Best lighting for my workshop

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Forum topic by richard2345 posted 05-08-2013 11:38 AM 42358 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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21 posts in 2707 days

05-08-2013 11:38 AM

Topic tags/keywords: workshop lighting


I’m about to install overhead lighting in my workshop, and was wondering if anyone had any recommendations on lighting hardware. The shop is an enclosed brick building, about 8-feet by 14-feet with 9-foot ceilings. There is a large picture window on one side of the building, but the building is in the shadow of my house so the natural lighting is not great.

At this point, I’m not sure if I want LED or halogen lighting, but I probably want to avoid incandescent or fluorescent lights. The ceiling is also made out brick with two symmetrical barrel arches, so I’m probably going to put one hanging light on each side of the building.

So, what hardware should I get? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Would be interested in hearing what has worked for people.

23 replies so far

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3578 days

#1 posted 05-08-2013 12:43 PM

Halogens, while a bit more efficient than standard incandescents, are still just incandescent lights with a bit of gas added to increase the brightness. They get hot, they use much power.

Why would you not want fluorescent lights? Oh, I know there is a tiny bit of mercury in there, but way less than the amount released by burning coal for electricity to run an equivalent incandescent or halogen light. And some fluorescent lights are very efficient with very good light color. The T5 HO can be had with a color of 6000K; almost as good as sunlight.

LEDs are probably the future, and they are available right now, but at a high price. There are even LED bulbs mounted in tubes that can retrofit existing T5 fixtures with almost equal light, but use a little more power, and at $50 a tube, they bring new meaning to green energy.

View GT350's profile


377 posts in 2589 days

#2 posted 05-08-2013 01:36 PM

I have 8 two tube T12 4’ with standard ballast fluorescent lights in a 20×25 shop with 8’ ceilings. They have been in there about 20 years and some of the bulbs are original. I use cool white bulbs and I really like the light color and level, I wouldn’t change a thing. When I originally started putting the lights in I got high output fixtures and installed one and it gave me headaches so I sold it to a friend with high ceilings.

View helluvawreck's profile


32086 posts in 3474 days

#3 posted 05-08-2013 01:39 PM

I second the fluorescent lights. However, I certainly don’t recommend the cheapest. The cheaper ones that I’ve seen are not very well made or engineered. BTW, welcome to Lumberjocks.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View NoLongerHere's profile


893 posts in 3283 days

#4 posted 05-08-2013 01:48 PM

crank is right on the “money”.

I’ll bet LEDs will be better and a 1/3 of the price in 3-5 years. Too expensive now and therefore, not green at all.

I have 2’ x 4’ fixtures that use 4 T12 bulbs in my woodshop. I pulled them out of the dumpster from an office demo. but, I hear they are phasing out the big T12 bulbs.
The T5 fluorescent bulbs are pretty efficient and don’t put out significant heat.

I installed some flush in a shop garage ceiling (see my project – a shelf made for memories) and would recommend adding more or getting a unit with 4 bulbs as 2 is not quite enough.

Lowes sells a cool looking shop unit made to look like stamped steel. Might work.

They also make clear tube covers for shatter protection, if they are exposed. You Will hit them with a long board eventually.

On second thought – Those arched brick openings and ceiling sound very cool….. maybe this room needs a more decorative fixture worthy of it’s history?

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Carl Webster

82 posts in 3406 days

#5 posted 05-08-2013 02:36 PM

I agree with Crank49. T5 fluorescents are the way to go. The fixtures and bulbs are a little more than T12’s, but give better light and are more reliable.

-- Carl in SC

View EPJartisan's profile


1122 posts in 3733 days

#6 posted 05-08-2013 03:02 PM

The prices of LED bulbs are going down and down every year. I have been watching the technology for a decade now. There are several new inventions that are making the bulbs cheaper… CREE technology and cheap man made sapphires came out about 5 years ago. Since the price has gone down, and the producers now understand how to reach the market (via built in dimmer technology to work with modern households) There is also a company in canada that are using criss-crossing “V” shaped channels to direct super bright LEDs from the edges across huge panels for consistent light. The LED bulbs are now bright enough to light my whole kitchen… and depending on the product can be a nice warm white… 3000-6000k

Last autumn, I retro-fitted all the ceiling lights in my condo to LED.. they were halogens and supposed to last 5 years each burned out after only 1. The LEDs reduced our electric bill by a third.. an this last winter we actually turned on two radiators. We had no idea how much heat came off those halogen bulbs. AND not one LED has burned out yet… they are supposed to last 15 years… yes I paid much more than other bulbs.. but not much more than Halogen… and the savings already paid for them all.. 25 bulbs = $500… saving on electric since Sept = over $600.

