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Go Back   ClassicBroncos.com Forums > 66-77 Ford Bronco > Bronco FAQ > Tools & Garage FAQ

FAQ Tools
Garage Electrical Basics Garage Electrical Basics
Ideas to improve your workspace
Gummi Bear
Garage Electrical
By Jason Rodgers
A.K.A. - Gummi Bear
Email: rockhopper_fs@yahoo.com

A mans home is his castle, or so the saying goes. Often though, it seems a mans home is his wifes castle and where he is allowed to sleep. Thank goodness we still have rule over the garage. Whether you have a single car carriage house, a standard 2-3 car, or are fortunate enough to have a proper shop, this will cover some electrical tips, tricks and ideas for your personal workspace.

* * * Disclaimer * * *
Even though this is a reference, please dont take this as a how-to. It is intended to help you understand, and give you some ideas for your workspace. Hire the help of a licensed electrician to make these modifications, the upside is you can sit around and watch while he slaves away.

Lets start out with a few things here, to make them understood. To an electrician installing the wiring in a new construction house, his goal is to get it done as quickly, and as cheaply as possible and move on to the next one, while meeting the code minimums. Most of the time, they hit that as a bare minimum. Any upgrades are up to you, the end buyer.

If youre lucky enough to have your dream house built, you have a unique opportunity to make changes while theyre still cheap, and easy to do. If you already live in your dream house, a good electrician can help make your garage into a palace that any Bronco owner would be proud of.

Lighting Most garage lighting is grossly inadequate for a workspace. Its fine if all youre doing is unloading the grocery getter, but not for tearing into your rig for some maintenance or upgrades. Droplights are OK for a little while, but get tiresome pretty quickly, and should only be used for lighting a specific area of attention, not your workspace. The single keyless can just be abandoned. For most folks, simple 2 lamp four foot fluorescent strip lights make great garage lighting. How many you add is entirely up to you. I feel like there is never enough light, so I add between 2 and 4 fixtures per bay. Your electrician needs to audit what all is on the present lighting circuit before adding more fixtures, sos not to overload the circuit. If necessary, have him install a whole new circuit just for lighting. He can wire it so that the fixtures are switched in a way that best suits your needs. Incandescent fixtures just dont offer the light we need for a workspace, without breaking the bank in power consumption.
Basic 4 lights now are electronic ballast, and use T8 lamps. These give off a nice bit of light, if you pay attention when you purchase your lamps. Look for lamps with a 3500* CRI (Color Rendering Index, find more info at Google) or greater. These will give you a whiter, brighter light. The ones in my shed/shop are 5200* IIRC. If you really want to step up your lighting performance, look into the T5HO fixtures. They put out a tremendous amount of light, last a long time, are relatively inexpensive to operate, but do cost quite a bit more up front. I find these to be most effective in shops where they have a little higher ceiling, and run them more than 8 hours per day, every day. HID lighting (Metal Halide, High Pressure Sodium) is also only worth your while if you have a higher ceiling. They put out a tremendous amount of light, relatively small amount of heat, and have a nice long lamp life.
An example of the basic strip lights described above:
These can be optioned out with wire guards, a lens or tubes to protect the lamps from accidental breakage for just a few dollars. Fixtures like this can be purchased at your local home improvement center (like Home Depot or Lowes)
An example of the T5HOs mentioned:
These put out a tremendous amount of light, and also look great doing it. Youll have to get these from an electrical supply house.
An example of the HID fixtures mentioned:
These are a standard light fixture in any garage or warehouse, and have been for many years, which have made them pretty affordable. Like mentioned earlier, these are for those of you with a nice big shop, with high ceilings, they hang down, and the optics are such that the lighting distribution is poor if they cant be at their recommended height.

Receptacles Its been said that you can never have too many. Whoever said that was a wise man. In a garage, youre required to have all receptacles protected by a GFCI (except for the one that the garage freezer/fridge is plugged into). I like to have a quad box every 8 to 10 feet. A quad box is a box with 2 receptacles in the same enclosure. Put boxes every stud space above a workbench area. By code, you can have as many as 10 receptacles on a circuit, in a garage, Id put no more than 6.
Here are a few tips:
Pony up for commercial grade receptacles. These are going to see pretty hard use, and youll be plugging into them pretty often, so you want receptacles that will hold the plugged in item very snugly.
If you cant afford stainless steel plates, or dont like the look, Nylon plates are an excellent alternative. Theyre a nice finish, and match new receptacles very well, theyre also unbreakable. The traditional hard plastic plates are still cheaper, but they break easily, which is never good.

I like cord connections, I like them a lot. Theyre a disconnecting means, and easy to move should you decide to, you only have to hire an electrician at the end, and not to come disconnect equipment.

Welder receptacles Typically a 6-50R configuration (refer to a NEMA configuration chart), is the type youll want. Avoid cheap builders grade receptacles, they break, or are flimsy, or the pop rivets come loose and leave the receptacle body bopping around in the box loosely posing a hazard to those who may come into the shop. Have your electrician size the circuit properly for your equipment; welders have their own special needs and requirements. Dont oversize the breaker; its protecting the equipment, and you. I CANT STRESS THIS ENOUGH!!! This same circuit should also be able to run your plasma cutter if you have one. Verify that the load demands are the same, or similar enough to those of your welder though, to be sure that the machine, and you are properly protected by an appropriate breaker. If need be, have another circuit run specifically for this. Placement, put one wherever you want to keep the machine most of the time, and also add one near the door, if your rig is busted and stuck on the trailer, you need to be able to get to it, or if your tow rig or trailer need repair, its nice to not have to pull those into the garage.

Compressor Receptacles These can be any number of configurations, for most 220V welders, I like to use a common dryer receptacle, and pigtail. Theyre easy to come by, easy to match later on. A compressor is a motor, and they have special needs circuit-wise, have your electrician to run a motor calc to size everything properly. If its a smaller 20A, 220V, get the appropriate receptacle from a home improvement store or electrical supply. 120V units should have a standard plug on them, and have no special needs above and beyond a dedicated convenience outlet. 120V compressors have a high demand, and can often trip a circuit if its sharing it with anything else.

Any other special equipment you want or need, needs to be discussed with your electrician. Things like mills, lathes, CNC machines, surface grinders or even a spray booth if you have the space and resources all have special electrical needs and requirements.

If you have any questions, comments or ides to add, please respond here, or feel free to email me. I hope youve gotten some ideas to help make your shop/garage, a little more convenient, and fun, place to work.  

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