Ah yes, the garage. For many of us, this mystical place is more than a shelter for our vehicles. For many of us the garage represents an escape, a space to let creativity loose, a home for our tools, and maybe a spot to drink beer with our friends. Sadly, many of these spaces are woefully underlit. Not “cool like a dive-bar” underlit. More like, “can’t see what the hell I’m working on” underlit. Big Ass Solutions recently sent us a couple of their Big Ass Garage Lights to review. Let’s see if we can shed some light on whether or not you’ll want to pick one or two of these luminous beasts for you garage.
In the residential world incandescent is on a fast track to extinction. LED lighting is all the rage when it comes to typical residential lighting. Yet garage and shop lighting is still very much stuck in the fluorescent stage. Happily, we have seen a lot more LED options coming online for the garage and shop. The Big Ass Garage Light uses LED’s (Light Emitting Diodes) in place of vintage incandescent technology. Let’s dive into what sets this light apart from some of your other garage lighting options.
Big Ass Garage Light Installation
Each Garage light ships with two eye bolts and two S-hooks (there are already two eye bolts installed on the top of each light). Given that you don’t want one of these dropping on someone’s head (or on the hood of your car), mounting into ceiling joists is a must-do.
If you have joists 16″ on center, you’re in luck! The eye bolts on the top of each Garage Light are 16″ apart. In our case, our ceiling joists were further apart. So instead of mounting to two joists, we pre-drilled and screwed in the eye bolts 16″ apart on a single joist. Assuming you have solid, easy to locate ceiling joists, installing the Garage light is very easy.
Big Ass Light from a Small Ass Light
In a world filled with four foot or even eight foot long light fixtures, I expect garage and shop lights to be long and unwieldy. Before I even opened the box, it was clear the Big Ass Garage Light is actually quite compact. At just a hair over 23″ in length, and about 9″ wide, Big Ass Solutions gives you a lot of flexibility on where to mount these.
It’s hard to characterize just how bright these compact lights are. Even photos don’t really do the lights justice. I could tell you they put out 13,000 lumens. That sounds like a lot, but still doesn’t really give you a sense of their brightness. So, we’ll invent a scale of 1 to 10. A measure of one being a candle on a moonless night and 10 being staring into the sun. I’d rate these about a 9. Despite sipping only about 122 watts, the Big Ass Garage Light absolutely cranks out the lumens. Once on, you won’t want to look at them directly (even with your Big Ass sunglasses).
Big Ass Solutions hilariously included a pair of sunglasses packaged with a warning, “DON’T LOOK INTO THE LIGHT – These sunglasses are not meant to handle that.” According to Big Ass Solutions, “The light’s high-efficiency LEDs put out more light than 16 60-watt bulbs and are rated to last for more than a century.” That’s a lot of old school bulbs! Suffice it to say, if you’re replacing just about any other type of bulb or fixture, you will be absolutely blown away by the amount of light that the Big Ass Garage Light produces. I also appreciated how the diffused lenses spread the light in a pretty wide arc – a 112 degree arc according to the team at Big Ass Solutions (our old fluorescent fixture had metal flaps that reflected light but also prevented the light from shining to the sides of the bulb fully).
But What KIND of Light Is It?
When it comes to LED lighting, the light produced tends to fall in two general categories, warm or cool. Warm is the kind of light you want when you’re snuggled up by the fireplace on a cold winter’s night, sipping hot cocoa. Its orange hue wraps you in a aura of coziness. Cool light is what you want when you’re performing surgery (or maybe just working in your garage). It is vivid, crisp light that makes you feel like you can see every detail and color in its most perfect form. The Big Ass Garage Light, at 5000 Kelvin is considered a cool, bright white.
Big Ass Garage Light is Plug ‘n Play
Big Ass Solutions doesn’t hate electricians. Or at least I don’t think they do. But there’s a good chance you’re not going to need to hire one to wire your Big Ass Garage Light. That’s because Big Ass Solutions includes a 10′ power cord that plugs into any standard three-prong outlet.
The website says each Garage Light comes with a white cable, but ours was more an off-white. With a light as sleek and sexy as the Big Ass Garage Light, I’d like to see a black cable – or at least the option to choose your cable color. Even so, there’s so much light coming out of these things you’re probably not even going to direct your gaze near them. In our installation we ran one cable over to a corner and then down the wall to an outlet. The other light was installed close to our garage door opener where there was already an outlet on the ceiling. Since many garages have power garage door openers, it’s not uncommon to have access to power on the ceiling.
This plug ‘n play feature works great assuming that you don’t want to hardwire your light(s) and you either don’t mind plugging and unplugging the light, or springing for an occupancy sensor. Obviously, if you’re plugging into an outlet that is switched, you may not want the occupancy sensor. I would have liked to see the light come equipped with an optional connection for hard-wiring for those that want the light on a dedicated switch, but don’t have switched outlets.
Excuse Me, Is This Garage Occupied?
The Big Ass Garage Light comes in two versions, one of which has an occupancy sensor. The two we evaluated had the optional sensors. For the reasons mentioned above, unless the power to your outlet is switched, you’re likely going to want the occupancy sensor (which adds $40 to the base price of each light). Having to plug and unplug the light each time you want to use it (and plug it in in the dark) just doesn’t make much sense.
