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Thread: Lighting the new shop

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Adjacent Peoples Republic of Boulder

    Lighting the new shop

    We will move into a new house soon, and my only opportunity for workspace is in the unfinished basement. I'll carve out a 725 sf part of it, and will build walls all around that are drywall up to 48" high, and prefinished 3/16 white pegboard from there up to the 105 1/2" ceiling. Ceiling will be 7/16 OSB and unfinished.

    I laid out a pattern of twin-bulb T8 fluorescent fixtures and the 54 total lamps will have an output equal to about 209 lumens per sf. I'm told that if you want 100 lumens at your work, calculate your lamp output using a factor of two.

    I also am told that the high-output T5 lamps should not be used for ceiling heights of less than 14 feet.

    Please comment on my lamping needs.

  2. #2
    Last winter I changed things around in my shop, have 4 bulb troffer lights, some still have t 12 and some have been changed to t8. Found it advantageous to set my lights up in zones, like lights over the assembly table, switched separate from others. Also have the area above my table saws in one zone each, 3 fixtures, or 12 bulbs. That way I can switch on the lights I need, and turn off others so the whole shop doesn't have to be lit at one time. The new bulbs are the daylight t 8, and amazing the amount of light they put out.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    NW Indiana
    Wow, that seems like a lot of bulbs--54. I agree with Jim that you will want to zone the lighting to that you can turn off some of them when not needed. You may also want to calculate the cost of running the lights. I did the calculation for my shop and was amazed and am now much better at turning off what I do not need.

    I think it would be useful to paint he OSB for the ceiling white as it will help with lighting. You could easily paint the OSB before you put it up and make it a lot easier.

  4. #4
    I think you are on the right track but suggest you read my article on "Lighting the Small Workshop". It's the first one under the "Articles" heading. I believe it will answer your questions and also provide guidelines on lamp and fixture selection as well as info on doing the layout.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Adjacent Peoples Republic of Boulder
    Two pics are attached. One is a rendering I did of my new space, with its lighting. The fixtures are the "industrial" type, meaning the assemblies have integral reflectors, those curved gull-winged things you see. Not sure they are needed, because in the other pic, a photo of a neighbor's space in the basement of an almost-identical house, you can see the result with no reflectors.

    In both cases, mine and his, there is unfinished OSB at the ceiling.

    And yes, I will zone the lighting. Three switches, one to do the run of three fixtures along the wall to the right, another for the large central group (three rows), and one to to the 8'x17' pop-out in the far corner.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Northern NJ
    I am a little late in responding, but I think you're on the right track, but could reduce your fixture count. Doing a quick and very rough calc, using a typical 2 lamp F32T8 industrial shop fixture (similar to Lihonia: ) I get the following:
    2950 lumens (per lamp) x 2 lamps/fixt x 54 fixt = 318,600 x 50% (i.e., fixt efficiency, lumen and dust depreciation) = 159,300 lumens / 725 sq ft = 219.7 footcandles

    Since you are not performing surgery (or are you?) you should be aiming for a level of 90-110 footcandles (not the same as lumens) in the critical task areas - saw, bench, fine work, etc. As Jim said, you could space out the fixtures for a lower general level and add some for the fine tasks. And as Larry suggested, it would be very beneficial and easy to paint the ceiling white NOW before anything is installed. And, you are correct about the T5 lamp fixtures - especially with no lens and below 14-15 feet, I find them uncomfortably bright.

  7. #7
    Hi Gene. Just a thought or two as well as I just finished lighting my 20x40 shop. I ran 4 rows of 4x8' (each has 4 8' 4 bulb lights) for a total of 64 4' T8 bulbs. I then ran 3 more 8' 4x4' T* bulb fixtures along one end where I'll be lining up my bandsaw, scroll saw, etc. This is overall, decently bright. It did not (IMO) provide enough special task lighting over my router area which then got a dedicated 4 x 4' T8 lamp suspeded above it, nor my workbench (got a seperate 8' 4x4' tube T8).
    When pals come over, especially in the eve, they all comment on how bright it is. (my walls are all bare wood so little reflective ability, if yours are white even better!) I see that my bench will prob still require some more lighting but will go with a task light (mobile circular flourescent) for that.

    My lathe area was lacking still. So I put a 2x4' T8 fixture above it. Still wasn't happy so I also bought an outdoor halogen 150 watt flood light in the metal housing for above my lathe, which is angled so it shines close to the headstock. Wow ... it is wonderfully bright. (Picture a 150 watt halogen just 5' from your work surface ) Makes me realize that flourescents are good, but if you really want solid task lighting, nothing beats a high wattage halogen directly on the work area. I'm thinking now about replacing my 4x4'tube T8 above my workbench with some halogens to give me that "operating theater" experience.

    I also had my shop wired so that all my fixtures have a rubber cord with a plug on it coming from them. I then had a bunch of ceiling boxes wired in with plugs (various circuits of course) so that if I decide I need to just move them, I can. (Electrical is NOT my forte, I can unplug but leave the real stuff to better men than I).
    Try to plan as best you can but recognize you'll want to make changes, additions usually, not too often a deletion. A bonus of this is although all the T8 flourescent lights were expensive, since they are only plugged in, makes them non permanent. If I sell my home, I can take these lights with me as they are not classified as being hard wired to the garage. Should you wish to do so. Cost me a little extra from the electrician but I'm glad I got it when I did and had it inspected for insurance reasons as well.
    My 2 cents... Best of luck with your lighting adventure!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Mont Vernon, NH
    another option- I have just installed circular flush mount LED lamps to half of my workshop (see pic). The are similar to these- I bought mine locally and don't have the exact version available online just now:

    I have a relatively low ceiling height- just over 7 feet. and used 6 lights in about 350 square feet. I still plan to add some localized task lighting as needed, and I am not finished building the shop- but so far, I am amazed with the quality and amount of light I have. I specifically wanted to avoid fluorescent if at all possible as I wanted a "Softer" feel to my workshop lighting. I am very happy so far (and they are supposed to last 15 years or so, before you replace the whole unit- we shall see!
    Anyway, if you are interested, let me know and I will dig out the proper info for the specific lights I used
    barn lights.jpeg


  9. #9
    I'm in the process of installing lighting in my shop and would be very interested in your lighting

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Lewiston, Idaho

    A member, Jack Lindsey, a retired lighting engineer, wrote an article for FWW and then later revised and published it here at SMC. I used his original article to design and install the lighting in my shop. Here's a link to the article:

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