30×40 Shop Part 5: Electrical, Lighting, and Security

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When I saw the shop in person for the first time I noticed it had a decent amount of lights installed but they weren’t energy-efficient LEDs, they weren’t spaced properly for even light distribution, and there wasn’t enough light output. So from the very beginning I planned on removing these lights and switching to LEDs. Luckily, my friend, John, wanted to reuse these lights around his homestead so I told him if he helped me remove them then he could have them. Kind of a win-win situation. Just removing these lights was all it took to know that this scaffold was a good purchase.

John ended up taking the 10 eight foot fixtures that were hanging up as well as one still in the box that the previous owner left. The lights were removed on a Friday evening before we lost daylight.

The next morning, which was Saturday, was time to tackle the ceiling tin. This time my friend Jeremy had a use for it so I told him the same thing. Come help me remove it and you can take it all with you. Removing the ceiling tin is one thing that solved a lot of issues I was having with climate control in this space. As I mentioned previously, I went back and forth so many times in regards to putting my office in the loft. Removing the ceiling and getting spray foam insulation in the roof allows me to have one well insulated open volume of air to work in, which in turn allows me to put my office in the loft as planned and free up more work space on the first floor. The unexpected result of removing the ceiling is how much it visually opens up the space. The shop is a decent size to begin with but it actually feels much larger with the ceiling down.

Later that day my friend Brandon from Maddux Woodworks came out to help with the electrical and lighting. Brandon went to school for electrical work and, as I found out during this weekend, he’s quite efficient with it. After we all got together to get a game plan on what I wanted to accomplish Jeremy and I started cleaning up all the rusty trash that covered every horizontal surface when we pulled the tin down and Brandon started making sense of the spider web of wires that were left behind by the previous owner.

Brandon clearly has a lot more patience than I do because he made quick work of determining what each wire was being used for and started separating the wire web while Jeremy and I mounted the portable sub panel I used in my last shop to the corner of the loft. In my last shop it was much easier to wire up a portable sub panel near the cluster of tools and use it to feed each tool rather than run a bunch of new circuits in the main panel to each tool. Because I already had the materials to do so I went with the same strategy here.

After that Jeremy and I focused on adding 2×4’s perpendicular to the trusses to provide material to mount the lights to. These had to be a certain distance off the wall. I’ll get into how the spacing was determined in just a bit.

Before I get into mounting the lights I want to reference a video I published in the old shop. This was from early 2018 when I switched from fluorescent lights to LED lights from American Green Lights. When I made the switch I wired up the new LED lights to a different circuit as the fluorescent lights so I could make a true side-by-side comparison. In these two examples I have the camera exposure locked and I’m only changing the color balance to match what each light source is rated at. 6500k for the fluorescent lights and 5000k for the LED lights. The LEDs use a lot less electricity and produce more light. My favorite thing about the LED light upgrade is the true-to-life colors that you actually see. This is called CRI or Color Rendering Index. The higher the value, the more accurate colors you will see. In my opinion true color output is just as important as having enough light output.

Here’s another comparison shot I made for American Green Lights when I could easily switch between both light sources. Again, same camera exposure with just the color balance changed to match what each light source was rated at. Notice how gloomy and “blah” the colors looked when lit by the fluorescent lights. And it wasn’t always this bad. The fluorescent lights changed so much over the few years that I used them in that space. I was constantly tweaking custom color balance values and boosting the magenta output in my camera to offset the green hue…and it continually changed every so often. I had the LEDs in my old shop for a year and a half and not once changed the color balance. Nor did they dim and lose output like the fluorescent lights.

I’m bringing up all of that old footage because in this shop I didn’t have a way, or desire, to hook up both light sources at the same time. So with that information in mind I sent my completed SketchUp shop layout file to Jim at American Green Lights as soon as it was finalized. American Green Lights also offers a lighting simulation service.

