Talk about a bright idea! Light fixtures installed directly underneath your cabinets illuminate the countertops below for safer, more functional food prep and brighter small appliance storage. Under-cabinet lighting is also considered a decorative element since the lower height of the light can show off a backsplash pattern better just as puck lights can highlight workspaces in the kitchen. Additional areas of light can make a kitchen appear larger or, when controlled by dimmers, contribute to overall ambiance. The best under-cabinet lighting brings greater efficiency to your cooking, a bit of class to your kitchen, and even connectivity with smart home devices for optimal control and energy savings. The seven products reviewed here are all top-notch in their respective categories.
- BEST OVERALL: Litever Under Cabinet LED Lighting Kit
- RUNNER UP: Lightkiwi E7574 Dimmable Under Cabinet Lighting Kit
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: LE LED Under Cabinet Puck Lights Kit
- HARDWIRED PICK: HARRRRD Hardwired LED Under Cabinet Task Lighting
- WIRELESS PICK: BS T01L LED Closet Light
- LED PICK: Wobane Under Cabinet Flexible LED Strip Lighting
- HIGH TECH PICK: TORCHSTAR LED Safe Lighting Kit
Popular Types of Under-Cabinet Lighting
The type of under-cabinet lighting you choose—LED, fluorescent, halogen, or xenon—will determine its esthetic and maximum efficiency rating.
Light-emitting diode (LED) lighting is the most popular and most energy-efficient type of under-cabinet lighting. Originally, LED lighting was expensive and only offered directional lighting, but now even smart home compatible LED lighting systems have become more affordable (yet they are still the priciest choice of the four types). Current LEDs also offer whole-room diffused lighting that can be used in overhead fixtures, replacing the common incandescent bulbs.
While initially costlier, LED bulbs outlast their counterparts by double or triple the time. They produce less heat (a big asset in the kitchen) and, on a purely aesthetic level, can create millions of colors on the spectrum. All these benefits make LED lights with the appropriate lumen rating (the unit of brightness measurement) the preferred choice of many consumers for under-cabinet lighting.
Compact fluorescent lighting (CFL) is energy efficient and doesn’t produce a lot of heat, but does have some unappealing issues. These tube bulbs tend to produce harsh light and have an annoying buzzing sound. They cannot be used with a dimmer function, and turning them on and off repeatedly can shorten their lifespan. What’s more, because they use both mercury vapor and a phosphor coating to convert UV light to visible light, you can’t toss them in the trash when spent—these bulbs must be disposed of according to Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.
Halogen lights use a gas compound containing halogen vapor within the bulb. When electricity is run through the filament, the compound reacts to produce clear, white light. However, halogen lights get very hot and should not be used where they might accidentally be touched. Efficiency-wise, halogen bulbs are a step above fluorescent bulbs (and several steps above incandescent bulbs), using between 25 to 80 percent less energy. They fall below xenon bulbs and well below LED lighting in most categories, but are a good mid-range choice that will provide decent lighting at a moderate cost.
Xenon lighting casts clear, white light but, unlike halogen bulbs, don’t use a filament. Instead, an electrical current is channeled through the xenon gas contained in the bulb, causing the excitation of electrons to produce light. Xenon lighting is cooler to the touch than halogen bulbs and also more efficient, lasting two to three times longer. LED lights outshine xenon and halogen lights in every category except price, but xenon bulbs are the next-best option for brightness and lifespan.
What to Consider When Buying Under-Cabinet Lighting
To buy the best under-cabinet lighting for your kitchen, keep these important considerations in mind.
The voltage of under-cabinet lighting is separated into three main types: line voltage (120V) lighting, low voltage (12V or 24V) lighting, and battery lighting.
- Line voltage lighting is wired directly into your home’s electrical system. Bulbs using this type of voltage system produce more heat than low voltage or battery lighting.
- Low voltage lighting can be wired directly into your home if there is a transformer installed to reduce the voltage from the house down to the required 12-volt or 24-volt. It’s much more common for these systems to simply plug into a power outlet. There is no significant difference between the average energy savings, light quality, or lifespan of line voltage and low voltage lighting.
- Battery-powered lighting doesn’t rely on the home’s electrical system for power, so no transformer is necessary. Battery voltages for under-cabinet lighting range from 1.5-volt to 10-volt. The higher the voltage, the more power the battery will be able to push, and the brighter the light will be.
Strip Lights vs. Puck Lights vs. Bar Lights
Under-cabinet lighting comes in three primary styles: strip lights, puck lights, and bar lights.
- Strip lights come in rolls that can be stuck onto a surface via backing adhesive. They can also be screwed on if need be, but the backing adhesive normally holds strongly enough to fasten under cabinets. Strip lights are flexible and customizable, making them an excellent option for unique layouts. However, their flexibility makes them more fragile, so they’re not the best choice for illuminating task-oriented countertops used for food prep.
