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LED Shop Lights

The Comprehensive Guide to LED Shop Lights


Shop lights are not only used to light up small task areas or work benches, they are also used in large garages, workshops, utility rooms, and shops. The lights usually hang from the ceiling via hooks or chains.

LED shop lights are rapidly gaining popularity because of their numerous benefits. The dated, decades-old shop lights have components such as massive steel reflectors and heavy ballasts in metallic enclosures. LEDs are designed to replace older fluorescent shop lights whose efficiency and lifespan pale in comparison.

Advantages of Shop Lights

  • Easy to install since you do not need to conduct extensive electrical work or to tamper with wires
  • Shop lights are very flexible and adjustable. Their height or placement position can be adjusted to suit the space they are installed in
  • Their design ensures that little light is wasted because they are usually installed exactly where their light is required the most

How to Choose the Right Shop Lights

Picking the right shop lights for your application can make the difference between high-quality illumination and poor, dim lighting. It can impact not only the safety of your workers but the efficiency of the tasks carried therein.

Before choosing your shop lights, you should first of all know:

  • The height of the building’s ceiling from the ground
  • The time the shop lights will be required to run
  • That older inefficient shop lights can easily be retrofitted with energy-efficient LED shop lights

In processing plants, factories, or warehouses, high bay lights should be installed as they are designed for ceilings that are 20ft to 40ft high. These lights provide high-quality, intense light that can sufficiently light up a broad area. They are also used to illuminate warehouses, gyms, and recreational facilities.

High bay lights are also installed in event centers and conference halls or hangars with high, cavernous roofs. These shop lights provide light with little glare that evenly illuminates the areas below it. Conventional shop light fixtures use prismatic reflective accessories to create diffused light that is perfect for casting light on elevated objects or shelves.

These multidirectional lamps use aluminum reflectors to direct light down to the task areas to generate adequate light and reduce light wastage as well. Low bay shop lights are designed for spaces with 12-20ft high ceilings. They require less lumens than their high bay counterparts.

LED Warehouse Lights
Before (left) and After (right) conversion to our LED Shop Lights.

Categories of Shop Lights

Shop lights are divided into different categories. Let’s look at each one.

Traditional Shop Lights

These older types of shop lights are mostly mounted pendant-style and typically have aluminum reflectors. Since the light bulbs are usually multidirectional, the reflectors help capture the light that would otherwise be lost and reflect it back to the surfaces that need it the most.

Traditional shop lights with HID bulbs are very inefficient in their energy usage and should be replaced with energy-efficient LED retrofits or new LED shop lights.

Round Shop Lights

These light fixtures are often referred to as "UFO" lights. They usually feature LED technology and therefore do not need reflectors since they emit highly focused light. Round shop lights have a low profile, a compact design and can be waterproof – with an IP65 rating or higher.

They can be installed in high abuse environments such as car washes, barns, processing plants for grains, and industrial laundries. Due to their modern design, they are also perfect for cafeterias, in retail stores, or aircraft hangars.

Panel Style Shop Lights

These light fixtures resemble troffer lights. They have a wider light distribution angle than round shop lights. They also make the best replacements for older T8 and T5 fluorescent shop lights. When high-quality and brighter 8ft and 4ft LED panel style shop lights are used, they provide powerful, efficient light at heights above 15ft.

Linear Aisle Shop Lights

Linear aisle shop lights have beam angles that sufficiently light up spaces between aisles in large retail stores, wholesale clubs, shops, and warehouses.

Types of Shop Lights

HID Shop Lights

Julius Plucker and Heinrich Geissler made the earliest gas discharge lamps in the 19th century with the Gessler tube. The lamps hit their peak popularity in the 20th century when science started seeking efficiency in lighting. Thanks to the Gessler invention, low-pressure sodium lamps were made, followed by fluorescent tubes.