I found the occupancy sensor to be fast and effective at turning on when appropriate. As soon as I walked (or drove) into the garage, the light powered right up. Once you exit the room, the light seems to have about a 10 minute delay from shutting off. Although this is likely to prevent the light from turning off accidentally (in case you accidentally freeze in place, or are hiding behind the hood of a car), I would have liked to see the delay readily adjustable. Regardless, springing for the occupancy sensor is highly advisable in most cases. One of my biggest adjustments to the Big Ass Garage Lights is to remember to NOT turn on and off the light switch.
We have already touched on a few things we would have liked to see with the Big Ass Garage Light (optional black power cable, optional hard-wire connection, adjustable timing on the shut-off delay). These are all relatively minor wishes. The biggest feature we’d like to see on these lights is adjustable brightness and adjustable shut-off delay, possibly with an app. The light is so bright that it would be nice to have another setting or two for when you don’t need all 13,000 lumens cranking.
As more and more tool brands get into jobsite lighting, we have seen innovations that enable users to check if a light is on/off, power it on/off remotely, control brightness, and even set timers to shut lights off at a certain time or duration. Given that the garage light is designed to be left plugged in, it seems to be a great candidate for smartphone control via an app. We can dream, right?!
Although these features aren’t available on an app at this time, and are not directly controllable on the lights, Big Ass Solutions does offer a $75 Watt Stopper / Remote which enables you to control brightness, shut-off time, light sensor settings, occupancy sensor sensitivity, etc. If we get our hands on one, we will updated this section of the article.
Editor’s Update July 22nd, 2018 –
Well, it took us a while, but the folks at Haiku sent us the aforementioned WattStopper and we were pleased to discover it remedied a couple of items on our wish list. After popping a few AAA batteries into the WattStopper I powered it up while standing under one of the Big Ass Garage Lights. Once powered up, you navigate through the various options fairly intuitively. The WattStopper enables you to adjust overall brightness (something we actually ratcheted down slightly), the brightness level it drops to after not detecting motion, the time-frame until that dimming happens, and when the light shuts off altogether, as well as a couple other options like enabling / disabling the daylight sensor.
Once you adjust the settings, you simply point the remote towards the Big Ass Light you’re targeting and press “Send.” The light then blinks off briefly to acknowledge it received your new settings and then you’re all set! While it would still be cool to have all these options in an app, the WattStopper is the next best thing. If you’re happy with the way the light works right out of the box, then there’s no need for you to purchase it. If you’re a control freak like we are, the WattStopper makes it easy to fine tune the functionality of the Big Ass Garage Light. If you have more than one Big Ass Garage Light, you’ll only need one WattStopper to adjust the settings on all of them (one at a time).
Big Ass Garage Light Wall Mount
Not everyone is going to want the garage light directly overhead. And for some, mounting from the ceiling may not be an option. For an extra $100 you can get the optional wall mount for the Garage Light. It let’s you take all those lumens and point them exactly where the sun don’t shine. And, in case you have a really impressive shop or garage, it’s compatible with I-beams!
Kiss Your Lightbulb Changing Days Goodbye
You’re probably wondering how long you can expect those lumen-crankers in the Garage Light to last. According to Big Ass Solutions, if you run the Garage Light three hours a day you can expect it to last almost 150 years! Unless you’re either running these lights like crazy, and/or are buying them when you’re very young, it’s reasonable to say that for most users they can expect the Garage Light to run for a lifetime, or more.
Our experience with the Garage Light was positive. They are compact, easy to install, and kick out an amazing amount of light. When I installed the Garage Light over our workbench area I felt like I was seeing things in much more vivid detail (and the garage wasn’t really underlit to begin with). Somehow the Garage Light made two, four foot long fluorescent bulbs directly overhead seem downright dim. We were also impressed with a hefty build. Made from a substantial chunk of extruded aluminum, the housing feels solid (although the heatsink top might need a little love from your vacuum periodically). The light’s enclosed lens areas makes it much less likely to collect dirt and grime unlike some fixtures which seem to double as bug collectors.
Backed by a hefty 7 Year Warranty from Big Ass Solutions, there is a lot to be impressed by with the Big Ass Garage Light. One aspect of the Garage Light that might dissuade some buyers is the price tag ($399 for the base model, or $439 for the version with the occupancy sensor). That may seem like a steep price to pay, but when you factor in how much light each of these cranks out and the money you’ll save on bulbs – you may find the price tag more acceptable. And, if you want to relive the recent solar eclipse – just pass something opaque between you and the Garage Light (but don’t look directly into the Garage Light)!
If you’re ready upgrade the lighting in your garage, check out the purchase link below. And, if you’re lucky enough to be reading this before December 8th (2017), you can get $75 off the normal $399/$439 pricing! This offer is only valid through Dec 8th, 2017. No promotion code needed, the amount will be deducted at checkout.
Buy the Garage Light with occupancy sensor for $439 or $399 without the sensor (before the $75 off detailed above):
Featured Photo – Big Ass Solutions.