I now see Halogens as very yellow and I never noticed how much they change the color of other things. Currently, my studio is a 1/4 incandescent (ceiling lights), 1/4 fluorescent (hanging workbench lights), and a 1/4 LED (gallery lighting) and 1/4 halogens (which I will replace shortly. In my fluorescent lights, I use a combination of bright white and a natural.

-- " 'Truth' is like a beautiful flower, unique to each plant and to the season it blossoms ... 'Fact' is the root and leaf, allowing the plant grow and bloom again."

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Adrian A

169 posts in 3510 days

#7 posted 05-08-2013 04:23 PM

T8 all the way to the bank

View Marty5965's profile


161 posts in 2553 days

#8 posted 05-08-2013 04:38 PM

I use the hanging “shop” lights from the Borg with Daylight T8s and they seem to work just fine. At $20 each you can add as many as you want to end up with shadowless workspaces everywhere. Of course, you will probably need to turn some off when finishing if you can’t see your raking light.

-- Marty, Wilmington, OH, learning every day....

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3578 days

#9 posted 05-08-2013 05:27 PM

I agree the T-8s are the least expensive choice right now.
I think the T-5s are giving better light color and longer life, especially when switched on and off frequently.
Then the LEDs are longest life, and most expensive; short term.
Yes, I think that about sums it up.

View kdc68's profile


2922 posts in 2884 days

#10 posted 05-09-2013 01:33 AM

+1 Crank49...

”I agree the T-8s are the least expensive choice right now.
I think the T-5s are giving better light color and longer life, especially when switched on and off frequently.
Then the LEDs are longest life, and most expensive; short term.
Yes, I think that about sums it up.”

I might add this…. more lighting the better. When you get older, you need more light….

-- Measure "at least" twice and cut once

View richard2345's profile


21 posts in 2707 days

#11 posted 05-09-2013 12:14 PM

Thanks for all of the feedback! It appears Fluorescent lighting is the most common currently. Does anyone know where a good place to purchase the fluorescent and LED bulbs and hardware (fixtures)? Is there a good online store, or is this something typically purchased at the local electrical store? I’m going to buy the hardware and bulbs and the electrician will purchase the wires, switches, junction boxes, etc.

View richard2345's profile


21 posts in 2707 days

#12 posted 05-10-2013 11:47 AM

Thanks again for the feedback.

EP – Do you happen to have any images of your shop lighting on LumberJocks? Your setup sounds interesting.

Reedwood – Yes, we had the arched ceiling restored to its original condition. The building had completely fallen down when we moved in 3 years ago, and we spend a lot of effort rebuilding it to its previous specs. So I would be interested in choosing a light that fits aesthetically. Any suggestions? I was thinking perhaps two hanging lights with bowl shaped reflectors, but I may have to get creating so they put out as much light as fluorescent tube lighting.

Any tips on where to find good lighting hardware would be appreciated. I’m not 100% keen on going to the salvage yard, because when I do that I usually buy really cool stuff that ends up sitting around for a year because of how much work is required to refinish or retrofit the material for my use! We’re restoring the whole house, so unfortunately my workshop doesn’t always get as much attention as I would like.

Great suggestions by all here. Thank you!

View Tedstor's profile


1678 posts in 3240 days

#13 posted 05-10-2013 12:36 PM

IMO, quantity beats quality when it comes to lighting. Or at the very least, quantity can overcome quality in most cases.
I have two flourescent fixtures that each hold four 36”(?) bulbs. I only have about a 10X10 area to illuminate. I’m pretty sure I’m getting a good dose of UV every time I enter my shop. But there are virtually no shadows and the visability is great.

I’m actually moving to a new house next month and will have to set-up a new shop in the garage. I’ll probably stick with the 36” flourescent fixtures for general shop space. But I have a cheap track lighting set-up that I’ll likely hang over my bench.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5242 posts in 4568 days

#14 posted 05-10-2013 01:45 PM

I have 8 2 tube T8 flours on the ceiling (15’ x 20’), and task lights for some of the tools. 3 years and I’ve changed 1 tube.
No buzz, flicker, etc.
Note about the task lights:
I started using “oven” light bulbs for drill press, lathe, and grinder. They can handle the vibration better than standard incandescents.


-- [email protected]

View mbs's profile


1667 posts in 3547 days

#15 posted 05-10-2013 05:42 PM

I put 8 skylights in my shop and during the day I can get away without using lights if I’m not doing fine work. Here’s a pic of what the natural light looks like. These are 2’ x 4’ skylights. the ceiling is 10’ high and it is finished with drywall. I also think Crank has the best lighting recommendation.

I know you don’t have the option I’m recommending but for other readers who are building or retrofitting their shop they may get value in this recommendation.

-- Sorry the reply is so long. I didn't have time to write a short reply.

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