Since we are finally getting to the point to where we can start wiring the shop, I’ve been researching interior lighting options. We have some temporary lighting now, but it’s dismal with the addition of the lofts. I don’t want to get too deep into the theory behind garage/shop lighting, as there are much better explanations out there, but here’s some basics. The “recommended” goal for a garage is 100 lumes per square foot at working height. Your fixture mounting height, wall coverings, floor color, and ceiling color all affect this. The goal is to generally get your best bang-for-buck while still providing as close to that magic 100/lsf number. Fixture wise, there are a ton of different options available and just as many opinions on forums like Garage Journal about what works best. You can find people using everything from seemingly inexpensive gigantic 105Watt Compact Florescent bulbs with reflectors to others who swear the best option is rather expensive T5HO fixtures and bulbs. The widely accepted middle ground is the standard T8 fixture and 32w bulb. These are available at any home center and are relatively inexpensive to install and run. It really comes down to what works for your space and budget. Now, in my case I went with none of these.
Just a few months back, like many other Garage Journal forum members, I discovered a relatively inexpensive LED T8 style shop fixture being sold at Costco. It’s being sold under the Felt Electric brand for $39.99 ($32 on sale). For that, you get a 38w/.38amp, 4000k, dual bulb LED shop light. It is made in Taiwan and my initial impressions are that the build quality is fine. (You get what you pay for comes to mind.) These come in a remarkably slim profile with a standard 6ft cord with two prong plug. Sorry, there’s no on-off pull cord. These interested me for a number of reasons. At 38W per fixture, it’s almost half the power of a dual lamp 32W T8 fixture (12w difference). And at .38 amps per fixture, I can run nearly 30 fixtures off a single 15amp circuit. Further more, at $.07/kW hour- I can run every fixture for just $.70 per day. With our use of LED security lights and LED lighting in the lofts, running every light in the building for 8 hours a day would be less then $1 per day. Keep in mind- this is a hobby garage/shop that will most likely never be used more then a few dozen hours a week.
Now here’s where it get’s messy. This solution is not for every one- there are some potentially deal breaking downsides. First- the initial purchase price means a longer return. And yes, the actual life of these fixtures is unknown. Looking at the quality of components, these are not going to last the “45 Years” Felt claims. The cheap Chinese caps are going to dry out long before that happens. Costco however has by far the best return policy out there and I have no concerns about dealing with fault fixtures, at least intially. Second- these are disposable fixtures due to the glue-together construction used on the actual LED tubes. You won’t be replacing tubes if one fails- at least easily. And Third- These can not be hard wired. (Not a bid deal in my case). Overall, choosing to use these fixtures came down to three things. 1) Personal preference of color output (I can’t stand 2700k/5000k T8 light color output), 2) Running cost, and 3) Willingness to become an early adopter. This may bite be in the ass later, but only time will tell.
I ended up purchasing 32 of these fixtures from our local Costco. These will be used to light the two bays (12), under the loft in front of the bays (4), the machine room (8), and the wood working room (8). The lofts will be lit by Cree LED 100W bulbs. My initial impressions are great. Like others have reported, in a one to one fixture comparison between a standard T8 32w 2700k dual bulb fixture and the Felt Electric LED Shop light, the LED fixture is brighter then it’s T8 counterpart. This is due to two main reasons; 1) The color temp change (2700k to 4000k) and 2) The LED tubes are laid out with the LED’s facing down. Traditional T8 bulbs rely on the reflector to bounce the light that’s emitted a full 360 degrees downwards. All LED T8 style fixtures I have seen fix this issue and are “brighter” despite being a lower wattage. And more importantly to me- the color temp is spot on for what I want in our shop.
Installation is going to take the next couple of days to complete, but I’ll post a follow up with more pictures and my long term impressions.
Hope this was helpful.