New rules for shop lighting

Shop lighting.  Read anything on the topic and you will learn the “best” ways to light your shop. Here are the “rules”.

1 – Have windows on the north side of your carefully planned, customized shop.

2 – Use as many skylights as possible to save wall space.

3 – Put your workbench just in front of that perfectly placed north facing window.

Problem – All of these “rules” depend on SUNLIGHT.  I do not often work in my shop during the day. I generally have to wait until kids are in bed. Even then, I suspect most people work in basements, attics, crawl spaces, and dungeons with no windows.  So what can the “rest of us” do for good lighting?

I tried the following. White walls. White floors. Two overhead fixtures with 3 – 100W compact florescent bulbs each.  My shop was really “bright”, but the fixtures were in the middle of the room and my workbenches were against the walls.  No matter what I did I was working in shadows.  Finally, I got the “bright” idea to add some lights over my bench. Here is what I got.

lighting-1 lighting-2

This was a big improvement.  I could now see much better when working at the bench because the  shadows from the central fixtures were not as noticeable.  Notice that all of the lights are pointed down like spotlights.  I worked like this for several months.  Recently, I have noticed that this setup was still not great – I always felt like I was looking into a spotlight. Not good. Lots of eye strain. Everything was bright but I started feeling blinded by it.  So, I got this crazy idea that I needed more INDIRECT light.  I inverted my single lights over the bench and pointed the ceiling lights horizontal (rather than down).  Here I what I have now.

lighting-3 lighting-4

Sorry for the shadows, it is difficult to picture lighting conditions.  My situation is much improved yet again. The shop is still bright, but I don’t feel blinded by that light.    The spotlights over the bench now help eliminate shadows rather than creating their own.

So, I would like to suggest some new rules for shop lighting for “the rest of us”. Remember to “PIC” your lights.

1 – Put lights directly over your workbench.

2 – Indirect lighting. AKA – point those lights UP to the celing.

3 – Compact florescent lighting in the “natural light” wavelength (100W/26W)

Do you have any lighting tips to share?

Bob Jones

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