Recommendations for Garage Lighting

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Recommendations for Garage Lighting

Postby daytona084 » Sat Nov 03, 2012 11:47 am

Like many garages, mine came equipped with a single naked incandescent bulb in roughly the center of the garage. It was, of course, woefully inadequate. My first change was to replace the light fixture with a double outlet and hang two "shop-light" fluorescent fixtures, each with two 40 watt tubes. This increased the amount of light substantially, but I have two problems:

1. The fluorescent bulb light output sometimes decreases in very cold weather.
2. Bulb life seems very low.

I wonder, do some fixtures take a toll on bulb life? Does running bulbs in a cold environment take a toll on bulb life? Are there special fixtures or tubes that work better in the cold? Is there a variation in bulb life between different brands of bulbs?

That being said I'm wondering if I should replace the shop-lites with something different. LED's seem quite expensive. How about mercury vapor or sodium vapor? Do these take time to "warm up"? Would be interested in any ideas! Thanks!
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Re: Recommendations for Garage Lighting

Postby livesoft » Sat Nov 03, 2012 11:52 am

I suppose it depends on what you want the light in the garage for. We replaced the incandescent bulb with a single 9" circular fluorescent. Otherwise, we use sunlight by opening the garage door. We use the garage to park 2 cars, our garbage & recycle cans, lawn equipment, bikes, and tools. We do not work in the garage much, but if we need to we open the garage door for light. Every now and then we set up the ping-pong table in the garage and sunlight is more than adequate for lighting.

Aquarists know that fluorescent tubes do have reduced output over time. I think after one-year, output is 30% to 50% less.
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Re: Recommendations for Garage Lighting

Postby NAVigator » Sat Nov 03, 2012 12:10 pm

There are ballasts and fluorescent tubes that tolerate the cold temperature. This article may be helpful;
How to Achieve Better Garage Lighting

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Re: Recommendations for Garage Lighting

Postby Valuethinker » Sat Nov 03, 2012 12:37 pm

wjwhitney wrote:Like many garages, mine came equipped with a single naked incandescent bulb in roughly the center of the garage. It was, of course, woefully inadequate. My first change was to replace the light fixture with a double outlet and hang two "shop-light" fluorescent fixtures, each with two 40 watt tubes. This increased the amount of light substantially, but I have two problems:

1. The fluorescent bulb light output sometimes decreases in very cold weather.
2. Bulb life seems very low.

I wonder, do some fixtures take a toll on bulb life? Does running bulbs in a cold environment take a toll on bulb life? Are there special fixtures or tubes that work better in the cold? Is there a variation in bulb life between different brands of bulbs?

That being said I'm wondering if I should replace the shop-lites with something different. LED's seem quite expensive. How about mercury vapor or sodium vapor? Do these take time to "warm up"? Would be interested in any ideas! Thanks!


Yes LEDs are expensive. But they use so little power that you will hit payback relatively quickly (in my case, over 50watt halogen fitting, in less than 18 months-- 3 years at the outside for a little used light). I am at USD 22 cents/kwhr though. And I should only need to replace them every 5-10 years. Over a fluorescent fitting, they use c. half as much power, and you might never hit payback-- but having better light would be worth it to me.

The real question with LEDs is if you can find one that fits, or you can replace the fitting with LED spots.

It has to provide enough light. We use 'warm' LEDs (2700K) rather than 'daylight' LEDs (3000k). They do vary by brand.

If you can do LEDs, I would. The benefits outweigh the costs.
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Re: Recommendations for Garage Lighting

Postby Bylo Selhi » Sat Nov 03, 2012 1:28 pm

wjwhitney wrote:That being said I'm wondering if I should replace the shop-lites with something different. LED's seem quite expensive. How about mercury vapor or sodium vapor? Do these take time to "warm up"? Would be interested in any ideas!

1. As others have already said, make sure you have the right ballast. The old style transformer ballasts don't work well in cold weather. The newer electronic ones are much better. I use standard fluorescent bulbs in cold weather without any problems.

2. LEDs use almost as much power as fluorescents. In addition they're not very bright nor do they generally disperse light as widely. They're not worth the added expense unless you leave them on for a long time or you put them in a location where it's hard to change bulbs. For instance I've had a small LED (2W or 3W) running at my front door for 24x7x365x ~4 years now. It's bright enough that I can see who's at the door but draws less power and is more convenient than a brighter light on a timer.