I’m not sure the exact process or what all goes into determining what lights are needed but here’s the gist of it. I provided the SketchUp model to Jim…

He used that information to create a simulation model…

Which he then used to create a lighting layout to determine how much light is needed in the ceiling…which simulates the amount of light that is actually landing on the work surfaces. The target is to have a minimum of 60 fc around general work areas, like the computer desk and office cabinets and 80-100 fc in at work surfaces like workbenches and machine tops.

By the way, a foot candle is a unit of illuminance or light intensity. One foot candle represents the illuminance cast on a surface by one candle one foot away.

One thing to note is the higher values at the miter saw station. This is because you and the saw are generally leaning over the work and casting a shadow on to the cut surface. The extra light from a couple of directions reduces shadows and increases visibility at this location.

A second thing to note is the computer desk and office cabinets near the top wall. Like I said, I went back and forth on leaving the office on ground level and putting it in the loft. And poor Jim, I didn’t make his job easy sending him an email every time I changed my mind. The last Information I sent him was with the office like it is in this diagram…but it’s going to be OK. When I put the office in the loft I’ll likely use this area for project staging or cart and rolling tool storage. There will be plenty of light along the top wall for that and I plan on using a couple of the 24 watt lights from the last shop to get the same great lighting in the loft office.

Once the layout generated the appropriate fc values an actual layout diagram could be generated. This is a great example of how proper planing on the front end can yield perfect, even lighting results without much experimentation and wasted time in the shop. The layout will have three rows of 96 watt fixtures and a few 24 watt fixtures here and there to fill in as needed.

Here’s a graph that shows the color output of a few light sources. T-8 fluorescent lights on the bottom with the dominant green wavelength and much weaker wavelengths of other colors. The 95 CRI LED lights in the middle producing light in every visible wavelength. And of course noonday sunlight on top being high in all visible wavelengths.

The next day Brandon and I started working on the lights.

One upgrade I noticed with these new lights vs the LEDs I put up in my last shop is the addition of a quick connect fitting on the electrical wiring. Standard hot, neutral, and ground connections are required on a 120v circuit but the addition of this quick connect allows the drivers to easily be replaced in the future without having to disconnect any wire nuts or push in wire connectors. It’s really nice to see subtle improvements like this being made over time with products.

One quick tip before we get on the scaffold to install the lights; add a magnet or two to your scaffold when doing electrical work. They always hold onto tiny screws much better than I do..

With the layout diagram in hand we pulled our way around the shop installing the lights. Starting with the dust collector corner we went up and down each row just screwing the fixtures into place.

Then we went back and added wiring between each fixture. For this step it felt a little cluttered on the scaffold and I felt like I was slowing Brandon down so I jumped down and started being productive with other tasks on the ladder. It wasn’t until the last few lights that I used the ladder to pull wire ahead of Brandon. We probably could have saved a half hour or an hour had I started pulling the wire from the beginning.

As we went along the light hoods were also installed. After that I didn’t get any more footage of the lights being installed as it’s just a lot of repetition.

I also didn’t get any footage of the rest of our electrical work. We added a few more outlets to the loft, one outlet to the outside porch ceiling area, one 240v and one 120v outlet to the small section of wall between the roll up doors, and a dedicated 240v circuit to the back corner of the shop for the dust collector. But, do you remember the spider web of wires we had near the electrical panel to start with? I was able to get them at least zip tied and stapled in such a way that doesn’t make my head hurt as much.

So here’s a few before and after pictures. Keep in mind that all of these were shot on my cell phone with full auto settings and HDR turned on, which the HDR does a great job evening up the low lit spots. In person the LED light is much more even and the colors look a lot more lively.

Next up is the SimpliSafe security system, which is the sponsor of this video. I knew before moving into this shop that I wanted to get a security system so that I could more easily keep an eye on things when I can’t physically be in there. The setup I’m installing is professionally monitored 24/7 and also allows me to see the shop on my phone no matter where I am at. For a detailed look at an example security system install for this shop check out the video. For more information on SimpliSafe visit http://simplisafe.com/jaybates.

