LED has evolved greatly over the years. Early LED products had a high Kelvin of 5,000, so they produced a fluorescent-like light. Like any new product, LED was also prohibitively expensive. Now, LED lighting is much approved and is the new standard for new construction homes.
Although, it is still more expensive than halogen or Xenon based lights, your energy costs will be greatly reduced. You should be strongly considering LED lighting throughout your house.
We will look at LED lighting, different types of under counter lighting and then some of the best products to consider.
LED (Light Emitting Diodes) is a solid-state lamp that using diodes as the source of light. The technology has been around since the 1980's and is 90% efficient. It compares favorably to incandescent lighting, invented in the 1880's but is only 10% efficient.
It's safe to say you should be using LED today. LED is more efficient, uses less electricity and emits far less heat. LED’s are also cool to the touch, so it will not melt the peanut butter in your cabinets like an incandescent bulb (can heat to 300 degrees, which is the reason you cannot touch it).
A good quality LED lightbulb can last for up to 50,000 hours versus 850 hours for an incandescent bulb. At 4 hours use per day you can expect over 23 years without replacing a bulb.
The knock against LED was quality of light. Because LED naturally renders bluish light, the output of early LED was similar to fluorescent. However, there are currently products offering similar color rendering (a lighting term for quality) to Xenon or halogen bulbs.
So look for a bulb 2,700-3,200 degrees Kelvin. The chart below shows different bulbs and their effects.
Under Cabinet Lighting
Undercabinet lighting is a staple in most kitchens because it provides many different sources of light. It is task lighting for chopping vegetables and other activities on the counter.
Your backsplashes are highlighted better with under cabinet lights. You can also leave them on at night for safety as well. Have a look:
(Note: You can dim LED with a compatible dimmer. We recommend the Legrand brand, because it can dim any type of bulb).
Let's look at the three best LED under cabinet systems to consider.
Best LED Under Cabinet Lighting Products
LED Strip Lighting
CSL - Eco-Counter LED Task Light
- Color: Warm White 2,700K
- 50,000 hour lamp life
- Direct wire 120v system does not need remote transformers or drivers
- Dimmable with appropriate LED dimmer
- Low profile, less than 1” high
- Glass lens with LED diffuser which allows for light to spread evenly
- No UV or infrared energy (objects will not discolor or fade over time)
- Speed link system allows you to link up to 24 units together
- Built in ON/OFF switch
- UL/C-UL Listed for damp location
- Available in White, Bronze, or Satin Aluminum finishes
- Comes in 4 different sizes
- 8” ($60), 16” ($87), 24” ($114), and 32” ($140) Pricing is for white. Color is $5-$10 more.
GM Lighting - LARC6 Dimmable LED Linear Light Bar
- Warm White 3000K
- 50,000 hour LED life
- 24V system requires a remote transformer or driver
- Slim 3/8” thickness
- Dimmable with a rigid inline touch dimmer or with a dimmable power supply
- Can be interconnected in series from one 24V power supply
- Sizes available are 8”($38), 16”($58), 24”($74), or 32” ($106) white only
- Plug in or hard wire Transformer/Driver sold separately and can range from $51-$180
- Connectors and accessories sold separately
Can be hard wired and controlled from wall switch or dimmer. There is also a plug in version and dimmer/switch controls that can be added to the product directly.
The LARC6 light bar is brand new and is available in 8", 16", 24" and 32" width. It is rated at 3,000 degrees Kelvin, adjustable and only 3/8 of an inch. It's 24V power emits 5 watts per foot. The strips can be joined together simply as well.
Tape may be easier to install, but these shielded bars illuminate evenly. They do not show dots like LED tape.
LED Flexible Ribbon
GM Lighting- Flexible 12V LED Linear Ribbon
- Available in 2700K, 3000K, 3500K, and 4200K
- Flexible LED ribbon comes in 39” strips as well as a cut-able 16ft run for any custom installation
- Rated for 50,000 hour LED life
- Only 1/8” thick
- Available in standard and high output
- Requires a plug in or hardwire transformer/driver
- Dimmable with a dimmable power supply and low voltage magnetic on/off wall dimmer
- 3M double stick mounting tape for easy installation
- Also available for outdoor/wet location area
- 39” Standard output $56, high output $86
- 16ft Standard output $200, high output $350
- Transformer/Driver can range from $51-$200
What could be easier than LED ribbon? You measure it. Cut it. Then attach it to the LED driver (also known as transformer). The ribbon is thin and unobtrusive for any type of cabinet, so all you see is light. Buy it with the appropriate Kelvin rating (many will still render blue) and with high output for proper illumination.
There is one minor downside. Ribbon is basically LED diodes ganged together. You can see those diodes on granite and marble surfaces at certain angles. They look like dots.
Which is Best?
All of these options for under cabinet lights are great for task lighting. You would need to choose the appropriate one depending on what is right for your home.
If you are replacing - if your old lights that are installed has a 120V direct wire, it may be best to go with the CSL's LED strip lighting. Since the wires are already there, it would be much easier to replace the fixture with one that is direct wire.
If it’s a new construction or a remodel - where you are running new wires, I would recommend either the LARC6 bars or the Flexible ribbon. The LARC6 bars will provide more lighting than the LED strip lighting.
The LARC6 bars can also be angled to allow you to position the light output towards the wall or down on the counter. The Flexible LED ribbon is great for many different types of applications or hard to light areas because of the flexibility.
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