3. Do you need to light up the whole garage brightly? Perhaps one or more portable or task lights with relatively powerful bulbs will do a better job of lighting only the areas that need it, e.g. a work bench or under the hood of a car.

4. I replaced the manual on/off toggle switch in the garage with a motion detector built into the switch. When I enter the garage from the house the light comes on automatically and stays on for a few minutes after motion stops.
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Re: Recommendations for Garage Lighting

Postby Mudpuppy » Sat Nov 03, 2012 3:50 pm

As others have said, it's probably the ballast causing problems with cold starts and short bulb life. Make sure you read the ballast label to see its standard operating temperatures. If it doesn't operate well in your winter temperatures, replace either the ballast or the whole fixture (depending on your level of handiness with electrical wiring).

Also, make sure you locate the lights in places where you need lighting. In my garage, I have one 2x4' fixture over the laundry area and another over the workbench. Those are the places where I need strong lighting. The rest of the garage gets enough light from those two fixtures. If you just have all your fixtures in the center of the garage, they could be poorly located for the areas that you need the most lighting. It might be a good idea to extend the circuit out to new light boxes where you need them (this would be a fairly cheap job for an electrician if you don't want to do it yourself) instead of trying to boost the light output in the middle of the garage to compensate for a poor location.
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Re: Recommendations for Garage Lighting

Postby humbucker87 » Sat Nov 03, 2012 3:58 pm

We had the same issue, and since our garage has no windows, the singular incandescent light didn't give the garage much light at all. It's not the cheapest solution, but my wife and I installed the following lights:

http://www.carguygarage.com/quadruplelongli.html

and then used something like the following to hook into the original light socket so that we can use the originally mounted switch: http://www.amazon.com/Leviton-125-2-Pole-2-Wire-Adapter/dp/B001PCVTFC/ref=sr_1_1?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1351972554&sr=1-1&keywords=light+socket+to+outlet+adapter

There are other kits with less than 4 ballast, but so far we have been very pleased with the lights. (Also the kit includes two long fluorescent lights per ballast)
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Re: Recommendations for Garage Lighting

Postby daytona084 » Sat Nov 03, 2012 6:05 pm

Thanks everyone! I now know that buying the cheapest "shop light" fixtures is probably not getting me low-temperature ballasts. A lot of other good ideas too, I will study them all.
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Re: Recommendations for Garage Lighting

Postby magellan » Sat Nov 03, 2012 6:44 pm

Bylo Selhi wrote:4. I replaced the manual on/off toggle switch in the garage with a motion detector built into the switch. When I enter the garage from the house the light comes on automatically and stays on for a few minutes after motion stops.

I did something similar, but with a twist. I installed a motion sensing wall switch and a single incandescent bulb on the ceiling above the door from the garage into the house. This switch/fixture is independent from the original garage overhead lights and the switch was positioned so it can 'see' people entering the garage from the house, or entering the garage from the exterior man-door. These motion sensing switches are incredibly convenient, especially when your hands are full. They can also work well in hallways, pantries, and large closets, as long as the switch is well positioned and can detect the motion. I have 4 of them in various locations around the house.

Like the OP, I also replaced the single bulb ceiling lights in my garage with hanging tube fluorescent fixtures. In my case, I had one over each car stall. I did this about 15 years ago and I'm still on my first set of bulbs. In the winter, the florescents flicker a bit at first, but after a 20-30 seconds they seem totally normal. The garage temp rarely goes below freezing in the winter and probably averages 40-45 degrees.

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Re: Recommendations for Garage Lighting

Postby OhioGozaimas » Sat Nov 03, 2012 7:15 pm

FWIW, some shop lights at Home Depot, etc., are marked that they operate down to 0 degrees F. Not all models offered are so marked.
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Re: Recommendations for Garage Lighting

Postby daytona084 » Fri Nov 09, 2012 5:07 pm

Thanks everyone... I ended up going with the "all-season" shop lights from Home Depot.

http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1v/R ... ogId=10053

They work OK and use the T8 (smaller diameter) bulbs. Supposed to work in low temperatures. Someday I will try some LED's, but somewhere other than the garage.