High-intensity discharge lamps, or HID lamps, produce light when an electrical discharge is passed through two electrodes and ionized gas. Each lamp has an additional gas, which makes it different from the rest and helps classify it. There are different types of HID lamps:

  • Metal halide
  • Mercury vapor
  • Low-pressure sodium
  • High-pressure sodium

Metal Halide Shop Lights

Metal halide lamps are used for both outdoor and indoor light installations. They are commonly found in factories, warehouses, and retail stores. They emit an intense white light in their inner tube as the electric charge vaporizes mercury and metal halides into gas. As the metal halides move further away from the tube's arc, they produce a white light in a rather intense process.

For it to last longer, the lamp has a quartz or ceramic inner tube and an outer tube made of borosilicate glass. The material on the outer tube helps reduce the ultraviolet radiation emitted during the light-production process. Other metal halide lamp manufacturers use a phosphor coating to keep in the UV light.

Metal halide lamps are designed to offer 15,000 to 20,000 hours of use. They require a ballast to provide their initial voltage and maintain the current as they run. They also have a considerably long warm up and restrike period, meaning that they cannot be put on and off on demand.

Disadvantages of Metal Halide Shop Lights

  • They may need up to 15 minutes to warm up after being switched on to produce adequate light. Due to this reason, they are often left on unnecessarily to prevent the long warm-up periods, which causes energy wastage. They also do not work well with light control features because they cannot be put on and off when required; they make the controls ineffective.
  • If there is a power disruption and the lights go off, they often require ample time to cool down before restarting. This poses a lot of problems as areas have to stay unlit as the lights cool down and warm up again.
  • The arcs of metal halide lamps may rupture as the lamps’ life deteriorates. Such damage may cause not only injury, but also exposure to toxic substances. Damaged lights will also cause downtime and increase lighting maintenance costs as well.
  • Metal halides have short lamp lives of 15,000 hours and before their life is up, they tend to undergo a color shift. Their light turns pinkish, lacks uniformity, and becomes dim.
  • The UV radiation they produce can harm humans, animals, and the environment around them.
  • Metal halide shop lights usually have wattages between 400W to 500W and generate 25,000-35,000 lumens when new. But together with their ballasts, they use up a lot of electricity compared to LED shop lights (since the ballasts draw 0.15 of the power they draw).
  • They are omnidirectional, meaning that half of their light is wasted because it is directed to unnecessary areas. These lamps therefore need reflectors to redirect the light to the target areas for illumination.
  • Since metal halide shop lights have mercury in them, disposing of them after their relatively short lamp life poses a challenge. These lamps have to be disposed of as per EPA regulations.
  • HID lamps produce a lot of heat energy due to the oxidation processes they go through when producing light. Metal halide lamps, for example, generate 10% to 15% of their power as heat rather than light – which is lost to the environment. This is one of the reasons why LED shop lighting is more attractive, it produces a negligible amount of heat energy, maximizing the production of high-quality light.

Mercury Vapor Shop Lights

Mercury vapor lamps are much older than other HID lamps. They are used in some sports stadiums, for outdoor lighting, and in some factory settings. Other HID lamps have overtaken these lamps over the years. Mercury vapor lamps produce light when mercury and argon gas are heated, emitting light. They also need ballasts to start and regulate the current.

Disadvantages of Mercury Vapor Lamps

  • The 2005 Energy Policy Act phased out mercury vapor lamps in favor of efficient and eco-friendly lighting technologies such as LED lighting. Their ballasts were also phased out. So, if you have any of these lamps in your application, you will face a big challenge when the time comes to replace them. The EU also banned mercury vapor lamps in 2015 to discourage the use of inefficient light fixtures.
  • Mercury vapor lamps produce a greenish-blue light that scores poorly on the color rendering index (45-49). They are not ideal for indoor or outdoor use since they reveal colors to the eyes in an unnatural light, which is not attractive and can be deceiving.
  • Like all other HID lamps, mercury vapor lamps have a long warm up and restrike This makes them unsuitable for use with light control options which help reduce energy costs and create a pleasant ambiance.
  • They contain mercury, which makes their disposal a challenge due to the toxic nature of the chemical.
  • Mercury vapor lamps produce UV radiation which can cause damage to the objects in the space they are installed in or present health risks to the users.