After that it was back to organizing the shop little by little. First up was to get the miter saw station cleaned off and start putting items where they belong. You’ll notice that the lower left cabinet is the only thing that was shifted when I assembled the station in this shop. I don’t have a wall to the left like I did in the last shop so I just moved that lower cabinet to the end. No additional bracing was added below as I don’t think it’s necessary. Each of the upper cabinets is screwed together and the top cubbies are screwed to each other as well as to the cabinets below. Because they are all tied together, in order for the cabinets to sag over the large span on bottom everything on top would have to compress in from the sides. I’ve been able to walk on top of the work surface and haven’t noticed any sagging.

Another item to check off the to-do list was to assemble the new Rockler router table. Since getting my CNC machine I change out router bits way more frequently than I ever have. I still have my lever router lift in the table saw wing but I want to keep that dedicated to a flush trim bit and use this new router table for project specific tasks.

This cabinet has integrated dust collection and a cast iron top.

The lift is Rockler’s Pro Lift. I bought the same large Porter-Cable router that I have in my homemade router lift to go in it.

Next the fence is installed..

And it’s moved into position right next to the CNC machine to complete this tool island.

The workbench area will be along this back wall. As I mentioned in part 2 of this shop series, I’m not sure if I’m going to go back to having a tool wall or not. It looks great on camera and it’s handy for first order of retrieval items but I’m more leaning towards a cabinet or a rolling tool chest of some kind to better protect the tools.

If the weather is nice outside I like to open the doors and get fresh air in the shop and that means the humidity creeps in too. And where there is high humidity there is a greater chance of condensation and rust.

Anyway, I ended up getting both workbenches clear, the clamp rack mounted and loaded in close proximity to the workbenches and future assembly table area, and my square and straight edge board mounted.

You can see that the back workbench is a little dark. That’s because I have yet to wiggle the workbench into its final location which will determine the final location of the light above it.

I mentioned installing a couple more outlets on the loft. Two of them are on each of the front corners of the loft and they are dedicated to cord reels. A cord reel is one of those things that once I installed one in my last shop for the first time I’ll never not have one in my shop. They are incredibly handy and are waaaaaaay more convenient than using a traditional extension cord in the wall. I put one above the right side of the future assembly table.

One on the opposite side of the loft for any non stationary power tool needs on that side of the shop.

And one between the roll up doors to be used on the driveway in front of the shop. This setup completely future-proofs all remote power needs in the shop.

That’s it for this article. Still a lot more to do but I had to cut it short to prepare for the dust collection install which I will cover in part 6. Have a great day!


  1. Jay, I use to be a professional field service technician / installer for Vivint home security and home automation. I’m impressed with the Simply Safe system. One of the things that you need to be aware of, is your glass break sensors. Even with your system turned off they will recognize some of your tools in the same decibel range as breaking glass. My coffee bean grinder will set mine off. Just a FYI.
    Great shop, I’m jealous.

  2. Very great nice job , love it all when you get your shop all done you will have a very good sufficient shop and excellent lighting and tool lay out

  3. Great job Jay. I love the way you think things through and research best practices so you do not waste time with your shop setup. I can tell that your past experience and mistakes guide you setting up your new shop.
    Maybe you should explore a new business? Consulting Ultimate shop layouts!! You can practice on mine!!!!
    Keep up the great educational videos!!!

  4. Jay,
    Always look forward to your weekly updates.
    It appears you have installed your new mini split
    HVAC system ??
    How are your getting electricity to your floor power tools? Such as table saw, joiner, etc.
    It seems they are on a concrete floor.
    Great shop. Excellent job!

  5. Wish I could get my 30 x80 shop put in in order ! your looks nice. I did put white tin on ceiling with leds. I think it made my shop brighter, may copy some of your ideas on shop set up .great job

  6. Jay,
    I love watching all of your projects. I am very happy for you and can imagine how excited you are to get it all ready to work. I just bought a new house and have a 2 car garage that I want to turn into a shop but I have no idea where to begin. It’s overwhelming! I never had an organized shop so I don’t have anything to go on. I’m hoping by watching all your shop tips and explanations I will come up with some idea of tool placement for my own shop. Keep up the good work and I will be tuning in

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