How Many Lumens Do I Need for Garage Lighting? (It’s Easy!)

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How Many Lumens Do I Need for Garage Lighting?

Do you feel that your garage is not bright enough? Well you are not alone. This is a very common complaint for many garage owners. The lighting in our garage is often not given the importance that it deserves. You should ask how many lumens you need for garage lighting, before buying them.

You need a total of 7,200 – 9600 lumens for a standard 1 car garage lighting that does not have a garage workshop. The requirement for a standard 2 car garage can vary from 17,600 and 28,800 lumens depending on the area of the garage workshop and the lighting brightness desired.

The lumens required to light up any space is calculated by multiplying the area (square feet) by the brightness level required (lumens per square foot). Other factors such as height of the light source and the color of the walls will have a slight effect on the calculations.

How Many Lumens Do I Need for Garage Lighting?

Understanding Watts, Lumens, Color Temperature & Brightness

Sometimes, the wattage of a light source, such as a bulb or a tube light, is considered as the level of brightness it will produce. This is not true.

Wattage of a light source is a measure of the energy consumption of the light source. The actual light emitted by the light source, on the other hand, is measured in lumens. 

There is no correlation between watts and lumens unless the light source is using the same technology. Within the same lighting technology, there is a positive correlation between watts and lumens. Lumens are higher if watts are higher.

However, lumens do not correlate with watts, if the lighting technology is not the same. A good example is that a 9-10 W LED bulb emits the same lumens as a 60 W incandescent light bulb.

Arch daily
Source: ArchDaily

So next time you are planning to replace the lights in your garage you should consider the total lumens that you require, and not the wattage you require. Ideally you want the required lumens with low watts so that your energy costs are low.

The height at which the light source is placed has an inverse effect on the brightness in the garage. Higher the light bulb lower will be the brightness on the garage floor. This is the reason you may require to use shop lights rather than recessed lights in areas where you require higher brightness, such as your DIY workbench.

Actually, the real measurement of brightness on the garage floor or on the work surface is lumens per square feet or foot candles, rather than lumens of a light source. 

There is also a misconception that light with a higher color temperature is brighter than that with a lower color temperature. This is also not true.

There is no correlation between lumens and color temperature of a light source. In fact there is no calculator which will convert lumens (brightness) to Kelvin (warmth or coolness) of the light source.

Having said that, cool light is crisp and brings out the contrasts better. It is therefore helpful to use cool light for workspaces.

In a nutshell:

  • Watt is a measure of energy consumption
  • Lumen is a measure of the light output
  • Color Temperature is an indication of the hue of the white light
  • Lumens per square foot is the measure of brightness

How to Calculate Lumens for a Garage?

To calculate the lumens for a garage you need to multiply the area of the garage with the recommended or desired brightness level.

Calculating the area of the garage is quite simple. You just need to multiply the depth of the garage with the width of the garage. So if your garage is 24 feet deep and 20 feet wide then the area would be 480 ft.².

There is no standard recommendation for the brightness for residential garages. Most recommendations are for commercial buildings. Alcon Lighting has a pdf “How to determine how many lumens you’ll need to properly light your space”.

The recommendation for an automotive showroom is 50 lumens per square foot. This level of brightness is necessary for car retailing. However, this is way too high for just parking your car in a residential garage.

The recommendation for a parking garage is 10 lumens per square foot and that for a service garage is 20 lumens per square foot. The recommendation for a gas station canopy is 10-15 lumens per square foot and that for a warehouse is 20 lumens per square foot. 

So, even 20 lumens per square foot is a good guideline for the area designated for car parking and storage in a residential garage. For the sake of this article, I have assumed an even higher figure of 30 – 40 lumens per square foot for general areas of the garage.

On the other hand the recommendation for assembly work ranges from 30 to 100 lumens per square foot, depending on the type of assembly. 100 lumens per square foot is necessary only for jobs requiring fine workmanship or assembly of very small parts.

