Kristen Hicks on May 9, 2016 1 Comment Table of Contents Types of Under Cabinet Lighting Factors to Consider While Shopping It isn’t showy. It’s not a part of the kitchen most people even notice, but your under cabinet lighting can be both useful and beautiful if you want it to be and purchase the right lights to install there. Under cabinet lighting is primarily popular in kitchens where it can help highlight spots where people do food prep, making it easier to measure out the right quantities and chop your vegetables without cutting yourself, as well as any spots where you might want to highlight some beautiful dishware. Occasionally, it’s also a nice addition in bathrooms or offices where it can help turn under cabinet space into something more useful. When you’re setting out to buy lighting for under your cabinets, there are a few main points you should keep in mind to help you end up with the right lights for the job. Our buyer’s guide will walk you through what to be aware of. Types of Under Cabinet Lighting Under cabinet light fixtures comes in a few main styles you can choose between. Knowing where you plan to install the lighting can help you narrow down what type of under cabinet lighting is best for your home. Puck and Button Lights Puck and button lights are circular lights that provide focused lighting to the space below them. Their shape resembles that of a hockey puck (hence the name) and often they’re a good choice for customers that don’t want to deal with difficult installation, as it’s easy to find battery-powered versions. Puck and button under cabinet lights are also an affordable option for shoppers on a budget. Pros of Puck and Button Lights: Affordable Battery-powered options especially easy to install Good for focused light Cons of Puck and Button Lights: Don’t let off much light beyond the space they’re pointed at Don’t provide even lighting Tape Lights Tape lights are adhesive strips that have LED lights inside of them, so you can simply stick them under your cabinet. They can typically be plugged into a standard outlet, so installation is only complicated if you want to keep wiring out of sight, which will usually require the help of a professional to do right. You can cut the tape to the size you need (but once cut, the leftover tape won’t be usable), and they’re flexible if you need to wrap them around corners or tight spaces. They’re thin, so they stay out of your way when you’re working and they’re functional without calling much attention to themselves. They don’t give off as much light as many of the other options though, so they’re best in situations where the general space is already well lit. Pros of Tape Lights: Affordable Don’t take up much space Simple Flexible Cons of Tape Lights: May require a professional for installation Give off minimal light Rope Lights Rope lights are similar to tape lights, but a bit thicker. As such, they have a lot of the same benefits. They don’t take up much space and will stay out of your way while you work in the space they light. They don’t cost much and you can plug them into your standard outlet. They don’t offer as much flexibility as tape lights, but do offer more than the other types on our list. Like tape lights, they don’t give off that much light in comparison to other options, so are best when looking for accent and task lighting in a space otherwise well lit. Rope and tape lights are often popular options for renters who want to add some extra light, but aren’t in a good situation to install something. They’re an easy solution if you need something temporary, but if you don’t bother with hard wiring, the cords used to plug them in will stay visible in a way some customers won’t care for. Pros of Rope Lights: Affordable Don’t take up much space Simple Cons of Rope Lights: Give off minimal light Offer less flexibility than tape lights Light Bars Light bars, which are sometimes called linear lights, are just what they sound like: lights that come in a long strip or bar that can illuminate the whole space under your cabinet. They’re available in both fluorescent and LED options, with LED lasting longer and using less energy, but fluorescent often costing less upfront. Light bars provide more even lighting for the under cabinet space than puck lights and provide more light than tape or rope lights. They’re also relatively easy to install and don’t cost all that much. If you want something more permanent than rope and tape options, then light bars are a good choice for more spread out, even lighting. Pros of Light Bars: Affordable Easy to install Provide even lighting Provide more light than some of the other options, which may be good for your space, or may be overkill if you already have strong lighting. Cons of Light Bars: Not as useful for accent lighting, if you want to highlight something or add ambience. Factors to Consider When Buying Under Cabinet Lighting In addition to settling on a type of under cabinet lighting to go with, you have a number of important factors to consider to help you choose the right light for your space. Cost Under cabinet lighting options can range from $10 per light to over $200. If you want to take on a fairly simple under cabinet lighting project that doesn’t cost much, that’s possible. If you want to invest in beautiful, high-quality lights and make sure they’re installed in a way that accents the space perfectly without any wires showing, that’s also possible. It’s all a matter of what you’re willing to spend. In most cases, you’ll want to buy multiple lights to fill the space if you’re going with puck lights or light bars, so make sure you’re factoring in the full cost and not just the cost per light. Depending on the type of installation you choose to pursue, you may need to factor in the cost of hiring a professional as well. If you’re happy sticking with a battery powered puck light that you can stick under the cabinet with minimal effort or are okay with using tape or rope lights without concern for seeing the cord used to plug them in, then installation should be pretty simple. If you want a solution where no cords or wiring are visible and want the light to be a self-contained unit attached to a light switch, you’ll likely need to call in an expert to help. Finally, don’t forget to consider the ongoing cost of energy use. If you buy