When we bought out house, I deliberately had the builder add some additional lights in my garage. But it still looked like a dungeon.
In addition to the ever-so-dim light on my garage door opener, I had four recessed pot-lights spread out on my garage ceiling.
Not too warm or welcoming a place, to say the least.
But adding additional lights in your garage isn’t as straightforward as we thought. There’s a lot to actually consider.
My garage is basically a spot to park my car. There are a couple of shelves and cabinets here and there, and a pegboard on a single wall. As such, I didn’t need much in the way of task lighting, but I still wanted to get lighting ideas to make my garage more useful and inviting.
Here are a few ideas to consider when you start thinking about upgrading your garage lighting.
Zone and Task Lighting
Your garage is typically the largest room in your house and is rarely used for only one purpose.
Before you upgrade your lighting, take a minute to think about how you will be using that space as a whole, and in parts. A well-lit garage makes organization and staying organized a lot easier.
Besides cars, what else will be there?
Do you plan to store hobbies or sports equipment? Gardening and home maintenance items?
Will you hang some storage items from the ceiling?
Will you use the garage as an entertainment space? Or a workshop?
By thinking of all these things in advance and creating a rough sketch of how you will use the space, you can be sure you add the right lighting for the right task in the right area.
Once you have a general idea, you will be able to select the correct lighting for each zone of the garage.
Adding lighting will be a lot easier if you take into account existing wiring.
That, combined with your zone and task ideas, you’ll know if this will be a quick and easy project, or if you will need to budget more for an electrician to add more fixtures.
If you have an older home, do you know if the current wiring is up to code? Can it handle more wattage output? What is the load limit on the breaker(s) already installed?
Once you know what your wiring can realistically bear, you will have better ideas about your choices of fixtures and lighting.
Types of Lighting Systems and Fixtures
Gone are the days of the standard, one-size-fits-all approach to illuminating your home.
Garages everywhere are becoming speculated showcases largely due to the types of systems utilized. It is worth taking the time to browse photo galleries of those incredible garages for some ideas.
The Lighting Research Center suggests utilizing at least three different systems to add a form to function. Standard Products, Inc. has several suggestions for each of the main three categories.
The general lighting used in any space is ambient. This lighting is a consistent light level throughout a space. The lighting is pretty much inflexible, other than changing out the wattage of the bulb used. However, don’t think of this as boring lighting. The fixture for this type of lighting, which will most likely be your main source, can be a work of art just as much as an accent or task lighting tends to be:
- Ceiling mounted fixture
- Wall-mounted fixture
- Traditional recessed fixtures
- LED downlights
- Track light
To maximize overhead storage space, you may want to consider a flush or recessed lighting fixture. Take note, too, of the placement if you plan to have overhead storage shelving or bins. Containers can block light, creating dark places that could defeat the purpose of the lighting system chosen.
Just so its name suggests, task lighting is lighting with a specific task in mind. That may take a bit more thought in deciding what to choose. A nice heavy-duty table lamp would work great for bench projects, where a flexible overhead fixture may be better suited for larger undertakings where you have to move around more:
- Directional gimbals recessed fixture
- Pendant lighting
- Slimline bar
- Under-cabinet lighting
- Tape and extrusion
- Portable lamp
- Desk lamp
Lighting should make the task easier to accomplish, not harder. Having at least one movable fixture, like one of the castors or a hook, is a must for car maintenance and the like.
Now, you may not have thought of accent lighting in the garage before, but why not show off that impressive collection of tools neatly organized on pegboards? Or the amazing assortment of sporting goods artfully displayed on a track-based system? Accent lighting is not to be overlooked. It can make your garage go from boring to wow with just a few of these options:
- Slimline bar
- Under-cabinet lighting
- Tape and extrusion
- Directional recessed fixture
- Wall-mounted fixtures
Wireless Lighting Systems
Believe it or not, wireless lighting options and solutions are worth looking into. Typically, battery-powered, these little fixtures are perfect for those darker areas where running a wire is not a workable choice. These little beauties can be placed in storage corners, inside cabinets, or under shelves either with mounting tape or a more permanent solution such as screwed in. They are probably the most budget-friendly gadgets that are functional.
Nothing beats natural lighting. It has a calming effect on the mind, and it targets creativity. There are quite a few garages without windows, and adding windows or skylights may not be a structurally sound option. Adding natural light to a dark garage can be as simple as changing out a few solid panels on the garage door for translucent ones, or putting in an exterior entry door with a window.
Types of Bulbs
Just as important as the type of lighting system, bulbs can make an impact on garage lighting projects.
Each of the four bulb types has its pros and cons, so I’ll give a brief overview here. I cover these in more detail in my article answering What Kind of Lights To Put in Your Garage.
Invented in the 1930s, fluorescent lighting had been the main lighting source of choice for over half a century. This cost-saving, energy-efficient, long-light-life device has become a staple in an abundance of home and professional garages. That said, there are some significant drawbacks. They have a higher initial cost when compared to most other fixtures, contain mercury, and have limitations on levels of lighting. They are either off or on. Not to mention that annoying buzzing sound they are so famous for.
Light-emitting diodes, or LED, bulbs are among the most energy-efficient lighting options on the market. LEDs remain emitting little heat, so no fear of accidental burns while adjusting angles. Although mostly used for accent or task lighting, technology is adapting LEDs to be more effective ambient lighting options. Two of the biggest disadvantages are the “lumen depreciation” experience where they become dimmer over time, and they are more expensive than most other types of bulbs.
Halogen bulbs look like traditional incandescent bulbs, so they don’t look odd in existing fixtures. They instantly turn on and are dimmable. Although more energy-efficient and longer-lasting than incandescent, they don’t compare to LEDs. They also cost more than incandescent, however, the energy-saving make up for it.
When we hear “light bulb” incandescent light is what usually comes to mind. Inexpensive fixtures and bulbs are what made these so popular. They can be consistent or dimmable, immediately turn on with a switch, and give that soft yellow glow most of us remember. But, incandescent light bulbs are not energy-efficient and do not last as long as any of the other options mentioned above.
By far the biggest improvement I made to our garage was to upgrade the lighting. With the wide array of options, we were able to stay within our budget, and I know you can too.
Once you’ve mapped out your garage’s different zones and selected lighting for the different uses, it’ll be a lot easier to talk to an electrician to get a clear plan in mind. This can save you time and money as well as minimize stress.
Upgrading your garage lighting is a major, yet worthwhile undertaking. With so many stylish and functional options for all the tasks you have for your garage, it may become your favorite room in the whole house.
Plus, your neighbors will probably be impressed every time they catch a glimpse of your well-lit, functional garage.