What Kind of Lights Should I Put in My Garage?


If you’re like me, you’ve probably stood in front of the lighting section of Lowe’s or Home Depot, trying to figure out what kind of lights to buy for your garage.

It can be a tough choice.

Choosing the right lighting for your garage can make the difference between a garage that is dark and dangerous and one that is bright and inviting.

So what kind of lights should you install in your garage? The kinds of lights you should put in your garage depend largely on garage use, but most garages involve a combination of ambient, task, and accent lighting. LED shop lights are highly recommended for most residential garages.

Whether you use your garage as a workspace or just someplace to store your stuff, there are different types of lighting that will make it more efficient and fun to use.

Keep reading to find out more about the kinds of lights available for garage designs.  

It Matters How You Use Your Garage

Think of all the possible ways you could use your garage: parking your car, storing holiday decorations or clothes, grow rooms/indoor gardening, as a workshop or arts & crafts room.

Each of these uses requires a different type and amount of light.

And since lighting can be expensive and it will definitely consume electricity, it’s important to know which lighting is best for however you plan on using your garage.

Why is Garage Lighting Important?

Insufficient lighting is a major cause of common garage accidents that result in injury. This is especially true if your tools and supplies are left scattered on the floor where anyone can trip over them.

With dim lighting, it’s harder to keep your garage organized as well. After all, it’s tough to keep things neat in the dark, right?

It’s in your best interests to install garage lighting that lets you see the entire garage space clearly. It could prevent a trip to the emergency room.

How to Improve Lighting in a Garage

If you want to get more light in your garage, there are a couple of different paths you can take:  

  • Natural lighting options: Adding a small skylight or windows in your garage door can do wonders for the ambient lighting.
  • Add motion sensors to LED lights: You don’t want to do this with fluorescent lights, but automating lights with a motion sensor can save a lot of money on utilities in the long run.
  • Add auxiliary lighting. Bright desk lamps and other secondary garage lighting can brighten a workbench for more intensive tasks that require more visibility.
  • Think of recessed lighting as an investment: Recessed lighting probably isn’t your best choice (more on that later). However, it almost always looks better than light fixtures hanging from the ceiling. Because of that, it could increase the value of your home if you ever decide to sell it. Expect to pay more up front though.

Types of Garage Lights

There are several major types of lighting that we need to think about. It’s possible that you may want each in your garage in certain places.

It’s very likely that your garage will be some combination of:  

  • Ambient lighting: Ambient lighting is generalized, overhead lighting that spreads evenly across the entire room.
  • Task lighting: Task lighting is a concentrated lighting where higher levels of visibility are necessary for detail work.
  • Accent lighting: Accent lighting in garages is decorative lighting and is the best option for displaying memorabilia or hobby items. Since it’s designed to be supplemental, it doesn’t have to be as bright as task lighting and doesn’t have to be as diffused as ambient lighting.  

Every garage will need strong ambient lighting for general use. However, the amount of task and accent lighting you need will depend on your garage and how you intend to use it.

For example, if you use your garage as a workshop, you’ll need stronger task lighting than if you just use your garage to park your car.

LED vs. Fluorescent Lighting for Garages

In most cases, LED lights are a much better than fluorescent lights because LED lights are:

  • Brighter at the same wattage
  • Doesn’t get hot like fluorescent lights do
  • Doesn’t require a ballast
  • Is directional and can be concentrated in one area easily, while fluorescent lighting is more diffused (omnidirectional)
  • Performs very well in cold temperatures.
  • Are much better ‘grow lights’ due to reduced fire risk and an optimal spectrum of light

The one drawback to LED lighting versus fluorescent lighting is that the lighting fixtures themselves tend to be more expensive. However, once you factor in the energy savings and increased life, LED lights become less expensive overall.

Also, fluorescent lights have a limited number of times that they can be turned on and off. They will degrade more quickly than LED lights under the same conditions. 

Shop Lights vs. Recessed Lighting

When I purchased my house, I had four additional recessed lights installed n my garage ceiling. My thought was that would be enough to adequately light my garage.

That turned out not to be the case, but I was still very thankful that I was able to use the existing wiring when I installed my Hykolity shop lights.

Recessed lighting vs LED shop lights in my garage

Recessed lighting has the advantage of installing inside your garage ceiling, so it has a much more finished look than shop lights. However, they’re not nearly as powerful as an equivalent shop light.

Most single recessed lights, or can lights, output around 1,000 lumens while a shop light can be 4-5 times as powerful for the same cost.

Shop lights on the other hand, are external fixtures that either mount to your ceiling or hang down from a chain. For ambient lighting, recessed lighting can provide a sleeker looking overhead lighting scheme than traditional fluorescent ballasts. 

How Much Lighting Does My Garage Need?

The amount of light you need in your garage depends on how you plan to use it. A good benchmark is between 130-150 lumens per square foot.

I mentioned lumens briefly in the previous section. so let me explain it now. Lumens are a measure of how much light a bulb puts out. The more lumens, the more intense the light.

This is in accordance with the standards set forth by the Lighting Handbook of the Illuminating Engineer Society (IES). 50 lumens per square feet is the minimum amount of light for general spaces, while workspace areas need 300 lumens per square feet.

From personal experience, I’ll say that having 130 lumens per square foot in your garage is a game changer. Everything is so much brighter. It feels almost like a sunny afternoon, except indoors.

Once you have the general ambient lighting in your garage taken care of, it’s time to focus on adding task lighting to specific areas.

It’s most important to focus on having enough strong lighting over work benches, tables, and other areas where you’re working on small, detailed projects.

Conclusion

If you’re ready to take the next step with your garage lighting, I recommend checking out my LED shop light comparison article.

I spent over forty hours testing some of the best reviewed LED shop lights to see which one would work best in my garage. It’ll be a great resource for you as you decide which kind of lights to buy for your garage.

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