LED shop lights are great lighting options for lighting a small work area or workbench. Before you move forward with a purchase, read our guide to make sure you purchase the right LED shop light!
1) What is an LED shop light?
LED shop lights are the new LED version of fluorescent shop lights.
Shop lights are commonly used in garages and workshops (hence the name) where a simple but cost-effective lighting fixture is needed to illuminate a small area such as a tabletop or workbench.
Traditional fluorescent shop light fixtures are designed to accommodate 4-ft fluorescent tubes, which, compared to incandescent bulbs, provided longer lifetimes, lower electrical consumption and daylight balanced color temperatures. This has made them very appealing for workshop type lighting applications.
With the adoption of LED technology, the performance exceeds that of fluorescent lamps, making LED versions of a shop light a technical no-brainer.
LED shop lights have longer lifetimes and higher efficiency than their fluorescent counterparts, but for the most part adopted the same linear fluorescent form factor and are typically available in 4-ft lengths using a very similar fixture style.
The advantages of shop lights are numerous, but the primary ones are:
- Cost effective - a LED shop light fixture can be purchased for much less than traditional fixtures
- Simple to install - a LED shop light fixture does not require complex wiring or electrical knowledge
- Adjustable - a shop light fixture's height and position can be adjusted easily. Typical 4-ft fluorescent/LED tube light fixtures are ceiling mounted, making them difficult to install, and permanently fixed into place.
- Wastes less light - a shop light fixture can be positioned exactly where the light is needed, so less light is wasted on illuminating non-essential areas, contributing to further electrical cost savings
Given all of those advantages, it's clear that for workshop-style lighting, shop lights are an excellent choice. But what about comparing fluorescent shop lights to LED shop lights? We see even more benefits for LED shop lights:
- The overall benefits of LED lights vs fluorescent lights hold true for shop lights - longer lifetimes, lower electrical consumption, no mercury
- Because shop lights are typically positioned closer to the ground, they are more susceptible to being struck accidentally by power tools or stray objects. Fluorescent tube breakages can be hazardous and require extensive cleanup effort. LED shop lights are usually made of extremely durable polycarbonate plastic, and even if they break, do not lead to any hazardous chemical leakage.
- Unlike fluorescent lamps that emit light in a 360 degree angle, LED tube lights direct light downwards. In a shop light fixture, this makes the actual efficiency of LED shop lights even higher than that of fluorescent shop lights, which lose some of the light directed upwards.
- LED shop lights can utilize enhanced light spectrum options including high CRI and photosynthesis optimization. This can be useful for workshops that require color accuracy, or even for growing plants.
2) What types of LED shop lights are available?
There are two primary types of LED shop lights available today: integrated LED shop lights and LED shop light retrofits.
Integrated LED shop lights have the LED chips and electronics mounted directly into the fixture (i.e. integrated) such that there is no longer a "lamp" that can be replaced. With longer lifetimes of LED technology, the idea is that the light will continue to emit sufficient light until the fixture itself becomes decommissioned.
LED shop light retrofits, on the other hand, keep the lamp separate from the fixture, making them replaceable. This typically involves using a fluorescent shop light fixture and replacing the fluorescent tube with a LED tube light. A fluorescent shop light fixture will almost always have a fluorescent ballast built into it.
In principle, integrated LED shop lights are the preferred option. After all, these fixtures are designed around LEDs, the newer technology. As a result, they typically do not include features like "lampholders" and truly integrate the LED emitters into the fixture.
By definition, the LED tube light retrofit approach attempts to work around the older fluorescent fixture design. This means that the LED tube light is limited in terms of mechanical and electrical compatibility as it must fit in the shop light fixture originally designed for fluorescent lamps. This would surely seem to be a disadvantage in terms of product performance and options.
In reality, however, economic forces in the lighting industry make things less clear-cut. Specifically, the sheer quantity of fluorescent ceiling fixtures in existing buildings has made LED tube light retrofitting a lucrative and sizable market. As a result, significant R&D work has been invested into LED tube light design as well as manufacturing. For the end consumer, that means a wide variety of LED tube lights are available at competitive prices, and in some cases, it makes sense to continue using fluorescent shop light fixtures and retrofitting them with LED tube lights.
Below, we provide recommendations depending on your situation.
We recommend integrated LED shop lights if:
- You are looking for maximum light efficiency and energy savings
- You prefer a simple, plug-and-play light fixture without any replacement lamps to worry about
- You do not own fluorescent shop light fixtures or can afford to purchase new LED shop light fixtures and pay upfront (primarily an issue for larger installations)
- Light color and quality options (including "upgrading") are not as important to you
We recommend retrofit LED shop lights if:
- You already own fluorescent shop light fixtures, or can purchase them at a low cost
- You have more stringent requirements or needs when it comes to color quality, such as color rendering
- You want to have the ability to easily change your lighting on a regular basis (for example, swapping out different LED tubes for different color temperatures)
- You are optimistic about future developments in LED tube lights, and want to be able to "upgrade" to a new LED tube light without needing to replace the fixture
- You are comfortable with potentially needing to rewire the fluorescent shop light fixture to bypass or remove the ballast
3) What are some features to look for in an LED shop light?
Below are some unique LED shop light features that you may find useful.
The brightness of an LED shop light is usually given in lumens. If you aren't familiar with this metric, you can use the following as a rough ballpark estimate:
Incandescent bulbs: 15 lumens per watt
Fluorescent lamps: 50 lumens per watt
For example, a 1500 lumen LED shop light can be thought of as being roughly equivalent to a 100 Watt incandescent bulb (1500 lumens divided by 15 lumens per watt) or a 30 Watt fluorescent lamp (1500 lumens divided by 50 lumens per watt).
How is this useful? Well, if you have a fluorescent shop light that uses 2 lamps that are 30 Watts each, you can estimate that you will want roughly 3000 lumens from your shop light to maintain the same level of brightness.
Color temperature is a number that describes how "yellow" or "blue" a light's color is.