How Can I Improve the Lighting in My Basement? Finished or Unfinished
November 30, 20206 min read
Basements can really extend the usable space of your house if you make a plan and finish the space. But, if you just walk down into your unfinished basement and try to start a project or two, you are instantly going to run into a lighting issue.
You can improve the lighting in a basement easily by installing a lighting system that takes advantage ofcurrent fixtures by twisting directly into an existing light bulb socket. In conjunction with LED technology, these systems can produce 5-12 times the light of a standard 60w incandescent bulb.
I’ll go over a couple of these lightbulb socket twist-in lighting systems and give you some specific lighting specs and break down what’s important.
How Do I Get The Best Lighting in my Basement?
To achieve the best basement lighting we are going to factor inthree very important things: brightness of light filling the room, ease of install, and lifetime cost.
How Bright is the Light? Aka How Many Lumens Do I Need?
This one is fairly easy to tell with your eyes, but not as easy to describe with words. Many authorities on the subject of lighting have strong opinions that specific formulas exist that let you just multiply the amount of square footage by some magic number, but that is just not the case.
There are so many factors and variables that make everyone’s basement lighting situation so much different that you can’t use that same formula from one house to the next.
An unfinished basement with a standard bulb is just enough to get by. This makes good lighting for storage, but not really any kind of activity or project.
A standard 60w incandescent light bulb puts out about 800 lumens. So now we can use that as a baseline or comparison later when we say that this system has 4,000 lumens or that system has 7,500 lumens.
The idea of just upgrading the bulb in your basement to the next biggest one on the shelf at the hardware store can be very limiting. But, if you walk over to the lighting aisle and see the giant lighting section and all the different options and price ranges that can feel overwhelming.
Luckily, some out-of-the-box ideas have led to some great whole room lighting products like the first deformable light, the TRiLIGHT, or the MPI which is a 5-point lighting system. Both twist-in just like a standard light bulb.
Ease of installation is on a huge percentage of people’s minds as not everyone wants to play electrician. Most people don’t want to get hurt from electricity or burn their house down. Hiring an electrician may be on the list of expenses for a lot of the lighting solutions out there, but not these two.
This is another area that a twist-in lighting system really shines because you get to hold onto the ease of twisting out the old bulb and twisting in the new system that instantly multiples your lighting 5 to 12 times! And that’s without having to mess with adding new wiring or having to add more breakers to the panel.
What is the Overall Cost of the Light?
This last section of basement lighting consideration deals with all the costs involved including the initial upfront cost, the operating costs over time, and finally the replacement cost. This aspect is important because the idea that the absolute ‘cheapest one’ at the store is actually the best way to go for the money is a flawed notion.
That ‘cheapest bulb’ in the lineup could just be an incandescent light bulb which means that the initial cost was low, but the power consumption is higher, meaning higher monthly bills. The replacement factor is also much higher as they only last about 750-2000 hrs.
On the other end of the spectrum, you've got LED bulbs that may come with a larger initial investment, but the power consumption is considerably lower (making the bills lower), and the replacement factor is almost unnecessary with the lifespan in the 50,000 hours range.
LED technologies have pushed the brightness of home lighting to new levels with less operating costs than their predecessors. The idea of putting LEDs into a standard lightbulb is not a new idea for sure and if you haven’t already done so, I urge you to jump on the LED bandwagon as soon as possible to start saving money on the power bill.
Unfinished Basement Lighting Ideas
The two twist-in lighting systems from STKR Concepts that are perfect for basement lighting are the TRiLIGHT and the MPI.
TheTRiLIGHTis a deformable garage light that is a one-piece screw in with three aluminum blades coming off the center. Those adjustable angled blades are what house the LED panels.
The TRiLIGHT puts out 4,000 lumens but only uses about 24 watts and comes in at $129.99.
The only real limitation to adding a twist-in lighting system is that the points of light are usually coming from one central point, the light socket. But not anymore with theMulti Point Illumination from STKR.
Instead of dispersing all of its 7,500 lumens into the room from just one point, the MPI has 5 points of light that evenly light the room leaving soft, if any, shadows.
The larger of the five circular lights is the main light that twists into the light socket. The other four plug into the back of the main hub via a cable and the built-in cable management system tightens everything up for a clean finished look.
How Much Lighting Do I Need In My Basement?
For this example, we are going to use a real-world unfinished basement example that is chalked full of lighting issues. This family is renting so they don’t want to invest in anything permanent like rewiring.
This basement is a big 1,200 sqft rectangle. The rectangle is split into four smaller rectangles with the bottom left quadrant being impeded by the stairs and stair landing. The stairs leave the basement and go up to a landing and then turn 180 and go up to the main floor. This switchback method of stairs takes up a bigger footprint into the room.
Because of this odd layout, the builder decided NOT to put in a light fixture in this area so only the other three sections got fixtures.
The bottom right quadrant is slightly bigger than the rest but has the hot water heater and an HVAC system so it kind of balances out. The bottom two sections have no windows and the top two rectangles both have a large egress window facing North.
The large space was split up to create a temporary office in the top right quadrant using tall wall sections that make for a somewhat closed-off room. This room division took one of the three total basement light sockets, one of the windows, and left an awkward shape with not much light left. The picture below is shot from inside the office lit by a single LED light bulb putting off 800 lumens.
In the bottom right section, this family is trying to use the space for a prepper/food overstock area, in the bottom left they have a TV, treadmill, and Yoga workout area.
Not one of these spaces was properly lit to get anything done until a few years ago this person bought a TRiLIGHT for that pop-up basement office in the top right corner of their basement.
This family has reported having used this TRiLIGHT to light up an artist while she painted acrylic on canvas, lit up a teacher while she did zoom calls with special needs children, lit up a goofy dad while he tried his hand at creating YouTube videos, and kept a basement office well lit for over three years.
That basement office can be seen in the next photo collage showing the light difference between a standard 800 lumen bulb, the 4,000 lumen TRiLIGHT, and the 7,500 lumen MPI.
There were some thoughts going into this project that the MPI was going to be way too bright for a small 10' x 12' space and that the room was going to be blown out with light. Not the case when you spread all those lumens out across 5 different points of light.
Not only are these two products amazing for cranking up the brightness out of a standard light socket, but the type of lighting that you get will make you stay focused and on task. The 5400k daylight white light that comes out of these lighting systems is perfect for catching every detail, or at least making your basement feel less creepy. LOL.
Anything can happen at any moment in time. Being prepared can make a major difference in how safe you remain during an emergency. It’s recommended that everyone has an emergency kit ready so that they are prepared anytime that the unthinkable happens.