Shop Lighting Options: Choosing the Right Kind for Your Shop

Whether you are building a new shop or upgrading your existing shop, trying to figure out which type of LED light fixture you should get can be daunting. There are many options to consider. This post covers the pros and cons of several of the popular types out there which may help you decide what’s right for you.

There are many choices for shop lighting, such as the 4ft LED High Bay Shop Lights I chose, which I’ll cover in detail in a minute. But there are also UFO style LED High Bay Lights, and screw-in LED foldable panel style shop lights. Also, there are 4 and 8ft fluorescent style LED fixtures. Finally, if you already have a shop lit by fluorescent fixtures, you can upgrade them to LED bulbs to improve the brightness of your shop. I’ll discuss these other options as well, but first I’ll give you the details on what I chose and why, and how well they have worked.

4ft LED High Bay Shop Lights

The 4ft LED High Bay Shop Lights I chose are made by Hykolity, an LED lighting manufacturer based in California. The specs of the fixture I chose include:

  • Commercial grade construction.
  • It operates on 100 to 277V and 210W.
  • It produces 29,400 lumens of light with a 5000K daylight color temperature.
  • The fixture is dimmable with a 0-10V control voltage, but the fixture supplies the 10V source so all you need is a potentiometer connected to it with two wires to dim it. Also, you can control multiple fixtures with a single potentiometer. I chose not to use this function but it’s available if I ever change my mind.
  • It’s rated for 50,000 hours of continuous use.
  • It is UL listed.
  • The dimensions are 45.9″ long by 13″ wide and 3.6″ high.
  • And it has a very impressive 7-year warranty against any defect in materials and workmanship, covering most damage and shipping costs for replacements.
  • The fixture weighs only 14.3lbs so it’s easy for one person to handle while installing it.
  • Finally, the price per fixture is $199.99 as of this posting.

The brightness, warranty, high reliability, and good Amazon ratings convinced me this was the right fixture for my shop. There are several models with different wattages and lumens to choose from.

So, the real question was how many fixtures I would need. I decided to buy one and install it to find out.
When I first got the fixture and plugged it in, it was VERY bright, and I was encouraged. I mounted one near the center of the rear bay and plugged it up. It was obvious to me that two fixtures per bay would be plenty of light, as you can see here.
Based on 40 to 50 foot-candles of light, the recommended height of the fixtures I chose should be 30ft above the floor. Instead, they hang about 14 feet above the floor. So, it is a good bit brighter than is typical, but I love it. Also, the white walls and ceiling reflect a lot of light which soften shadows and let me get the most brightness for the buck. Since the fixtures don’t include a power cord, I used 3ft extension cords cut in half, using the male half for the fixture and the female half instead of having to buy electrical sockets.

The Pros that I see for this fixture are: the commercial grade construction, the wide operating voltage range, very high brightness, 5000K daylight color temperature, it’s dimmable, and has low glare and casts soft shadows because the lumens are emitted from a wide 1×4′ area.

On the Cons side, it is more expensive than some other options, and it can be a hassle for one person to install.

These fixtures have been a great choice for me and have operated flawlessly for three years. Now let’s look at some of the other options available to you depending on your needs, budget, and ceiling height.

UFO LED High Bay Lights

The aptly named UFO style light is a cost-effective choice for a super bright high bay fixture. BTW, be sure to watch to the end of the video to see the full capabilities of this fixture. It’s features, which are its pros include:

  • Cast aluminum housing that is IP65 rated.
  • A wide operating voltage range and typically consumes 150W.
  • High brightness ranging from 10K to 21K lumens. 5000K daylight color temperature.
  • It’s dimmable with 1 -10V control.
  • It’s easy for one person to install.
  • It includes a 110V cord.
  • And it’s cost-effective, ranging from $65 to $90 per fixture.

The one con I see, which was a deal breaker for me, is the high glare they produce by concentrating all those lumens into a 9 to 12″ disk. They can be blinding to look at, even if indirectly, and cast harsher shadows than the 1×4′ fixtures. However, the higher your ceiling is, the less of a problem this is. If you think this type of fixture is a good fit for your needs, here is a link to the Amazon search results for them. From there you can pick whichever brand and model best meets your needs.

Screw-in LED Shop Lights

Another type of fixture worth considering is the screw-in type with adjustable light panels. These fixtures come in several different designs – like the ones you see here. They are very reasonably priced, ranging from $20 to about $36. They operate on 110V, typically consuming 100W, and screw into ordinary light bulb sockets. They offer high brightness from 6K lumens to 15K lumens. And of course, one of their best features are the adjustable light panels which let you determine how wide of an area you want to illuminate. Also, they are easy to install, especially if you already have light bulb socket on your ceiling. If I were picking one, I’d choose one with a least 4 adjustable panels and a center light for maximum coverage.

The cons to these fixtures are they only seem to be offered in the 6000K to 6500K color temperature range, which lean toward a bluish hue and can be quite harsh and sterile looking, in my opinion. Also, like the UFO lights, they concentrate a lot of lumens in a small area and can be blinding to look at, even indirectly. So, if your shop ceiling is low, this could be a problem. Another consideration is that they are not dimmable. There is a link to the Amazon search results for this style of lights in the video description.

LED Shop Light Fixture

These fixtures look very much like ordinary fluorescent fixtures but bring the benefits higher brightness, and longer-life. They are available in 4 and 8ft lengths and come in hanging or surface mount styles. They operate on 110V and the 4ft fixtures consume 40W and 8ft fixtures 100W, and multiple fixtures can be daisy chained together for easier installation. Brightness ranges from 4K to 15K lumens depending on the length of the fixture. You have a choice of color temperatures, ranging from 5000 to 6500K. The typical cost of a 4-pack of 4ft fixtures ranges from $40 to $80.

The main drawback to these is the surface-mount style can be difficult for one person to install, especially the 8ft fixtures. And they are not dimmable. I have included a link to the Amazon search results for both 4ft and 8ft lengths of this style of light in the video description.

LED Fluorescent Tube Replacement

If you already have fluorescent fixtures in your shop, you can choose to upgrade the tubes to LED replacements and again get the benefits higher brightness, and longer-life. They are available in 4 and 8ft lengths. Fit in the existing fixtures just like fluorescent tubes, and of course operate on 110V with the 4ft tubes typically consuming 18W and 8ft tubes 45W. The 4ft tubes are available in a range of brightness from 2K to 3K lumens and the 8ft tubes range from 4K to 8K lumens. You have a choice of color temperatures, ranging from 5000 to 6500K. The typical cost of a 4-pack of 4ft tubes ranges from $30 to $55.

The cons of these LED tubes are: they require you to rewire the light fixture. Specifically, you must bypass the ballast and wire the 110V directly to tube sockets. Instructions are included for doing this, but you need to be comfortable with doing the rewiring. Also, they are not dimmable. Again, there are links to the Amazon search results for both 4ft and 8ft lengths of this style of light in the video description.

Final Thoughts and Recommendations

In case you’re wondering about the lifespan of these LED options, they all claim to last 50,000 hours.
As for recommended ceiling height, the high bay style lights are typically suited for ceiling heights ranging from 15 to 40ft. The screw-in foldable panel style lights are good choices for ceilings 12 to 15ft high. And the LED tube replacements and LED shop light fixtures are good for ceilings 8 to 12 high. These are just suggestions, and you can always go higher with them if you use more fixtures.