PS - OhioGozaimas - love the screen name :D
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Re: Recommendations for Garage Lighting

Postby interplanetjanet » Fri Nov 09, 2012 5:37 pm

wjwhitney wrote:How about mercury vapor or sodium vapor? Do these take time to "warm up"?

Just as a "by the way" in case someone else reads this thread.

HID lighting such as mercury vapor or sodium (or metal halide) takes several minutes to reach full brightness. It also produces a fair amount of heat and a very concentrated source of light, you need well designed reflectors to get the most out of them and light a wide area. Mercury vapor emits what I consider a quite harsh light (ok for outside security illumination but I wouldn't want to work under it). "Low pressure" sodium is extremely efficient in lumens per watt, but produces a yellow monochromatic light that is also very difficult to work under. "High pressure" sodium produces a yellowish light which I find pleasant, but which will distort colors some - though I had an old 400W HPS that I used as an "undercar" shop light and it was like the sun was right there with me under the car. :)

This leaves metal halide, which is the "whitest" of the various HID bulbs. It's often used in warehouses and similar, and can make for excellent shop lighting. However, it takes a while to warm up, produces a fair amount of heat, bulb life is less than fluoro (or LED, of course) and is not very efficient for lighting small spaces. If you have a garage shop it can be a very good choice if you are ok with these compromises.
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Re: Recommendations for Garage Lighting

Postby likegarden » Fri Nov 09, 2012 6:42 pm

I did not read it here, but my garage door openers have each two 100 W incandescent bulbs to light the car parking areas, and I can manually turn these lights on and off. Therefore, in my 2-car garage I have a total of six 100 W light bulbs, that is 2x2 from the garage door openers and 2 on the garage ceiling, and that is sufficient for all work I am usually doing in the garage. My work area is in my basement under fluorescent lights.
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Re: Recommendations for Garage Lighting

Postby kenschmidt » Fri Nov 09, 2012 8:09 pm

A simple solution is to just crank up the incandescents to a high wattage bulb. I've seen 300 watt bulbs still available. I use two 150w bulbs in my garage since I have two fixtures and that provides enough light for me at least.
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Re: Recommendations for Garage Lighting

Postby SurfCityBill » Fri Nov 09, 2012 8:25 pm

If the fluorescents you've chosen are open, i.e. no surrounding lens then cold weather will affect output. An enclosed fixture will trap its own heat and allow the fluorescent lamps (bulbs) to stay warm and produce close to full output.

A typical 32 watt T8 lamp (bulb) will have a rated life of 30,000 to 42,000 hours depending on how often it is turned on and off. The loss of light output over this time is about 5 - 10%. Dirt accumulation on the bulb or lens may increase this loss of output.

H.I.D. (metal halide, high pressure sodium) sources are not good for applications where you need instant on or where the light will be turned on and off a lot.
If a warm bulb is turned off, it will have to cool down before re-striking and coming up to full brightness again. This could be 2 - 10 minutes. This is why most
commercial parking garage lighting fixtures using HID have an auxilliary quartz bulb that comes on instantly during a momentary power outage.

-B
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Re: Recommendations for Garage Lighting

Postby DiscoBunny1979 » Fri Nov 09, 2012 9:48 pm

In my garage I have fluorescents 34W T12s. I have a total of 5 fixtures - 2 on each side of the garage and one in middle near the light of the garage door opener. so, a total of 10 long tube bulbs without surround. They do a great job but have to be replaced about every 2 years or so. I also live in an area that doesn't get colder than about 26 degrees in the winter and therefore the OP needs to specify exactly how cold it gets where they/he/she is at. Also, I have tried motion sensor lighting, but some of the sensors used to replace switches (or other means) seem to be sensitive to cold and therefore might not work well below freezing - at least they didn't work for me. The problem with having to replace long tube fluorescent bulbs is not the expense - as they are relatively cheap in my opinion - the difficulty sometimes is with proper disposal. One should go to a place that accepts fluorescent bulbs in a recylcing program.
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Re: Recommendations for Garage Lighting

Postby daytona084 » Sat Nov 10, 2012 10:41 am

DiscoBunny1979 wrote: I also live in an area that doesn't get colder than about 26 degrees in the winter and therefore the OP needs to specify exactly how cold it gets where they/he/she is at.


