Install LED Shop Lights And Leave The Dark Ages Behind

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install led shop lights

What's This?This post is sponsored by The Home Depot. After way too many years of stowing my tools in random spaces, and having to set up my table saw up in the driveway, I finally have a real workshop! It has walls, and windows, and a roof that I don’t have to pad to prevent head injuries. And it’s mine, all mine! Well, except for the section devoted to tractor parking, and the area where a bunch of tables and gardening stuff are stacked, awaiting the completion of my wife’s greenhouse. But it WILL be almost all mine, and now that the power is finally hooked up, I can’t wait to get my tools set up and eventually MAKE something. To give these future projects a better shot at actually being usable, I decided to install LED shop lights, to introduce a bit of light into the equation.

install led shop lights
Great space! Now if only I could see what I’m doing…
install led shop lights
And get rid of some of the crap that immediately filled it up!

The shop is 28’ x 32’, with a lofty 12’ high ceiling. There’s also a 10’ high x 12’ wide garage door. This should allow me to stow away way more tools than I’ll ever have, with room to spare to crank out projects of mammoth proportion.

Since it’s such a big space, and I’m an old fart a mature gent with crappy eyesight, I want to make sure I have plenty of light in the shop. Since incandescent bulbs are only available on the black market, and I despise CFL bulbs, that left fluorescent and LED fixtures to battle it out.

It was a pretty short battle. LED lights are much more energy efficient than fluorescent bulbs. They come on immediately at full power, with no flicker or warm up needed, even in very cold temps – like in my new unheated shop. They have a very long life span, and unlike CFLs and fluorescents, they contain no mercury. Game over.

install led shop lights
I chose the Commercial Electric 4′ LED shop light to chase the darkness away…

I did some research, and decided on the Commercial Electric 4’ LED shop lights from Home Depot. They crank out 3,200 lumens of bright light, you can link up to nine of them together with the included cords, they’re easy to install, and they’re reasonably priced. And with over 1,000 five-star reviews, it seemed like a pretty safe bet.

install led shop lights
The Commercial Electric 4′ LED shop light has great reviews and ratings.

To be assured of banishing the darkness, I bought twelve of them, and the Home Depot provided another 13 for this review. Here’s the list of features and specs from the home Depot:

• Energy Star rated
• Up to 9 units may be linked together using 13 in. linking cord, or end to end connector (included)
• 120-Volt operation
• Rated 50,000 hours
• 3,200 Lumens
• 36-Watt
• 43% energy savings vs two 32-Watt fluorescent shop light equivalent
• Light performance is equivalent to typical two 32-Watt fluorescent shop light
• Perfect for cold start applications with an “instant on” down to -4°F
• 5 ft. cord and plug included
• 5-year warranty
• CUL rated
• Actual Color Temperature (K): 4000
• Color Rendering Index (CRI): 84
• Color Temperature: Bright White
• Chain, Cord, Mounting Hardware Included
• Light Bulb Type Included: Integrated LED
• Product Weight (lb.): 3.62 lb.
• Returnable: 90-Day

These Little Lights Of Mine, I’m Gonna Let ‘Em Shine

The first thing to consider as you prepare to install LED shop lights is how many lights you’ll need. How large is the total space? What will you be doing there? Your needs will be a lot different if you’re just parking cars and garden tools than they will be if you’re repairing clocks or building your own space shuttle.

Most of the work in my shop will be done on workbenches or with large stationary tools near the side and rear walls. I want to make sure there’s plenty of uninterrupted light in those areas. I also want the rest of the space to be well lit. To summarize: I want lots of light!

install Led shop lights
I want light. LOTS of light.

To determine how many lights I would need, I started a few feet back from the front wall, which will have no work areas, and did some rough calculations. My roof trusses run from front to rear, and are 28’ long. The lights are four feet long, and I would be spacing them a foot apart. I also wanted a row of lights parallel to the rear wall, to give good coverage to that work space.

install led shop lights
I wanted to install LED shop lights along the walls, as well as the main shop area.

I decided that by using four lights from front to rear, and another row perpendicular to those running across the back, I should have great coverage. The trusses are spaced 24” apart, and I decided to hang a row of lights on every third joist, meaning the rows would be six feet apart. On the tractor-parking end of the building, I wouldn’t need quite as much lighting, since the tractor isn’t all that pretty. I came up with a final tally of 25 lights.

