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Garage Lighting Dos & Don’ts

Our Garage Lighting Guide

Spring cleaning season is here and the ever-so daunting garage is in desperate need of some attention. Not surprising though, who wants to work in a poorly lit, dreary room. Why not make some simple lighting changes to transform this area into a functional, user-friendly space.

Remember, lighting makes a big impact on functionality and aesthetics. For example, a single ceiling fitting is not going to be very functional while trying to do some precision cutting, fingertips may be in danger. However, if the function of your garage is only to park your car, then a single ceiling fitting would be fine. Though, this is rarely the case as garages are usually the 5-in-1 room or the all-purpose area. Here are some lighting dos and don’ts to help you re-claim the usefulness of this overlooked area.

Don’t stop at ceiling lighting

There are 4 broad lighting categories, namely ambient, task, accent and security lighting. By stopping at a single ceiling light, you are only using ambient lighting which will not help optimise the functionality of this area.

So then how can we optimise the area and what are these different lighting categories?

Ambient lighting - Also known as general lighting because it is the ‘base’ lighting, illuminates the overall area such as the walls and floors so you can walk and park safely.

Task lighting - This lighting is generally more direct and brighter as it is about functionality. Task lighting helps increase light resulting in better visibility so one can complete specific, more detailed tasks like woodwork.

Accent lighting - This lighting is used to highlight or illuminate a specific area or object like that old trophy collection on the shelf. Accent lighting will create a showpiece instead of it being forgotten while it gathers dust.

Security lighting - The purpose of this lighting is to illuminate areas so one can clearly see and deter those unwanted intruders. Yes, this isn't specifically inside the garage but security lighting just outside the garage is important to safeguard your valuables.

The garage is a multi-purpose space so it’s best to layer lighting so you’ll have the right light for parking, handiwork, storage, and display. Think on these lighting categories when selecting and positioning all garage lighting fixtures.

Do choose fixtures based on function

Ask yourself, what do I want to use this garage area for? For most, the garage has numerous functions, from parking the car to workshop space to storage and for some even a space for laundry. Therefore, when shopping for fixtures make sure the fixtures fulfill the function needed.

When shopping for fixtures, think on the above lighting categories and how you want to use the space. Cover all your bases. Below is a list of fixtures that generally fall under the different lighting categories.

Ambient lighting fixtures - Built-in garage door motor lights, flush-mount ceiling lights and semi-flush ceiling lights

Task lighting fixtures - Under cabinet strip lights or linear lights and drop/inspection lamps

Accent lighting - Wall sconces, recessed ceiling fitting, strip lighting and spotlights

Security lighting - Floodlights, motion sensor lights and wall sconces

Don’t neglect the lumens

Make sure you buy bulbs with the appropriate lumens. Huh? What are lumens and why must I care? Lumens (denoted lm) measure how much light you are getting from the bulb. Don’t confuse wattage with lumens. Wattage tells you how much energy the bulb uses, not how bright it is. With the upgrades in lighting, some bulbs can emit the same lumens (brightness) but have different wattage (energy use).

Here are some recommendations for your garage lighting based on the 4 categories:

Ambient lighting - Approx. 500lm per square meter

Task lighting - Approx. 3000lm per square meter

Accent lighting - Approx.750lm per square meter

Security lighting - Between 2000-6000lm depending of the outside area

You don’t need to get the necessary lumens from a single light, you can use multiple light sources. For example, your single garage is about 16 square meters which means you would need about 8000lm for ambient lighting. This can be divided between two 4000lm light sources.

Remember to also use LED lighting options as they deliver the same light output (lumens) with a lower wattage which means less electricity used and far more energy efficient.

Do consider the colour temperature

Colour temperature, what is that now? The colour temperature refers to the warmth or coolness of the light and no, I’m not talking about the actual temperature of the light. It refers to the colour, so the warmer coloured light gives off a more yellow, cozy colour whereas the cool coloured lights give off a more cool blue colour.

Warm lighting is better for a more relaxed atmosphere like the lounge, whereas cool lighting is better for areas that need higher visibility for more detail-oriented activities. Thus cool lighting is best for the garage as higher visibility and accuracy is needed for most tasks in this multi-purpose area.

How do I pick cool lighting? Cool lighting is generally described as ‘cool white’ and is about 5000k - 6000k. One can use ‘natural white’ which is about 4000k to 4500k but avoid ‘warm white’ which is approximately 3000k.

Don’t forget about the garage entrance

The entrance to your garage needs to be lit up for both safe driving and security. Forget about this and you will be bumping the front of your car a fair amount at night because no light means no visibility. Light is also a great form of security as it deters those unwanted intruders that need the cover of dark.

Some options for garage entrance lighting are floodlights, motion sensors, day/night switches and wall sconces.

The motion sensor and day/night lights are great options because they don’t require you to switch them on and off . This means they will only be in use when needed thus saving you time and electricity.

Do install motion sensors

Following on from motion sensor lights for your garage entrance, why not use them for your internal lighting, particularly your ambient lighting. How often do you forget the garage light on? I know I am very guilty of this. Motion sensors connected to your garage lighting will take this off your plate. Motion sensors automatically switch the light off when no movement is detected in the area, and then automatically switch the light on when movement is detected. A motion sensor is a fantastic way to lower the electricity consumption (and your electricity bill) by no longer having ‘left-on lights’ drawing power.

May these lighting tips help you re-claim and transform your garage area so that you can optimise this useful space and enjoy the time you spend in there. Remember, if you require any of these above products or advice visit one of Northside Electrical’s branches or call and chat to a sales consultant to personally assist you with your specific garage lighting needs. Northside provides the KZN region with superior quality electrical, lighting and security products and remarkable service.

Red Hill - 031 569 1005

Ballito - 032 946 0977

Hillcrest – 031 765 4140

Umbilo – 031 942 7755

Umhlanga – 031 564 5692

Alternatively, email

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