Cabinet Lighting Buying Guide

Cabinet Lighting
  • Getting Started

  • Cabinet lighting is the most convenient and the most attractive type of task lighting for your kitchen. Designers agree that the path to a functional, beautiful kitchen space starts with proper lights. This guide will help you make the right decision as you choose lighting options for your kitchen cabinets.

  • What to Consider

  • Tape lighting is perfect for over-cabinet illuminations, while modular lighting system will be better for dust-prone areas. Thinking about types of lights you need is important as they can make your area more convenient and look much better.

  • Cost Considerations

  • They key factor when it comes to cost consideration is the type of fixture you choose. Simple models are affordable and cost less than $100. More intricate or expensive features can cost over $1,000 when all is done.

  • Task vs Accent Lighting

  • Task lighting provides enough light for common tasks like reading, playing games, or cooking. These lights are often brighter in design and are directed at work areas, such as kitchen countertops or desks to prevent eyestrain and make it easier to focus on a particular area. Moreover, task lighting should not have distracting glares or shadows that will interfere with a workspace. Although portable lights can do the job, home designers advise using track or recessed lighting for task applications because they blend better with a modern home design.

    Accent lighting focuses on a concentration of lighting in one spot or on a subject and creates a point of interest or visual interest. For example, accent lighting can be used to highlight an architectural feature. In order to properly highlight a certain spot, the accent lights should be four times brighter than the task lighting. Accent lights usually point directly at their target, but some track and recessed fixture are also suitable for accent lighting.

  • Types of Cabinet Lighting

  • LED.  LED technology is perfect for cabinet lighting. Not only it is cost-effective and easy to use, LEDs are good for warm areas (like the kitchen) because of their cooler temperature. Besides, LEDs bring energy saving benefits, as the lamp lasts much longer, reducing maintenance costs.

    Puck Lights.  Puck lights mean small circular disks that can be installed in a pack that is wired together or individually. The biggest benefit of puck lights is their versatility. Puck Lighting can create a lot of light for a focal point, or even become a task light. Puck lights allow you to get pockets of light where you need it or to create uniformlighting when installing many of them in a row.

    Linear Lights.  Linear lights mean rectangular lights that complement other lights and wiring – in one unit. Linear lights are available in many sizes and colors and can be used for different applications. Some of the most common options are linkable, thin lights that come with LED, xenon, or fluorescent light fixtures. Linear lights allow for many creative solutions. Very thin options can be adapted to any surface.

    Tape Lights.  Most of the time you can find Tape lights sold in rolls of different lengths. These strips can be easily cut to fit your needs.

    Under Cabinet Lights.  This is a must-have element of any kitchen today; under cabinet lights add another layer of depth to any area, highlighting decorative surfaces and helping with tasks like cleaning or cooking. Linear or Puck lights with wide beam coverageare perfect for under cabinet lights.

    In-Cabinet Lighting.  In-Cabinet lighting helps to display decorative items in cabinets. A puck light spotlightshining from above or a linear light that ishidden behind the frame are the most popular options. You can also use sensors to turn the lights on when you open the cabinet door.

    Toe Kick Lighting.  Toe Kick lighting refers to a decorative accent lighting that adds interest to the kitchen. Flexible or linear lighting is perfect to achieve consistent coverage.

    Shelf Lighting.  This can either be decorative, such as open shelving, or utility lighting when more illumination is necessary, such as deep or dark cabinet spaces. Linear lighting, placed behind the frame, is quite common.

    Cove Lighting.  Cove lighting is installed above cabinets around the ceiling perimeter and provides a decorative layer of light. Linear lighting is used most frequently.Closet Lighting.  Nobody likes dark closets. Closet lighting can provide the necessary illumination.

  • LED, Xenon, or Fluorescent

  • Fluorescent lamps are very efficient in providing a certain amount of light. Besides, fluorescent lights emit very little heat. This is important to remember if you are going to store anything in your cabinets. While fluorescent light fixtures cannot be dimmed, they are a good, inexpensive option.

    Xenon lights are not as energy efficient as fluorescent and they produce more heat, but they also have thefull dimming capacity, and they provide a welcoming, warm light (if you like the glow of incandescent bulbs, xenon cabinet lighting is perfect for you). They are not cool to the touch, but the amount of heat produced is lower than halogen lights. However, heat output is important and must be kept in mind if you are going to install Xenon lights on the underside of food storage cabinets.

    LEDs are the most energy-efficient option. They are cool to the touch, but also more expensive and give white light instead of a warm glow. However, some kitchen designs can greatly benefit from the blueish light of LEDs.

  • Recessed or Surface Mount

  • You can use light fixtures that mount on the surface under the cabinets for easy installation, or those that are installed into the bottom of your cabinets for a seamless look. Linear lights should be mounted on the surface, so you do not need large cuts into the structure. Some people assume that non-recessed lights will be jutting out unattractively. But if you do not specifically look for them, you will not be able to see them. If you still think that lights can be seen, add a small vanity panel to the bottom of the cabinet to completely hide them.

    If you want to achieve the clean look of a flat bottom of your cabinets, choose recessed under cabinet lighting. Keep in mind that most of the time recessed options are puck lights. It is easier to recess circular, small puck lights than large fixtures.

  • Wiring and Powering Cabinet Lighting

  • When selecting cabinet lighting, it is important to think about the power source of your lights. Battery powered lighting can be the easiest solution, but you will be replacing the batteries quite often, which can be time-consuming, as cabinet lighting is hard to reach. Hard-wired is a good alternative. While wiring takes more effort during installation, once done, you will not have to bother with your cabinet lighting.

    Cabinet lighting can be sold in packs, wired together, and with plugs included. To use this lighting, you will need an outlet somewhere inside your cabinets. Outlets that you may have for a built-in microwave can also be used for cabinet lighting. Just plug-in and enjoy!

    If your wiring is not pre-wired to any plug, you will have to hard-wire your lighting. It is strongly recommended to get a professional to do it for you. Electricians can connect your cabinet lighting together and then hard-wire them so all wires are hidden. They can also connect your lighting to a switch for your convenience. If you still want to hard-wire yourself, call your lighting manufacturer for advice.

  • Voltage

  • You also need to think about the voltage of your cabinet lighting. Low voltage cabinet lights operate from a lower voltage supply (12 or 24 volts). While each option can work great for your kitchen, choosing the correct one will depend entirely on your preferences.

    Line Voltage.  These are high quality, cheaper initial cost, and easy to install. They work off the voltage supply in your home, so you do not have to wire your lights to a transformer. You can connect them to power. Besides, line voltage lights can be used with standard dimmers instead of those made specifically for low voltage lights.

    Low Voltage.  There are several actions that have to be completed before installing low voltage cabinet lights. You should have a transformer to convert your voltage supply to a lower number, and if you are going to use accessories (such as dimmers) they will have to be compatible with your lighting system. However, they have two important benefits:theylast longer and use less energy. Besides, low voltage bulbs are smaller – so you have more fixture options to choose from.

  • Color Rendering Index

  • You should not confuse Color Rendering Index, or CRI, with the color temperature. CRI does not measure the color of light, but rather the ability to render colors accurately. The scale ranges from 1 to 100 (the sun). A CRI of 85 is perfect for cabinet lighting.

    It is important to consider the CRI when choosing cabinet lights because it can affect the entire look of your kitchen. Xenon lights have a CRI of 100, LED and fluorescent has a CRI range around 85-90.