I am going to build kitchen cabinets and plan to install undercabinet and
inside cabinet lighting. Can someone advise me about the options? What's
advantage of using low voltage over 120V lighting? If low voltage is a
choice when a transformer is placed? Is transformer quite enough? What type
of bulbs are the best? What's the usual spacing between bulbs? And finally
where can I buy good quality undercabinet lighting hardware?
In previous kitchens (in apartments), I've just put in thin fluorescent
fixtures under the cabinets. Better than nothing, but the light isn't very
When we bought a house, we decided to get high-intensity halogen lighting
(IIRC, http://tinyurl.com/4j4b5 ) running off normal line voltage. It was a
little expensive, but the light is wonderful. It comes in strips with
various numbers of bulbs. You can mix and match lengths and end up with
about one bulb every 10 inches or so. We wired ours to wall switches.
The one thing we did wrong was not think about how bulbs would get changed.
The fixtures we put in are a bit fussy to open up, and since we mounted
them all the way against the back wall, you'll got to be a bit of a
contortionist to change the bulbs. If I were to do it again, I think I'd
mount them up against the front lip of the cabinet.
Our cabinets use face frames, and there's a little bit of frame sticking
down to hide the lighting behind. With the frame-less eurostyle cabinets,
the lights would be more visible, which might affect what you buy (if it's
hidden, it doesn't matter if it's ugly).
Inside lighting? I could see that for a glass-front cabinet display
cabinet, but for kitchen cabinets with solid doors hiding cans of green
beans and boxes of pasta? Interior lighting for something like that seems
like overkill. But definately go with the under-counter lights; they're
Check out http://www.waclighting.com ; they make a lot of this stuff.
Many of my dark deep cabinets would greatly benifit from lighting even
though they do not have glass fronts. My wife has been complaining to me to
install lighting of some kind. As many batteries she goes through using a
falshlight I belevie would be more economical for her to get her wish.
You have alot of choises but for kitchens where you spend alot of time
here are a few things to consider. All incandesant bulbs are only apx
90% efficient so they put off 90 % of their wattage in heat. In summer,
with cooking you will be increasing your cooling load, as kitchens look
nice lighted up, but can consume alot of power. Incandesants put out
17-20 LPW -lumen per watt. T 8 flourescent output 60- 100 Lpw and last
much longer and can be dimmed with proper ballast and dimmer. T5 and T8
are common undercabinet lighting and look good with the proper warm
white bulb. Look into flourescents for the long life and energy savings
they offer. New better color flourescents are always being designed ,
but look at 3700-3800K warm whites.
I will guess 12v being less efficient than 17Lpw as the transformer is
waisting energy as heat.
One common, cost effective approach is Fluorescent fixtures, particularly
for face frame cabinets. Bulbs last a long time, run cool, are readily
available in many styles and lengths, and your cabinets can be designed to
make the fixture basically invisible.
I installed thin fluorescent fixtures up under the cabinets. I leave
one 13 watt unit on 24 hours a day. It works well IF you can find a
pinkish bulb rather than the standard blue "cool white" bulb. The
latter makes meat look black. (I won't go into what GF says about zits
in cool white!)
Perhaps you should visit a number of furniture stores to see how they
light up cabinets.
There are two lines of "T5" (5/8 inch diameter) fluorescent lamps.
The older one is 4, 6, 8 and 13 watts and mainly uses "old tech"
phosphors with color rendering index in the 50's to 60's ("warm white" and
The newer one comes in higher wattages 14 watts or more and usually has
color rendering index 82-85 and the color is usually specified by color
temperature or 1/100 of the color temperature. The usual color
temperatures are 30/3000 ("warm white"), 35/3500 (in my words "semi warm
white" and in my experience most pleasing), and 41/4100 ("cool white").
The newer ones are also more efficient than the older ones because they
are longer and therefore have their electrode losses being a lower
percentage of input power, and also unlike the older 4-13 watt ones are
normally operated from electronic ballasts.
- Don Klipstein ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
I've had both the fluorescent and the halogen undercabinet lights. As you
might imagine, they both have advantages and disadvantages. The
fluorescents are cheaper to run, and probably cheaper to buy (of course, you
can probably find expensive versions of anything, if you want.) The
halogens cost a little more to operate, but have the advantage of being
usable with dimmer switches. You can get both types at the Depot & Lowes
and your local hardware store. My personal preference is for the halogens,
as I prefer their "color" which is warmer than fluorescents (more towards
the red part of the spectrum than the blue).
I have had success with these:
You need a transformer, but placement is easy. Spacing depends on the
intensity you want. These can be ordered unassembled so you place bulbs
where you want. Not cheap.
For a kitchen, you want to be able to use a dimmer.
Therefore I suggest halogen.
I also suggest the 120 Volt. The low voltage version needs a
transformer that can hum, and some of them are switching power supplies
that can cause radio and TV interferecne. The 120V versions don't have
these problems, but the bulbs use a finer filamanet and are not as
rugged. If you use them with a dimmer and keep them dimmed most of the
time and there is not too much vibration, they will be fine.
The group here has hit on two main lighting options. In addition, if
you're looking more for decorative lighting versus work lighting, you
might consider "rope lighting" which is also available at Lowes & Home
Depot. It requires a transformer as it's low voltage.
For cabinet/shelving lighting, I've used the xenon lights available at
I picked these because they gave a warmer, yellowish glow versus the
harsher halogen light. They also have a dimmer option. They require a
transformer, but I couldn't hear it as opposed to the one in my kitchen.
Rocker has a number of "puck" lighting available and you can daisy-chain
up to 6 of these together on one transformer.
I *do* like the flourescent lighting for under cabinet "work" lighting.
Halogen seems to get too hot, and the replacement bulbs are expensive.
Flourescent lights last longer and run cool. Hope this helps.
Beware the cheap puck lighting sold at home depot. When they get hot, the
cheap plastic trim can fail and hot pieces of glass fall on the counter top.
Or when you put dishes in the cabinet a little too vigorously, the hot glass
falls out. I ripped all of mine out after about a week of this nonsense. I
also seriously doubt the UL rating on the really cheap Hampton Bay brand
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