Under-cabinet lighting is an important element in any kitchen lighting design. Properly illuminating the countertops and work areas makes the kitchen safer and more functional. Under-cabinet lights also provide ambient lighting that makes the kitchen more attractive. There are several options for under-cabinet lighting to consider.

Types of Under-Cabinet Kitchen Lighting

There are a few main types of under-cabinet lighting to choose from:

LED Strip Lighting

LED strip lighting has become a popular choice for under-cabinet lighting. LED strips come in rolls that can be cut to fit the size of your cabinet. They are very thin, usually around 1/4 inch thick. LED strips emit a bright, even light. They are also very energy efficient.

Some benefits of LED strip lighting include:

  • Energy efficient – Uses up to 90% less energy than incandescent lighting.
  • Long lasting – LEDs can last up to 50,000 hours.
  • Bright illumination – LEDs provide bright, even lighting.
  • Adaptable – LED strip lights can be cut to fit any size cabinet.
  • Cool temperature – LEDs do not generate much heat.

LED strip lights are affordable, sleek, and provide great task lighting. They are easy to install with adhesive backing. Just peel and stick right under the cabinet.

Fluorescent Lighting

Fluorescent under-cabinet lighting has been a kitchen lighting staple for years. Fluorescent lights use about 75% less energy than incandescent. They also last much longer, around 10,000 hours on average.

Fluorescent under-cabinet lighting comes in linear tubes in a range of sizes such as 18 inches, 24 inches, 36 inches, etc. The tubes run horizontally to distribute light evenly underneath the cabinets.

Some benefits of fluorescent under-cabinet lighting:

  • Cost effective lighting option
  • Energy efficient
  • Long life span
  • Available in range of sizes
  • Provides bright, evenly distributed light

Fluorescent lights do contain mercury, so proper recycling is important. LED options are becoming more popular as an energy efficient alternative.

Xenon Lighting

Xenon lighting is another option for under-cabinet kitchen lighting. Xenon bulbs produce a bright white light similiar to natural daylight.

Xenon lights contain xenon gas which creates bright arc of light when electrified. Xenon bulbs are encased in a small glass chamber.

Benefits of xenon under-cabinet lighting:

  • Mimics natural daylight
  • Bright illumination
  • Compact design
  • Instant on/off – no warm up time
  • Long 25,000 hour lifespan

Xenon lighting can be more expensive than LED or fluorescent options. The initial cost is higher, but xenon bulbs have an exceptionally long life that makes up for the cost over time.

Halogen Lighting

Halogen lights are another choice for under-cabinet lighting. Halogen lighting produces a bright, white light from a tungsten filament sealed inside a compact quartz bulb filled with halogen gas.

Some benefits of halogen under-cabinet lighting:

  • Bright, sparkling light
  • Compact size – great for tight spaces
  • Instant on/off
    -Dimmable – many models allow light levels to be adjusted

Downsides of halogen lighting include high energy use and short lifespan – halogen bulbs typically last around 2,000 hours. Still, the bright crisp light makes halogen a good option for focal task lighting under cabinets.

Choosing Under-Cabinet Lights

There are a few main factors to consider when selecting under-cabinet lighting:

  • Brightness – Select lights that will provide sufficient illumination for countertops and tasks. LEDs, fluorescents and xenon lights all produce bright lighting.
  • Light Color – The color or temperature of light affects the ambiance. Cool white light is optimal for task lighting while warm white light is more relaxing.
  • Size – Consider the size of your cabinets to determine the best size and shape light. Thin LED strips work for all size cabinets.
  • Energy Efficiency – Choose energy efficient lighting to save on electricity costs. LED and fluorescent lights use far less energy than incandescent.
  • Style – Select under-cabinet lighting fixtures that match your kitchen’s decor – sleek, modern, transitional, etc.
  • Dimmable – Dimmable options allow you to adjust the light levels. This creates a more customizable lighting experience.
  • Budget – Xenon and halogen options often cost more than LED or fluorescent. Focus on energy efficiency to save costs long-term.