Sodium Vapor Lamps

High-pressure sodium lamps generate golden-white light and last 24,000-30,000 working hours. They are used both as industrial shop lights and in outdoor applications. These lamps do not have starting electrodes but instead have an electric starter mechanism with high voltages.

They have a ceramic arc tube to ensure that they can withstand high temperatures of up to 2,372°F. The arc tube contains a mixture of sodium-mercury and xenon gas that produces the bright light these lamps are known for.

HPS shop lights have low CRI values of 22-25 and should not be installed in the retail sector because they make everything look yellow. Low-pressure sodium vapor lamps produce light with even lower CRI values. Their visible light emissions are too close together and their light is considered monochromatic.

Just like other HID lights, sodium vapor shop lights have long warm up and restrike times. During their warm-up period, gas is evaporated to plasma form once an electric current goes through it. A ballast is used to provide the starting voltage and the additional power required to keep the lamp in operation.

Sodium shop lights generally waste more energy as they age, requiring the same power they required when they were new to produce a lower quantity of lumens. These lamps eventually fail when the voltage supplied exceeds the ballast's fixed resistance.

Disadvantages of Sodium Vapor Shop Lights

  • Amongst all HID lamps, sodium vapor lamps have the lowest CRI values. This means that when objects are viewed under their light, they often look reddish and yellowish, which cannot work for the food inspection or the retail industry.
  • Both high-pressure and low-pressure sodium vapor lamps need time to warm up before achieving their full light levels. This may take anywhere between 5 to 15 minutes as the light turns from a pinkish-reddish glow to yellow.
  • Sodium vapor lamps also have poisonous mercury in them, meaning that their disposal is a challenge and is regulated by the government. These lamps are very fragile and if they break, they expose people to toxic chemicals in both liquid and gaseous states.
  • Like other HID lamps, sodium vapor shop lights are omnidirectional, dispersing the light that they produce in 360 degrees. Most of this light, unless reflected, gets lost in the surrounding environment.

Fluorescent Shop Lights

In the lighting industry, one innovation spurs on another. Fluorescent bulbs borrow a lot of their technology from mercury vapor lights. The first lamp was designed back in1890 by Cooper Hewitt. In 1934, the first commercial fluorescent bulbs were sold. After that, they became the staple light sources for many applications.

These tubes come in different sizes and have electrodes on each end connected to an electrical source. Current flows through these two electrodes when the bulb is turned on. The sealed tube has an inert gas which may be argon, xenon, neon or krypton.

The gas is mixed with mercury vapor to help generate light and the tubes are coated with phosphor on the inside that gives off fluorescence. The phosphor is the main reason why these tubes glow. Just like HID lamps, fluorescent tubes also have ballasts that regulate the flow of electricity between the tube's electrodes, so that they do not burn out. Fluorescent shop lights have a lifespan of 10,000-15,000 hours.

Disadvantages of Fluorescent Shop Lights

  • Fluorescent bulbs have a wide range of environmental and health criticism leveled against them. The tubes are incredibly fragile and once they break, the toxic chemicals in them are dispersed into the environment.
  • Because of their ballasts, they also tend to flicker and produce UV light that could affect people with conditions such as epilepsy, vertigo, lupus, or autism.
  • Fluorescent bulbs degrade faster when they are switched on and off with constant frequency. In addition, they do not operate well in cold, harsh temperatures. They also require dimmable ballasts to help them work efficiently with dimmer switches.

LED Shop Lights

Light emitting diodes have a cathode and an anode through which electricity flows in a single direction. They are made from selenium or silicon rugged solid-state semiconductive materials. When electricity is passed through them, light is emitted.

LED shop lights have exceptionally long lives and can last 50,000-100,000 hours. Fluorescent bulbs, which are considered the most efficient after LEDs, only have a small fraction of the lifespan of LEDs – their average lifespan is a brief 10,000 hours.