Tools And Materials You’ll Need To Install LED Shop Lights

The tools needed to install LED shop lights are very basic. Hopefully your ceiling is too high to reach from the floor, in which case you’ll need a stepladder. If you’ll be hanging the lights from nails, a hammer will make it much easier to pound them in. You’ll also need a pair of pliers, a pencil, and a tape measure.

As for materials, if you’re planning to install LED shop lights, you’ll need to actually acquire some LED shop lights. To hang them, you either need either some 8d finish nails or some screw hooks. If you have a lot of lights to hang, the screw hooks are available in a 50 pack. For “lighter” projects, they’re also available in smaller quantities in the bagged-goods section of the fastener aisle.

If the space you’re working in has a ceiling with open ceiling joists, and there are no plans to close it in with drywall or another finish material, finish nails are a cheap and easy way to hang the lights. If there’s a finished ceiling, go for the hooks, and unless you’re fond of foul language and cleaning up broken stuff, make sure when you install them they go all the way through the drywall and into the wood structure above.

install LED shop lights
Finish nails or hooks are a cheap, effective way to install LED shop lights.

The Commercial Electric 4’ LED lights I bought come with an end-to-end connector and a 12” connecting cable; if you plan to space your lights further apart, and want to chain them together, grab a five foot linking cord. And that’s it – get shopping!

Spacing Out As You Get Ready To Install LED Shop Lights

Once you’ve fetched your tools and materials, the actual installation is pretty simple. Using extension cords to get power to the lights isn’t a great idea, so plan your layout so the first light, with its five-foot power cord, is within reach of an outlet. To bring the power to my installation, I installed a duplex receptacle midway between each row of lights, connected to a wall switch by the door. The first light from each row of lights was plugged into the outlets, and the remaining LED shop lights in each row were powered by the linking cables. Want to control your lights with a wall switch, instead of yanking your chain? Check out our tutorial on “How to wire a switched outlet.”

install led shop lights
Control all the linked lights at once with the flip of a switch…

I used the included linking cords, which are 12” long, to connect each row of LED shop lights together. I went up the ladder and marked where my hanging fasteners would go, and then set 8-penny finish nails, angled upward, in the joists before bringing the lights up. I set them into the side of the ceiling joists, about an inch or so up from the bottom, and banged them in about ¾” – 1”.

finish nails
8D finish nails are the perfect size for hanging shop lights.

To get consistent placement, I used the following spacing: 42” between the chains on each light, and 18” between chains on adjacent lights. This allowed for the 12” cable and a 3” setback on each light where the chains connected. If you’re using the five-foot connector, space your hangars 54” apart.

install led shop lights
Measure, mark, bang, hang…next!

The LED shop lights I used had one more installation option: Linked end-to-end. A short connector fits into the receptacle on the end of each shop light, and the adjacent light slides onto the other end of the connector, so they end up looking like one long, continuous light. If you’re going to install LED shop lights using the end-to-end connectors, set the distance between chains from one light to the next at 6”.

led shop lights connectors
Getting tight with the end-to-end connector…

Prepping The Fixtures To Install LED Shop Lights

Getting the LED shop lights ready to go up is fast and easy. There’s a little hardware bag that has two hanging chains with S-hooks attached to one end, along with the power cord, a linking cable, an end-to-end connector, two more S-hooks, and an end cap.

led shop lights includes
Everything you need to light up your world!

To attach the S-hooks to the light, just slip them into the slot and out of the adjacent hole.

Pro Tip: I like to crimp the end in with a pair of pliers, so it doesn’t fall off, which it invariably does when you’re balanced at the top of the ladder with one end already connected.

The other S-hook can be attached to the other end of the chain, if you’ll be hanging the light from a hook. I left them off, as I intended to just slide the end of the chain over the head of a finish nail to hang them.

install led shop lights
Insert the S hook on top of the fixture…
install led shop lights
And crimp it shut to keep it in its place.

