Under-Cabinet Lighting Choices

When it comes to under-cabinet kitchen lighting, there are lots of options. James Young – licensed contractor and licensed electrician – discusses the particulars of kitchen task lighting.

Rope Lighting

Contemporary Open Plan Kitchen With Light Wood Cabinets

Contemporary Open Plan Kitchen With Light Wood Cabinets

Figure A

Photo by: Katy Lyons

Katy Lyons

Rope lighting is flexible and comes in a selection of colors. Held in place by small insulated clips, it plugs into an ordinary electrical outlet; you can also get cord covers that can be painted to match your decor and thus camouflage the cords. Rope lights are usually more decorative and not be suitable for a work lighting. 

Fluorescent Lighting

Figure C

Fluorescent lighting comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be easily installed under cabinets. Fluorescent lights often get a bad rap because their brightness can be jarring and they can often make a humming noise. But tucked under a cabinet, fluorescents make great shadow-free task lighting in a prep area or work space. Plus, fluorescent lights are energy-efficent.

Halogen Lights

Figure E

Halogen lights can be plugged into an outlet or hard-wired into a transformer. They come in puck shape or in a light bar. Halogens give off a crisp-white light that is great for showing off natural stone countertops and backsplashes. But halogens can also run hot and are not the most energy-efficient option.  

Tip: When trying to decide how far apart to mount the small halogen lights, this rule of thumb is a good one to follow: Measure the distance between the bottom of the cabinet and the countertop, then mount the lights the same number of inches from each other.

Xenon Lights

Figure F

Photo by: Thomas McConnell

Thomas McConnell

Xenon lights work well in damp locations such as kitchens and bathrooms; they give off little heat and run at a low voltage off a transformer. Xenon bulbs are closer to natural light than halogens and fluorescents. Energy-saving LED bulbs can often work in a fixture made for xenon bulbs. LEDs and xenons are more expensive up front, but they use much less energy and last longer than halogens. They also usually give off less heat, which will help keep your kitchen cool.

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