LEDs are by far the most energy-efficient of all lighting technologies. To begin with, they do not generate infrared energy, unlike HID lamps that generate 10-25% of their power as heat energy. They also disperse their light unidirectionally over a 180-degree angle, leading to less light wastage and eliminating the need for reflectors.

For shop applications, this is a significant advantage because there is no light directed upwards. LEDs are also very easy to maintain, thanks to their sturdy construction and high-quality materials. Depending on the location of their installation, shop lights could be exposed to physical damage by power tools or other items. While fluorescent and HID shop lamps will easily break and leak out their toxic substances, LED lights have polycarbonate outer casings that are durable and corrosion-resistant.

LEDs produce an excellent quality of light with color rendering index values of 80-98. They also have a wide correlated color temperature range and have no warm up or restrike times. These solid-state lights work perfectly with light control features like dimmer switches, occupancy sensors, or motion sensors. LED lights also have no toxic chemicals in them and are much easier to dispose of. In fact, because they don’t contain any dangerous components, most of them end up in recycling plants.

Different Types of LED Shop Lights

New Shop Light fixtures

These units are comprised of LED bulbs integrated into new light fixtures. The older shop lights and fixtures are gotten rid of and new LED shop lights and fixtures are installed in their place. The LED light fixtures are usually decommissioned at the end of their long work life.

LED Shop Light Retrofits

Retrofits are typically comprised of a LED head and driver. The bulbs are therefore replaceable. For instance, a LED replacement tube can replace a fluorescent tube while its driver can replace the ballast.

Most businesses prefer new LED lights over retrofits because they are up-to-date and have a sleek, attractive look. LED shop light retrofits may also have certain limitations that might hinder their electrical or mechanical integration with the preexisting fixtures. This could adversely impact the overall performance of the light.

The shop light sector is awash with older types of shop lights that require retrofits. This has triggered extensive research and development to ensure that the LED retrofits work better with older fixtures, cutting down both installation and labor costs.

Are new LED shop lights better for your application? They are if:

  • You are looking for high energy and light production efficiency
  • You want easy-to-install plug and play luminaires that have a modern design
  • You do not have preexisting older type shop lights – you’re installing the lights in a new application
  • You have the budget needed to purchase and install new LED shop lights

 LED shop light retrofits are perfect for you if:

  • You have older shop light fixtures that are inefficient and consume a lot of energy
  • You are looking for an affordable option of adopting LED technology
  • You are waiting for newer LED light technologies to be introduced
  • You are willing to pay an electrician to rewire your older light fixtures to either remove or bypass the ballasts.

What to Look for When Buying Shop Lights

Light Output

The light output of LED lights is commonly measured in lumens. Conventional light sources were purchased according to watts. The higher the wattage, the brighter the bulbs were. Lumens were of little concern back then, but as low-wattage light sources that produced quality light were introduced, lumens became an essential part of light bulb purchase.

And as advancements continue to be made in LED technology, LED shop lighting has become more efficient, giving quality, uniform light for very little wattage. The lights have also become more affordable. LEDs now offer superior light for less than half the wattage of conventional lights. Wattage, as a measurement for quality light, has become invalid and lumens (and luminous efficacy) have taken over.

To know how bright a light source is, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

  • The brightness of the light at its source
  • How much of the light illuminates objects a distance away from the light source

Luminous Efficacy

A light source's luminous efficacy describes its ability to emit light using a specific energy draw. It is calculated in lumens per watt. The higher the value is, the better the bulb is at energy efficiency.

Luminous efficacy is used to determine a light source’s efficiency and helps dictate how many light fixtures are required in a particular space. HID shop lights have lower levels of luminous efficacy than LED shop lights, which means that they are less energy-efficient light sources.

Foot Candles

Foot-candles are units of illuminance used by most lighting professionals to measure the appropriate levels of light required in outdoor and indoor spaces. They are used to measure the intensity of light as it falls on a task area or an object.

While lumens are used to quantify the intensity and power of light emitted by a light source, foot-candles are used to quantify the intensity produced by the light as it hits an object.

