For many of us, the garage is one of the most utilitarian rooms in the house, so there shouldn't be any excuse for having lights that consume unnecessary energy. Whether you use your garage as a full-on workshop, or just as a place to stash your holiday decorations, you might be surprised at how much you can save with just a few simple lighting upgrades.
Let's start by dividing the garage into different regions with unique functions: the storage area, the task area, and the entrances and exits.
1. The Storage Area:
A staple in any garage, we all have some kind of shelving or cabinets going on in there. However, no one has to have shelf lights that use excessive energy. If you're using incandescent lights to illuminate your shelves, you're missing out on energy savings. Get rid of those old-fashioned lights in exchange for some fluorescent or LED shelf lights. You have a plethora of fixture options – from bright microfluorescent fixtures to handy puck lights. They'll produce the same amount of light for a fraction of the wattage.
(Fluorescent and LED lights have benefits beyond energy-efficiency, too. They last longer, so you won't have to worry about replacing them for years. This is especially great for lights in hard-to-reach places. Also, since fluorescents and LEDs produce less heat than incandescents, they can help preserve the things you're keeping in storage.)
2. The Task Area:
It's hard to overestimate the importance of task lighting, especially if you use your garage as a workshop. If you have a workbench with shelving or cabinetry directly above, you might consider installing LED under cabinet lights for a bright, even light source using minimal wattage.
For jobs that require extreme focus, you probably have some kind of swing-arm task light at your workbench. You can make this fixture more energy-efficient simply by changing out its incandescent light bulb for a CFL or LED. A CFL uses only 15 watts to produce the same amount of lumens as a 60-watt incandescent, and an LED only uses 12!
Battery operated utility lights – flashlights, headlamps, puck lights, etc – are also essentials for your garage workshop. While these won't influence your energy bill, LED lights will last longer than incandescent ones, and they'll use fewer batteries. After all, what's more annoying than that moment when you absolutely need a flashlight and none of them work?
3. The Entrances and Exits:
Lighting is key in these high-traffic areas. You need to see in order to unlock doors and avoid stumbling over obstacles. Occupancy/Vacancy sensors that turn your lights on and off automatically can solve this problem of fumbling for the light switch, and they can also help you save power. Never again will your garage lights burn through energy because you've forgotten to turn them off.
For energy savings on a subtler scale, any night lights, step lights, or guide lights should be LED. The average LED night light costs only $0.20 to operate every year – 90% less than its incandescent ancestor.