For many of us, the “shop” also holds cars — at least when projects don’t eat all the space and leave us parking outside. The bad news, though, is that most homebuilders think that if a single crappy bare bulb offers enough light to get from your car door to house door at night, that’s plenty of garage lighting. We, of course, disagree. A dark work area makes working on anything at all pretty much suck. At best, the place feels dingy and depressing. At worst, you can’t see well enough to do the job and you might hurt yourself. The good news: It’s easy to fix. Just add some real lighting. Read on for three ways to brighten your day, night, and garage.
1. Replace the bulb with fluorescents.
Your local big box offers lots of cheap fluorescent light fixtures, any of which will offer far more light than you’ll get from a single incandescent. A quick troll of Home Depot, for example, shows this light for $20. It holds two T8 bulbs, so you’ve got a lot of choice as to what kind of light you want and how much. We find T8s locally running anywhere from 10 to around 30 watts, so even if you load up that bad boy with two of the big bulbs, you’re still only looking at around 60 watts — about the same as the bulb you’re replacing. Look around online or in stores for information on how to wire the lights, but other than screwing the damn thing to the wall the job isn’t any different from replacing a standard fixture.
2. Replace the bulb with a LOT of fluorescents.
This was my solution. My three-car garage included two bulbs, so with a little math I discovered the circuit could support six fluorescent fixtures. I replaced the old single fixtures with electrical boxes, then cut and ran some conduit to wire up two fluorescents over the single bay and four (in an H pattern) over the two-car bay. It lights the place up brightly, and doesn’t use much more energy than the original fluorescents. Bonus: Six years later, I have yet to replace a single fluorescent bulb despite the fact that I’ve forgotten to turn them off on more than a few occasions. The total cost of the job ran me somewhere around $250 (wire, boxes, fixtures, bulbs, etc.). Totally worth it.
3. Buy cheap mobile light stands.
This is for those of you who don’t have control of your garage environment. I lived in an apartment with an attached garage for a number of years, and though I’d have loved to add bigger fixtures, it just wasn’t allowed. In this case, just pick up two, three, or even four halogen light stands. You can find a stand light like this one for around $50 (or ) and they make a ton of light. It never hurts to have a couple of the little ones as well. They come on stands and with clamps as well as other formats. Scatter a few around the shop and fire ’em up to give yourself plenty of work light.
These are just a few ideas, and we’d love to hear yours. How do you light your shop?