Light tends to decrease in intensity as you move away from the source, even though the light source remains bright. An object that is illuminated by the light at a distance receives much less light than an object that’s near the light source. To ensure that all objects in a location receive the same amount of light, you either have to move them closer to the light source or increase the number of light sources.

In lighting, 1 foot-candle = 1 lumen for every square foot. Foot-candles are photometry units from the English standard of measurements. The SI equivalent of a foot-candle is known as the lux.

One lux equals one lumen per square meter of space lit. If you want to convert FCs to lux, the equation used is 1 FC = 10.76 lux.


The illuminance of any given space is affected by the location, orientation, and the size and shape of its light sources. Illuminance is the quantity of visible light that illuminates a specific point on a surface (plane) from all directions above the surface (plane). Lux is the SI unit for illuminance.

Color Temperature

In layman's terms, color temperature describes the color appearance of light. Most white light produced by light sources has a tinge of other colors in it. Warm white light colors have a yellow/red/orange glow while cool white lights have a blue tint to them. Between cool light and warm light lies daylight white, the most popular of all light colors.

Since the terms cool and warm are very imprecise measurements, there is a more accurate color measurement system used. It is known as the Kelvin scale. Kelvin is an SI unit of thermodynamic temperature.

While light colors are measured in temperature, light does not have a temperature per se. Color temperatures are derived from the color changes a piece of metal like iron goes through when being heated. The wide range of colors that the metal produces help describe the various shades of white light.

When iron is heated, it glows red hot, and upon further heating, it begins to take on an orange hue. As heat increases, the iron melts and its color changes to bright white then to bluish white. At 2,700º Kelvin, the iron glow is a warm yellow color referred to as warm white.

HID shop lights usually produce warm white to daylight white colors. These colors are known as warm colors simply because artists refer to oranges, yellows, and reds as warm colors. Blue is referred to as a cool color. The CCT measurement may appear contradictory. A high color temperature denotes a cool color (blue), while a low CCT represents a warm color (yellow, red, orange).

Which CCT Is Suitable For Your Application?

  1. 2000K to 3000K
    This light is soft and yellow and is perfect for recreational and rest areas in the outdoors as well as guest lounges, restrooms, and dining areas.
  2. 3100K to 4500K
    This light is white in appearance and works well for task lighting in workspaces, offices, and food processing facilities.
  3. 4600K to 6500K
    This light has a daylight-white quality to it and a blue tint. It is used in work areas where complex tasks are carried out, such as garages and workshops. High color temperatures increase color acuity and color perception since there are no warm colors like yellow to introduce a bias.
  4. 6500K and above
    This is a bluish-white kind of light that is perfect for task lighting. Extremely bright in appearance, it is commonly used to illuminate jewelry and for display lighting. It accentuates the sparkle of precious jewels, and when used in car dealerships, it highlights the colors of cars, making them more enticing to potential buyers.
Color Temperature

LED shop lights have a wide range of CCTs than HID shop lights, occupying 2200K to 7000K. The color temperatures of HID shop lights are usually dictated by the components used.

Color Rendering Index

Color Rendering Index

To describe how competent a light source is at revealing an object's colors to the human eye, the color rendering index is used. CRI is also used to define how accurately a light source reveals subtle color shades and variations in objects to the eye. It is a scale with values ranging between 0 and 100 that describes the color rendering accuracy of lights in comparison to a reference source of light – such as sunlight or blackbody radiation, which have a CRI of 100.

Lights with high CRIs render colors better. LED shop lighting has CRI values of 90 and above and is therefore excellent at color rendering. These lights can be used to light up tasks that require excellent color perception. HPS shop lamps have low CRI values of 25 and below while MH lamps have CRI values of 60-65.

If the shop lights you’re getting will be installed in areas where color discrimination is not of utmost importance, they can have CRI values of 80. However, areas that have a lot of activities whose success and efficiency is hinged on accurate color rendition require energy-efficient LEDs with CRI values of 90 and higher.