The minimum outdoor temperature in a typical winter is between -10 and -15°F here, but the minimum temperature in the attached garage is probably about +25°F. The fixtures I bought are rated down to 0°F, so they should be OK.
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Re: Recommendations for Garage Lighting

Postby Bylo Selhi » Sat Nov 10, 2012 11:42 am

Bernd wrote:I did not read it here, but my garage door openers have each two 100 W incandescent bulbs to light the car parking areas, and I can manually turn these lights on and off. Therefore, in my 2-car garage I have a total of six 100 W light bulbs, that is 2x2 from the garage door openers and 2 on the garage ceiling, and that is sufficient for all work I am usually doing in the garage. My work area is in my basement under fluorescent lights.

BTW for those, like me, who want more light and/or light in different parts of the garage, all driven by garage door opener switch(es) you can use adapters like these:
Medium/Household Adapter Eagle #808
Med.Male/Twin Female Adaptor Eagle #700
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Re: Recommendations for Garage Lighting

Postby likegarden » Sat Nov 10, 2012 4:20 pm

Looking at my garage ceiling, each of the two garage door openers are plugged into dual outlets, so could plug in even more lights, no problem here.
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Re: Recommendations for Garage Lighting

Postby Bylo Selhi » Sat Nov 10, 2012 4:54 pm

My point is that if you want the convenience of using the same switch(es) that control the lights in your garage door opener to also control other lights in your garage, the the adapters I linked-to facilitate it.
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Re: Recommendations for Garage Lighting

Postby dratkinson » Sun Nov 11, 2012 8:10 pm

Submitted for what it is worth. One day I was bored and looking for something to do...



I have a 2-car and a 1-car garage bays. Each bay had one ceramic fixture for one light bulb. Not much light. The ringed florescent bulbs didn't provide much more light and quickly failed.

I bought some of the cheap HD 4' 2-tube florescent lights for my garage and installed two in each bay. After changing out the ceramic fixtures for a 3-prong duplex outlets, the florescent lights simply plug in and are controlled by the same wall switch. Much nicer.



For the remainder of this, I'm only talking about the 2-car bay. I have done nothing more to the 1-car bay.

My 2-car garage door opener only had a 60w bulb (max) and was not very bright when I came home late at night. What to do? What to do?

I noticed that my 2-bay garage door opener and garage lights are on the same circuit breaker---so there is no worry about back-feeding a circuit. :idea: I'll build a relay to parallel my garage wall light switch---using current from garage door opener light bulb socket---to control my garage florescent lights.

Parts list for relay control:

    (1) 2P2T 110v 10a relay from Radio Shack.
    (1a) Relay socket for above from Radio Shack.
    (2) 110v Neon indicator lamp from Radio Shack.
    (3) Pigtail, polarized, one 2-prong lamp cord with inline switch from thrift store.
    (4) Pigtails, polarized, two 3-prong computer/monitor power cords from thrift store.
    (5) Blue 4"x4"x3" old work electrical job box from HD.
    (6) Metal cover for above 4"x4" job box from HD.
    (7) 1800w solid state photo sensor from HD, the type used to control lamp post lights.
    (8) Screw-in polarized 2-prong outlet from HD.

Assembly instructions for relay control:

    The relay socket (1a), Neon indicator (2), and photo sensor (7) are mounted through the metal cover (6).

    The pigtails (3, 4) enter the job box (5) by three drilled holes and internally knotted for strain relief.

    All wiring is soldered inside the job box (5). Job box (5) is screwed to wooden ceiling supports used to mount garage door opener. This places the metal cover (6) on the bottom of the ceiling-mounted job box (5) so the Neon lamp (2) is visible and the photo sensor (7) can see daylight shining through the garage door windows.

    The Neon indicator (2) is used as a diagnostic. It lights when current is coming from the garage door opener light bulb socket. It is wired in the circuit before photo sensor (7) so it is always ON when the garage door opener light should be ON.

    The screw-in 2-prong outlet (8) is screwed into the garage door opener light bulb socket. It is controlled by the garage door opener and turns OFF five minutes after the garage door is activated (to open or close).

