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Thread: Shop lighting repair/upgrade

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Austin, Texas
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    1,436

    Cool Shop lighting repair/upgrade

    Feel free to move this post if it is not in the right place.

    I have crappy shop lighting... Several of the two-tube four foot T12 fluorescent fixtures scattered around the ceiling. The top quality ones bought for $10 when new many years ago.

    One of the antiques started buzzing, with one of the tubes flickering. No combination of new tubes would fix it, so I concluded that the ballast was shot. (yes, I know the ballast has been replaced by electronic magic, but I don't know what that magic is called.). So off to Home Depot to buy a replacement. I finally found one like I had, a dusty leftover at the bottom of the stack, for $25 or so. The world had evolved from T12 (1.5 inch diameter tubes) to T8 (1 inch), and even T5 (5/8 inch). In fact the two tube T8 unit was only about $20.

    But if I switched to T8 (or T5) I would certainly have to buy new tubes, so I went to that section. The T12 tubes are no longer cheap - there were a few that almost had the label "for antiques only." The T8 tubes were $5 or more each. Okay, so we are now up to $30 to replace that @#$%#$@ fixture that should have cost $10. One of the normally useless Home Depot employees wandered by and said "be sure to look at the LED fixtures.

    After getting past the fancy LED lights, I found a LED 40 inch fixture, complete with "tubes". comparable to the two tube fixture I was trying to replace, for $40. Okay, T12 is as obsolete as I am, T8 is already on the way to replacement with T5, and the future technology LED is only $10 more than I was going to have to spend on the old Florescent tube fixture with bulbs. I sprung for it.

    It installed easier than a florescent fixture - one trip up the ladder got the unit in place, and I didn't have to return to install the bulbs. I chose the same "hang from the chain" option as before, and the power cord reached the same outlet. The bad news is that the LED light is in every way better. Instant on, totally quiet (no hum), and brighter. Bad news because I am tempted to replace some of the others!

    As the Home Depot guy said, "be sure to look at the LED fixtures."
    Charlie Plesums, Austin Texas
    (Retired early to become a custom furnituremaker)
    Lots of my free advice at www.solowoodworker.com

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Constantine, MI
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    7,815
    Well over a decade ago a friend of mine had the opportunity to go to work for a start up company in the emerging field of LED lighting. I told him that he should jump on the chance because LED's were the way all future lighting was going to go. He asked me how I knew. I told him it was simple - the government is backing CFL's, therefore LED was going to be the better technology.

    I have T-8 lighting (56 of them!) in the shop primarily because of budget. I purchased all the fixtures used and got the 6500K tubes on sale. If budget were not as big a concern I would definitely have gone with LED's. Prices are coming down on LED lighting (we converted all our house lighting to LED) and converting in the shop is on my 'someday' list. I hope that someday is not too far off.
    Host of the 2017 Family Woodworking Gathering - Sunken Wood

    “We all die. The goal isn't to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” - Chuck Palahniuk
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Thomasville, GA
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    5,884
    Ten years ago when I started building and expanding my shop, I went with T8 fixtures all the way. I haven't had to replace any bulbs yet, either! I balked at the initial cost, but was tired of replacing T12 bulbs routinely. As a result, the initial cost of T8s has paid for itself in no replacement bulbs for ten years and they're still going strong! I have a total of 20 two-bulb fixtures in my shop building.
    Bill Arnold
    Citizen of Texas residing in Georgia.
    NRA Life Member
    Member of Mensa
    Live every day like it's your last, but don't forget to stop and smell the roses.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Escondido, CA
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    5,116
    Good stuff to know. I have planned as much natural light in the new house as I can. Yup. Windows are not cheap but it is a one time expense. Solar tubes where I can also to avoid having to turn on a light multiple times a day, like hallways and bathrooms. Where I do need lights they will be LED's.
    ++++++

    Some say the land of milk and honey; others say the land of fruits and nuts. All together my sort of heaven.

    Power is not taken. It is given. Who have you given yours to? Hmmmm?

    Carol Reed

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Salt Spring Island, BC Canada
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    2,070
    With our move back to our small cabin home on Salt Spring almost two years ago there was a sale on at Costco on LED bulbs ( most of them now dimmable ) so bought enough to replace all the CFL lights and incandescent bulbs. At the same time with my building my shop last year we bought all new 2 bulb 4 ft T8 fixtures for the shop with all the tube LED bulbs. I had saved enough older florescent fixtures but they are heavy and i am older and broken so went to the electric whole sale store to get all new 1 ft x 4 ft 2 bulb fixtures. A note the bulbs are all plug and play bulbs so they will work in all older fixtures too, but I had mixed bag of different heavy fixtures ( still have them ) I set up all 8 fixtures and two separate switches so 4 front and 4 back lights in the shop plus a few extras for specific work areas and wow is it bright. Now no humm instant on and off and not sensitive to temp swings ( old florescent tubes didn't like working in sub zero temps) So all the shop and house are now totally LED lights. Now the LED tubes are not a huge savings like the bulbs. the tubes are 19 Watt compared to the old 32 watt florescent but its still a savings. Really notice it in the hydro bill. Of course the new tubes have a 50,000 hr life expectancy so I will never be replacing bulbs in my life time. Saying that however the bulbs are still made of glass and if you do mishandle them they will break ( I lost one by dropping it). I highly recommend to anyone replacing lights to check these out. Costco had them on for $19 for two tubes ( this is Canadian pricing so our American neighbors might be getting a better deal price wise). Also they have to be installed correctly with the LED strip on the top with lights facing down for best results ( how I broke the one bulb changing it )
    Last edited by Drew Watson; 01-14-2017 at 08:27 AM.
    Daily Thought: SOME PEOPLE ARE LIKE SLINKIES..... NOT REALLY GOOD FOR ANYTHING BUT THEY BRING A SMILE TO YOUR FACE WHEN PUSHED DOWN THE STAIRS...............

