A Guide to Choosing Under Kitchen Cabinet Lights

kitchen with under cabinet lights

One of the most important elements in the kitchen is proper lighting. You can probably make do with any old light in the living room or bedroom, but the lights in the kitchen have to be just right for the way you work. You also have to consider the type of lighting you need to be in line with the look and design you want.

In most cases, people associate kitchen lighting with overhead lights to keep the kitchen bright. The problem with many overhead lights is they often leave key areas in shadow, especially under the cabinets. You should definitely include under cabinet lights for your kitchen to not only make work easier, but also improve the esthetic.

Under cabinet lights add focused illumination where you want it, whether it is to highlight certain features of the kitchen or to help you with tasks. They also banish shadows that might make your kitchen look small and gloomy. Finally, under cabinet lights look fantastic if you put them in the right places.

Below is a guide for choosing the right kind of under cabinet lighting for your kitchen. You might want to consult this when upgrading your kitchen or as a part of your kitchen remodel planning. These can help you combine form and function with choosing lights for not only your kitchen, but also any room where you have cabinets such as the dining or living room.

1. Low versus line voltage

cabinets with low voltage under cabinet lights
Under cabinet lighting comes in two voltage types: line or normal voltage (in the US, this is 120V) and low voltage, which is either 12 or 24 volts. You might think that low voltage is a good idea because low voltage means less energy. However, this is not the case.
Low voltage under cabinet lighting requires a step down transformer to deliver just 12 or 24 volts instead of 120 volts. You still use 120 volts, so there is no real difference in terms of energy use between low and line voltage lights.
That said, low voltage lights do let you use smaller lights, which means you can put in more fixtures in a small space. It also gives off less heat, so that is good news if you want to keep the warmth in the kitchen down a notch.

2. Hardwire versus plug in

cabinets with plug in under cabinet lights
Another factor you have to consider is the type of wiring required for your lights. Some fixtures require hardwiring, which means you need to connect them to existing wiring. In most cases, this requires the services of an electrician. Other fixtures are plug in, which means all you need is an available socket and plug it in.

The plug in type is obviously the easier option since you can do it yourself. You might encounter a problem if there are no power outlets available where you want them, or if you prefer the wires to be out of sight. If you have no such issues, a plug in type might be the better option.
Decide on the wiring type you need before purchasing light fixture. Most are either only hardwire or plug in, so check if you are getting what you need. Some fixtures do give you both options, but you need to check. If you would rather not do any wiring at all, you might want to consider battery-operated lights.

3. Dim versus no dim

dimmed under cabinet lights
It is usually better to get lights you can dim. It does mean investing a little money for dimmers, but you will have more control over the amount of light you get at any given time. Dimmer lights mean savings in energy, which is a good thing if you do not need the kitchen to be very bright.
When you have dimmers, you can adjust the light intensity to the needs of different people. Some people are sensitive to light, so they prefer less glare and intensity for their lights. Dimmers also let you set the mood according to the occasion.

4. Lens or no lens

under cabinet lights with fixture lens
Most light fixtures do not include fixture lenses, so if you want uniform lighting in your kitchen, get those with fixture lenses or add them. Aside from distributing the light evenly, it also reduces the glare and mutes reflections on your polished counters. If you choose xenon or halogen lights, you will be dealing with a lot of glare, so you definitely want fixture lenses.

5. Energy consumption

LED strip under cabinet lights
You obviously want lights that will help you save some money, and one of the easiest ways to do that is to get energy efficient lights. The most energy saving type of under cabinet lighting is light emitting diode or LED lights. You can put in a 5-watt LED light that will give you the equivalent illumination of a 40-watt incandescent bulb, and it gives off almost no heat. LED lights are also dimmable, so that means even more energy savings.

You can also consider high intensity discharge (HID) or xenon lights if you want something brighter than LED, but still energy efficient. It is not as cool or energy efficient as LED, but can give the kitchen a mellow glow. It is also dimmable.
If you want other options that are still energy saving, you can look at fluorescent lights. Fluorescent lights give out about half the illumination of an equivalent LED light, but it uses less energy than incandescent bulbs. It is also much cooler. The only problem is fluorescent bulbs are not dimmable.

6. Heat generation

food on counter under lights
As mentioned above, LED and fluorescent bulbs give off very little heat, xenon lights give off a little heat, and incandescent bulbs give off the most heat. Another option is halogen lights, which gives of the most heat of all.
If you want to heat up food you are preparing without using the cook top, your best option is halogen for under cabinet lighting. However, if you want to save money on your utility bills and no additional heat, LED is what you should get. .


Kitchen lighting is an important consideration, and under cabinet lights have many benefits. Make sure you include them in your kitchen upgrade or remodel.

Of course, you should first have cabinets under which to put the lights, and it pays to get quality ones from a reputable cabinet supplier. Cabinet Land Kitchen and Beyond offers free consultation services and quotes, so you can have the benefit of our expertise without spending a dime.
We are a local remodeling company with a showroom located in Schaumburg, Illinois. We work only with the best cabinet brands at the best prices compared to our competitors such as Advance Cabinets and Handsome Cabinets.

Visit us today to see what we have to offer. We service Chicago land and have the expertise and resources to complete virtually any type of kitchen cabinets – ON TIME and ON BUDGET with top quality craftsmanship that will exceed your expectations.

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