Under Cabinet Light Buying Guide

A stylish kitchen is on everyone’s wish list, but a stylish and functional kitchen is the ultimate dream come true. Under cabinet lighting is an important component of modern kitchen spaces and helps you create the perfect atmosphere for all your cooking, dining and hosting needs.

Benefits of Under Cabinet Lighting

Under cabinet lighting is a quick and affordable way to provide direct light when and where you need it. These kitchen essentials provide ample illumination for food prep while simultaneously showcasing design details like stylish countertops and decorative accents. They’re also a smart way to reduce shadows from overhead cabinets and can keep the entire room looking lighter and brighter.

Where Is Kitchen Under Cabinet Lighting Usually Placed?

When deciding where to place under cabinet lighting, it’s helpful to consider its intended usage. If you need more countertop light for food prep, then it’s best to install the lights toward the front of the cabinets rather than the back. This helps keep the illumination directly focused on your workstation and also helps to reduce any potential glare. That being said, you can install your cabinet lighting closer to the back if your goal is to highlight your backsplash and add to the room’s overall ambiance.

Countertop Under-Cabinet Light for Kitchen Lighting

Types of Under Cabinet Kitchen Lighting

Under cabinet lighting is available in three primary styles: light bars, puck lights, and tape lights.

Puck Lights

Perhaps the most common type of under cabinet light, puck lights or “spots” have maintained steady popularity for years. These cylindrical luminaries usually span a couple of inches in diameter and are screwed into the underside of your kitchen cabinets. These lights provide a spotlight effect and can be spaced out accordingly to generate the best illumination for your needs. Most homeowners today opt for puck lights powered by LEDs for longer-lasting performance with lower energy consumption. Puck lights do require a good amount of skill to install and are oftentimes best left to professional electricians. Prefer an easier upgrade? Place battery-operated LED puck lights anywhere you please.

Tape Lights

Under cabinet tape lights and strips are the perfect choice for creating one long, streamlined wash of light. Sleek and minimal in their presentation, these are a great option for contemporary kitchens in particular. Their slim design allows them to be hidden with ease, and they’re typically more affordable and simpler to install.

Best Light Bulbs for Under Cabinet Lighting

Today’s under cabinet lighting options consist of three types of lights: LEDs, xenon lamps or fluorescent bulbs.

  • LEDs: Known for energy efficiency, LED under cabinet lighting is your longest-lasting option and boasts a lifespan of 10-20 years. These bulbs come in a variety of colors to help you customize your lighting to suit your preferences and needs. Many styles are also compatible with dimmers.
  • Xenon Lamps: Incandescent xenon lamps offer a warm glow and can be dimmed, which makes them a great choice for those looking for ambient under cabinet lighting. They’re particularly good at color rendering, as well. That being said, Xenon lamps have the shortest lifespan of the three.
  • Fluorescent Bulbs: Traditional fluorescent bulbs offer homeowners bright, even lighting that’s whiter in tone. If you’re looking for task lighting over your kitchen countertops, these are a fantastic option. Keep in mind, however, that these lights don’t dim.

Under Cabinet Lighting Accessories

The right switches and accessories can take your under cabinet lighting to a brilliant new level and enhance your kitchen workspace in a flash. One of the most common accessories for cabinet lights is a dimmer, which allows you to control the overall level of illumination. This is particularly ideal when switching from food prep (which requires ample light) to entertaining friends and family in a softer setting.

Another popular option is motion-detection. This smart feature ensures adequate light when and where you need it without having to use your hands, so it’s a great choice for culinary enthusiasts. You can either buy under cabinet lighting with built-in motion sensors or add a motion sensor to your existing light source. Additionally, color controllers can be used to adjust the color temperature of your under cabinet lighting.

Installing Kitchen Cabinet Lighting

Under cabinet lighting is traditionally installed one of three ways: hardwired, plugged in, or battery-operated. Hardwired under cabinet lights typically offer the highest quality, but they also are the most expensive option and require professional installation. Plug-in and battery-operated lights, on the other hand, are more affordable and easier to install. Plug-in luminaries oftentimes provide more light than their battery-powered alternatives, but they also mean an exposed cord. That said, they’re an ideal choice for apartments and rentals. Battery-powered lights typically attach to your cabinets with adhesive, so you can place them wherever you need extra illumination. Unfortunately, battery-powered under cabinet lights can’t be wired to a dimmer.

How Long Should Under Cabinet Lighting Be?

Whenever possible, we recommend shopping for the longest fixture that spans the recessed or corner areas of your cabinets. Doing so helps you keep your countertop and backsplash uniformly lit, so be sure to measure before making any purchases in order to match the space as closely as possible. Under cabinet lights are typically sold in standard lengths such as 8, 16, 24 or 32 inches. If your space measures somewhere in-between these standard lengths, choose the longest measurement below it (ex. if your cabinet is 26 inches long, buy a 24-inch light strip to fill the space accordingly).

Special Features and Additional Considerations

When choosing cabinet lighting, it’s important to keep additional features and considerations in mind. For instance, glossy kitchen countertops are more prone to glare and are best served by fixtures with lenses (as opposed to light tapes). Modern under cabinet lighting can also offer different color settings, which can be especially ideal for creating your own style and atmosphere. Finally, you may want to consider the lumens rating when choosing under cabinet lighting for your kitchen. Generally speaking, lighter countertops require fewer lumens, while darker countertops demand higher lumen ratings.

Under cabinet lighting is a wonderful way to enhance your kitchen with both function and style. Browse our entire assortment of task lighting essentials for the brilliant solutions your home demands.

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