This is 12 tips for the best garage lighting layout, your guide to adding lights to your garage shop, and making them look awesome. This guide makes it really easy, and you will love your garage when you are done. Enjoy.
Garage Lighting is Important
Of all the improvements that you could make in your woodworking shop, the lighting is one of the most significant, and you will feel the results right away. Most of us have our woodworking shop in the garage, so getting your garage lighting laid out correctly is very important.
Unlike other projects, when you improve the lighting, you notice immediately. Not only is it easier to see you, but the shop feels more inviting, you are more comfortable, and all of those factors add up creating a place where you do better work.
When you are comfortable and happy in your shop, you produce the best woodworking projects that you can produce. There is a mental component to any hobby, and woodworking is no different. Lighting makes a big difference, and I’ll show you why.
Thankfully, designing your lighting layout for the garage is pretty easy, especially with all of the tips and tricks that I’m about to show you. After reading this post, you will have plenty of confidence, and be able to get the process right on the very first try.
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Shop Lighting is Inexpensive thanks to LED Lights
One of the best things to happen to garage lighting in history has been the introduction of the LED light. These lights are awesome, inexpensive, and they cast a very large volume of light anywhere you use them.
It’s rare that something is the best and also one of the least expensive. LED lights are actually less expensive than a lot of other comparable lighting methods, and they are far superior for several reasons.
First, the quality of the light is outstanding. It mimics real light or daylight very well, and gives you a much more realistic look in your shop. LED lights also come in very compact shapes, which makes placing them extremely easy.
Thanks to the technology being so easy to produce, these lights also come in a number of different shapes and configurations. This makes it really easy to pick out the right lights for your garage shop, and get them in place to improve the lighting.
Start Your Design on Paper
The best way to get started with your lighting layout is to get yourself a sheet of graph paper and start the design process there. Planning things out on paper is awesome for a lot of reasons, and it will help you plan other things in the future as well.
When you plan on paper, the mistakes only cost you the time it takes to erase a line. When you make a mistake in real life with your lighting, you might have to uninstall it, patch the drywall, and then put up another light. That’s a whole lot of work for no reason.
When you start your design on paper instead of just winging it, you also can save some money by not over buying on your lights. Once everything is planned out on paper, you’ll be surprised to see how little LED lights you would need for your shop.
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Place All Major Tools and Benches
The first thing to do on your piece of paper is to outline the shape of your shop, and then place all your major tools and benches right on the diagram. This is going to show you a top view of what your shop looks like, and help you place your lighting.
Use the graph paper squares and come up with the scale that makes sense for the piece of paper that you’re using. The shop needs to fit on the paper, and be large enough that you can tell one tool from another.
Once you have your perimeter establish, measure your major tools and benches that don’t move around very much, and place those to scale on the diagram as well. Once you’re finished, place anything else large, or any area that you spend a significant amount of time working.
The goal in this part of the exercise is to get your shop laid out, so that way you can go back and place lighting fixtures above major areas where you do a lot of work. It’s easiest to do this on paper, because you can see what areas the light will affect much more easily.
See Also: 50 Awesome Reasons to be a Woodworker
Consider Where You Stand and Work
One of the biggest considerations is where you stand and work. The vast majority of the time spent in your shop is typically spent in only a few places. Most of the time this is going to be your bench, and a couple major tools.
When placing your lighting in these areas, it’s very important that you design the lighting layout in a way that does not create any shadows. For example, you wouldn’t want all of the lighting behind you when you are standing over your bench.
If the lighting was designed in this manner, you would constantly cast shadows on top of your workbench. This means you would also cast shadows on top of your projects, making it far more difficult to do simple tasks like measuring and marking.
The goal is to have light everywhere in the shop, but especially in areas where you do the most work and spend the most time. These are the places where the difference in lighting will be appreciated the most, and where you can make the biggest impact in your garage.
Add Lights to Fill the Entire Area
After you place your major lighting over the tools in the places that you spend the most time, add additional lights to fill the entire area. You don’t want to have a really bright area in one spot, and then a really dark area in another spot.
