Best Under Cabinet Lighting (LED / Xenon / Halogen / Fluorescent)

Steve Sheinkopf  |  October 27, 2015  |  6 Min. Read

LED Light Bulbs  |  Under Cabinet Lighting  |  Xenon Bulbs

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Are you looking for the best under cabinet lighting but not sure what to buy? This article will help you decide what is best for your application.

Under cabinet lights are now being used in many kitchen applications. They are installed under the upper cabinets to provide you with good task lighting.

Before & After pictures of Kitchen Remodel

Under cabinet lights are available with different bulb options ranging from incandescent (halogen) to high energy efficiency (LED).

The picture above shows undercabinet lighting on the toe kick for a great effect in your kitchen or even bathroom. There are tons of under cabinet lighting systems available today. We will look at the four best, but first let’s look at LED lighting.

Below is a comparison of the four different bulb options for under cabinet lighting. We will start with the most energy efficient (LED).

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LED (Light Emitting Diodes)

LED is a solid-state lamp that uses light-emitting diodes as the source of light. LED lamps offer long service life and high energy efficiency, but initial costs are higher than those of fluorescent and incandescent bulbs. A good quality LED bulb can last for up to 50,000 hours. At 4 hours per day you can expect up to 30 years of maintenance free operation.


Our Jenn-Air kitchen display with no under cabinet lighting


Jenn-Air kitchen illuminated with under cabinet LED strips

You have to be very careful when buying a LED light source of any type. Typically, LED renders a bluish light. Even the newer LEDs promising a better light still deliver a poor quality light. In our experience, the only LED consistently delivering a natural light has a Cree chip or filter.

(Our free guide details all the benefits of LED Lighting and more)

  • 70% of initial illumination at the end of 50,000 hours.
  • Cool to the touch with virtually no heat on the bottom of the cabinets (Your peanut butter and chocolate will not melt inside your cabinets).
  • 85% more efficient than an incandescent/halogen light and 50% more efficient than fluorescent.
  • Some models are dimmable with an appropriate LED dimmer.
  • Keep it on as a night light and not have to worry about heat on your cabinets.
  • For a good quality LED light you want to stay under 3,000 Kelvin Temp (warmer light output).

Fluorescent

Fluorescent is a cool-operating energy efficient light fixture. It offers shadow free task lighting in both residential and commercial spaces. Fluorescent is great in closets as it accentuates the darker colors. However it is a harsh white light, which washes out lighter colors. Fluorescent also cannot be dimmed.

  • Up to 10,000 hour rated life from a good quality fluorescent bulb.
  • Provides minimum heat output (Good for closet spaces in case you leave it on accidentally).
  • Bright, uniform, shadow free illumination.
  • Good lighting for basements, closets, garages, laundry rooms, and commercial spaces where lights can stay on a lot.
  • Non-Dimmable ballasts

Xenon

Xenon is a gas on an incandescent filament, which produces a warm light. Light quality and dimming capability are the characteristics of the Xenon bulb. However, Xenon is an incandescent bulb, so it is energy inefficient and does not last as long as a LED.

Our La Cornue kitchen display with no under cabinet lighting


La Cornue kitchen with xenon under cabinet lighting

  • Up to 10,000 hours rated lamp life from a low voltage Xenon bulb.
  • Slightly warmer color rendering compared to LED and Fluorescents.
  • Dimmable with the appropriate dimmer control.
  • Provides some heat to the bottom of your cabinets but not as much as the halogen would.
  • 25-35% more efficient than a standard halogen or incandescent fixture

Halogen

Halogen is a bright task light but it also produces a great amount of heat to the bottom of your cabinets. A halogen fixture will cost much less than any of the above but in the long run it will cost you more by having to replace bulbs every 6 months to a year at $7 to $10 per bulb. If you have three 24” strips and each strip has 3 bulbs, you will be spending about $90 every six months to a year.

  • 2,000 hours rated life span
  • Non-energy efficient
  • Produces great amount of heat to your cabinets (there goes your chocolates and peanut butter)
  • Cheaper to buy but requires a lot of maintenance over time (changing bulbs)
  • In the long run, you will end up spending more on electricity and buying light bulbs every 6 months to a year
  • I would not recommend leaving this on as a night light
  • Mostly used in rental properties or if you are on a tight budget

Summary

In my opinion, I definitely think that LED is the way to go. You may be spending more money up front but it’s definitely worth the initial outlay. A 7-watt LED is roughly equivalent to a 50-60 watt bulb, so you will be saving a fortune in energy costs. LED will cost approximately $2 to run yearly versus $14.8 in energy costs per bulb for halogen if used just 4 hours a day. That does not include 2-3 bulb replacements per year at $5 per bulb.

Additional Resources

For the latest how-tos, buying guides and videos, check out the Yale Resource Center. Over 100,000 people have read a Yale Guide and over 490,000 people have watched a Yale Video.

Under Cabinet Lighting Buying Guide

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Steve Sheinkopf

Steve is the third-generation CEO of Yale and a lifelong Bostonian. He currently resides in Boston, one mile from where he was born. Despite being one of the worst goalies of all time, he is a huge hockey fan of college hockey and the Boston Bruins. The love of his life is his daughter Sophie.

Steve has also been featured in numerous publications such as the New York Times, Consumer Reports, The Boston Globe, Bloomberg Radio, the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Entrepreneur, for his knowledge of how to buy appliances and appliance repair.

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