Four Shopping Tips for Under-Cabinet Lighting Solutions


You may be looking for an effective upgrade to a kitchen or bathroom without the expense of a major renovation. Or you may just want to see better while preparing your favorite foods!

Have you thought about under-cabinet lighting? This popular option for bathroom or kitchen lighting has lots of functional and aesthetic benefits, and it’s a major turn-on for potential home buyers.

  • Under-cabinet lighting options provide excellent task lighting for cooking and reading recipes.
  • It illuminates and shows off your backsplash, countertops, and cabinetry.
  • It can make a great nightlight.
  • It creates an upscale “layers of light” effect.

Here are four major considerations to keep in mind as you shop for the best under-cabinet lighting option for your home.

#1: Under-Cabinet Light Bulbs

Three commonly used light bulbs for under-cabinet lighting ideas are fluorescent, xenon, and LED.

  • Fluorescent bulbs. These bulbs are inexpensive, energy efficient, and give off very little heat. They can provide shadow-free task lighting for up to 10,000 hours. However, they usually cannot be dimmed, which limits their usefulness as nightlights. In addition, fluorescent under-cabinet lights may create a “washed out” effect if you have light-colored counters and cabinets.
  • Xenon bulbs. Xenon gas produces a warm, dimmable light for up to 10,000 hours. Xenon under-cabinet lights tend to be less efficient than fluorescent. They give off some heat, which may be a concern if you have food in your cabinets that may be affected by the heat.
  • LED bulbs. Although more expensive at the time of purchase, LED under-cabinet lighting is the most energy-efficient option and usually pays for itself in the long run. These bulbs produce a brilliant light for up to 50,000 hours, and are cool to the touch. Dimmable LEDs are also available. Their low heat level makes them an ideal nightlight and for installation under cabinets where food is stored at room temperature.

Choose a bulb that will create a lighting effect that matches your countertops. Matte countertops work well with smooth lighting schemes, while glossy counters create a reflection depending on the brightness and warmth of the bulb. Light-colored counters also tend to reflect more light, making the room appear brighter, while dark counters absorb more light, for a warm, intimate effect.

#2: Under-Cabinet Lighting Fixtures

The type of under-cabinet lighting fixture you select will depend on the amount and style of light you need to match the shape and size of your cabinets. There are four basic styles of under-cabinet lighting fixtures to choose from.

  • Puck lights (also called spot lights). Shaped like a hockey puck, these lights provide focused pools of light and are also ideal as accent lighting for display shelves. To create a more even lighting effect and avoid dark shadows, install under-cabinet puck lights 8 to 12 inches apart.
  • Light strips. Under-cabinet lighting strips come in several different lengths and can be customized to match the size of your cabinets — so you get exactly the amount of light you need. Light strips provide uniform, well-distributed light with no shadows.
  • Tape lights. Under-cabinet tape lighting uses tiny LED bulbs embedded in a thin, flexible strip. This makes them an excellent space saver and easy to conceal behind the cabinet rim. A peel-and-stick adhesive secures them to the bottom of the cabinets.
  • Rope lights. Larger than tape lights, these LED light strings come in plastic tubing of varying sizes and voltage levels, so you can choose the one that best fits your cabinets and lighting needs. Under-cabinet rope lighting typically comes in 12-, 24-, and 120-volt options.

#3: Positioning and Mounting Options

When installing under-cabinet lighting, one important consideration is whether the lights will be recessed or surface mounted.

Recessed lighting is built into the bottom of your cabinets, for a flat surface, while surface mounted lights are attached to the bottom of your cabinets. For optimal appearance, surface mounted lights should be small enough to be concealed by the cabinet rim.

In positioning under-cabinet lights, you must decide which direction you want the light to go.

  • Do you want the light pointed down towards the countertop?
  • Or do you prefer to have it pointing back towards the backsplash?

Ideally, the lighting fixtures should be concealed by the rim of the cabinet. To eliminate any glare for people seated in the room, place the lights inside the front rail of your cabinet frame and pointed either downward or back towards the backsplash.

#4: Power Source

Will your under-cabinet lights be powered by your home’s electrical system or by batteries? You have three main options here.

  • Hardwired. Hardwired under-cabinet lighting connects directly to your home’s electrical system, and may be included if you are planning a new construction. If you are installing hardwired cabinet lights in an existing home, it may be necessary to run new wires or even a new circuit. This requires the work of a licensed electrician.
  • Plug-in. If you have a receptacle installed in or near the bottom of the cabinet, or in the nearby backsplash, plug-in lights may be a good option. Plug-ins are also ideal if you only plan to use the lights for short intervals at a time.
  • Battery powered. If you don’t have an outlet nearby, and you want to avoid the expense of installing hardwired lights, battery powered under-cabinet lighting models are also available.

Besides these basic considerations, many under-cabinet lighting systems now come with a variety of other features, such as docking stations for mobile devices, speakers for home sound systems, tablet cradles, and hidden outlets for plugging in other appliances.

What is the best under-cabinet lighting for your house? If you have questions about choosing the right solution for your kitchen or bathroom, or if you need help with under-cabinet lighting ideas or  installation, contact us at Complete Electrical Solutions today!

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