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Replacing the Shop Lights

February 1, 2016

When we built our garage back in 2001, I installed four fluorescent lights on the ceiling of our garage. They were all I could afford at the time, and were a huge improvement over the single light bulb in my previous work shed. Overall I have been happy with the original lights, but they have been getting dimmer over the last 15 years. Several areas of the shop were still quite dark, especially in the back corners. Recently, my wife was working out in the shop with me and was straining to see her work in one of the back corners. So I decided it was time to upgrade my shop lighting.

Minimizing the Rework

I considered a few different options for adding more lights, but didn't feel like tearing into the ceiling or fishing new cables. My existing lights were on two separate circuits, one for the front of the garage, and one for the back. Even though I always turn on both circuits, I realized I could just run two long strips of lights on each side. The left side would get it's power from the front circuit, and the right side would get it's power from the left circuit. I wouldn't need to mount new boxes, repair drywall, or fish new cables. Just take down the old lights and reinstall the new ones.

When I went shopping for new lights, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the same lights were still available today. There have been some minor cosmetic changes over the last 15 years, but the difference between the old and new is minimal. So I was able to reuse the existing light fixtures in each row of lights.

Making the Connection

coupler parts
assembled coupler
Each light has a knockout on each end that allows the wiring to be run through the light fixtures. To join the lights and protect the wiring from the sharp metal edges, I used "close" pipe nipples with a nut and plastic bushing on each side.

Finishing The Upgrade

There's really not much to the light installation. I simply unscrewed the old light fixtures, then snapped a chalk line on the ceiling so the lights would end up straight. Then I screwed the new fixtures to the ceiling and made up all the electrical connections. It only took me a few hours in the afternoon to do the full upgrade.

I debated whether to use "warm" (3000K) bulbs or "daylight" (6000K) bulbs in my light upgrade, but settled on "natural" bulbs (5000K). They provide a nice white light without the blue tint that tends to come with daylight bulbs. They cost slightly more and are harder to find, but I am very happy with the color of the lighting. Best of all, the shop is now well lit with no shadows or dark corners.

coupler parts
assembled coupler