What is under cupboard lighting?
It’s exactly what it says in the title. Under cupboard, lighting is specialist lighting that is designed to fit underneath a kitchen cupboard. It’s the type of lighting used to highlight areas of your kitchen where extra light is needed to carry out detailed jobs such as food preparation and cooking.
There are various types of under cabinet lighting which are available, and they are:
- T5 fluorescent tubes – These are ½ inch in diameter and are a small size which enables them to be easily concealed under the cupboard or cabinet. Their unique design makes them a very popular choice. T8 bulbs can also be used but this depends on the size of the cupboard. Miniature T5 tubes are also commonly used under the cabinets as they use a very low consumption of energy.
- LED strip lights or LED Spotlights – LEDs are the most energy-efficient and longest-lasting option for under cabinet lighting. LED strip light ribbons have a self-adhesive backing so can be fitted under any cupboard, regardless of the fittings that are currently in place.
- GU10 halogen spotlights – This type of spotlight can be fitted in recessed areas underneath the cabinets.
- M11 lamps – They look like the GU10 spotlights, but these are available as low energy LEDs or they can come has halogen lamps.
- G4 and G9 capsule bulbs – These are small 2 pin bulbs which are widely available as either halogen or LED bulbs
- Battery operated LEDs – They are also known as puck lights which offer a quick and wire-free solution for your under the cupboard lighting.
The two most important things to look for with under cabinet lighting are:
- Illuminance level
ILLUMINANCE LEVEL – THE AMOUNT OF LIGHT THAT IS CAST ONTO THE WORKSURFACE
There needs to be enough light shining to complete a task safely, such as food preparation and cooking. The illuminance level of a kitchen counter should ideally be at least 300 lux if, the under the cabinet lighting is combined with the overhead ambient lighting. Otherwise, it would need to be 500 lux. The lumen level of a bulb will always be clearly stated on the light bulb box.
UNIFORMITY – HOW EVEN THE LEVEL OF LIGHT IS
If your light levels are uneven under the cupboard then this can create pools of light and shadowy areas, this can cause glare and make it harder to perform normal tasks.
One of the main reasons for uneven lighting on a kitchen surface is when there are not enough bulbs installed. If you have two recessed lights under the cupboards on a long counter this wouldn’t be enough and could create shadows between the lights.
If you choose fluorescent tube for your lighting then choose bulbs that are of the same length for the entire kitchen, this will help to achieve the highest uniformity level. If possible, choose the longest bulb that is available that will fit under your cabinet. This is because multiple smaller length tubes that are fitted across the cupboard can potentially create pools of light. The exact same principles apply to all LED tubes, both types of bulbs should be mounted at the front edge of the cabinet and angled towards the splashback to avoid glare. If you are unsure about what you require and would like assistance with your custom lighting systems, then please contact us.
Other factors to consider when fitting under cabinet lighting
TYPE OF COUNTERTOP
If you’re having under the cupboard lighting then you should take into consideration your countertop, glossy countertops can create to much glare and reflect a lot more than matt finish countertops. If you do have a glossy countertop in your kitchen, glare can be minimised by fitting a lens cover over the bulbs as this will help to disperse the light.
For dark countertops (mainly matt finish surfaces), you should fit bulbs with a higher lumen level to compensate for the dark surface. East Kent Electrical can assist with your lighting systems should you require it.
RECESSED VS SURFACE MOUNTED LIGHTING
Whether you choose to have recessed or surface mounted it will all depend on the type of cabinets that you have in your kitchen. Cabinets with a trim or a lip on the bottom can accommodate the surface-mounted lighting without it being seen. Cabinets that don’t have a trim will benefit from recessed lighting so that the bare bulbs are hidden and can’t be seen.
Miniature T5 fluorescent tubes and LED strip light ribbons are so small that they won’t be able to be seen, even on a cabinet that doesn’t have a trim. These types of lighting a very popular in modern kitchens.
WIRING FOR UNDER CABINET LIGHTING
There are three options to power this type of lighting:
Hardwired lighting is best done during a kitchen remodel as it requires the wiring to be fitted behind the plaster and finishes so there is no exposed wiring. The lights will be powered by the mains electricity and controlled by a wall switch. In most cases, a dimmer switch can be fitted. They will require an electrician to install them. Hardwired under cabinet lighting is the most difficult to install but offers the most seamless finish.
Plug-in lights are also powered by mains electricity, but they are simply plugged into a wall socket so will have exposed wiring. Plug-in lights don’t have the capacity to be dimmed.
Battery operated lights require no wiring or installation as they run off a battery rather than the mains supply. Battery-powered lights are usually puck LEDs with an adhesive backing, so you won’t have a lot of options for the type of light you choose if you opt for battery-powered.
DIMMABLE UNDER CABINET LIGHTS
In general, under cabinet fluorescent lights are not dimmable, it all depends on the ballast that is fitted. A dimmable ballast would require to be fitted to control the dimming, but usually, the smaller and more common T5 tubes don’t have dimmable ballasts available. Fitting dimmable bulbs enables you to alter the light levels in the kitchen and create a nice appropriate atmosphere for any event you may have. For the light bulbs to be dimmed, you would need to purchase dimmable bulbs which will clearly be marked on the box. They must also be fitted to a compatible dimmer switch and ballast.
Frequently asked questions on under cabinet lighting
HOW MUCH UNDER CABINET LIGHTING DO I NEED?
This would all depend on the size of your cupboards and countertop. You should choose the longest bulb available that would fit as this would help to avoid gaps in lighting once installed.
ARE LED UNDER CABINET LIGHTS DIMMABLE?
Yes, provided that the LED bulbs you choose are dimmable and you install a compatible dimmer switch. Plug-in and battery-powered LEDs cannot be dimmed.
WHAT IS THE COST OF UNDER CABINET LIGHTING?
This will depend on the type of lighting you choose and how many lights and fixtures you need. As a rough guide, it costs around £30 for the bulb, fixture and installation. However, the type of bulb you choose will have an impact on the price, for example, a miniature fluorescent T5 tube can cost as little as 90p, a strip light can cost around £1.70 and an LED GU10 bulb (used for under cabinet recessed lighting) can cost around £3.50 per bulb. We would highly recommend that you contact a professional electrician to carry out any lighting installations that you require. This will also help to reduce any fire risks of them not being installed correctly.
IS UNDER CUPBOARD LIGHTING WITH MOTION SENSOR AVAILABLE?
Yes, the easiest option for this type of lighting is battery operated LEDs with a built-in motion sensor.
IS WIRELESS UNDER CABINET LIGHTING AVAILABLE?
Battery-powered LED puck lights are the best option for wireless under cabinet lighting as they usually come with an adhesive backing so can be attached directly to the underside of your cupboard with no wiring needed.
For a long-term solution and better light quality, installing hardwired lighting that is operated by a dedicated wall switch creates a seamless and professional finish with no visible wiring.