Almost everybody has a spot somewhere in their home that isn’t as brightly lit as they’d like. With LEDs cheaper than ever, there’s no time like the present to light the place up like a stadium. From shop lights to can light retrofits, here are our favorite upgrades.
The Problem: Many Homes Have Underwhelming Lighting
Many homes have really cruddy lighting design and placement. In fact, if you have an older home that hasn’t been extensively remodeled at some point in the past, then there’s a good chance the number of light fixtures and the placement thereof is abysmal.
I happen to live in a lovely nearly hundred-year-old home that is, as old homeowners like to say, full of charm and character. But a cursory inspection of the house will give you a sense that lighting design wasn’t something home builders in the 1930s placed a lot of emphasis on. Rooms have one central ceiling fixture, the utility room and laundry room in the basement only have a single pull chain fixture, the attic has one, and so on.
Modern homes aren’t necessarily immune to bad lighting either. Lighting design and placement is an art form unto itself, and there are plenty of modern subdivisions filled with lighting choices where the builder went “eh, good enough.”
There might not be a lot of pull-chain fixtures to be found, but there are certainly a lot of new construction garages across America with only a few light bulbs in plain porcelain sockets wired into a switch by the back door.
Even if your home has sufficient light fixtures, swapping out
The Solution: Crank Up the Lumens With Cheap LEDs
Thankfully, LED lights have dropped in price substantially over the years. Further, not only have they dropped in price, but there are so many variations on the market that you can almost certainly find a particular solution to your particular problem.
After years of grumbling about how dim and cruddy the lighting was in my attic and garage, for example, I bought some cheap LED shop lights off Amazon.
BBounder LED Shop Lights
They’re cheap, you can daisy chain them off a single power source, and they’ll light up a room like it’s a surgery suite.
I strung up a 4-pack across the peak of the attic, and I used two 4-packs in my garage to cover the parking bays and the attached workshop, using a polarized socket adapter to tap into the existing bulb fixtures.
The difference is, well, about as night and day as a lighting analogy can be. Both my attic and garage used to be the exact sort of spooky horror movie locations you’d expect to find in an old home.
Now, the lighting is so bright and even across the space that, if you hold out your hand, it won’t even cast a shadow until you lean down and hold it a few inches off the floor. Hauling holiday decorations out of the attic or working on a project in the garage has never been so pleasant and easy on the eyes. I liked them so much that I put some in my workshop and utility room in the basement too.
But you don’t have to go with the shop light form factor if you would prefer to skip the whole drilling and hanging portion of the project. There are astoundingly bright single-fixture LEDs on the market with a fan-blade form factor.
You screw the assembly into your existing socket, and the blade-style LED panels pump out a massive amount of light. A traditional 100W bulb can put out around 1600 lumens of illumination, but these fan-blade style lights put out around 12-16,000 lumens while only using 100-150W of energy.
And while we’ve used dimly lit attic and garage spaces as examples so far, where using shop lights or a big sci-fi-looking fan blade array isn’t a big deal, you can boost the illumination of any space with more traditional-looking bulbs.
You can drop 150W equivalent LED bulbs into regular sockets and get 150W worth of illumination while only using 13W of power. Even just swapping out 60W incandescent bulbs for 75W-equivalent LED bulbs can provide a substantial boost.
One of the neat things about LED lights is that you can put more powerful bulbs into fixtures that weren’t previously rated for the heat—because the LEDs run so much cooler than incandescent or halogen bulbs. If your kitchen has can lights and they’re only rated for 40W incandescent bulbs, you can step up to brighter LED bulbs without exceeding the heat or wattage recommendation.
Throw some of these 75-watt equivalent BR30 LED bulbs in them, and you’ll never complain about dim light while working in your kitchen again. Just check what kind of bulb your can lights use and then shop for the equivalent, but much brighter, LED version.
You can even buy retro-fit kits for can lights that include an integrated baffle and a very sleek modern look. I replaced the bulbs in the can lights around my house with a retrofit kit years ago, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.