It’s important that the lighting be pretty consistent from place to place, though it may be a little bit better in some areas and others. What you don’t want to have happen is going from a well lit bench to a poorly lit bandsaw, which could be a safety issue.
As you are adding lights to your diagram, keep them evenly spaced, and the light should fill the entire area. The nice thing about working with the diagram and drawing your lights to scale is that you can easily see how big they are in relation to the room.
Just seeing it on paper will make it very obvious where you need more lighting, and where you can spread the lighting out a little bit. This is super helpful, and you can save quite a bit of money on the lighting layout.
Eliminate All Dark Spots
On top of providing great lighting that illuminates all shadows, especially important areas where you were going to be doing a lot of work, the final piece of the puzzle is to illuminate all dark spots from your garage shop.
Many times, this is simply a matter of just referring to your diagram, and looking for areas that are looser than others. When you find these areas, either add additional lights, or adjust existing lights to fill any dark areas.
Dark spots are a safety concern. It’s not blatantly obvious when you are working in a well lit area and you transition into a poorly lit area. It seems like it would be, but it’s actually pretty easy to not realize that you are seeing as much as you should.
This is where mistakes can happen, and your safety, and the safety of your fingers could be at risk. Don’t let that happen, and eliminate all dark areas in your shop when you are designing your lighting system.
Don’t Block the Garage Door
This is probably one of the more humorous issues that you may run into as you are designing the layout for your garage lighting in your shop. Make sure to note the location of the overhead garage door, because the lighting can become an issue.
The biggest issue you can run into is knocking down some of your lights the first time you open your overhead garage door. While this will be a very humorous story later on, it will not be funny at all the moment that it happens.
The other issue you can run into is having too many lights above the garage door, and when you work with the door open, all of those lights are running for absolutely no reason. While that isn’t necessarily the end of the world given that LEDs don’t take up much energy, it’s still not good.
The way to design the lighting layout for your garage is to think about the garage door as being either up or down the vast majority of the time. If you know that you always like to work with the garage door open, and that you work in daylight most of the time, designed it that way.
In contrast, if you know that you work with the garage door closed the majority of the time, design it differently. Use lights that hang closer to the ceiling so that way they avoid the garage door, and put as many as you need in that area to illuminate the shop.
Lights Over All Benches and Working Areas
It’s important that the lights that are over all benches in working areas are covered from a few different angles. This will help ensure that no matter which area you were standing in, there will always be light on your project.
One of the best ways to do this is to put lights directly above the bench, but a little bit further forward in the direction that you are facing when you stand at the bench. This makes it harder for you to cast shadows.
Couple that with a few lights to the left or the right, and the field that they create will help keep everything on your bench in plain sight. The additional lights in the shop will also provide fill, and that will make your bench super easy to see.
No Lights Directly in the Eyes or Face
With lights that are on the ceiling this isn’t too common of an issue, but sometimes lights that are hanging a little lower can cause a glare in the eyes. This is definitely something you want to avoid in a woodworking shop, for several reasons.
First of all, lights directly in the eyes can cause big problems while using power equipment, and can cause safety issues. You definitely don’t want to have to contend with a glaring light in your eyes while you’re operating your table saw.
Next, low hanging lights can cause an issue with you having to duck around them, or work around them when the lighting should be completely out of your way. Spend time on your layout and make sure that you aren’t putting any lighting to low, or in a place where it will hit your eyes directly.
Another time this happens is when there are shelves on the wall, and you decide to put lighting below those shelves. If the shelves are higher than your high level, you will get plenty of light directly in the eyes from those bulbs.
However, if the shelves are a lot lower, you can use that light has essentially non-directional light and fill light very effectively. Make sure it doesn’t hit you directly in the eyes, and your lighting will always be comfortable in your shop.
How to Power Your Garage Lighting
Once you decide on how to do your lighting layout, the next thing you need to take attention to is how you are going to power all of them. The nice thing about most LED shop lights is that they plugged directly into each other, and then into a wall socket.
This can be great for the same socket that powers your garage door opener. Typically the socket will have two plugs, but it may just have one. It’s simple to install a double gang unit instead of a single, or have an electrician do it if you are concerned.
