Garage Lighting: Bulbs, Fixtures, and Efficiency
According to the Department of Energy, nearly two-thirds of homeowners own a garage or adjacent carport. However, nearly one-quarter use them as a storage area. Half of garage owners spend nearly two hours a week in their garages doing hobbies or other work. Given how much we use them, a garage with good lighting is an utter necessity.
How do you find the best option for your unique needs? What are the best garage lighting ideas in 2022? What kind of lights do you want in the long run? With the knowledge contained here, your customer experience should be quick and easy.
Watts or Lumens?
Watts measure energy, while lumens measure light output (brightness). Knowing a bulb’s lumens ensure your garage gets enough light. This lumen to watt conversion chart can be consulted as you shop. It will tell you how many lumens you get per watt for each of the four types of bulbs.
Lighting Elements To Consider
Asking yourself a few questions before you begin your shopping cuts down on in-store time significantly. Some of the following are a great way to narrow down choices ahead of time.
- What are you using your garage for?
- Do you need to see colors the same as you would in natural light?
- What do you want to spend on materials, installation, upkeep, and bulb replacement?
- Where are your access points for switches and power outlets?
- What is your garage’s square footage?
- Do all areas of your garage need to be lit equally?
- Do you wear glasses or used specialized equipment that is assisted by brighter light?
- Are there other aesthetic considerations, such as wall and floor color?
Upfront Costs versus Expenses Over Time
Cost over time should factor into your lighting purchase decisions. While high quality and a good installation job will prevent untimely maintenance issues, the cost of bulbs will be a continuing expense. For our purposes, there are four types of lighting to consider: incandescent, halogen, fluorescent, and LED.
These are the oldest on the market. While reliable, newer technologies like LED and compact fluorescent lights have supplanted incandescent bulbs in many regions. 60 watts is the standard for home interiors. These bulbs remain in use because they can work in a cool temperature (or even the winter cold) and are reliable.
A 60 watt incandescent bulb buys you:
- 900 lumens (a measure of brightness).
- just under $10 in operating costs per year (at three hours per day).
- a little under a year and a half of life (or 1,000 watt-hours).
Should you decide to switch to CFL or LED bulbs, the standard incandescent socket size (E26) can work for either. You can also get a variety of color temperatures, from white and blue to amber or light red.
Unfortunately, incandescent lights are the least energy-efficient. That means that, at least in some states, many types of incandescent bulbs are no longer legal in certain areas.
Longer-lasting and more efficient than their incandescent counterparts, halogen bulbs are usually unidirectional (meaning they need to be pointed at the right area to illuminate it). They also give off a lot of heat, and that can work to your advantage in an unheated garage during the winter months. While these are technically a form of incandescent bulb, they use a different electro-chemical reaction (tungsten filaments and halogen gas). They may lack the diversity of choices compared to other bulbs, especially when it comes to color and wattage, but they also shine brighter for less money over time.
A 60 watt halogen bulb buys you:
- 3,600 lumens.
- about $1.75 in operating costs per year.
- around 14 years of life (or 10,000 watt-hours).
- a reduction in harmful chemicals like mercury found in industrial fluorescent bulbs.
- 28 percent greater energy efficiency than incandescent bulbs.
Since they shine in a single direction, halogen bulbs are usually called flood lights and come in a variety of beam angles, created by a parabolic aluminized reflector (PAR). These usually do not exceed 45 degrees. If you want beam angles close to 100 degrees, look into bulged reflector (RB) bulb. If you want a very narrow beam, you will want to go with multi-faceted reflector (MR) bulb. Though they can be manufactured in any color, they are most commonly sold in soft white or warm daylight (just a hint of amber) varieties. If you want bright light that will shine only in certain parts of your garage, these are the lights for you.
Industrial fluorescent tubes are the long bulbs you see in schools, stores, warehouses, and other locations that have high ceilings and require both work lights and ambient light. While the housing for these bulbs tends to be more expensive in an industrial setting, they make up for it over time through high energy efficiency. In homes and garages, compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) have become far more common, since the standard E26 base is one of the most common CFLs sold. However, several manufacturers have discontinued CFLs in favor of the even more energy-efficient LEDs.