- Puck lights, shaped like hockey pucks, are designed to create spots or pools of light instead of an even beam of illumination across an area. This makes them an excellent choice for accent lighting, but if using them for task-lighting, they must be spaced so that there’s no break in the lighting between pucks. Puck lights are most commonly battery-powered models that stick onto a surface with adhesive backing, though they can be low voltage and in rare circumstances can be line voltage.
- Bar lights—the most common style of under-cabinet lighting—have an aluminum housing and a light diffusion cover, making them sturdy enough for the task-oriented areas of your kitchen. These lights can be low voltage or line voltage and generally measure from 6 to 48 inches in length. The only real drawback with bar lights is their inflexibility, so you must measure carefully to plan their installation before buying.
Energy Efficiency and Heat Output
The energy efficiency and heat output of under-cabinet lighting depends primarily on the type of bulb used.
- Fluorescent lighting is one of the best options in terms of energy efficiency and heat output. The bulbs remain cool during operation, and they rate between xenon bulbs and LED bulbs in overall efficiency.
- Halogen lighting produces the most heat and is the least efficient bulb. The light these bulbs emit is clear and easy to work by, and they’re also dimmable, allowing you to save some energy as you set the mood.
- Xenon lighting gets a bit hotter than fluorescent and LED lighting, but the temperature is still acceptable to the touch. These bulbs are less efficient than LED and fluorescent lights, but they can be dimmed for mood-setting and energy-saving.
- LED lighting is the best option for both energy efficiency and heat output. Some LED lights use as little as 5 watts of energy while still producing adequate brightness, and they can be dimmed for more energy savings. LED lights have a very low heat output, leaving them cool to the touch, even after hours of operation.
Fixed brightness feels out of place in our customizable world, making dimmers an important addition to an under-cabinet lighting system. By dimming the lights to a level suitable to the current use of the room, you reduce the energy consumption and save on bills. Dimmers also let you adjust the brightness to suit the situation—low as a night light, for instance, as you sneak in for that midnight snack!
Ease of Installation
Installing an under-cabinet lighting system can be incredibly easy—or complex enough to warrant hiring a professional electrician.
- Line voltage lighting is the most difficult type to install because the wiring must be connected directly to your electrical system. If replacing an old fixture with the same voltage, the installation can be completed by an experienced DIYer who is comfortable working with electricity, but if it’s a new installation, it’s recommended that you hire a professional electrician to be certain that your electrical system is capable of supporting an additional fixture. Line voltage systems will also look better if the wires are all hidden inside the wall or on the underside of the cabinet—part of the job for a pro.
- Low voltage lighting is most often installed using backing adhesive or a few mounting screws. The power cord is then plugged into a nearby power outlet, making this style of system simple to install.
- Battery-powered lighting is the easiest to install, using backing adhesive, mounting screws, or even magnetic strips to connect to a surface. These systems are designed to be mounted and removed repeatedly so that their batteries can be changed or recharged.
Our Top Picks
The top-rated products below were chosen for quality, price, and customer satisfaction to help you find the best under-cabinet lighting for your kitchen.
1. BEST OVERALL: Litever Under Cabinet LED Lighting Kit
This lighting system produces 2000 lumens of brightness—more than enough for kitchen tasks—and the light is diffused through a cover so that the brightness is uniform across your countertop. The under-cabinet bar lights can be installed with backing adhesive or affixed with screws. An LED system that is fully dimmable from 0 to 100 percent, it also has an on/off switch for optimal control.
Though it’s a low voltage system at just 12-volts, it offers the flexibility of two different power cables: One runs from the wall outlet, through an AC adapter, and to the lights, and the other can be wired directly into your electrical system and then flow through an AC adapter to produce under-cabinet lighting. Having both options means you can choose between a simple, straightforward installation or wiring directly into your electrical system to hide the cords and operate the light using a household light switch.
2. RUNNER UP: Lightkiwi E7574 Dimmable Under Cabinet Lighting Kit
This under-cabinet LED lighting system of four light bars produces 800 lumens of brightness per bar. The thin, sturdy light bars can be connected directly, or linked through a cord for customizable coverage. They can be installed via peel-and-stick backing adhesive or by using screws.
The Lightkiwi Dimmable Under Cabinet Lighting Kit is a 24-volt, low voltage system that plugs into a power outlet. A dimmer switch allows you to control the brightness output, and a low-energy red light remains lit so that you can find the on/off switch in the dark. The dimmer has a memory function that sets it to the previous brightness level until you decide to change it.
3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: LE LED Under Cabinet Puck Lights Kit
An affordable option for decorative under-cabinet lighting, the LE Under Cabinet Puck Light Kit includes six puck lights, each with an 8-foot cord that connects to a terminal box. This means the lights don’t have to be installed in a series, allowing you optimal customization. The 12-volt, low voltage puck lights mount easily with backing adhesive or screws and plug into your wall outlet through the terminal box.
The LED under-cabinet lighting features a touch-dimming system that lets you set the brightness to five different levels: 0, 25, 50, 75, and 100 percent. The 500-lumen output of each puck is too low for task lighting when installed separately, but if you group two or more together you’ll produce enough lumens to perform food-prep tasks.
