Wine Cellar - Lighting Advice

I’ve started a wine cellar construction project in my (unfinished) basement. Room will be about 7’ x 10’, with a door on one short end, and racking along both long walls (probably double deep on one side). Ceiling is only about 7’, which is fine for a wine cellar.

I’m thinking about lighting. I could go with standard recessed (either Par30 or Par20 bulbs), but the floor joists have a lot of “stuff” in them already (plumbing, A/C) so placement options are somewhat limited, also because of the need to use IC (insulated ceiling) housing for the recessed lights.

An alternative is using track lighting, which gives much greater flexibility on placement. However, with a 7’ ceiling, the fixtures are limited to low profile lights, and those seem to come down about 6" minimum. Fortunately, I’m only 6’ tall, so wouldn’t hit them as a matter of course, but it would be close, and they’d be only just above eye level. They might also block the top row of racking (although probably only a few bottles).

Also, within either category I could use incandescent or halogen, but I’m exploring LED (because it’s cooler). Any thoughts on this?

One other thing–for the moderators: Any possibility of creating a separate forum or subforum for cellar-related questions?


I can’t give you much info regarding fixtures, but in the store we have track lighting and use PAR 20 bulbs and honestly I think they run a bit warm. I have some bottles that unfortunately are only 3ft away from the lights. But it’s one thing to light a store that has turnover and needs to be especially well-lit for consumers and balancing that need with protecting the wine vs. lighting in your own cellar. If you only need it functionally lit, not lit up like a showcase, I would go for the lowest wattage/lowest heat throw possible.

Good luck!

I used recessed lighting in my basement cellar, put in 4 cans when I probably could have gotten away with 2. They do run hot but aren’t on often. How will you be using the lighting? Will your cellar be strictly functional space where you will only go in to grab wine, then back out again? If so, heat from the lights shoudn’t be much of an issue. If the lights are going to be on more often then it might make sense to go with a cooler option.

My ceiling is pretty low as well and I am happy that I went recessed. From what you describe it sounds like the track lighting might feel in the way. Either way, put the lights on a dimmer so you can customize the amount of light. I got a motion sensitive dimmer switch from Home Depot that works well. It turns on to a pre-set level when I open the door and turns off after I leave.

Look for LED Tape light. Low voltage, cool, cool (temp) easy to install and hide and could be mounted deeply in racking making bottle ID easier if you double deep rack the wine.

LED/CFL for sure. Get the bulbs on eBay.

I went with 6 recessed lights as well as track lighting. Track lighting let me light up parts of the cellar that the recessed did not pick up well. The track lighting is LED.

I recommend dimmers for all. Really helps keep the heat down of the recessed lights.

I am not sure if you are looking for a visual impact, but, if you are rope lighting is also pretty nice

David - Good question I should have put in my first post. Cellar is primarily functional. I might show it off but the lights won’t be on for extended periods of time (except perhaps for inventory times).

I’m not planning for display shelves, but may still think about some rope lights as a supplement.

Install an auto-off switch, or a motion-detection switch. I have heard of people who
accidentally left their bright lights on in a passive cellar for two weeks. Not good.

If you are going for a ulitatarian cellar, it doesn’t really matter. You say it is in an unfinished basement. Just go with a cool bulb, like florescent or something, and enough light so that you can see. Other than that, no need to care.

If you are looking for style, take advice from someone who knows more than me.

All the advice here is great. But at a certain level does it really matter? When I’m not in my cellar the lights are off and when I’m in my cellar, it’s only for a few minutes at a time. Granted my cellar is utilitarian, but even if your cellar is a showcase kinda cellar, how often are you going to spend more than 20-30 minutes in there at any one time. Remember it’s 57 degrees in there. :slight_smile:

It’s a fair question. I suppose when I build something I’d at least like it to look nice. It may not be a showpiece, but I also don’t want it to look like a broom closet.

But, yeah, track lights could run $1000, whereas a couple of recessed cans are only $200.

4/5" ic cans are almost always my first choice.

You don’t want track with a 7’ ceiling.

My first choice would be LED pucks recessed in the ceiling but you will need a lot of them ($$$). Modern T5 florescent bulbs are small and have a good light spectrum, cheap and highly effective but not too pretty. 2 relatively flush fixtures could work as well.

Good grief…$1000 for track lighting? Where are you buying it…Rodeo Drive?

I would think you could get by with 2 tracks and maybe 5 fixtures if you went that route. My cellar is maybe 2/3 your size and I use 2 fixtures. (The $100 kit I bought had 3 fixtures and I had to take one off because it was too much light)

Mine hang down maybe 5 or 6 inches. They use halogen bulbs, but I could not care less about the heat they create in the 2-3 minutes I’m poking around my cellar. In cool spaces like this, I don’t like curly fry bulbs as they annoyingly take 60+ seconds to warm up. I have them in my garage (even colder) and its a PITA.

Spot on - although I did an overhead chandelier (4 lamps) for the look I was going for and LED underrack lighting for the display rack. Plenty of light and never gets too warm.

If the racking isn’t going clear to the ceiling, they can be capped and finished with fancy edge molding, then use LEDs or light strips full length to create cove lighting in white, soft white or any accent color available. May still require some additional lighting.

My “cellar” is about 4 feet high. I flush mounted to the sheetrock ceiling, three LED strip lights bought at Home Depot. They have plugs allowing them to be plug into each other with the last one plugged into the wall. They work great and I don’t have to worry about heat and light if I mistakenly leave them on.

4 feet high?? Do you use a floor dolly to get in and out?


Or a creeper, like an auto mechanic.


I would go for a CFL bulb or LED lights to reduce any impact of bringing heat to the cellar.

Last year I built a similar sized cellar for a friend. There was about 6 inches of wall space between the top of the door frame and the cellar ceiling and I used that area to hard wired a light bulb socket and screwed on a motion sensor light fixture before a CFL bulb so my friend does not have to worry about turning the light off on the way out of the cellar with a few bottles in hand. The light turns on as soon as you open the door and turns off after 10 minutes of inactivity. I also installed a lock that could be opened via key or by punching a combination on a digital keypad.