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    Wapakoneta, OH
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    602
    I've been going through this with my new shop . In picking out lights I wanted LEDs, but after reading some "expert" opinion and doing the math the cost was way out of line....not to mention there wasn't room on the ceiling for the number of lights I needed (according to the "expert"). So I did some testing on my own. I bought one 4 light T5 fixture (very expensive) and temporarily put it up to gauge the lighting. These (florescent) fixtures are still a huge pain to install due to the weight of the ballast, but I got it up. Then I bought 2-2 light LEDs when Costco had them for $20 apiece (these). These were so light they were a piece of cake to hang, they put out more light (despite the lumens being lower) and no hum, no radio interference, and really instant start at full light. The T 5 went back and I bought 20 of the cheap LEDs to hang (the "expert" called for twice that many). Couldn't be happier. I'm hoping Costco runs them on sale again so I can buy some more. Some other things about these lights, they have an outlet on one end to allow daisy chaining, making the wiring for the outlets a little less complicated. I'm only hoping they hold up for 1/2 the expected life.....if so, I'll be even happier. So my take on yothe advice: look at LEDs, but don't get an expert's adviice
    I long for the days when Coke was a cola and a joint was a bad place to be (Merle Haggard; 1939-2016)

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Salt Spring Island, BC Canada
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    Yes Fred I had those old 4 light fixtures too with the mirror reflector backs and the weight was the reason switched out to the new electronic blast 1x4 fixtures. far lighter to install and the plastic cover really disperses the already bright light. 8 smaller 2 bulb fixtures give a more even light than 4 larger 4 bulb fixtures. in my opinion.
    Daily Thought: SOME PEOPLE ARE LIKE SLINKIES..... NOT REALLY GOOD FOR ANYTHING BUT THEY BRING A SMILE TO YOUR FACE WHEN PUSHED DOWN THE STAIRS...............

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Tellico Plains, Tennessee
    Posts
    4,324
    I'm glad I read through this thread... when I set up my shop 11 years ago, I bought 6 of the 4' 2 tub florescent lights. Not sure the bulbs, but pretty sure they are the T12's.... I knocked one down when a bowl exploded off the lathe and went straight up and into the light over the lathe... I'm still finding glass from that occasionally and that was 3 years ago... moved a light out of one corner to over the lathe, so now have a dark corner, another just stopped coming on, changed bulbs to no avail, so took it down and trashed it, now one of the lights in the center has a bad ballast or something, only one bulb will work, and the others are slowly going out....on cold days they hum and sputter and it seems to take for ever for the lights to warm up and come to full illumination.... I'll be looking at the LED lights for replacement soon....
    Chuck
    Tellico Plains, TN
    https://www.etsy.com/shop/TellicoTurnings
    My parents taught me to respect my elders, but it's getting harder and harder to find any.
    If you go looking for trouble, it will usually find you.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
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    Salt Spring Island, BC Canada
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Ellis View Post
    I'm glad I read through this thread... when I set up my shop 11 years ago, I bought 6 of the 4' 2 tub florescent lights. Not sure the bulbs, but pretty sure they are the T12's.... I knocked one down when a bowl exploded off the lathe and went straight up and into the light over the lathe... I'm still finding glass from that occasionally and that was 3 years ago... moved a light out of one corner to over the lathe, so now have a dark corner, another just stopped coming on, changed bulbs to no avail, so took it down and trashed it, now one of the lights in the center has a bad ballast or something, only one bulb will work, and the others are slowly going out....on cold days they hum and sputter and it seems to take for ever for the lights to warm up and come to full illumination.... I'll be looking at the LED lights for replacement soon....
    Chuck If your going to and you have the older T12 tubes with oil ballasts look at upgrading them to the electronic ballasts with the LED tubs.
    Daily Thought: SOME PEOPLE ARE LIKE SLINKIES..... NOT REALLY GOOD FOR ANYTHING BUT THEY BRING A SMILE TO YOUR FACE WHEN PUSHED DOWN THE STAIRS...............

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Location
    Lafayette, IN
    Posts
    14
    Thanks guys you got me moving on changing out my lights. I've got 13 T8 fixtures in the shop with several bulbs burned out and I've been considering changing over to LED. The more I researched, the more confused I got about whether I would need to change the ballast and the pillar blocks. So I got to looking on line for new 4' (2) bulb fixtures. Found them on Rural Kings site for $30/fixture. Headed into town and of course they didn't have any. Went to Harbor Freight no luck. Was passing Menards so I decided to stop, which I typically won't do due to bad experience. Found a box of 10 LED bulbs for $55 and was assured they would replace my T8 bulbs. I was doubtful but figured I could take them back if they didn't work. Changed out the 5 fixtures over my main work area, I now need sunglasses and maybe sunscreen to work in the shop. No need to change out the rest of the fixtures, amazing how much brighter the shop is. So if you have T8 fixtures with rapid or quick start ballast this is a pretty cost effective solution.

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