Take measurements of your under-cabinet space and look at lighting options to decide what will work best for your kitchen.

Where to Install Under-Cabinet Lighting

Strategically place under-cabinet lighting to illuminate the most important kitchen work zones:

Counter Work Surfaces

Install under-cabinet lighting along counters and work surfaces where food prep takes place, such as:

  • Kitchen island
  • Prep sinks
  • Chopping stations
  • Section of counter for appliance use like mixers, blender, food processor, etc.

Position the light close to the front edge of the cabinet so it shines directly on the work zone, not back towards the wall. This provides best illumination precisely where needed.

Sink Area

Include under-cabinet lighting around the kitchen sink area. This makes washing dishes and cleaning up easier. Place the lights on either side of the sink underneath wall cabinets or on the underside of base sink cabinets.


Having lights under the cabinets above the range or cooktop provides light right where you need it when cooking. The proximity illuminates pots and pans while reducing shadows over the cooking surface.

Appliance Garages

For cabinets with appliance garages to store small appliances, install under-cabinet lights inside the garage. Turn them on when using the appliance so you can actually see to operate it.

Blind Corner Cabinets

For hard to reach blind corner cabinets, add under-cabinet lighting so you can actually see what’s inside.

Under-Cabinet Lighting Ideas

Here are some under-cabinet lighting ideas and best practices:

  • For a row of cabinets, install lights evenly spaced along the full length for uniform lighting.
  • Use dimmable lights so you can adjust the brightness as needed.
  • Combine different lighting types like LED strips for task lighting plus puck lights for accenting specific zones.
  • Use daylight white light bulbs to mimic natural light and reduce eye strain.
  • Position lights as close to the front cabinet edge as possible to directly illuminate the counter, not the wall.
  • Install a separate switch just for under-cabinet lighting.
  • Use motion sensor lights in some areas for convenience.
  • Connect under-cabinet lights to smart home systems for voice or app control.
  • Use commercial grade fixtures for extra durability in busy kitchens.
  • Make sure to install all lights in accordance with local electrical codes for safety.

Pros and Cons of Under-Cabinet Lighting

Under-cabinet lighting offers many benefits along with some downsides to consider:


  • Task oriented lighting right where needed most
  • Ambient lighting makes kitchen more attractive
  • Energy efficient options like LED and fluorescent
  • Long lifespan with LED and fluorescent bulbs
  • Easy installation with adhesive LED strip lights
  • Dimmable options to control brightness
  • Can be used along with other kitchen lighting
  • Improves visibility for food prep and cleaning


  • Under-cabinet fixtures can collect dirt and require cleaning
  • Some options like halogen and xenon cost more
  • Improper installation can be unsafe
  • Too much lighting under cabinets can cause glare
  • Won’t sufficiently light full kitchen alone

The pros of under-cabinet lighting tend to far outweigh the cons for most kitchens. Installed thoughtfully, they make kitchen tasks safer and easier.

How to Install Under-Cabinet Lights

Installing under-cabinet lighting is a project many DIYers can handle. Here is an overview of how to install under-cabinet lights:

Step 1: Choose Fixtures

Select the proper lighting fixtures for your cabinets – LED strips and pucks, fluorescent bars, or other fixtures. Choose the right size, brightness, and color temperature.

Step 2: Map Layout

Map out the placement of the lights under the cabinets. Mark where each fixture will go with tape or pencil.

Step 3: Turn Off Power

Turn off power at the circuit breaker before wiring the new under-cabinet lights.

Step 4: Install Mounting Brackets

Screw on any necessary mounting brackets evenly spaced underneath the cabinets.

Step 5: Connect Wires

Follow wiring diagrams to connect fixture wires to supply wires. Use wire nuts to join neutral, ground, and hot wires.

Step 6: Mount Lights

Attach fixtures to mounting brackets or directly to cabinet base. LED strip lights stick right on with adhesive backing.

