Lighten Up!!

Submitted to Community Café

Who needs better lighting in their garage?  Most likely, everyone does!

LED lights are inexpensive and very bright – two things that combine to make a great garage light.  LED lights use very little electricity, burn cooler, and have a long life – what’s not to like?

I needed a brighter light in my garage, so I replaced my ceiling fixture with a store-bought LED shop light, which was a huge improvement over the previous fluorescent 2-tube light fixture – but I still wanted more light over my work table, so I built one.  Instead of the 4 foot LED fixture I hung, I made one 8 feet long and hung it over my work area.

The one I built cost half of what the store-bought fixture cost, it is much bigger, much brighter, and it works on a remote “clicker” that is a dimmer switch.  For something like $25, I had a 16 ½’ spool of LED lights, the dimmer switch, and transformer shipped to my house.

My fixture couldn’t be simpler: make an “L” of two 1x6 boards (of whatever length you want) using carpenter glue and pin nails at the joint.  I added some triangle end pieces and painted the whole thing a bright white hi-gloss for maximum reflectivity.  A screw eye near each end, and it was ready to hang using basic jack chain.

The lights are mounted on a peel-and-stick backing in a narrow strip over 16 feet long.  They are low voltage, so you need a transformer to step the current down.  The remote control is optional, but for six bucks, I thought it would be handy. 

You can order LED strips with 150 lights on a 5 meter strip (16’4”) or 300 lights per 5 meters.  There are LED lights that are larger (thus brighter) than others (the chips are 5.0mm x 5.0mm or 3.5 x 2.8mm.)  Without getting too complicated, order the higher density of the larger chip and you’ll have the brightest light available.

I chose an 8 foot fixture mostly because one spool of lights is 16.3 feet; making one loop inside my light fixture came out almost perfect (16 feet for sides and a little under a foot for the two ends.)  A feature of a strip of LED lights is that the strip can be cut to different lengths with common scissors.  The strip of lights has a mark every few inches; cutting the strip on one of these marks will not damage the lights.

I did learn that the 3M adhesive backing on the LED strip is pretty good, but didn’t stick well in a couple of spots (probably because I used such a hi-gloss finish.)  To remedy that, I pulled off the entire light strip and stuck on some 3M double-sided adhesive tape and replaced the LED strip – it holds great now even with the heat, dust, and Florida humidity in my garage.