The first step is choosing the right LED strip lights. The most important thing to check is the brightness. If you plan to use the light for illumination, the brighter the better. On the other hand, if it is for decoration, you can do with less intensive LED strips. To be safe, get the bright options and then install a dimmer for more control.
Installing an LED strip is fairly easy and straightforward. You just need to measure the length of your cabinet along where you plan to install the lights and then cut off the same length from your LED strip. You will need extra low-voltage wires if you plan to connect a dimmer to the strip.
Most strip lights come with an adhesive back with a protective cover on top. This should be enough for most types of cabinets. For rougher cabinet surfaces such as concrete, an extra adhesive can be used. Some strip lights attach to the cabinet using screwed-in clips.
Once you have set up the strip, plug it into a power outlet and switch it on. If it requires hardwiring, you are better off leaving the installation to a trained technician.
When installing LED puck lights under your cabinet, aim for a spacing of 8 to 12 inches. For surface mounted puck lights, you need to drill small holes first. Be careful not to drill all the way through the cabinet. Remove the mounting cap off the light and use it to mark hole positions on the underside of the cabinet before drilling. Then, install the mounting cap, securing it with screws. Twist the light onto the cap.
For recessed puck lights, you will need to cut through the cabinet underside using a hole saw. Secure the mounting cap with screws and twist the puck light in. The power hub connecting all the puck lights to the power outlet also needs to be mounted underneath the cabinet.
For both puck and strip lights, it is a good idea to install them closer to the front face of the cabinet. This hides them from sight, creating a more aesthetic look. Additionally, it prevents any glare from reaching someone else in direct line of the light.
Types of Under Cabinet Lighting
This is one of the most popular types of under cabinet lighting thanks to its long life, high-energy savings,14 and low heat output. LED has become more common in homes as incandescent lamps continue to lose their luster over the last few years.
LED is an abbreviation for light emitting diodes. This type of lighting uses a number of diodes to emit light. Incandescent bulbs on the other hand, use wire filaments that are heated to produce light. The lack of heat is one of the primary reasons why LEDs are more energy efficient and last longer. The energy efficiency part is especially important. LED lighting is 90% more efficient compared to the low 10% efficiency of incandescent lighting.
There are two main types of LED under cabinet lighting; strip lights and individual or puck lights. The best choice mostly depends on your aesthetic preferences. If you are going for a minimalist, easy-to-install option, then under cabinet led strip lighting is best. Puck lights are just as good with the difference that they provided focused areas of lighting, instead of distributed illumination. They also require a little bit more work to install. You can either recess them into the underside of the cabinet or mount them on the underside surface.
LEDs are dimmable meaning you should consider including dimmers in your setup. This will enable you to control the light intensity for different situations and for different individuals.
Pros and cons of led under cabinet lighting
- Extremely energy efficient, which means substantial energy savings
- Low heat output
- Long life
- Easy installation
- Though prices have been coming down rapidly in the last few years, LED lighting is still significantly more expensive than other forms of under cabinet lighting. But this cost is often offset by energy savings made during the lifetime of the lighting.
Fluorescent lighting is another popular option for your kitchen remodeling project, thanks to its high energy efficiency and low heat output. Today’s fluorescent bulbs do not flicker, hum, or take forever to come on after you have flipped the switch. This is one reason they make for good under cabinet lights.
The best fluorescent lights for under the cabinet are slim fluorescent strips, with a diameter of half an inch. This ensures they disappear easily under the cabinet while still shedding plenty of light. Half-inch fluorescent bulbs are labeled T4. If you need to go bigger, some good alternatives include T5 (5/8 inches) and T8 (1 inch). Beyond one inch and the bulbs will be too bulky for under cabinet lighting.
If you do not like linear fluorescent bulbs, then we recommend CFL, also known as compact fluorescent lamps. They usually take the shape of hockey pucks, hence the name puck lights.
When you are comparing among under cabinet fluorescent lights, one of the most important things to look at is the wattage. This denotes the light intensity emitted by the lamp. The higher the wattage the brighter the light. Like with LED lighting, opt for bright lighting and then use a dimmer to control the intensity.
- Very energy efficient, which translates into significant energy savings.
- Long life.
- Dimmable in some types (check the label when buying).
- Contains mercury, which can be hazardous when someone is exposed to it.
- Costs more upfront, with additional savings down the road.
Both xenon and halogen lights are incandescent. They produce light by means of a thin tungsten filament being electrically heated until it burns hot enough to produce light. Xenon bulbs are named after the inert gas, xenon, that is in the bulb enclosure. The same goes for halogen bulbs as well, which we will discuss next.
Though it is incandescent, xenon lighting is much more energy efficient than traditional incandescent lighting. It also lasts longer. However, when compared to LED and fluorescent lighting, xenon bulbs are less energy efficient and tend to produce more heat.
Xenon lights are loved for their bright and warm illumination, making them the most popular incandescent under cabinet lights. Like LEDs and fluorescent lights, you can get xenon under cabinet lighting in either linear or puck form. Both hard-wire and plug-in varieties are available as well.
- A bright, warm light that enhances the area below it. If you are looking for additional lighting for your kitchen work area, xenon lighting is a good choice.
- More efficient than traditional incandescent lamps.
- High performing color rendering.
- They are dimmable.
- Burns hotter and is less energy efficient than either fluorescent or LED lighting.
Halogen is in the genre as xenon lighting with the main difference being that it contains the inert gas, halogen, in the bulb enclosure. As already mentioned, both are incandescent, produce more heat than LED and fluorescent lighting and are not as energy efficient. Like xenon, halogen lighting is quite bright with vivid color, making it a favorite for homeowners looking for bright and warm lighting.
If you have decided that LED and fluorescent is not for you, the real tussle will be between halogen vs. xenon under cabinet lighting.
One major difference between the two types of incandescent lighting is the heat output. Halogen produces significantly more heat, which makes it less energy efficient and gives it a shorter lifespan than xenon lamps. Still, the heat is not as much as traditional incandescent bulbs. ,m
- Ideal for illumination thanks to the bright light.
- Better than traditional incandescent in terms of energy savings and heat output.
- They burn hotter than xenon, LED, or fluorescent bulbs. Keep heat-sensitive foods away from the light. If it is a bar of chocolate for example, place it higher in the cabinet.
- A shorter lifespan than any other type of under cabinet lighting discussed here.
Form and Function
Under cabinet lighting is important for the practical lighting needs it meets and the aesthetics it brings to a room. With great advances in lighting technology made over the last decade or so, homeowners have plenty of great options to choose from when it comes to under cabinet lighting. Hopefully, the above guide has helped you decide what kind of under cabinet lighting is perfect for you.