Installing under-cabinet LED lighting is an easy, economical and fashionable way to brighten your countertop or work surface in your home. From underneath kitchen cabinets to the tops of display cabinets, LEDs can create stunning focal points and punches of task lighting in nearly any room.
LED Lighting: A Superior Solution
There are several advantages that make LED lighting a superior solution for your home. They’re generally easy to install, which means you can line an entire set of cabinets and have a polished, professional look in just one afternoon.
There are dozens of configurations in warmth, brightness and spacing that let you create a custom look that’s worthy of the pages of a home décor magazine. The key to choosing the right LEDs is to know what language the professionals use; you need to think in Kelvins, lumens and color rendering indices, or CRIs.
- Kelvins measure the color temperature a light produces. Color temperature doesn’t have anything to do with heat; it’s all about the tint that the light produces. Lights that sit low on the Kelvin scale (2500K-3000K) are yellow and orange, and those that are on the high end of the spectrum (5500K-6500K) produce a bluish light. Often, warm yellow or warm white lights are better for home use, as they simulate the light color of the common incandescent bulb. Your desired color temperature will depend on what king of task lighting you are using the LEDs for. For kitchen areas, or anywhere you are working with food, warmer temperatures are often more pleasing to the eye (and the stomach). For office workspaces, a cooler bright white light is easier for reading document and performing tasks.
- Lumens are the conversion between the amount of wattage a bulb uses and the amount of light it puts out. Watts by themselves don’t tell you much about a bulb, aside from how much power it consumes. What you really want to look for is lumen output. The more lumens you get per watt, the more efficient your bulb is (and that’s good to know when you’re calculating long-term costs).
- The color rendering index (CRI) of a light source is measured on a 1 to 100 scale, and it tells you how accurately it portrays colors. As an example, an incandescent bulb has a theoretical CRI of 100. With a color-accurate light source, it’s easy to tell reds from pinks, greens from blues and purples from oranges. When a bulb has a low CRI, though, it’s not very good at illuminating colors accurately, and can make some tasks more straining on the eye. Light sources for home use should to be rated at least 80 on the color rendering index.
Under cabinet kitchen lighting using lightbars
Cool, Bright (or Not) and Easy on the Eyes
Unlike their traditional counterparts, LED fixtures don’t get hot to the touch. They’re safe to use under cabinets and around ledges because they’re equipped with heat sinks that snatch away high temperatures, keeping heat off the LED chips and releasing it into the air.
Many LED lights are dimmable, so you have complete control over how brightly you want your area illuminated at a given time. There’s no one-size-fits-all; it’s largely a matter of personal preference. Once you’ve chosen your color temperature, your energy efficiency level and the right CRI, you have the perfect recipe for breathtaking lighting.
The Cost of LEDs Over Time
Because LED lights are extremely energy efficient - most are up to 90 percent more efficient than incandescent lights - they’ll save you money over time. In an ordinary home, up to 25 percent of the total electric bill is attributable to incandescent lights; with LEDs, particularly those used only as accent lighting, that number drops dramatically.
LED fixtures cost a little more up-front, but the energy savings add up quickly. Since many light-emitting diodes are rated for tens of thousands of hours, they won’t fizzle out like incandescent lights do; that means you’ll replace fewer fixtures over a longer span of time.
Easy Installation, Fast Results
You don’t have to be an expert electrician to install LED lights in your home. In fact, you barely need to know how to swing a hammer (which you probably won’t need for this type of project, anyway).
Most people have the essentials for LED installation around the house or in the garage. Some LED light strips have adhesive backing, while other rigid bars come in kits with small mounting brackets that can be screwed into a wall, along a ledge, or under your cabinets. Most even come with easy-to-read instruction manuals to make the entire process as quick and painless as possible.
When it comes to powering your undercabinet lights, there are two common methods. The easiest is to plug them into an electrical outlet that is wired to a wall switch. Then when you flip the switch; the lights come one. Simple to install, and works well if you have a straight-forward installation with an electrical outlet right at the start of the run of lights. The alternative is to have the LED lights hard-wired to a junction box, which is then often wired back to a wall switch or dimmer. Hard-wiring is the preferred method when you have more complex installations, as it often allows for more versatility. We recommend enlisting the help of an electrician to hard-wire your LED undercabinet lighting.
Because they’re so versatile, reliable and cost-effective, LED lights are interior decorators’ and DIY professionals’ first choice. No matter what look you’re trying to achieve, you can pull it off with the right LEDs. Before you know it, you’ll have fabulous accent lighting in your kitchen, bathroom, office, workshop, or your favorite display cabinet.