Where To Place Garage Lights [A Helpful Guide]

Whether your garage houses your cars, storage, or shop, you probably spend a fair amount of time there. Given this, it makes sense to wonder, where do you place your garage lights? This is a great question for both new constructions or a garage remodel. We have taken research from all over the internet and elsewhere to answer that question here.

Where you place your garage lights depend on the garage and your use for it. However, the several general rules listed below will help you decide:

  • Functional with garage door up or down
  • Illuminate walkways
  • Light work areas
  • Produce recommended lumens
  • Allows for other ceiling uses

Keep reading the rest of this post for in-depth discussions on each of the above garage lighting tips. Also, we will discuss some common lighting layouts, a plan for producing your own design, and the answers to several related questions.

Modern empty garage interior viewing from outside of the open garage door, Where To Place Garage Lights [A Helpful Guide]

Where To Place Garage Lights

Functional with garage door up or down

This recommendation might seem like a simple one but is nevertheless essential to consider. It can be a waste of money and time to install garage lights that do not even work when the garage door is open. Further, such a setup has the potential to create unsafe trip hazards and difficulty exiting a car.

That being said, it might make sense to install lights that are above the open garage door for some garage uses. For instance, if you use your garage for mostly storage or as a workspace, you might need lights everywhere. If you decide to install lights that are blocked by an open garage door, make sure you also have ones that remain unblocked. That way, you can use your garage whether the door is up or down.

Illuminate walkways

All garage uses require you to move from place to place within the garage. When designing your lighting, keep this in mind. You want to make sure that all the places you usually walk are well lit. This includes but is not limited to walkways from doors to work areas, from cars to doors, and around routinely accessed storage areas.

Modern empty garage interior viewing from outside of the open garage door

This lighting recommendation is critical because it encompasses a significant safety issue. If walkways are poorly lit, it can lead to trip hazards. This consideration is not as dangerous to some as others. However, it is wise to light all walkways well to improve resale value and ensure safety for all those in your life.

Light work areas

Many garages double as shops, areas for arts and crafts, and more. When designing garage lighting, keep this in mind. If you will be using power tools or making art, it is a good idea to add task lighting in those areas. This not only ensures safe working conditions but reduces the strain on your eyes. Both these features also can lead to better-finished products.

Close up of a grandfather working on a project with his grandson

To accomplish this goal, you might need to place lights under cabinets or even add post-production lighting such as stand lamps and lighting strings. Do not be afraid to add too many task lights - you can always unscrew bulbs or leave bulbs out if you do not want them later. It is better to be overlit than underlit when it comes to fine craft areas.

Produce Recommended Lumens

Professional organizations have studied lighting requirements to produce lumen recommendations for different tasks. A lumen is a measure of the quantity of visible light. For ambient lighting, like that for the whole room and walkways, the recommendation is 50 lumens per square foot. For task lighting, the recommendation is a much more powerful 300 lumens per square foot.

To meet these lumen requirements, research the lumen output of the bulbs you plan on installing. Different wattage and bulb types produce different lumen counts. This means that you can increase lumen output without increasing fixture count by using different bulbs. Then take the lumen output of the bulbs you are using and divide it by the square footage to find the lumens per square foot.

Allows For Other Ceiling Uses

When you are designing your garage lights, take into account other potential uses for your ceiling. This is especially important if you plan on using your garage ceiling for storage. Many people affix tables, kayaks, and other occasionally used items to the ceiling of their garages. 

Clean garage interior

Before you layout, your garage lighting, ask yourself how much ceiling space you need for storage. How much do you want to store on your ceiling? Are there any specific items you know you want to store on your ceiling? It is important to think about this beforehand, so you don't get stuck with limited ceiling storage space.

Common Garage Lighting Layouts

You might have noticed that most garages have long tube fluorescents as their lighting. This is because this type of light produces many lumens, making the garage safer and more usable. However, technology has changed, and these fluorescents are not as practical as they once were.

An empty home garage

Now that LED lights are affordable and reliable, the most common garage lighting layout is to place these lights over walkways and mostly out from behind the open garage door. Spread the lights out so that they illuminate far corners and the middle of the room. Be sure to get enough lumens per square foot.

In a practical sense, this involves three or so lights across the far end of a two-car garage with another one or two along each side. This brings the total to five to seven lights. Remember that the garage door opener motor usually includes a light that functions when the door opens or closes, so there is no need to double light that area. 

How to Make your own Garage Lighting Layout

The advice outlined above is all helpful for making your own garage lighting layout. But here are a few more tips. First of all, design the garage you want first and then the lights to match. A garage is generally not a place where you want special fixtures to be decor items instead of practicality.

Vector isometric low poly garage icon

What you will want to do is draw out your garage to proportion on graph or drafting paper. For an easier job, draw in workbenches, storage, cars, and other things you know your garage will eventually include. Then sketch in lighting around this model.

Research the coverage of different light bulbs and fixtures to ensure your vision matches the final product. If you need more help or are just not sure, ask a design professional or even an electrician for help. Also, do your research first. For instance, you can visit this great article about the specifics of recesses lighting in a garage, "Can You Put Recessed Lighting In A Garage?". Or check out this article about garage door colors, "Should The Garage Door Be The Same Color As The House?".

How many lights do I need in my garage?

The number of lights in your garage depends on how big it is and what kinds of lights you are using. However, a good rule of thumb is that a two-car garage has six to eight lights, including the garage door opener motor.

Does cold affect fluorescent lights?

Yes, it does. Many fluorescent lights do not work as well in cold weather. This is because a part of the light fixture called a ballast begins to malfunction at lower temperatures. If you want to use fluorescent lights in your garage, be sure to purchase light fixture combinations that work in cold weather.

Do LED lights work in a cold garage?

Yes, they do! LED lights are not affected by the cold in the same way that fluorescent lights can be affected. This makes LED an excellent choice for garage lighting. LED lights also have very long lives and are cheaper to operate over their lifespan when compared to fluorescent lights. Further, LED lights have become much brighter with recent technology. When combined, this makes LED lights the recommended garage lighting choice.

How long does the garage door light stay on?

This depends on the brand and makes of the garage door opener motor. However, a standard delay is about four and a half minutes. This can be changed on some models but not on others. If you have a delay, you are not happy to check your owner's manual to change. If you are not sure what type of delay you would like, purchase an opener that can be programmed for different light shutoff delays.

In Closing

As you can see, there is no cut and dried rule for where to put your garage lights. Instead, take into consideration your specific needs and match the lights to that. This article had provided a great jumping-off point for designing your garage lighting. So good luck!

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