Bright Ideas

Tips for Lighting a Storage Space

Posted by Joe Lightman on Aug 8, 2017 2:47 PM

This post is part two in our series offering tips and strategies for lighting small storage spaces such as home closets or utility storage spaces.

Evaluate Wired or Wireless

Whether the space is already wired is an important consideration for choosing a light fixture. If there is wiring, an electrical box or an existing fixture, then you are in decent shape. If there is no wiring and the space is big enough that a battery powered (wireless) light is insufficient, then running wires might be essential.  While do-it-yourselfers will choose to do the wiring themselves, the best bet is to hire a licensed electrician and make sure the job is done safely and to code. 

Think Beyond the Initial Purchase

Various battery powered lights are available today, ranging in price from a few dollars to as high as $40 -$50, which is the approximate cost of a motion sensor activated LED fixture that is optimal for a small storage space.  If the additional cost of wiring is required, this may add to the up-front cost, but it is important to consider maintenance. While battery powered lights may be cheaper to buy, there is the ongoing replacement cost of the batteries to consider, plus maintenance and the typically shorter life of a battery powered fixture.

Determine Required Light Levels

The rule of lighting a smaller, infrequently used storage space is to focus on a combination of functionality and aesthetics. Over illumination is not usually a problem since people spend minimal time in these spaces, but it is important to have sufficient light and as a rule, more light is better than insufficient light. The amount of light required would depend on the size and layout of the space. There are free tools available online to calculate light requirements, but generally, a space that is in the range of 10 to 20 square feet would require at least one fixture providing at minimum 300 lumens, but ideally more than 500 lumens.

Direct Light for Function 

Lighting should be directed toward storage shelves and other spaces where people are likely to look and reach for. If only one fixture is used, it should be placed in a central location that illuminates most of the usable space.  Depending on the layout and function of the space, multiple light fixtures may be required to direct light where needed.

Consider Safety in Light Placement

Electrical code guidelines are sometimes ignored, especially in a do-it-yourself (DIY) situation, but they exist for safety and to prevent fires. The code relating to lighting clothing closets requires that the light should be placed on a ceiling or front wall above the door of the closet, within a safe distance from shelves and movable items.  Recessed light fixtures are required to be at least 18 inches from the back and side walls of a closet. (You will find More information on the electrical code below.)closet lighting tips.jpg

Declutter your Closet

A light can only do so much, but hopefully shining a light in your closet will prompt a reorganization and decluttering exercise that will result in the items in your space being more accessible and organized. This will also allow the light to reach more areas in the space.

Consider a Closet Organizer System 

As with lighting, closets and storage spaces are often an afterthought. The result is a lot of poorly lit, disorganized spaces. For a wardrobe or clothing closet, in addition to lighting, one might consider one of the many options in closet organizer systems, which work together with improved lighting.

Get our eBook, How to Light a Small Storage Space, to learn everything you need to know about lighting closets and other small storage spaces.

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Topics: storage space lighting, closet lighting