Building the New Fit RV Shop – Part 3: Lighting

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I’ve got a space and I’ve got a floor.  Time to address the lighting.

Truth be told, there wasn’t a whole lot I needed to do with the lighting.  It wasn’t that bad to start with.  But now that I’m done with it, I’ve got eyeball-searing brightness in every corner of the shop.  Check it out


Basically, I did two things here.  First, I replaced the fluorescent bulbs with LED bulbs.  I was able to get bulbs in bulk at the local home center for just $5 a piece.  There were a lot of fixtures, so I was happy with that price.  If you’re looking to replace fluorescent tubes with LED, there are two basic kinds you’ll find.

  1. Direct replacement LED bulbs.  This is the kind I went with.  They’re cheap(ish), readily available, and they work with the electronic, instant-start ballasts in modern fluorescent fixtures.  If you have an older fixture that doesn’t have an electronic, instant-start ballast, then you’ll want to do some checking or go with another kind of bulb.  In my case, the fixtures were pretty recent, and the bulbs lit up properly.  The strength of these bulbs (that they work with your existing fixture without modification) is also their weakness.  They rely on the ballast to work – and the ballast is the only part of a fluorescent fixture that typically ever goes bad.  Not very frequently, in my experience, but they do go bad.
  2. Direct-wire LED bulbs.  These bulbs do not require a ballast to run (that’s a plus).  But since your fixture probably has a ballast, you’ll have to modify the fixture to get them to work.  That sounded like extra work to me (that’s a minus).  Also, the ones I found were more expensive than the direct replacement bulbs (that’s a second minus).  If you have older fixtures with incompatible ballasts, then these might be your only option.  If you do install direct-wire LED bulbs, you won’t stay awake at night wondering if you’re about to have a ballast go bad.  (But if that’s what’s keeping you up at night, your life is way too boring…)

For those of you interested, these are the bulbs I used, and they totally rock: Philips 472910 LED Instantfit 4-Foot T8 Tube Light Bulb

Of course, my biggest reason for replacing the bulbs had nothing to do with ballasts or LEDs.  I just didn’t want to break an overhead fluorescent bulb with an errant piece of wood…

Anyway, once that was done, the only remaining task was to add some additional fixtures over where the garage doors rest when up.  Nobody I know except me installs lights over a raised garage door because… well… when the door is up, the light is pointless.  But I did, and I just did it in the style of the lights that were already there (and then added LED bulbs).

The Scorpion Report

I am happy to report that I have had ZERO SCORPION SIGHTINGS in my shop space since putting in the floor.  That makes a few scorpion-free weeks as of this writing.  Since that time, I’ve killed scorpions in the main house on the bathroom ceiling, and scurrying across the gym floor.  So maybe there’s something to my “Anti Scorpion Measures” in construction.  Buoyed by this initial success, I plan to look for other ways to incorporate ASMs into the remainder of the shop build.

That’s all for now.  Next time, electrical!


James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.

    8 thoughts on “Building the New Fit RV Shop – Part 3: Lighting

    1. Gregory

      the 32 watt ballast that you left installed still uses electricity,so you arent really saving much in watts used unless the ballast is removed…i did the full conversion and noticed how extremely hot those ballasts were actually i was more than glad to remove the entire ballast and also,they are VERY heavy…best retrofit i ever did,no more moody ballasts in cold wx,and potential fire hazard from an overheating ballast..they get so hot while on that you cant touch to me it became a safety issue and i was glad i decided on the full retrofit version..amzn 40-60.00..awsome light level and extremely happy,these lights werent available as little as 1 year ago,tech is finally catching up,i also installed auto dusk to dawn led porch light bulbs….. Hyperikon T8 T10 T12 LED 4FT Tube Light, 18W (40W-50W Equiv.), Single-End Powered, Ballast Bypass, Shatterproof, F48T8 Fluorescent Replacement, 2360 Lumens, 6000K, Clear, Garage, Warehouse – 4 Pack………….LOHAS Dusk to Dwan Light Sensor LED Bulb A19, Smart Sensor Light Bulbs Porch Lights, 40 Watt Equivalent, E26 Base, Warm White(2700K) Automatic Security Light for indoor/Outdoor Lighting, Pack of 4…….i also got the led buglight version for rear porch,90% less bugs..every bulb in my house is now led..the tech has improved dramatically in last 2 years……AmazonBasics 40 Watt Equivalent, Clear, Non-Dimmable, A19 LED Light Bulb | 6-Pack….re-think not removing the ballasts…when i saw how hot they get,i realized i made the right decision in getting the conversion leds…its a gratifying feeling snipping the wires on the ballast and removing all that dead wait and future potential fire hazard…..once you do one,all the others are super easy..

      1. James - Post author

        Thanks for bringing this up. I didn’t validate the claims on the box – I just accepted them.
        We’re on the road now, but as soon as we’re home (and I can find my clamp-on multimeter), I can see just how much energy a fixture uses with fluorescent bulbs vs. the LEDs I installed. That should be pretty easy.
        I can also check the temperatures of the ballasts – but I’m not worried too much about those. Mine are all instant-start electronic ballasts. They should have over-temp protection built in. Additionally, they are in metal fixtures mounted securely to a metal ceiling (so heat dissipation should be good).
        Those T-8 bulbs you mentioned are the ones I was considering, but they are about twice as expensive as the ones I went with. But if I ever do have a ballast go bad, I’ll likely replace the bulbs and not the ballast.

    2. Sandra T.

      God Bless your wife, Stef. If I saw a scorpion on the floor, let alone dropping from the ceiling-I’d run screaming from that house. Why so many of those horrible critters?? Is it a Utah thing? That being said, your shop is just awesome. I’d love it as a sewing/craft room!

      1. James - Post author

        Yeah, they’re pretty creepy. They’re not just a Utah thing, they’re more of a desert-y thing.
        Of course, it doesn’t help that I’ve bought a pack of 50 fake scorpions and I’ve been leaving them around the house.
        Trying to de-sensitize Stef…

        In other news, I do have a small area for my sewing machines. Not in the shop though. I haven’t built it out yet.

      1. Stefany

        Mel sort of does this careful “batting” thing with scorpions. The dead ones he has no interest in, but the live ones he’ll approach, watch, and then carefully stick out a paw and quickly bat at it. It’s almost as if he knows he has to be super careful, it’s interesting. So far he hasn’t done more than batting them around… no scorpion deaths at the paws of Mel unfortunately. So yep he’s an epic failure at being a guard cat. Luckily he’s cute… 😉

    3. Noel Fleming

      That’s one lovely assistant you got there! Did he come with the house? 😉 Love the lighting upgrade and can’t wait to see what you create in there!


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