Take a look at the load capacity for your lighting, and make sure that you aren’t putting too many of them on the same circuit. Again the nice thing about LED lights is that you can put a surprisingly large number of them on one outlet.
Then, check with the manufacturer in the recommendations and follow them so that way you don’t have additional risk in your shop.
Ceiling Lights and Wall Lights
When adding lighting into your layout, consider the fact that you can put lights on the ceiling, you can also put lights on the walls. The lights on the ceiling are very obvious, and that’s where the vast majority of shop lighting will reside.
The lights on the walls are not nearly as obvious, but is long as the light is not hitting directly in the eyes, you can put as many lights on the wall as you want. Keep them low enough to provide fill without glare.
These kinds of lights are actually really nice above a workbench, and shielded by a shelf. The shelf can be a place to store some of your tools, and it will also block the light from coming upwards towards your face.
The extra lighting can be great for projects that require more detail, or more attention to a smaller area. You can also run these on a separate switch so that way you can turn them on only when you need to.
Lighting Temperature Considerations
When buying your lighting, another thing to consider is the temperature of the bulbs as a relates to the type of light they produce. Most household light bulbs are considered soft white, but there is a lot more to choose from than that.
There is another option that’s similar to daylight, and that’s closer to 5000 Kelvin for the temperature rating. There are some that are higher, and some that are lower, with the higher numbers being a clear light and the lower numbers being more yellow.
There are a number of different schools of thought on lighting, with some suggesting to go for an even mixture of temperatures, and others saying to go daylight all the way. In my shop, I go daylight all the way, and I’ve never regretted the clear lighting that it produces.
These types of lights are in that 5000 to 6000 Kelvin range, and they produce a light that is very clear, and similar to daylight. I find that working in an environment like this is very easy to do, and it feels much brighter in there as well.
Where to Find the Best Deal on Garage Shop Lights
The absolute best place to find deals on your garage shop lights is Amazon. This is the biggest marketplace in the world, and millions of merchants are competing to give you the best price and the best value for your dollar.
With all of these merchants competing in one place, you as the customer get all the benefit because they are constantly under cutting each other on price. Several vendors all carry the same thing, so they look at the competitors prices and price their products a little lower.
Can you get all the benefit, because you can look at several different varieties of the same product and choose the exact one that makes you the happiest for a price that you are comfortable with. This is a huge advantage, and your shop will thank you for it.
See Also: 13 Myths About Getting Into Woodworking
Don’t Buy Lighting in a Retail Store
Also, most regular stores don’t carry LED lights that are meant for shops. Most stores carry fluorescent shop lights, which are bigger, bulkier, more expensive, and have a lot more problems than LED lights in general.
I first started out in my shop with the low price double bulb fluorescent lights that you can find in most regular home stores and shopping stores. I thought they were great at the time, but until I put in the LED lights I did not realize how poorly lit my shop really was.
Also, by the time I bought all the fixtures and the bulbs that I need to buy, I spent more than twice the price of the LED lights I have in the shop now. Those LEDs have to be several times brighter and more filling than the shop lights ever were.
Again, it’s not often that you get to buy something that is the lowest price and also the best performing product at the same time. LED shop lights are one exception, and you really can have an amazingly lit shop for a very low price.
Your Action Assignment
Now that you know how to design the lighting for your garage shop, it’s time to get out some graph paper and start drawing. Mark out the perimeter of your shop to scale, and then start placing all of your major tools and benches.
Figure out where you are going to stand, and start placing your lights on the diagram so that you can see exactly how big they are. Spend a little time on Amazon looking at some of the options, and draw them directly on your diagram.
Pick out a set of lights that are easy to install, and that you can power with what you already have in the shop. After that, order them, and when they come in start installing the lights where they are needed on your diagram.
Test out the lighting and see how well you did. With LEDs, you’ll be surprised at the amount of light that you get from them. However, if you do need more, a booster pack that is a little bit smaller than what you may have started with will be less expensive.
Buy lighting of the same type and from the same manufacturer and they will play together seamlessly in most cases. It’s easy to figure this out, just look at the lighting and it will be pretty obvious.
If you have any questions about your garage shop lighting, please Post a Question in the Q&A Forum and I’ll be glad to help. Happy building.
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