4. HARDWIRED PICK: HARRRRD Hardwired LED Under Cabinet Task Lighting
Hardwiring your under-cabinet lighting may be complicated, but the results—free of cords plugging into outlets—lend the clean, neat look so desirable in a kitchen. This 120V, line voltage under-cabinet LED bar light system is ideal for those choosing the hardwired route, as its slim design in five different lengths (12-inch, 18-inch, 21-inch, 24-inch, and 36-inch) blends right into your decor. The light also affords a uniform look, thanks to a glare-free frosted cover that diffuses the 1150 lumens of brightness. The bar light has an on/off switch and is compatible with dimmers, but a dimmer switch is not included.
5. WIRELESS PICK: BS T01L LED Closet Light
If you want under-cabinet lighting that activates when you enter your dark kitchen, or that provides lovely accent lighting to your dishware or appliances, this wireless option is the way to go. You won’t run into installation issues or look at messy cords with the BLS Super Bright Under Cabinet Lighting. It installs in seconds with backing adhesive or mounting screws and operates with three AA batteries.
The under-cabinet lighting is attached at only two points, allowing the light to rotate down for additional lighting angles. This feature also makes it possible to change the batteries without detaching the light. But, if you’re not a fan of batteries, you can use the 37-inch USB cord to power the LED bar light. This system includes automatic motion detection that can be adjusted for sensitivity or turned off altogether. It can also be set to be on, off, on only during the night, or on only during the day. The moderate 1.5-volt system produces only 180 lumens of brightness so it’s purely for aesthetic purposes.
6. LED PICK: Wobane Under Cabinet Flexible LED Strip Lighting
LED lighting is the best option for under-cabinet lighting, and the affordable, versatile Wobane Flexible Under Cabinet Strip Lighting system exemplifies why. The LED strip lighting produces an impressive 1100 lumens of brightness and can be installed in seconds using the strong, adhesive backing. The 12-volt low voltage system plugs directly into your power outlet so there’s no need to hire an electrician to install it nor will you need to change batteries in the future.
The flexible under-cabinet strip light is very thin, so it’s perfect for tucking up on the underside of your cabinets where only the illumination is visible. The strip can also be separated into four equal length strips for more customization options. The sole drawback is that these lights are not dimmable, and only operate via an on/off switch.
7. HIGH-TECH PICK: TORCHSTAR LED Safe Under Cabinet Lighting
The Torchstar Smart Under Cabinet Lighting connects with the smart home ecosystem known as Amazon Alexa for fully customizable brightness control. Use your voice or the app to adjust the brightness in one percent increments from 0 to 100; you can also set a timer to turn lights off on schedule.
The under-cabinet LED bar lighting is easily installed with backing adhesive and can be mounted at a 45-degree angle instead of shining directly down. This 12-volt low voltage lighting system produces 900 lumens of brightness and plugs directly into your power outlet. With this system, you even get motion detection that can be turned off or left on auto to illuminate the room any time you enter.
The Advantages of Under-Cabinet Lighting
Installing under-cabinet lighting can lower energy bills by allowing you to use high-efficiency lights to illuminate one area at a time. This will provide more light for cooking and food prep while reducing the energy output of your lighting system. In addition to illuminating tasks such as food preparation on countertops, under-cabinet lighting can highlight a backsplash pattern that might otherwise be lost in shadow and/or enhance a mood—low brightness during dinner, for example, to create a relaxing atmosphere. Under-cabinet lighting can also enhance the home’s interior value by reducing shadows that make a room look small.
- Under-cabinet lighting is an easy-to-install, affordable way to update your kitchen.
- It can lower your energy consumption and save you money on your bill.
- It enhances the home’s interior value by focusing on unique style points and reducing shadows.
FAQs About Your Under-Cabinet Lighting
Check out the answers to the most common questions about under-cabinet lighting.
Q. How many under-cabinet lights do I need?
The number of under-cabinet lights you need will depend on the lumens per light produced, the type of light fixture, and the size of the room. In general, under-cabinet lighting should produce an average of 1000 to 2500 lumens for all surfaces that will be used for cooking or cutting. Other non-task related areas for under-cabinet lighting don’t have lumen requirements, so you can choose as many or as few lights as you wish.
Q. Where should I place under-cabinet lighting?
When mounting any fixture under a cabinet, position it toward the front. If there is a lens, face it toward the backsplash. The bottom-front rail of the cabinet should hide the fixture from your line of sight, whether standing or seated. If it doesn’t, consider extending the rail with a narrow board or trim piece.
Q. How many lumens do I need for under-cabinet lighting?
The lumens for your under-cabinet lighting depend on where the lighting is being installed. Under-cabinet lighting for task-related areas like counters used for food preparation should have between 1000 to 2500 lumens to ensure that you are being safe while cutting, peeling, chopping, or any other food prep activities. Under-cabinet lighting in the rest of the kitchen can range depending on your personal preferences.