a battery-powered under cabinet light that goes through batteries quickly, you’ll spend a lot for ongoing use. A unit that’s hooked up to your electrical system will add to your monthly energy bill, so one that’s energy efficient will save you money over time. And one that works with bulbs that last a long time, like LED lights, will save you from spending much on replacing bulbs when they burn out. Size More than most types of light fixtures, under cabinet lighting needs to fit in a pretty tight space. No chandeliers or pendant lights make sense down there. All under cabinet lights are designed with the space limitations in mind, but some will allow you a little more room for movement than others. Tape and rope lights are especially good for not taking up much room, while linear lights are designed to be long without having much height. Puck lights are usually narrower with a little more height, but not enough to be an issue in most under cabinet spaces. You should measure out the space where you plan to put each of your lights. Light bars usually work best if you buy one that runs about the whole length of the cabinet you put it under. Rope and tape lights can be cut to the right size, but you still want to know how long the space you’ll be using it for is; too long and you’ll end up paying for a lot more than you use, too short and you’ll have to go buy more. Bulb Type LED lights have become a popular option for under cabinet lights in recent years since they last longer and use less energy than other lights. They usually cost a bit more upfront than fluorescent and xenon lights, but you can make your money back over time in energy bills and not having to bother with replacements. They also hardly put off any heat, so you don’t have to worry about your lights melting any items in your cabinets or causing food to spoil. Some customers do still prefer going with fluorescent or xenon lights instead due to the savings upfront and the brighter light they put off. LED lights tend to provide a sort of low, blue light that’s not as warm and bright as the traditional bulbs many are used to. Be warned, xenon lights do put off heat so they aren’t your best bet if you will be keeping anything in or under your cabinets that’s sensitive to temperature, which is likely in the kitchen. Amount of Light In most cases, under cabinet lighting is adding a little extra light in a space that already has a good amount of overhead lighting. That means brightness may not be a necessity, but if you want the under cabinet lights you buy to provide useful task lighting then getting some that are reasonably bright for that purpose is important. Puck or button lights provide more focused light in a smaller space, so they are normally a bit brighter than other lights, but only for that limited area right underneath. Light bars, tape lights, and rope lights all spread the light out more along the whole under cabinet space. Fluorescent and xenon lights tend to put off a warmer light than LED, but they don’t last as long and aren’t as energy efficient. The best way to make sure you go with an under cabinet light that puts off the amount of light you want it to is to go to the store and see how different options look when installed and turned on. Ease of Installation For some battery-powered lights, installation is as simple as sticking the light under the cabinet. For under cabinet lights that need to be plugged into an outlet, you need to consider how conveniently located your outlets are, how willing your are to give them over to under cabinet lighting (as opposed to leaving them available for other kitchen appliances), and the aesthetics of the cords that will need to run from the light to the outlet. Many customers will want an under cabinet light that’s fully installed in the space without any cords or wires showing. That will make for a more complicated installation process and may require calling in a professional. If you do have some experience with DIY light installation, then it’s not likely to be much more complicated than your past experiences. Power Source You’ll find under cabinet lights with three different power sources: battery, electrical outlet, and hard wiring. Battery-powered options will be easy to install, but you’ll have to replace the batteries and may find you need to do so frequently if you use the lights often. Lights you can plug in are also pretty simple in terms of installation, but you’ll have to deal with visible cords and give over some of your kitchen outlets, which may be an issue if you don’t have too many outlets in the space to begin with. Hard wired under cabinet lights will often be the best option for anyone who wants a permanent solution. They require a more complicated installation process – you’ll probably want to call in an electrician – but they become a more seamless, natural part of the kitchen than your other options. Energy Use If you’ll be using your under cabinet lights with any frequency, you should take energy use into consideration. Energy Star does rate under cabinet lighting, so you can check their site to see how different options fare in terms of energy use. LED lighting will be your best choice for energy efficiency, and you can find LED options among all the types of under cabinet lighting available. Aesthetics Finally, any lighting you add to your home or office space should do the basic job of looking good. Under cabinet lighting can add beauty and ambience, if you choose the right light to do so. Consider how bright the lighting is, the kind of color it lets off, and how the light fixture itself looks. Make sure you think about how the light you’re considering will look in the space you plan to put it in before making a definite decision. Aesthetics aren’t everything – under cabinet lighting is often at least as much about function – but lighting that looks good is always a nice addition to any space. Conclusion Under cabinet lighting may not be a necessity in every home, but it can add some nice ambience and functionality to spaces where some extra lighting can come in handy. The right lights will add a nice touch to your space without straining your budget. You have plenty of home lighting options to consider, and with our guide you are now armed with everything you need to find the best light fixture for your home.