Step 7: Test Lights

Turn circuit breaker back on. Test that all lights work properly before finishing the installation.

Step 8: Conceal Wires

Tuck any exposed wires into wire channels or covers to conceal them cleanly.

Step 9: Admire Your Work

Turn on the under-cabinet lights and enjoy your beautiful, functional new kitchen lighting!

If unfamiliar with electrical work, it may be wise to hire a qualified electrician to install under-cabinet lighting properly and safely.

Under-Cabinet Lighting Safety Tips

Practice these safety tips when installing and using under-cabinet lighting:

  • Hire a professional electrician if you lack electrical expertise.
  • Turn off power at the circuit breaker prior to installation.
  • Use only lighting fixtures designed for under-cabinet use.
  • Do not overload extension cords with lighting.
  • Route and conceal wires carefully to prevent tripping hazard.
  • Follow all local building codes and electrical regulations.
  • Check that fixtures are UL rated indicating they meet safety standards.
  • Never leave halogen lights on unattended – they can pose fire risk.
  • Check that lights are not overheating during use.
  • LED and fluorescent lights stay cool to the touch for safety.
  • Keep lights away from any flammable materials.
  • Use gloves and eye protection when installing.
  • Use lights with proper wattage and voltage ratings.

Following basic precautions makes under-cabinet installation safe. Always focus on safety with any electrical project.

Under-Cabinet Lighting Maintenance

Under-cabinet lights will last longer with simple maintenance:

  • Clean fixtures regularly with soft cloth to remove dirt and grime.
  • Check that lights are secure. Re-tighten any loose fixtures.
  • For LED strip lights, re-apply adhesive backing as needed.
  • Watch for any wires that become loose or frayed over time.
  • Check that strip lights are evenly lit – replace any burnt out diodes.
  • Replace any cracked or damaged light covers.
  • Turn off halogen lights when not in use to extend bulb lifespan.
  • Replace halogen and xenon bulbs once they burn out.
  • LEDs and fluorescents have exceptionally long lifespans lasting years. Still check periodically that they are illuminated evenly.

With basic cleaning and checks, under-cabinet lights should provide many years of trouble free performance.

Frequently Asked Questions About Under-Cabinet Lighting

Many homeowners have questions about installing and using under-cabinet lighting. Here are some frequently asked questions:

How much under-cabinet lighting do I need?

This depends on your kitchen size and layout. For full illumination, plan one light fixture per 2-3 feet of cabinet space. Strategically place more fixtures over key workstations.

Which is better for under-cabinet lighting – LED or fluorescent?

Both LED and fluorescent lights work well. LED lights are more energy efficient and longer lasting. Fluorescent options cost a bit less.

Can I install under-cabinet lighting myself?

With basic electrical skills, you can install under-cabinet lighting safely. Be sure to turn off the power first. Hire an electrician if you are not comfortable doing it.

How do I prevent under-cabinet lights from shining in people’s eyes?

Position the fixtures close to the front edge of the cabinet instead of pushing them back. Use light diffusers. Don’t use lights that are overly bright.

Should under-cabinet lights be visible or hidden?

It depends on your preference. Some homeowners conceal them for a seamless look. Others use clear fixtures or diffusion material to permit visibility.

Can I control under-cabinet lights with smart home tech?

Many under-cabinet lighting fixtures can be integrated into home automation systems these days. You can control them via smartphone, voice assistant, smart hub, etc.

How do I clean under-cabinet lighting?

Use a microfiber cloth to gently wipe down the fixtures as needed to remove dust and dirt buildup. Take care not to apply excess pressure.


Installing under-cabinet lighting is one of the best upgrades you can make to any kitchen. The right under-cabinet lighting makes cooking safer, easier, and more enjoyable while also adding style and atmosphere. Take the time to choose fixtures that match your kitchen’s size, style, and needs. Strategically place the lighting to illuminate the areas that need it most. With premium under-cabinet lighting that fits your space properly, you will appreciate the brighter, more functional kitchen it provides for years to come.