    The 2-prong pigtail (3) carries current from the garage door opener light bulb socket into the job box (5) where it controls the coil of relay (1). The inline switch/cord is allowed to hang down from the garage door opener light bulb socket so I can easily reach it to turn off this system. The switch in OFF position will prevent current from getting to coil of the relay (1) and the garage lights will NOT come on by the garage door opener.

    Photo sensor (7) is in the 2-prong pigtail (3) circuit and stops current if there is enough light in the garage from the garage door windows. This prevents the garage florescent lights from coming on during daylight hours.

    One of the 3-prong pigtails (4) is plugged into the outlet what powers the garage door opener. The other 3-prong pigtail (4) is plugged into one of the garage florescent light outlets. (Yes, I know this is called a suicide cord.) The 110v relay (1) controls the current in this circuit. Remember, I am on the same circuit breaker, so I am not back-feeding this circuit, I'm only jumping around (paralleling) the garage wall light switch. This is safe to do provided polarities are observed---hence the use of polarized plugs and outlets.

    One pole of the relay (1) controls the 3-prong pigtail circuit (4) that jumps around (parallels) the garage lights wall switch. Power flows from the ceiling outlet supplying power to the garage door opener, through one relay pole, to one ceiling outlet supplying power to the florescent lights:
    outlet (garage door opener) ---> relay (pole) ---> outlet (garage florescent lights).

    The other pole of relay (1) is used to make the 2-prong pigtail circuit (3) self-latching by jumping current from the garage door opener light bulb socket around (paralleling) the photo sensor (7). Otherwise, at night the photo sensor (7) would allow current flow to the relay (1) coil to turn on the garage lights, but as soon as the garage florescent lights came on, the photo sensor (7) would shut off the coil current turning off the garage lights. Flashing garage lights would be most annoying.

    N.B. My other option was to design the circuit without the photo sensor. But this would cause the garage lights to turn ON always, even during the daytime when the garage door was opened. I can build a smarter circuit than that.

    N.B. If you don't have windows in your garage door, it will always be dark inside your garage so the photo sensor is not necessary---because it must always turn on the garage lights. In this case, wire the 2-prong wire (3) directly to the relay (1) coil. Don't use the photo sensor---extra work/expense for zero gain. Don't wire the second pole of the relay (1) to make the self-latching feature---not necessary as the photo sensor is not used. The relay (1) coil wired directly to the garage door opener light is all that is necessary for an always dark garage.

    After completing and testing, the 3"x5" card wiring diagram was stuffed inside the job box (5) for future reference.

Just for grins I made a card and pasted it to the front of the job box (5). It says "Welcome Home".

It certainly is nice to come home at night to a dark house with a car load of groceries and have the garage light up brightly as I drive in. Most cheery. I close the garage door, unload the groceries, go inside and close the garage/house door, and 5 minutes later the garage door opener turns off its light, which turns off my garage 2-bay florescent lights. Sweet.

When I leave/return to the house at noon, I marvel that the garage lights DO NOT come on, but the Neon light (2) is on---garage door opener light is commanding ON, but photo sensor (7) says NO. Good boy!



Belt and suspenders final thoughts.

Above design isolates the garage door opener light bulb circuit from the garage lighting circuit and so does not exceed the light bulb rating (60w) for the garage door opener.

The current flow in the relay coil circuit is very low (0.01a), so the (in-garage weather-protected) photo sensor (1800w) should last a very long time.

The current flow in the relay garage lighting circuit is much less than the 10a contact rating, so the relay contacts should last a very long time. (8x40w/110v = ~3a) But if it every becomes necessary to replace it, it is socket mounted.

All connections are polarize, soldered (electrical type), strain relieved, and protected inside job box (5).

But I suppose it is possible that something could fail and I'd come home some night to a dark garage. I suppose, in that case, I could use Gummy's idea for a Y light bulb adapter on my garage door opener light bulb socket---just in case: screw a *60w bulb into one socket, and the 2-prong outlet (8) into the other socket.

*N.B. I've learned that compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs) do not like the shaking of my garage door opener and fail quickly. Rough service filament-type bulbs last much longer.
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