Shop Lighting Question

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Forum topic by gtbuzz posted 01-12-2014 05:05 PM 1588 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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427 posts in 3356 days

01-12-2014 05:05 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question workshop lighting

I’m in desperate need of upgrading my shop lighting. I’m setup in a 20×20 garage with 9’ ceilings. The right half is completely dedicated to the shop area, and fortunately my girlfriend’s car is pretty short, so I actually occupy about 1/4 of the other bay too. Also good is that if I’ve got a bigger project and need a little more space, she’s okay with parking outside for a few days while I use that space, so I do want to light up pretty much the whole garage.



Currently, the lighting situation in there is very poor. I often wear a head lamp, especially at the lathe, to help things out. There are two garage door openers with 3 60 watt CFLs and the ceiling has two socket style light fixtures about 6’ from the front wall. In the picture below, the yellow light bulbs are the ceiling mounted ones and the clear ones are the ones in the garage door opener.



I recently tried replacing the 23 watt cfls in the ceiling sockets with 65 watt (300 watt incandescent equiv) and it did make a pretty big difference, however, it really only covered the front portion of the garage and the color is a soft yellow; I’d much rather have something in the 6500K (daylight range). As it is, I’ve got to install some additional lighting near the opposite end of the shop anyway, so instead of using these giant CFL’s I’m really thinking about going towards 4 pairs of T5HO lights instead since they will put off a lot more light and I can get them in the 6500K range. Arrangement would be something like this:



Note that the location of the two on the bottom are constrained by a large floor joist – I can’t move them any closer to the center. Should be okay though, since it ought to provide a lot of lighting over the table saw. I also, plan on keeping all the lights in the garage door openers, however I’ll probably replace them with daylight spiral CFLs to get some uniform color.

Questions I have are:
  • I’ve read some recommendations, that say 2 t5ho lights per 250sqft, what I have planned is about double that. Is this too much lighting? Honestly I’d much rather do just a 2 pairs of lights at the center of instead of 4 since it would be half the cost, however I worry that there may be too many shadows near the front (where my lathe is) and the back (where the table saw is)
  • Can I get away with 1/2 as much? Like I said, I’d rather not spend the money, but it’s worth more to me to only do it once
  • If the 4 pairs of T5HO are too much, could I get away with 4 pairs of T8 instead? They’re still less than 2 pairs of T5HO
  • I’d like to wire the lights using the existing sockets because those are wired into a motion-sensing switch. I can just remove the existing fixtures at the front of the garage and install the lights there, however for the two near the far end of the garage, I’d have to run some wire along the (finished) ceiling. Is it okay, code-wise, to run Romex across the ceiling, or should I use 14-3 wire (it’s a 15 amp circuit)? How often to would I have to tack it into the drywall and what type of “fastener” should be used? I imagine there’s some sort of bridge-type clip that could be used to prevent the jacket from being punctured

I’m open to other suggestions anyone may have. Thanks in advance.

3 replies so far

View AandCstyle's profile


3288 posts in 3171 days

#1 posted 01-13-2014 02:07 AM

I have a couple thoughts for your consideration: I would move the fixture in the north east quadrant toward the east so you will not be working in your shadow when using the lathe and jointer. I would probably rotate the one in the NW quadrant 90 degrees to provide better lighting for those tools. As you age, your eyes need more lumens to see as well as they do today. If possible paint the walls white to better reflect the light in the shop. Get fixtures that have reflectors to direct more light downward. HTH

-- Art

View gtbuzz's profile


427 posts in 3356 days

#2 posted 01-13-2014 02:58 AM

Thanks for the info. The ceilings and the walls are painted white (or rather a builder-grade “white-ish”), however with the walls, there’s so much stuff on them, that I honestly don’t think there’s a whole lot of reflectivity there. I’ve just about run out of places to hang clamps, hoses, cords, etc.

I like the ideas you have for the ceiling locations, but unfortunately I’m pretty restricted there too. You really can’t tell in those pics, but I’ve got hanging garage storage for coolers, paint, lawn care stuff, and so on. I could probably rotate the lights over the grinder / sander / planer area, but the light over the lathe can’t go too much farther to the right.

I do really like the idea that you brought up of providing a lot of light for the lathe though. I think I’m gonna run with that and add an additional light on the bottom of the hanging storage so it’s right over my lathe.

As far as reflectors go, I’m finding that those can easily double the price of the light. Is it possible to construct my own with some hard board and some sort of highly reflective paint?

I found these lights that look promising, especially considering they come with the bulb:

Only downside is that they don’t have a reflector. I can do three lights down the center of each bay and that would get me 6 lights for only about $160 incl. shipping.

View Grandpa's profile


3263 posts in 3590 days

#3 posted 01-13-2014 03:40 AM

Go to an electrical supply place and ask them what their experts recommend. They will do that. Free in my town

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