Everything You Need to Know About Under Cabinet Lighting
Under cabinet lighting adds practical and beautiful illumination to your kitchen. While dramatic chandeliers and pendants are showstoppers, under cabinet lights are workhorses. They illuminate dark surfaces so you can cook meals and navigate the kitchen safely and easily.
These lighting fixtures are certainly practical, but they also contribute a lot to the beauty and ambiance of the kitchen. Go through our Inspiration Gallery to see just how big an impact under cabinet lighting can make in this space. The impact is subtle yet stunning.
On top of this, they’re the perfect DIY project, too. If you’re looking for a way to refresh kitchen aesthetics without spending a fortune on a full renovation, under-cabinet lights are the way to go.
Learn more about this kitchen essential, and how you can use it to maximum effect in your home!
What is under cabinet lighting?
It’s exactly as the name implies— these are lighting fixtures installed under cabinetry to illuminate the surrounding area. Unlike traditional lights, it’s designed to be concealed by the cabinet trim. All you will see is the light instead of the bulbs.
In general, you won’t have to place electrical outlets or cords in obscure areas, which means handy homeowners can install these fixtures themselves.
However, note that under cabinet lights typically come as a system with multiple individual components. These include drivers, outlets, lights, and more. All of them are configurable so you can customize based on what will benefit you the most.
Benefits of Under Cabinet Lighting
Under cabinet lighting is not absolutely required for kitchens, but you’ll be missing out on amazing benefits if you decide to opt out. Here’s what these lighting fixtures bring to the table:
Provides additional illumination
These lights complement the main overhead lighting by highlighting the backsplash and providing focused illumination on work surfaces.
Even the brightest overhead lights are not enough to completely eliminate shadows created by upper wall cabinets. Under cabinet lights remove these shadows and provide adequate visibility for your food preparation and cooking tasks.
Enhances kitchen ambiance and design
Under-cabinet lights can make a world of difference to how your kitchen looks and feels. They have a way of infusing room with a warm and elegant feel.
Offers better energy efficiency
Once you have under cabinet lights, you won’t have to turn on every main light in the kitchen just to see what you’re doing.
Provides tremendous aging-in-place value
Planning to grow old in your home? Under cabinet lighting promotes greater safety for homes intended for aging in place. Poor lighting increases the chances of kitchen accidents, and layered lighting is an effective way to reduce the risk. These lights also eliminate glare and are gentle on aging eyes.
3 Types of Under Cabinet Lighting
While shopping for your new under cabinet lights, you’ll encounter three main types of this fixture:
DIY Plug-in Lights
Want to install under-cabinet lighting ASAP? DIY plug in lights are the easiest option. You simply attach a plug-in fixture to the underside of your upper cabinet or shelf, and you can insert this into any electrical outlet nearby.
To turn these fixtures on and off, you’ll have to use a switch on the unit. However, not that the wires are not usually hidden with DIY plug-in lights.
Look for plug-in, LED under-cabinet lighting tape or rope lights, since these are some of the simplest to install. These clear plastic tubes cast a soft glow thanks to the small LED bulbs inside.
Mounted Strip Lights
For more intense under cabinet lighting, consider puck lights with halogen bulbs, track light with halogen bulbs, or a fluorescent strip.
These touch-operated disks are easy to install. They’re also surface-mounted and wireless, making them a sleek alternative to the DIY options. These lights come in several wattages and are battery-operated to provide bright light.
However, do be careful with placement. High-wattage halogen bulbs radiate a lot of heat, which means you should never install them near anything flammable.
Professionally Hard-Wired Lights
For a seamless look, you may want to invest in hard-wired light fixtures. This type becomes virtually invisible after installation for the most sophisticated results.
Unless you are experienced in wiring and renovation, it’s best to leave these lights to the professionals. For instance, low-profile recessed puck lights should be installed directly into cabinetry. Failing to do this during a kitchen remodel or new home construction will necessitate modifications to the cabinet itself. Hard-wired models also require tapping into a power source or adding a new circuit added the location. This requires knowledge of building codes and regulations, all of which much be followed to make sure your under-cabinet lighting is up to code.
Aside from recessed puck lights, other hard-wired options include slim-line strip lights and custom-size under cabinet track lighting.
