Under cabinet lighting performs a variety of functions. It illuminates the counter and provides task illumination for food preparation. It also can accent backsplashes and provide soft environmental lighting throughout the kitchen.
Under cabinet lighting OFF
Under cabinet lighting ON
There are many options for under cabinet lighting. Every bulb type is represented; halogen, low voltage, fluorescent and LED. They can be wired directly or to a remote transformer. Under cabinet lighting is also available in a number of prices, so this can be confusing...and I will not even mention Kelvin temperatures (until later).
I am partial to LED lighting for a number of reasons:
- It does not emit heat like incandescent, halogen and low voltage. Thus, the bottom of the cabinets do not become scalded or also melt your peanut butter in the cabinet. Incandescent heats to 300 degrees per bulb (hard to believe isn't it).
- It is more expensive to buy, but way less to operate. A LED strip is about 7-10 times more efficient than an incandescent. An 8 watt LED is about equivalent to a 50-60 watt incandescent.
- Bulbs last about 40,000 hours versus 750 to 2,000 for incandescent. You will replace an incandescent bulb well over 20 times before you replace a LED.
- You are able to achieve the same color output as a low voltage with LED. Energy saving bulbs like fluorescent have a different kelvin temperature and will wash color vibrancy.
For an exact replacement of a direct wire fixture, I would recommend the CSL Mach 120 LED. It is dimmable with the appropriate dimmer and the bulb can last up to 40,000 hours. It is available in 4 different sizes and 3 different colors (White, Bronze, and Stainless). CSL is also very easy to install and can be retrofit to existing wiring.
Prices are: 8” $69, 16” $110, 24” $130, and 32” $180
New Construction or Remodel
For new construction and remodeling, I would suggest the Jesco LED Flexible Tape strip. JESCO is a small strip of light and provides great lighting for under cabinet, inside or above a cabinet, and even in a cove. This low profile (1/8”) strip is also dimmable with an appropriate LED dimmer. However, the installation is a bit more difficult because of a remote transformer. Remoting is easier for new construction and much harder for direct replacement.
The Jesco Flex LED strip light is available in 4” and 12” strips which can be connected for a long run. It costs $30 per foot and $100-$150 for transformer depending on how many lights you need. One transformer can handle a 20ft run.
Downside of LED Lighting
LED renders blue and needs to be filtered for the "white" light. Light is measured by Kelvin from 2,500 degrees to 5,000 degrees. "Good" light is measured in the lower part of the scale at 2,500 to 2,900 degrees Kelvin. It is typically low voltage, incandescent and halogen lighting and will accentuate earth tones. Fluorescent at 5,000 degrees Kelvin will wash color out.
I recommend kitchen lighting to be within the lower temperatures. Unfortunately, there does not seem to any standards, so a light boasting 2,700 degrees may be much higher. So look at the light fixture, before you buy. Until the lighting industries adopts some standards, it is the only way to determine the right light.
What do you think?
Roger Pontes has been with Yale Appliance + Lighting for over 9 years. He truly enjoys helping people and spending time playing basketball and riding motorcycles.