Do LED Lights Work in a Cold Garage?


Cold winters and LED lights don’t mix, or so we’ve been told.

But is it really true?

Back when i lived up in Pennsylvania, I had various LED lights that seemed to struggle in the cold weather. But that was over ten years ago, so I wanted to do a little research to see if that was still the case.

LED shop lights work very well in a cold garage! In fact, LED lights work better in extreme cold than in extreme heat. In addition to boasting higher efficiency and sustainability, they are perfectly suited for cold weather conditions.

Cold weather isn’t the only benefit to adding LED lights to your garage. But first. a little background…

LED vs Fluorescent

Not so long ago, garages and warehouses were lit up exclusively by fluorescent tube lights. They had their issues, but they were cheap and gave off a fair amount of light.

Eventually, technology got better. We wanted lights that were more efficient, sustainable, and longer lasting.

Then along came LED bulbs.

Fluorescent shop lights normally come in four-foot-long tubes. Fluorescent lights boast longer life and better light hue than incandescent lights.

LED bulbs take that to a whole new level without sacrificing the functionality of fluorescent lights.

Why LED Lights are Perfect for the Garage

I’m not exaggerating here: LED bulbs were a revolution in lighting.

Older incandescent bulbs produce heat while converting electricity to visible light. This leads to a wasted energy on the infrared side of the light spectrum, which humans can’t see.

By contrast, LED (or light-emitting diodes) are much more efficient at converting electricity into light. That means they result in brighter lights that don’t get as hot.

Because they’re more efficient, LED shop lights don’t necessarily need to be hardwired to your house. They can also work on a battery pack or solar panels.

As a bonus, they are also smaller and shock-resistant. I don’t know about your garage, but I definitely appreciate that in my garage!

Why LED Shop Lights Work In Cold Weather

As I mentioned, LED shop lights don’t waste energy by producing large amounts of heat.

LED bulbs convert about 85% of electricity into visible light, compared to only 10% for incandescent bulbs (not a typo) or 15% for CFL bulbs (source).

Here’s why LED’s work better in cold temperatures than in hot temperatures…

That remaining 15% of energy that doesn’t get converted to light gets converted into heat and ends up in a built-in “heat sink.” That keeps it away from the light-producing diodes, but too much of an increase in temperature will cause the LED bulbs to fail.

The reverse is also true.

In cold weather, the electronic driver — which causes LEDs to produce light — will thrive. Unlike fluorescent bulbs, LEDs don’t rely on a combustible source that can easily result in damage if exposed to cold temperatures.

Moreover, LEDs don’t depend on mercury vapor.

Have you ever noticed that fluorescent tube lights look terrible in cold weather? That’s normal.

Fluorescent lights work by ionizing the mercury vapor in the tube. Because LED lights don’t work this way, their light output and quality stay consistent regardless of how cold it gets.

Last but not least, LEDs are resistant to sudden temperature changes. Because they don’t have any glass components that can break easily, they are the ideal choice for your garage or workshop.

In climates that suffer from sudden rises and falls in temperature, LED’s are one of the only suitable lighting solutions.

What is the operating temperature of LED lights?

Generally speaking, LED lights work best within a range of between -25F (-31C) and +140F (+60C).

That means that LED lights are suitable for outdoor use anywhere in the United States and Canada!

The temperature inside your garage won’t fluctuate nearly that much, especially if you’ve insulated your garage. However, continuous temperature changes, high humidity and heat can take a toll on your bulbs.

Heat: The Enemy of LED Lights

As I mentioned, LED lights have a ‘heat sink’ which captures the excess heat produced and keeps it away from the diodes. It’s necessary because if the internal temperature surpasses 85C or 185F, the LED bulbs will fail. 

Similarly external temperature has a similar affect on the bulbs.

As the external temperature rises, the internal components of the bulbs heat up. As this happens, the light output and efficiency decreases and the bulbs’ lifespan is shortened.

LED Output in Cold Weather

You’ll hear the term ‘lumen’ thrown about a lot.

The lumen is the measurement unit of the quantity of visible light produced by a lightbulb and can, therefore, express the performance of a specific light source.

Put simply, the brighter a light is, the higher its lumen rating will be.

If you’re not used to buying LED lights, this is going to require a bit of a change in mindset.

Fluorescent and incandescent bulbs have always been measured in Watts, but that’s actually a measure of the power usage, not brightness.

With the advent of LED, we now measure brightness in lumens.

Thanks to their much higher efficiency, LED lights create the same amount of light of a halogen lamp with half of the energy.

For example, a LED that is using 6.5W will produce the same amount of light of a 50W fluorescent light source. 

For more information on lumens, check out my article where I give a simple formula to calculate how many lumens you need to light your garage.

Standard halogen lamps tend lower their light output while simultaneously needing more power during cold temperatures. This is because fluorescent lamps produce excess heat while producing light (back to that efficiency thing again).

3 Additional Benefits of LED Shop Lights

I hate to sound like an infomercial (but wait…there’s more!), but if all of this wasn’t enough reason to look at LED lights, even in a cold garage, here are three more reasons:

Longer Life

LED lights usually last up to 15 years, given a standard usage of 6 to 8 hours per day. Unlike older light bulb designs, they don’t lose brightness or decrease in quality over time, so you’ll get that same bright light on day 1 as you will on day 5000!

Bright White or Warm Light: Your Choice

LED lights come in different color temperatures that range from a warm, yellow light to hyper-bright blueish-white light.

What color temperature is right for your garage? It depends on what you use your garage for, but here’s a guide to help you make that decision.

Environmentally Sustainable

Picking a lighting solution that can help reduce wastage and electricity usage. Additionally, LEDs are free of toxic additives and mercury, and they are entirely recyclable.

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