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LED Shop Lighting Upgrade

 

I have a mishmash of lights on the ceiling of my shop. I started with some fluorescent lights, years ago, and I've added various LED experiments in recent years.

The one end of my shop is a bit dim. This is partly because I have a dead tube in one of my T12 fluorescent fixtures. I've told myself that I'm not buying more fluorescent bulbs. Rather, my plan is to put in LEDs as the old lights die.

Coincidentally I saw an Instagram video from my friend Matt Cremona and in there he showed off some new LED skinny tube lights that he'd bought.

This prompted me to get at this project. I looked in my local Big Box store but everything there still looks very conventional. The do have LED tubes that go into fluorescent fixtures, and they have replacement LED "shop light" fixtures. But I was not impressed with the price or the options. So I got Matt to send me a link of what he'd bought. Now his link was from Amazon.com and not available to me in Canada. But I found something that looked pretty similar on Amazon.ca so I ordered a six-pack kit.

One interesting feature was that each light contained two strips of LED lights, and they are positioned at an angle to each other. LED light is very directional, so this is a good design choice to help spread out the light.

Links to this kit are at the bottom of this web page. The kit contained six fixtures, each of which was four feet long. There was also mounting hardware, and a variety of cords for connecting tubes to each other and to wall power.

After I installed it I was almost overwhelmed with how bright these new lights were. In this photo you can see how fuzzy and bright they are -- that is four tubes installed on the ceiling. The Amazon listing claimed 28watts with 3600 lumen, and 6000-6500K colour temperature, per four foot bulb.

I very quickly decided to return these tubes for two main reasons. The first reason is that I had overlooked the fact that these lights were in clear tubes. (See one of the previous photos) I have a fairly low 7'7" ceiling in my shop. This means that the lights are frequently in view when I take video. The clear tubes, combined with the high lumen output means that I get these fuzzy bright spots on my video -- as illustrated in this photo. If I did not shoot video, this might not be such a concern.

The second problem was also kind of particular to my shop. I ran two rows of lights along the bottom of ceiling joists. Ceiling joists in my house are 16 inches apart. However the cords supplied with the kit to connect lights together were only 12" long.

I could have tried to come up with some other option, but decided that these two reasons -- as well as the fact that they were actually TOO bright for my tastes, were enough for me to return them.

Here is the second kit that I bought. (Links to this are also below) This was also a six light kit, however these were a lower wattage lower lumen light: 20 watts and 2200 lumen per bulb. They also had frosted covers and were quite a bit cheaper -- $60 (CAD$) for the set. (Pricing as of January 2020).

They do come with some stubby wire ends (not shown) so you could direct-wire them if you want. However, I elected to just put an outlet in the ceiling, and use the installed plug-in cords for the lights. This makes it easy to move or rearrange these, and also give me the option to take them with me if I ever move.

They also came with 20" cords for connecting lights together, which works very well in my basement shop, and solved one of the big problems that plagued the other set. I installed four lights along the bottom of the ceiling joists, just like I had done with the previous set.

The lights also come with these short connectors that you can use for connecting the lights from end-to-end. It's another good design choice which allows for a clean looking installation.

There were two main concerns expressed in the reviews of these lights. First, that they're quite fragile -- which is true. The aluminum base is very thin. They're light and delicate. But then, so are glass fluorescent light tubes. Just be carefull installing them, and then you never touch them.

The second concern was RF interference. I tried an FM radio in my shop and it works fine. I have not tried these in the garage, so I have no idea if they do interfere with Garage Door Remote controls.

Finally, do bench test all the lights -- just plug them in one at a time -- before installing them, to make sure that all six work!

Here is the completed shop light upgrade installation in my shop. I am quite happy with how bright they are, as well as the design and installation. I still have two more from my kit of six that I can install somewhere else.

Every time I made a video about LED lights, people ask me for numbers. I'm not that interested in numbers, I just want to see that it is "bright enough". But I did get a "Lux Light Meter" app for my android phone and I used that to take several before/after light readings in various areas of me shop. I would put my phone at bench-level in various spots for about 10-15 seconds and note the average reading. Then reset it and move to the next location.

Location BEFORECLEAR SETFROSTED
Tablesaw 730n/a800 lux
Workbench 430520/580560 lux
Drillpress 730330/730490 lux
Sanders 730330/900690 lux

Note: The app gave a reading in "Lux". The "Sanders" refers to the back wall in my shop where the sander sit on a counter. The "Clear Set" column refers to the first lights, and I had two readings there, depending on if two or four lights were turned on. The "Frosted set" refers to the second set of lights -- the ones I liked!

I know these are not scientific resuls. I did NOT repeat the test multiple times, and I did NOT run the test for minutes at a time, just 10 or so seconds. But hopefully this gives you a bit of a quantifiable idea of the improvement.

My ceiling is still a mish-mash of lighting styles, but I think that reflects reality. We all have to live within our means, and we all probably have evolving needs in our shop which leads us to move and rearrange things at different times.

Some of the Tools/Supplies Used In This Project: (Affiliate Links)

The Amazon.com lights that Matt used

The first kit I bought at Amazon.ca -- (clear tube, very bright, short connecting cords. These are probably fine if you don't film, or have higher ceilings.)

The second kit I bought at Amazon.ca -- (frosted tubes, longer connecting cords)

 

Thanks for reading!

See Also:


LED Lighting Experiment


LED strip lighting revisited


LED lighting update


Making DIY LED Fixtures