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Old 05-04-2012, 01:54 PM   #1
Abj87
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Default Lighting for a garage in cold climates

Hi everyone! I'm looking at lighting for my 24x24 garage/ workshop. I was thinking about fluorescent lighting but I'm worried about it starting in the cold. It can get to -20f here! What have others done?
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Old 05-04-2012, 02:14 PM   #2
2manytoyz
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Default Re: Lighting for a garage in cold climates

I have a thermal chamber at work. At 20F (not -20F), the fluorescent bulbs sometimes won't start. When we run cold tests, the lights are started before the temperature is lowered, and left on for as long as the testing takes (sometimes weeks).

I've even experienced fluorescent lights flickering in my garage in FL during the Winter (might get into the 30-40F range).

You might want to look into going with LED lights. I've replaced all 4 kitchen spot lights with these. Very bright, even spread (not a hotspot), and takes about a second to be at full intensity.

Bought mine at Home Depot. They provide 75W equivalent lighting, but only use 14W worth of energy. Until I told house guests the lights were LED, they had no idea.

I've been using them for 6 months so far. Nothing short of excellent. More info here:
http://2manytoyz.com/LEDKitchen.html
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Old 05-04-2012, 02:16 PM   #3
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Default Re: Lighting for a garage in cold climates

-20F. Ouch. It only gets down to around 5F here, and I haven't seen lower than something like 10F in my garage (you're using the lights inside, right, so it will be a little warmer than the lowest temperature outdoors), but my T8 and SOME CFL bulbs really haven't had any issues in the cold. You just have to look closely at the package for the minimum starting temperature. -20F is the starting temperature I have on all my fluorescents.

Old timey fluorescents had issues below 40F, but the newer bulbs and ballasts have fixed this. My T8s and CFLs that are rated to light down to -20F do start out a bit dim in the cold, and need a few minutes to reach full brightness (but they do this to some extent when it is hot too).

Oh, and you may want a fixture that has something covering the bulbs (or, I use shoplights, with a plastic safety tube over the bulb). Either way, this insulates the bulb a little, which lets it heat up faster, so it reaches full brightness faster.
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Old 05-04-2012, 02:18 PM   #4
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Default Re: Lighting for a garage in cold climates

They make special "cold weather" electronic ballasts and bulbs. My buddy uses them out in the barn. Many days it is well below 0F in the AM in his neck of the woods.

Flip side is, I have had no problems with plain vanilla HD 4' T8 fixtures and GE bulbs. They start right up at near 0F. Even the CFLs seem to work, but they take almost 5 minutes to get to full brightness.
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Old 05-04-2012, 02:40 PM   #5
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Default Re: Lighting for a garage in cold climates

Standard T8's are good for start up down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. T8 HO (High Output) are good for start up down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit.
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Old 05-04-2012, 03:07 PM   #6
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Default Re: Lighting for a garage in cold climates

Are you really going to work in there when it is -20 degrees in the shop?
Or are you going to go in, fire up the heater, and go back to the house to wait for it to warm up a bit?
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Old 05-04-2012, 03:24 PM   #7
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Default Re: Lighting for a garage in cold climates

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Originally Posted by pattenp View Post
Standard T8's are good for start up down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. T8 HO (High Output) are good for start up down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Exactly. Use the correct lamps for the job and you should have no issues.

You say it gets to -20. Is that outside temperature, or do you allow your garage to drop to -20 inside?
My outside temperatures drop to -45 at times, but my unheated garage is well insulated, and with that kind of outside temp, the garage is at +10 to +20. I use T8 lamps with electronic ballasts. They are rated to 0 degrees, and they light every time for me when I turn them on.

If you allow your garage to get colder than mine does, simply put in florescents capable of working at the temps you expect and it will work.

I have 5 outdoor dusk to dawn florescents. They are rated to about -20 and they light every evening. I've had them for 8 winters now, and they never fail to work no matter how cold it has been.
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Old 05-04-2012, 03:47 PM   #8
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Good point on it being warmer in the garage! I think I will go with the T8 lights. how many would I need for a 24x24 garage?
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Old 05-05-2012, 09:09 AM   #9
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Default Re: Lighting for a garage in cold climates