A 60 watt CFL bulb buys you:
- 1,500 lumens.
- just under $7 in operating costs per year.
- around 4.2 years of life (or 3,000 watt-hours).
- chemicals that dissipate quickly when broken but require some basic safety precautions.
- a much cooler temperature than incandescent or halogen lights.
- 75 percent greater energy efficiency than incandescent bulbs.
Light-Emitting Diode (LED)
If you need lightbulbs that lasts a long time, consider LEDs. They are the newest and most efficient bulbs you can currently buy for your home. They use much less than the wattage of their fluorescent tube counterparts. The earliest versions could not be dimmed, but the newer bulbs are both dimmable and come in a variety of colors. Lights on sliders are especially good for energy saving and adjusting for various tasks. In order to get bright, white light, LEDs actually combine colors (either red, green, and blue or yellow and blue shades). These bulbs use less electricity per lumen than any of the others.
While LED bulbs are currently some of the most expensive on the market, they more than make up for the cost in energy efficiency and longer life.
A 60 watt LED bulb buys you:
- over 4,300 lumens.
- just under $1.20 in operating costs per year.
- a staggering 34 years of life (or 25,000 watt-hours).
- a variety of colors.
- 83 percent greater energy efficiency than incandescent bulbs.
Choosing the Right Kind of Fixture
There are basically different types of fixtures to choose from. When choosing, consider where you want your lighting.
High-intensity workshop lighting allows you to see well while performing car maintenance, carpentry, or any other garage-based project. While fluorescent
tube lights can be used, LED shop lights have largely supplanted the fluorescent fixtures. They can be hung with a chain or mounted directly to the ceiling. Most come with standard plugs, so you won’t have to rewire your whole garage just to get enough light for your personal workshop. Shop lights are meant to light large areas. Remember this rule of thumb: for a workshop, you will need at least 50 lumens per square foot to see properly. These and high bay lights work best in a garage with a high ceiling.
High Bay Lighting
High bays lights can also be used as task lighting. In fact, they are sometimes called high bay shop lights. The distinction is the fixtures are usually round. They can also hang from a chain or be mounted directly to the ceiling. Hanging high bays are most appropriate for garages with ceilings 15 feet or higher. They are also meant to light large areas. Like shop lights, they can often be daisy-chained together into a single outlet, essentially turning them into strip lights.
These lights may look like a standard fluorescent fixture seen in a retail space, but they are actually LEDs that give off no harmful ultraviolet light. They are mounted to the ceiling and are covered with a plastic sheet that acts like a lens. While they are not always as bright as the first two options, they are best for general lighting, since the plastic cover allows the bulbs to shine in several directions. They can come with plugs, but many are hardwired into a home’s electricity.
These are similar to wraparound lights but are square or rectangular. They can come with plugs, but most are hardwired since they are permanently affixed to the garage’s ceiling. They are largely aesthetic, but they give off enough light to see your way to the door. Wraparound and flush-mount fixtures are also the most common types of retail lighting.
These are placed in holes cut into the ceiling and hardwired to the home’s electrical system. They usually use halogen or LED flood lamps that shine straight down, meaning there will be prominent bright spots surrounded by somewhat dark areas. While installation can be expensive (or difficult if you are doing it yourself), recessed lights have high aesthetic value. They hide your light sources, and they are completely out of the way once they are installed. If you need simple illumination and ambient lighting, recessed fixtures are a great option.
There are a few other factors to ponder before making your purchases.
- Color Temperature: Warmer colors (bulbs that tend toward yellow or red) are better at imitating natural light than cool temperatures like blue. However, cool lighting provides more visual clarity and encourages you to get things done. Look to the Kelvin Scale for a better understanding of color and its effects. The color rendering index is also helpful.
- Look at the Numbers: The number of lumens are usually on the bulb’s box near the wattage. Make sure you check the lumens before you buy.
- Supplemental Lighting: You also have the option of buying lights on stands and plugging them into a wall socket. These can later become portable task lights.
- Motion Sensors: while they are an added expense, this hands-free type of lighting can make carrying groceries far safer.
There are many lighting options to choose from, many different lights, and many light bulbs. With planning and some quick math, you can make your lighting purchases while saving yourself a lot of time, money, and stress.