Under Cabinet Lighting: Types of Lightbulbs
Once you’ve decided whether you want to go DIY or with professionally hard-wired lights, it’s time to learn about your light bulb options. Each one has unique benefits and drawbacks, all of which you should consider before deciding which to buy:
LED Strip Light
If you don’t want or need a “fixture” under your cabinets, LED strip lights offers an effective solution. Installed correctly, LEDs barely visible— you’ll only be able to see the light produced by the strips.
Keep in mind that LED strip lights aren’t as bright as other lightbulbs, so it’s best to use this as accent lighting.
- No “dead spots” and produces even light because it can be mounted end to end
- Virtually invisible after installation
- Available in waterproof options
- Cheaper than most types of under cabinet lighting
- Lasts for a long time
- Peel and stick installation make it perfect for DIY projects
- May not produce enough light for some preferences or applications
- You may need to pay extra if the use of a track and lens is necessary
- You may need a separate power supply
- Dimmer than other types of under cabinet lights
Fluorescent fixtures are a classic type of under cabinet lighting and remain a popular choice. It’s a good middle-of-the-road option if you don’t need anything too fancy.
- You can connect them together for more even lighting
- Cooler than halogen and xenon
- Plug-in and hard-wired options
- Brighter than other types of under cabinet lighting
- Can be costly
While xenon fixtures are one of the oldest under cabinet lighting technologies in under cabinet lighting, it’s still highly regarded thanks to its perfect color rendering index (CRI).
Xenon bulbs produce a clean, white light that make granite or marble countertops really pop. However, they can get very hot. So hot, it’s best to use them as occasional task lighting instead of an all-day source of light. Make sure to keep fresh flowers, meltable food, and fruits away from xenon lights.
- 3-way switch available for high-low-off functions
- Lower initial installation cost
- Available in plug-in or hard-wired options
- Near 100 CRI
- Consumes a large amount of energy
- High heat emission
Puck lights can use LED, halogen, and xenon light bulbs based on your preference and where you plan to use them. The CRI of almost 100 you can get with halogen and xenon bulbs are great if you value color purity.
Puck lights are available in battery-powered models you can just stick to the underside of cabinetry. This makes them an excellent choice for people who don’t want to deal with wiring or are renting their homes.
- LED versions come in battery-powered options that are easy to install
- Produces focused light
- Very affordable
- Instead of even lighting, they emit circles of light which may not be suitable for some applications
- Can get really hot when installed with halogen bulbs
What Type of Under Cabinet Lighting is Best for Me?
Keep these two considerations in mind when deciding which cabinet lighting to install in your kitchen:
Consider Your Power Options
Under cabinet lighting cabinet options include battery-operated, plug-in, and direct wiring. As with any project, you may have to call in the professionals for more elaborate configurations—and you have to factor that into your budget.
You may need an electrician for direct-wire cabinet lights, but they can create a more professional, polished look because there no wires or plugs to deal with.
Got an existing under cabinet system? Changing this out for the LED version is an easy switch because the wiring is already there. Be ready for frequent battery replacements if you go with battery-powered fixtures, and dedicating a nearby outlet for plug-in under cabinet lights. Your installation needs and power supply will influence which under cabinet system is right for you.
Evaluate Placement & Available Space
Before buying under cabinet lights, evaluate how much extra space you have for additional lighting. For a more seamless look, it is often beneficial to keep the lighting fixture hidden behind the face of your cabinet.
Tucked up tightly at the bottom of the cabinet, this prevents the light fixture from getting in the way of usable space below. Carefully measure this space before buying any lights.
In addition, consider lighting placement. For instance, Light bars and puck lights are thicker, which makes them ideal installed against the back of the cabinet.
A Beautiful Kitchen Starts with the Right Cabinets
To make the most of your under cabinet lights, you first need to consider your kitchen cabinets. Under-cabinet lighting will emphasize the best parts of your kitchen, so you want to make sure your kitchen cabinets meet that standard. Check out our line-up of elegant, durable Cabinets that will take your kitchen design to the next lever. For questions about our products, design advice, and where you can find Choice Cabinet dealers, don’t hesitate to Contact Us today!