For most garage workshops 50 lumens per square foot should be reasonably bright. Nonetheless, in this article I have considered a required brightness level of 70 – 80 lumens per square foot for a garage workshop.

The lumen requirement is calculated by multiplying the floor area in square feet with the desired (or required) brightness level in lumens per square foot or foot candles.

So, if your garage is 480 ft.² and you want a uniform brightness level of 50 lumens per square foot, then you need to have light bulbs that add up to a total of 24,000 lumens.

How Many Lumens Do I Need for a One Car Garage?

A standard one car garage is 12 feet wide and 20 feet deep. Therefore, the area of the garage is 240 ft.². This is just enough to park a car and manage some storage. There is no room for a workshop in a standard 1 car garage.

Since there is no workshop, a brightness level of 30-40 lumens per square foot will be sufficient. Multiply the area (240 square feet) with 30 or 40. This gives you the lumens required for standard 1 car garage lighting as 7,200 – 9,600 lumens.

How Many Lumens Do I Need for a Two Car Garage?

A standard two car garage is 20 feet wide and 24 feet deep. Therefore, the area of the garage is 480 ft.². If you park two cars then you will have some space left over for storage and even a small workshop area.

The parking & storage area requires a brightness of 30 or 40 lumen. The workshop area requires a brightness of 70 or 80 lumen.

Let us say you use around 400 square feet for parking & storage and 80 square feet for a small workshop. In this case you will need 

  • 12,000 – 16,000 lumens for the parking & storage area (400X30 or 400X40)  
  • 5,600 – 6,400 lumens for the workshop area (80X70 or 80X80) 

Therefore, you will need between 17,600 and 22,400 lumens.

However, if you choose to park only one car and set up a bigger DIY workshop, then you could use half of the garage for parking & storage and the other half for the workshop. Then the average brightness requirement would be (30+70)/2=50 and (40+80)/2=60.

The lumens required for such a 2 car standard garage lighting will be between 24,000 (480X50) and 28,800 (480X60) lumens.

How Should I Space My Garage Lighting?

While it is simple to use every light source with the same lumen rating and equally spread them across the ceiling area, it is not the most efficient way to light up your garage.

There is no point in having the same level of brightness in the storage area or in the car parking area, as in the DIY workshop area. Intelligent lighting configuration would suggest that you use less lumens in some areas and more lumens in other areas.

In case you wish to have all the lights equally spaced them you can choose light sources off different lumens for different areas. For example, you may choose light sources of 1600 lumens each for the workshop area and only 400 lumens each for the parking and storage area.

Another way to have differential lighting brightness across different sections of your garage, is to use recessed lighting for the parking area but shop lights for the DIY workshop area.

How Can I Make My Garage Lighting Energy Efficient?

It is great to have a brightly lit garage. But you have to be conscious of not wasting energy. Inefficient use of energy costs money and increases global warming.

Fortunately, there are many ways in which you can save electricity and reduce garage lighting energy costs.

There are four different types of garage lights: 

  1. Incandescent Light Bulbs: These are the traditional light sources which are highly inefficient. Thankfully they are on their way out. Almost no one uses them anymore.
  2. Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs: The latest CFL bulbs consume 75% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.
  3. Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs: LED has become extremely popular. Even though the initial cost is somewhat high the savings in lower energy consumption is substantial. LED bulbs consume 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. They are also cool to the touch, unlike CFL and incandescent bulbs.
  4. Halogen Lamps: These are not efficient when it comes to energy consumption. They are only useful for lighting large external areas such as the driveway in front of the garage.

To ensure that you have an energy efficient garage lighting, switch to LED. 

You can also reduce your energy bill by making zones in your garage based on the use. You need to not use high wattage, high lumen bulbs or tube lights in parking & storage zones.

Another way to save energy cost is by using motion sensor lights. This ensures the lights come on, only when they are required. You can have a very minimum level of ambient lighting in the garage at all times.

Supplement it with motion sensor bright lights in task oriented zones such as the workshop. 

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Thank you very much for reading the post. I do hope you found it informative and useful.

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