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Originally Posted by Abj87 View Post
Good point on it being warmer in the garage! I think I will go with the T8 lights. how many would I need for a 24x24 garage?
Read this one first: http://www.garagejournal.com/forum/s...d.php?t=144904

http://www.garagejournal.com/forum/s...d.php?t=148028

http://www.garagejournal.com/forum/s...d.php?t=148158

http://www.garagejournal.com/forum/s...ad.php?t=35773

http://www.garagejournal.com/forum/s...d.php?t=142532

http://www.garagejournal.com/forum/s...d.php?t=145421

Above from a search encompassing just the last 30 days.
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Old 05-05-2012, 11:20 AM   #10
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Default Re: Lighting for a garage in cold climates

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Originally Posted by Abj87 View Post
Good point on it being warmer in the garage! I think I will go with the T8 lights. how many would I need for a 24x24 garage?
I have 20 48" 2 tube (w/6500K tubes) T8's in my 26' x 30'
see them in photos and videos here: http://www.garagejournal.com/forum/s...d.php?t=140674
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Old 05-05-2012, 10:42 PM   #11
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Default Re: Lighting for a garage in cold climates

You can also get the plastic tube sleeves which help insulate the bulbs and keep them warm (once they fire up). If you smash a bulb its got a slightly less change of crashing down on your head too...
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Old 05-05-2012, 10:54 PM   #12
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Default Re: Lighting for a garage in cold climates

My T8s installed in inexpensive American Florescent fixtures from Menards start just fine at 0F (typical temperature in my unheated garage when it is -20F outside.) You see a pattern rippling back and forth in the tubes for a couple of minutes until they warm up, but no flickering.
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Old 05-05-2012, 11:44 PM   #13
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Default Re: Lighting for a garage in cold climates

I have a switch with normal bulbs on it for the quick in and outs as well. No sense in firing the "slow" lighting if you are only going to be in for a minute to turn on the heat or ??????????
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Old 05-06-2012, 01:38 AM   #14
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Default Re: Lighting for a garage in cold climates

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Originally Posted by Steevo View Post
Are you really going to work in there when it is -20 degrees in the shop?
Or are you going to go in, fire up the heater, and go back to the house to wait for it to warm up a bit?
This man does make a pretty good point.
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Old 05-26-2012, 07:17 AM   #15
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Default Re: Lighting for a garage in cold climates

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Originally Posted by HaroRider View Post
This man does make a pretty good point.
Working in this temp is even a bit much for us hardy Canuks......using the garage 'quickly' is a daily occurance for me as mine is not insulated. I have CFL, Florescents, incandescents and halogens in the shop switched differently so there is always something that can can shed light on what I am doing.
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Old 05-26-2012, 08:24 AM   #16
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Default Re: Lighting for a garage in cold climates

Im gonna guess its heated, so why dont you put one incandescent next to the heater on a different switch so you can walk in turn that on then wait till its 40F and then comeout and turn on your florescents?
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Old 05-26-2012, 01:07 PM   #17
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Default Re: Lighting for a garage in cold climates

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Originally Posted by Sureshot View Post
I have a switch with normal bulbs on it for the quick in and outs as well. No sense in firing the "slow" lighting if you are only going to be in for a minute to turn on the heat or ??????????
This.

I'm in Maine where the outside temp gets to -23'F below (not last year tho) and my cheapo depot T12s made some light. The ballasts made an obnoxious humming noise, the bulbs were dim and "dancing" but they made light.

Now I have WM "Lights of America" T8s with decent bulbs and they haven't been tested to their limits.

The 2nd switch will also be good if you just run in and out for something, easier on the ballasts and bulbs to not short-cycle them. With your edison bases, you could use CFLs too: If your electric company subsidizes CFLs at six for a dollar like mine does, who cares if you blow them up?
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Old 05-26-2012, 01:37 PM   #18
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Default Re: Lighting for a garage in cold climates

Regular fluorescent fixtures sold at Home Depot etc here are rated to -18C (0F). Use these, plus snap up multiple boxes of regular incandescent bulbs, and have one switch controlling these for the grab-and-go times, and a second or third switch for the T8's. At very cold temps even the T8's flicker just a bit and have reduced light output, put it all corrects itself as the lamps warm up.
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Old 05-26-2012, 02:19 PM   #19
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Default Re: Lighting for a garage in cold climates

I would like to see a picture of you and a thermometer @ -20 deg. in your garage.
The T8 with HO will be fine BTW.
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Old 05-27-2012, 09:12 AM   #20
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Default Re: Lighting for a garage in cold climates

For what it's worth almost all the sign lighting you see on buildings are T12 HO for older installs, and T8HO for the kinda newer. The rest are LED.

But they all fire up, even at -45C.
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