5 Best Under-Cabinet Lighting - Nov. 2020 1

If there was ever a place in the house that needed extra light, it’s the shaded areas beneath the cabinets. Any time you’re looking under the cabinets, you’re standing between the ceiling light and the area beneath the cabinets, plunging them further into shade.

Whether you need more light in the kitchen, in the closet, over your workbench, or for your computer desk, under-cabinet lights are the way to go. All but a few of them are LED lights that keep electricity usage to a minimum. LEDs used to have artificial-looking light that was hard on the eyes, but the technology has advanced. Now they can produce a warm, soft glow or a bright white light without hurting your eyes either way.

Keep reading to choose the right light for your needs — whether it’s lights with direct wiring, battery-operated lights, or ones with a regular plug.

Key considerations

Size

The physical size of under-cabinet lights is important. You have limited space under the cabinets that you don’t want it taken up by huge lights, so you need flat lights that lay as flush with the mounting surface as possible. Styles of lights are rolled strips, hard light bars, and round puck lights. Get out a measuring tape and see how much room there is from the bottom of the cabinets to the top of the tallest appliance or item under the cabinet. If you’ve only got two inches left, a light that hangs down two and a half inches isn’t going to work for you.

Power source

Light type

Lumens

Lumens refer to how bright a light is, whereas watts refer to how much energy is used. Unfortunately, incandescent light bulb manufacturers confused the issue for many years by using watts to measure brightness. For instance, a 100-watt bulb was brighter than a 75-watt bulb, which was brighter than a 60-watt bulb, and so on.

With the advent of LEDs — which use a fraction of the wattage to create the same amount of light — all that had to change. Note that the watts for LEDs are industry averages. Your lights may vary.

Did you know?

Motion sensors on under-cabinet lights don’t work well unless it is completely dark.

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Features

Controls

Motion sensors

Motion sensors for under-cabinet lights have a spotty record. Motion sensors are a fairly technical item in their own right. Including them in an under-cabinet light means significantly raising the price of the lights or significantly lowering the quality of the motion sensor. Neither is a good option, so we recommend caution.

Construction

Mounting method

Under-cabinet lighting prices

Inexpensive: Anything under $20 is considered the low price range. This is where you can find lights with electrical cords, basic puck lights, and rigid bar lights.

Mid-range: From $20 to $55 is where you find remote controls, LED strips, kits with multiple light strips or bars, and the occasional dimmer knob.

Expensive: Above $60, you’ll find smart systems that connect to your smartphone, have millions of different colors, or both.

Expert Tip

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Other products we considered

We like Wobane Under Cabinet Lighting Kit. The kit has everything you need to install the four sets of lights either inline in one long strip or side by side for extra lighting in one area. The 3M backing holds the lights firmly in place on virtually any surface. There’s no need to change batteries since it plugs into the wall.

We also like Litever Under Cabinet LED Lighting Kit. Again, this kit includes everything you need in order to install the six light bars. They can be installed in a number of different configurations to meet your lighting needs. There is an inline dimmer switch on the electrical cord so you can raise or lower the light to exactly the level you want.

FAQ

Q. How many LED strips can be linked together?

A. The answer to this is based on the wattage used. For most applications, you can run 80 watts of LEDs from a single plug before the power starts to drop at the end of the line.

Q. Why are my under-cabinet lights flickering?

A. You might have a bad dimmer. Conversely, you might have one of the newer dimmers that has trim adjustments that allow for flicker at certain points on the dial. Consult your manual to determine how to reduce the flicker.

Q. Can under-cabinet lights be used to keep food warm?

A. No. LEDs and fluorescent lights don’t produce heat. Incandescent bulbs produce a lot of heat but are rarely found in under-cabinet lights.

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