Light Control Features

LED Controls

According to Energy Star, at least 30% of all energy utilized in buildings is wasted or inefficiently used. Light systems can help enhance energy-saving measures through light control features. Light controls can also help increase security while enhancing the comfort of the occupants in the building.

While LED shop lights can help save up to 80% in energy costs, light controls can help cut down on energy wastage by up to 60% or more. Light controls are used to enhance energy efficiency while giving the building owner control of the lighting.

Features of Light Control Systems

  • An on/off switch
  • Dimmers for high and low light output adjustment
  • Flexible light control that meets the visual needs of the user of the light
  • Automation that cuts down on energy use, improving sustainability
  • Light color adjustment
  • Light monitoring, measurement, and data reporting features
  • The altering of mood or atmosphere by using light to create varied types of ambiance
  • The change of the appearance of a space
  • Reduction of glare that causes visual discomfort at work
  • Ease of maintenance and management of light fixtures through controls

Types of Light Controls

  • Switch
    This basic light control feature is a switch, that when flipped on, completes a circuit that allows the flow of electricity. When the switch is flipped off, the circuit is broken, disrupting the flow of power, which turns the lights off.
  • Dimming
    When this basic switch is used, current is altered, raising or lowering a light fixture’s light output.
  • CCT and Color Control
    Some LED shop lights have adjustable CCTs and their color temperatures can be adjusted according to the time of day. Through the use of tunable LED lights, CCTs can be manipulated not only to enhance the rendering of color but also the ambiance of the space.
  • Automatic Control
    This control uses signals from light or occupancy sensors depending on time, light levels, or occupancy of the space. It helps cut down energy use drastically and is ideal for management systems.
  • Intelligence Systems
    These systems depend more on microprocessors for light adjustments. The microprocessors – or light controllers – use their algorithms to make decisions on light adjustment levels.

Top Benefits of LED Shop Lights

They Are Cool

Up to 25% of the energy produced by most conventional shop lights is generated as heat energy rather than light. Fluorescent bulbs heat mercury to provide light and some of the energy they pull is converted into heat. LEDs do not have an oxidative process similar to traditional bulbs because they use semiconductors to emit light energy.

Older types of bulbs have to get hotter to produce more light, but LEDs have minimal heat production to increase light efficiency. LED lights can therefore be used in cold environments without adverse effects, unlike HID lamps and fluorescents.

The reduced heat generation of LED lights does a lot of good to a building's HVAC system. It no longer has to work as hard in summer to cut down the heat in a building.

High-Quality of Light

The light produced by LED shop lights has high CRI values and provides visual comfort. LEDs render colors accurately and are very well-suited to the retail industry where accurate color rendering is critical for sales.

Low Maintenance Costs

Since LED shop lights last 10-25 times longer than traditional shop lights, you will need to do fewer replacements. In a commercial outfit, this will pay back in terms of lower labor costs. You won’t have to hire people or equipment every now and then to replace hard-to-reach shop lights. You will also spend less money purchasing replacement bulbs and have few disruptions at work.


LED shop lights are dynamic and well-suited for any environment. They are rugged in build, and since they are versatile, they can be used in a myriad of applications. Additionally, they do not have the encumbrance of bulky and fragile glass casings and tubes, so they can be placed in impact-prone zones without damage. There are numerous LED shop light retrofits for older bulb fixtures, which makes transitioning to LED technology both easy and affordable.

They Are Sustainable

LED shop lighting runs for years, cutting down energy costs, reducing energy wastage, and decreasing waste in landfills. The lights have no toxic substances in them and are less hazardous not only to the environment (when disposed), but also on human, plant and animal health.

Paybacks can be relatively short

This is dependent on the 1+1+1 rule with LED payback - Hours of Use + Cost of Electricity + Rebates. Rebates may be the least important of the three, and high hours of use and high cost of electricity will dwarf the benefits of the rebate. Everyone likes a rebate, but we have created many proposals for our customers where payback was under 1 year even without rebates. Contact us and we can help walk you through the math.