few Led lights with magnifyers (old eyes can’t read or see the small prints and scratch lines) and skylighting. Over tools that need extra light I have either a light fixture with CFL bulbs….a magnetic led light or place the tool directly under the skylights.

Of all the light sources, the skylights give the best, the cheapest and the most color true, but they do not work at night (unless a full moon) and during very overcast days. Skylights might be a bother to put in (unless you know how or have a friendly contractor – luckily I have that covered) may be an option (easier to put in then skylights as there is no cutting through the ceiling but again you need to know how or have a friendly contractor) I put windows on every wall in my shop – I lose some wall space…but gain a lot more light! The older I get the more pleased I am that I put in the extra work to get more ambiant lighting.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View dbhost's profile


5777 posts in 4308 days

#13 posted 06-28-2011 10:52 PM

Your information RE: flourescent lights seems a bit off. I have 6 of them, 2 bulb 4 foot models, with daylight bulbs that are great for lighting up my little garage workshop. I would recommend going with T-8 fixtures if you go that way though. T-12 bulbs are going off the market soon due to Government regulations.

FWIW, 2 of my lamps are over my doors when the doors are open. But when they are closed, the illuminate the area very nicely. I would NOT skip putting lighting in there…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4724 days

#14 posted 06-28-2011 10:57 PM

I too use only FL lightning. I use full spectrum T-8 lights and do not have any flickering, and the color spectrum is pretty decent.

I do have older T-12 FL as well and those are indeed horrible.

T-8 FL lightning I think is the best way to go as it is energy efficient, covers a large space, and with proper bulbs the colors would look good enough – mind you, as stated above, even halogens would throw off the true colors of the wood and finish in the workshop.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 4271 days

#15 posted 06-28-2011 11:09 PM

Elizabeth, I too only have FL lighting. I have the T-8 ones as well that don’t flicker at all. Also, I chose to get Daylight temperature bulbs. Whenever I walk from the house into the garage and the lights are already on I think I’ve left the garage door open. Its very cozy and comfortable to work in and bright.

You can see the light produced by these in my workshop photos…. I have 4 workshop style strips, each one holds 2×4ft’ bulbs.

The only thing I would do is install another FL strip near the door to the house, its a little darker over and I’ve been meaning to add one more strip.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

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