Bright Ideas

Options for Lighting Storage Spaces

Posted by Joe Lightman on Aug 22, 2017 1:00 PM

If you’re convinced you need or want to add light in your storage space, there are several options depending on your budget, whether the closet is already wired and how much light you need. Lighting for storage spaces generally falls into two categories: wired and wireless (battery powered).


Opportunities for battery operated closet lights exist in older homes or facilities which don’t have wiring and in standalone wardrobes where a light may be required and it does not make sense to add a wired light. Wireless storage lights are available everywhere from discount stores to hardware and big box stores. 

Pros: Wireless storage lights are relatively cheap, ranging in price from a few dollars, to $30 or $40 for a hardier and better quality option. They are also typically easy to install; depending on the surface, they may be stuck on with double sided tape or screwed in.

Cons: The cheaper battery powered lights are a short-term solution since they are typically low quality and the light output is limited. Another key factor to consider is maintenance: even if the fixture is durable and there is sufficient light, the batteries will most likely need to be changed every few months. “Stick-on” lights can get detached from the mounting place when the adhesion fails to work or if the surface is not flat. So, while the initial cost of battery powered storage lights might seem low, they are not necessarily a long-term solution.


If the space needs more than a quick fix, the optimal solution is to install a wired light fixture in the closet or utility storage space.  There are diverse options but the most commonly used are either LED strip lighting, fluorescent fixtures and of course the basic pull string fixtures.

Basic or Pull Chain Light Fixture

A simple lamp holder light fixture, controlled by either a wall switch or a pull chain/cord, are probably the most common storage space lights, especially in older homes. These are typically incandescent fixtures to which the home or building owner may have added a fluorescent or LED bulb.  incandescent or compact fluorescent bulb, some may have no cover or lens and in older homes and facilities are operated by a pull-chain or cord.Pull Switch Closet Light

Pros: This is a simple, inexpensive option that provides a basic light.

Cons:  Aside from being aesthetically unattractive, pull-chain fixtures, especially if they do not have a cover, are a fire and safety hazard and may not meet electrical code in your country or region. They use more energy than necessary, provide an undirected light and generate heat and UV light that could damage clothing and other items in storage. Even if upgraded to LED, they require a cover to meet electrical code.  The internal switch mechanism can also wear out and pulling on the chain too hard can snap the chain or cord.

 LED Under Cabinet Lighting 

LED strip or undercabinet lighting, such as RAB Design’s UCA lights have become popular mostly for use in kitchen under cabinets, but also for other enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces such as closets and utility storage spaces.  

under cabinet.jpgPros: LED undercabinet lighting is a great way to provide an even indirect light, which can be directionally pointed and mounted in varying locations to make the space appear bigger. These lights are low voltage, use very little energy and produce minimal heat. They also come with an optional motion sensor on a timer and a dimming option and do not require an electrical box.

Cons: Installation is more involved than some other options considering a transformer is required and the wiring might need to be extended. This type of lighting, while ideal for a kitchen, could become overly expensive if it is required for multiple locations in a home or building.

Linear Fluorescent Lighting Image Provided

Before LED became so prevalent, home owners and electricians would often add the fluorescent equivalent of LED undercabinet lighting to closets and storage spaces since the energy savings is higher than incandescent fixtures and a motion occupancy sensor can be added.  

Fluorescent closet light.jpgPros: Fluorescent closet light fixtures are relatively inexpensive, produce little heat, last longer than incandescent and meet electrical code requirements if installed correctly.

Cons: Fluorescent strip lighting fixtures still need a nearby power source for wiring, may not be mounted over an outlet box and the tubes need to be replaced and disposed of periodically, adding maintenance. Aesthetically they provide a colder whiter light and don’t necessarily show your clothing in a good light. Adding a ceiling mounted motion sensor will also add additional cost and labour

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Topics: storage space lighting