The LED shop lights come with no cables attached; there’s a recessed connector at each end of the light. They look identical, but they’re not; the power cord will only fit into one of them. The “power in” end of the fixture looks like Mickey Mouse with a Mohawk; the “power out” end looks like a bald-headed Mickey. The same applies to the linking cables; each end has a slightly different connector.

install led shop lights
The “power out” end of the light, ready for a linking cable.
led shop light linking cable
The linking cable. Left: power out. Right: power in to next light.

If you’re only putting up one light, slide the power cord in securely, hang it up, plug it in, and flame on! I was putting in way more than one light. My system was to plug the power cord into the first LED shop light in each row, and insert the smooth end of the 12” linking cable into the other end. With each successive light, I would determine which end of the light was the “power out” end and insert the linking cable into it. When I went up to hang the light, the “power in” connector faced the cable dangling from the previous light.

install led shop lights
Inserting the power cord into the first light…
install led shop lights
Insert the linking cable from the “power out” connector on the previous light to the “power in” connector.

Once you’re started, just keep hanging and connecting lights ‘til they’re all up. For my setup, I used a five foot cord to “turn the corner” when I reached the end of the row, and put in my perpendicular lights on the back wall. When you get to the last fixture in each chained group, stick the little end cap into the connector hole at the end of the fixture. This will keep dirt, bugs, and other undesirable cooties from getting in. And it looks spiffier, too.

install led shop lights
Pop a cap in the end for a smooooth finish.

And here’s a special HomeFixated “I learned the hard way” tip: The LED shop lights I used each have a pull chain in the center of the fixture. Since I was using a switch to control them, I just ignored the chains. As it happens, most of the lights are shipped with the pull chains in the “OFF” position, so I got to make a bonus trip up the heavy ladder to tug each chain into the “ON” position for the first couple of rows. This was a minor annoyance, but it was worth the effort, as the lights are much more useful if you can actually turn them on. To save the aggravation, just temporarily plug a power cord into each fixture before installing it, to make sure it’s in the “ON” position.

One final item to consider if you plan to install LED shop lights in a garage or other building with an overhead door: Make sure the lights are set high enough that they don’t interfere with the door as it opens and closes. For most of my project, I used the full length of the chains to hang the lights. In the area above the overhead door, I hung them just below the joists. Check your clearance before installing the lights by opening the door and getting up on a ladder.

install led shop lights
Got doors? Make sure your sporty new lights won’t get sheared off…
install led shop lights
Door up, lights intact…another successful mission!

And that’s it. Who knew it would be so easy to install LED shop lights?! I now have an amazing amount of light in my shop. My 25 LED shop lights consume 900 watts, the same as nine 100-watt incandescent bulbs. But the real story is more il-LUMEN-nating: The incandescent bulbs, at 1,600 lumens each, would provide 14,400 total lumens. The LEDs, at 3,200 lumens each, bring a total of 80,000 lumens to banish the darkness. Now if I can only banish those greenhouse components… The Commercial Electric 4’ LED shop lights come with a five-year warranty, and are returnable for 90 days, so you have a risk-free opportunity to see what life can be like beyond the dark ages.

install led shop lights
Let there be lights!

Buy the 4 ft. Bright White Integrated LED Linkable Shop Light Fixture from the Home Depot for around $35:

Buy Now - via Home Depot

I acknowledge that The Home Depot is partnering with Home Fixated in sponsored content. As a part of the sponsorship, Home Fixated is receiving compensation for the purpose of promoting The Home Depot. All expressed opinions and experiences are our own words. This post complies with the Word Of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Ethics Code and applicable Federal Trade Commission guidelines.

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About Phil

Phil’s path to the pinnacle of success as HomeFixated’s Senior Writer was long and twisted. At various stages of his life, he worked as a framing carpenter, attended motorcycle mechanics school, served as an Army MP, did a hot and itchy stint installing insulation in Phoenix, owned and operated a small contracting firm doing residential renovations, and worked as an employee of a major airline (Motto: We’re not happy ‘til YOU’RE not happy). He is currently semi-retired, but continues to take on little projects, such as the total renovation of an old farmhouse. Yes, he is a slow learner. Future projects include a teardown restoration of his 1965 BMW motorcycle, and designing and building a kick-ass playhouse for his grandsons. Phil loves spending time outdoors, hanging out with family and friends, cool tools, and a cold IPA when beer o'clock rolls around.

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