Lighting Your Shop: 4 Things to Consider

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When it comes to working in your shop, having good lighting is essential. Not only does good lighting help you better see your work area, but it can also prevent accidents that can occur with poor lighting. If you’ve never picked out lighting, though, how are you supposed to know what the best lights are to meet your shop’s needs?

The specific lighting that you need largely depends on the size of your shop and how it’s laid out. With that said, there are a number of suggestions you can follow that will put you on the right track. Here are just a few of the things you should think about when picking out new lighting solutions for your shop.

LED vs Fluorescent

Once upon a time, fluorescent lighting was the de-facto option for shops or other large buildings because of the larger area that fluorescents could illuminate for the cost. In recent years, however, LED lighting options have expanded their coverage while coming down in price to the point that they are generally considered a better option. Not only are there now LED bulbs that mimic fluorescents in coverage and even style, but LEDs typically produce better quality light and have a longer lifespan as well. While fluorescents are still in use in a number of shops, they are gradually falling out of favor with the market and will eventually become harder to find. You can continue to support your existing fluorescents, but LED options are going to be your best bet for new lighting installations.

Intensity and Color

When working in the shop, you want as much light as you can get to make sure that you can see what you’re doing. Look at the lumens of the bulbs or fixtures you purchase, selecting an option with a higher lumen count whenever possible. You should also pay attention to the “temperature” of the light; warm light typically has a slight yellow or orange tint and is closer to natural sunlight, whereas cool light has more of a blue tint and is closer to what we think of with the stereotypical lighting of office buildings or professional practices. It’s up to you which you choose, but make sure that you are consistent; if you mix warm and cool lighting then they can conflict with each other and give you a slightly poorer quality of lighting.

Lighting Position

A lot of people think that you can just stick a light or two on the ceiling and call it a day, but this usually isn’t the best option for shop lighting. Yes, you’ll want overhead lighting. If you aren’t careful, though, this lighting can leave you with nasty shadows in the area where you’re trying to work. Place at least two larger overhead lights on the ends of your shop so you’ll have light coming from opposite directions while you work. You may also want to consider wall-mounted lighting or other sources to provide additional light directions to help scatter those shadows for good.

Spot Lighting

While you’re planning your light distribution, install at least one arm-mounted light near your workspace so that you can move it around and get light right where you need it. If you have multiple work areas in your shop, each should have its own moveable light. Even if you don’t use them very often, just having them there will make a huge difference when you need a little bit of extra light to make sure you get the fine details of your work just right.

How many lights do you have in your shop right now? Are they LED, fluorescent or some other type of fixture?

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  1. Andy HastingsAndy Hastings01-04-2020

    Very good article on shop lighting. I found out about the benefits of lights located at the ends of my shop by accident. My wife didn’t want the light coming from the window directly in front of her work bench to be interfered with when I wanted to place an LED light lower directly over her bench, so I placed it at a 90° angle at the end of the bench. The effect was so great I repositioned the rest of the lower mounted bench lights. By the way I really like the 48″ 5000 lumin lights from Harbor Tool, $20 each.

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