Home: Garage Lighting

Garage Lighting Information
Costs and Advice

"If you use your garage as a workshop, a recreation space or a place to pursue
your hobbies, proper lighting is a must."

With so many garage lighting options, how do you make the right lighting choice? How much do lights for your garage cost? What style works best for your garage? Is it really worth the time and effort?

Good questions. Following is detailed information on the various lighting options for your garage, how to choose the best option for your garage, what they will cost, and a few recommendations.

Do you need a Lighting upgrade?

If you do nothing more than park your car or cars in the garage (a rarity for most people, if their cars actually fit in the garage), you probably don't need this article. Standard, incandescent lights, like those that use a typical 60 watt bulb, will be adequate.

On the other hand, if you use your garage as a workshop, a recreation space or a place to pursue your hobbies, proper garage lighting is a must. There is nothing worse than trying to find, build or repair something in a poorly lit garage

Types of Garage Lighting

There are litterally dozens if not 100s of garage lighting styles, sizes and price points. Here are the major categories and considerations within each category.

Garage Lighting
Workbench Task Light - Alvin G2540-B Swing Arm Lamp

Incandescent Lights - These are the "standard" lights you generally find in most garages. A 60, 75 or 100 watt bulb in two or three basic light fixtures provides adequate light for coming and going. They come on immediately when you flip the switch.

Replacement bulbs are cheap and available at the grocery store. It doesn't get much easier than this. If, however, your garage will serve as something other than a place to park your car, you may want to consider other purpose-driven options.

Fluorescent Lights - Fluorescent garage lighting comes in many varieties and is probably the most common among garage lights. From 4 foot "shop lights" for around $20, to linkable fluorescent lights allowing you to expand your lighting as needed.

While it may be tempting to buy a cheap 4 foot shop light at a "big box" store, think twice before parting with your hard-earned money. They often flicker and hum when they are on and they may not turn on at all if the air temperature is too low.

Your best bet for fluorescent lighting is 4 foot fixtures that use electronic ballasts and T8 tubes. T8s put out the same light as their T12 predecesors and electronic ballasts start in cold temperatures and don't produce flickering light. One more advantage of T8 garage lighting is that the light they produce is more accurate in color than the larger T12s.

One more thing. When installing fluorescent garage lighting, place one 4 foot fixture every 4 feet rather than 2 every 8 feet. You will find the quality of light to be more uniform throughout the garage space.

NOTE: For those techies who are interested, the "T" in T8 or T12 stands for "tubular" and the number represents the number of 1/8th inch increments in the bulb diameter. Therefore, a T8 would be 8 1/8ths or 1 inch in dimeter. A T12 would be 12 1/8ths or 1-1/2 inches in diameter. T8s with electronic balasts also use a lot less energy. Up to 32% less, in fact.

We recently replaced all of the T12s in our office with T8s and electronic ballasts. Our fixtures that previously had 4 T12s now have 2 T8s. They produce the same amount of light and they have saved a considerable amount of electricity.

ODL EZ10SCANH 10 In. Tubular Skylight with Asphalt Flashing

Natural Light - Windows or Skylights - While natural light is always my favorite, it is often difficult to get enough of it in your garage to meet your lighting needs. If you are building a garage and you have not yet chosen your garage plans, consider those with windows or skylights so you can take advantage of natural light.

If you are adding light to your current garage, consider adding a new window, skylight or solar tube.

Task Lighting - There is no mystery in how to use task lighting. These types of fixtures are installed or placed in specific areas where you need extra light. For example, if you have a grinder on your garage workbench, a craft table in a corner or a fly tying station, something as simple as a clamp-on type desk lamp can provide extra illumination where you need it most.

One more commonly used task light is the portable halogen light. They typically come in single and double bulb versions with 300 to 500 watts of lighting power. Contractors use these a lot on the job when electricity has not yet been installed where they are working. However, a single halogen light that sits on the floor or a double light that sits on a stand can provide outstanding light to your work space, especially if you are working outside the garage in the dark.

Decorative or Themed Lighting - Do you have a pool table in your garage? You may want to consider hanging a themed light fixture over the pool table. If you have a particular brand of car to highlight, you can find specialty themed garage lighting to match the brand or even the model of your favorite "wheels."

Track Lighting - The best part about track lighting is their flexibility. You can add various sizes and types of spot lights, flood lights, accent lights, etc., to the track and meet your lighting needs to a tee.

