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Under-cabinet LED lighting install

Under-cabinet LED lighting install

Since our house was first built 13 years ago, it’s had very basic builder-quality under-cabinet fluorescent lighting. The lights were adequate, but not great. They were spread out widely, leaving dark areas under the multiple cabinets between each light. They didn’t direct their light very well for task work, and being rather bulky, the fixtures were also visible, sticking out under the cabinets:

This weekend Kathie and I replaced our old fluorescent under-cabinet lights with new ultra-bright high-efficiency LED strip lights. I bought a 5-meter (16.4 foot) spool of LEDs on Amazon for $25, from a company called HitLights. Here’s what the spool looks like:

To give a sense of scale, the 16.4 foot spool contains 600 bright LEDs—three lights per inch! The entire spool uses only 48 watts of electricity, less than a single incandescent light bulb. We have a few sections of cabinets, and none are 16 feel long, but that’s not a problem! The spool is designed to be cut with scissors at any 1-inch boundary, and after the cut, both spans are still perfectly usable. I’ll be cutting this spool into three sections for our three separate areas of cabinets:

Connectors can be purchased for a couple dollars to join cut segments together, to connect cut segments to power supplies, to make right-angle turns, etc., so there’s a lot of flexibility with how these lights can be used. Once we had the right length of lighting for our main cabinets (9 foot, 10 inches), we drilled some half-inch holes in the cabinet frames, and fed the lights through from one end of the kitchen to the other:

Next was the serious part. After shutting off the circuit breaker, we removed the existing fluorescent fixtures:

Each of the existing lights was controlled by a separate wall switch. For our new lights, we wanted to re-use one of those wall switches to control the entire row of lights. After removing the existing lights, we prepared one set of AC wires to splice into our LED light’s power supply:

The splicing was simple, and we used some double-sided tape and packing tape to secure the lights’ DC power supply and all the wires under the cabinets. The strip lights have a 3M peel-and-stick backing, so we peeled-and-stuck the lights to the underside of the cabinets. The circuit breaker was turned back on, the lights were successfully tested, and we now have much more useful, very efficient lighting in our kitchen:

Here is a view from above, showing that a granite countertop is very reflective, and you can see the lights’ reflection any time you’re working at the counter. We did a dry-run for a week by scotch taping the LED lights under the counter, and the reflection wasn’t a distraction for us, and is really not very different from seeing the reflection of the fluorescent light before. What you can really see here is how bright and uniform the light is, which is great for working at the counters:

And here’s a straight-on view of the end result… a result we’re both quite pleased with! The entire 10-foot section we installed uses only 25 watts of electricity. We have a few more smaller cabinets to do, and now we’re also thinking about some up-lighting on top of our cabinets. This would provide some nice ambient light across the entire kitchen at night, instead of always running our nine 75-watt recessed lights (675 watts total), which is our only option right now.

 

8 comments

  1. John
    January 27, 2013

    Cool! And (now) bright!

    And thanks a LOT for “causing” the following commercial ditty to get stuck in my head:

    “Lite Brite, making things with li-i-i-ghts…. Lite Brite, making things with bright lights!!!”

    {http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soFXG2FaONw}

  2. Caleb
    January 27, 2013

    Nice work, Mike. Your electrical skills have obviously improved!

  3. tom
    April 16, 2013

    Mike, you said where you got the lights, but not the power supply. Can you identify it?
    Thanks.

  4. tom
    April 16, 2013

    Might as well ask, if I only use 8 feet, do you think this power would work from Amazon – Ledwholesalers 30 Watt LED Power Suppply Driver Transformer 120 to 12 Volt DC Output, 3207 ?

  5. mike
    May 27, 2013

    Power Supply was from a random Amazon store. I just searched Amazon for “LED Strip Light Power”. Each set of lights says how many amps of power it draws per foot… so look that up, multiply by 8 (feet), and add an extra 20% just to be safe. The power supplies come in all different amp ratings.

  6. Rob
    December 28, 2013

    Is there a company that makes a cover to diffuse the light ?

  7. Philip
    January 16, 2014

    you can’t do an open splice like that with the 110 votlt AC in the open air!!

  8. mike
    January 20, 2014

    Thanks Philip! We actually bought junction boxes and enclosed/secured the splices in them, mounted under the cabinets, after we were done. I’ll add a photo of the end result to the bottom of the blog so I don’t lead anyone astray…

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