Solar Powered Lighting - Now that we are in the "green" era of designing and building homes, garages, commercial buildings and more, the use of solar energy has become more mainstream.

The ultimate solar lighting solutions are passive, like a window, skylight or solar tube. On the other hand, you can install electric lighting in your garage and power it with reasonably priced solar panels. While this type of system is not so common that you find it in big box stores, it won't be long.

Cooper Lighting GT100MH 100W Metal Halide Industrial Grade Security Dusk to Dawn Area Light

Outdoor Garage Lighting - From motion sensing flood lights to overhead area lights, the options are many. Most people think of outdoor garage lighting for decorative purposes, security purposes or outdoor activity purposes. Give thoughtful consideration to the reason for your outdoor lighting before proceeding.

If you are simply trying to illuminate an outdoor basketball court, an overhead area light or a couple of flood lights will do the trick. When it comes to style and decorative value, try to match your garage lights to the style of your home. Learn more about outdoor lighting.

How to Choose the Best Garage Lighting

Selecting the best garage lighting options really comes down to your personal preference and how you plan to use your garage. Even if your builder used the cheapest incandescent or fluorescent light fixtures available, upgrading for your needs doesn't have to break the bank. Follow these 3 steps:

Step 1
Decide how you will use your garage. If you are reading this article, you probably already have the answer.

Step 2
Install enough general purpose garage lighting fixtures to provide even and adequate light to every corner of the garage. My preference is to use 4 foot fluorescent fixtures with T8 bulbs and electronic balasts, placing fixtures every 4 feet on the garage ceiling. You will be amazed at how bright your garage becomes and how much better you feel about spending time there.

Step 3
Create work spaces within your garage and install task lighting for extra illumination in those areas. Examples include:

— Placing a fluroescent light fixture under a wall cabinet to illuminate your garage workbench.

— Attaching an adjustable hooded office light to your workbench, craft table, etc., or

— Buying a corded trouble light to carry with you when you need extra light to look under the hood of your car, for example.

Remember, if you haven't yet built your garage, look for garage plans that include strategically placed windows, skylights or solar tubes. Natural light is the best!

">Fluorescent Garage Lighting
Lithonia Lighting SB 232 120 GESB Two-Light T8
Fluorescent Ceiling Fixture, White

What will Garage Lighting cost?

That depends on what type of lighting you choose. Cheap fluorescent lighting can cost from $10 to $20 per 4 foot fixture, but I don't recommend it. The flickering and humming just isn't worth the minimal costs savings.

Fluorescent Lights - A better quality fluorescent ceiling light can cost from $20-$25 per fixture to as much as $50 or more. To get it done right, you should budget $50 to $75 per fixture for 4 to 8 fixtures in a typical garage. "Typical" is used loosly, as many people have garages that go far beyond a "typical" 2 car or 3 car garage plan. High-end or industrial grade fixtures can cost $200 or more per 4 foot section.

Task Lights - Basic desk lamps that clamp to a work station cost from $20 to $60 or more, unless you get into LED or halogen lights. Corded trouble lights, like a mechnic's work light, will generally cost from $10 to $30, depending on quality and features. Fluorescent fixtures that are installed over your garage workbench fall into the same category as standard fluorescent ceiling lights. About $50 per 4 foot section.

Track Lighting - Now you opened a can of worms. Ask a designer about garage track lighting, and you could hear from $75 to $1,000 or more, depending on the types of fixtures you attach to the track. A more reasonable approach goes something like this.

A basic, 3-light "all in one" track light will cost from $30 or $40 to about $150. If you opt for a custom solution, the track itself will run from $30 to $100, with specialty and/or custom fixtures on top of that. Single lights for lighting tracks run from $50 to well over $300 each, depending on the type of bulb and how fancy you get.

In general, if you budget $150 or less, you should be able to find a track light kit to suit your needs perfectly. Garage lighting doesn't have to be expensive. Just do your homework and think about what you actually need.

Conclusion

Proper garage lighting can mean the difference between enjoying your time in the garage and becoming frustrated because you can't see to finish your task. Start with a good set of ceiling lights to provide adequate general garage lighting. Then add task lights for individual work spaces. Finally, add custom or themed lighting to personalize your space.

As garage project costs go, garage lighting doesn't have to be expensive. Just be sure to provide enough of it to meet your needs, whatever they are. If you are just parking two cars in the garage with no other plans for hobbies, crafts or projects, basic incandescent lights are probably enough. Beyond that, consider your options and choose wisely.


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