New Home Project: Under Cabinet Lighting

DIY - ELECTRICALRecently, my family and I moved into a new home. We had lived in our previous home for more than seven years (loving every minute in our old house). But we were starting to get just a little cramped as our family had grown from just the two of us to now the four of us.  While packing and moving is no fun at all, I was looking forward to the new house because I had some big plans for our lighting. I mean, hey, I do work for a lighting company.

Over the next couple of blog posts, I am going to share the lighting projects that I have tackled in our new home (including pics). Some projects I did and others I had professional electricians perform. My first new home project was adding under cabinet lights. I had under cabinet lighting installed in our previous home and there was just no way I was not going to have my under cabinet lighting. I literally cannot live without them. We have a favorite saying in our household when we talk about something we want or like.  We say, “It’s a quality of life issue.” Well, under cabinet lighting is a “quality of life issue for me.”

Like our previous home, we built our new house. Thus, we were able to ensure that all of the necessary wiring for future lighting was installed during the building process. Clearly, this is one of the great benefits of building one’s own home. However, I am always amazed at what electricians can do even after a house is built.  So, if you are reading this post and saying, “Oh well, our house is already built,” don’t let that stop you from adding great under cabinet lighting to your kitchen, or tackling any other home lighting project. Just call a good electrician; no doubt they can help you out.

When I was thinking about just what kind of under cabinet lights to install I had one major requirement – dimmability. Being able to dim my lighting is another one of those “quality of life issues.” First, I want the flexibility that dimmers provide to vary the amount of light based upon the mood I may want for the room or to match the task being performed. Secondly, dimming the lights conserves energy and saves me money.

Since dimming was important to me, I was not going to use fluorescent under cabinet lighting. However, fluorescent is not a bad under cabinet lighting choice. It just wasn’t for me. Fluorescent under cabinet lights are very energy efficient fixtures in providing a given amount of light and very cool to the touch. Being cool is a great benefit. Depending upon what is stored in the cabinets and what the cabinets are made of, having the fixture run cool may be a very important feature. Finally, today’s fluorescent technology is not the technology of yesterday. Today’s fluorescent under cabinet lights turn on immediately with no flickering.

Xenon Thin Line Voltage Under Cabinet Task Light
Xenon Line Voltage Thin Under Cabinet Task Light

I decided to use our Xenon Line Voltage Thin Under Cabinet Task Lights in a brushed nickel finish.  I am a huge fan of xenon under cabinet lighting.  While the xenon fixtures still get hot under the cabinet, they do not get nearly as hot as halogen.  Plus, when I heard that we were going to start selling these thin, low profile under cabinet fixtures I was immediately “sold.”  I cannot say enough good things about these new fixtures.  They provide a fantastic, warm light, they are dimmable, replacing the xenon bulbs are super easy because the glass diffuser door has a magnetic closure, and you can easily link the fixtures together.  Plus, they are really low profile. You really need to bend down and look under the cabinet to see the fixture.  I really love these fixtures.

Prior to ordering my new under cabinet fixtures I measured the cavity dimensions underneath my cabinets. My cavity dimensions meant that I needed to install only one fixture under each cabinet, but your cavity dimensions might require you to link two or more fixtures together, which is very easy since these lights are linkable. In fact, I have a friend who has installed these fixtures in his kitchen.  Underneath his large cabinets he has linked two of these fixtures together to maximize the amount and continuity of his task lighting.

Once I received the under cabinet lights I handed them off to our electrician and before I knew it they were installed and looking great! The only remaining step was installing a dimmer to control my new lights. Before purchasing my dimmer I needed to figure out how much wattage the dimmer needed to control. My new under cabinet lights use a total of 520 watts of electricity. So, I was considering choosing a 600-watt dimmer. However, since my dimmer switch was going to be installed in a double gang wall box right next to an electrical outlet, I needed to “de-rate” the dimmer. A dimmer’s wattage rating is given for a single gang wall box. When you install a dimmer in a multiple gang wall box you must remove heat fins and this reduces the wattage rating of the dimmer switch.

Maestro Dimmer
Maestro Dimmer

So, I chose a Maestro 1000-watt line voltage dimmer from Lutron. I really like the look of the Maestro dimmers and the clean look of the Claro faceplates that are used in conjunction with the Maestro dimmer. This also meant I needed to replace the standard electrical outlet with an electrical outlet from Lutron that can be used with the Claro faceplate.  Installing the dimmer switch and the new electrical outlet took me only 15 minutes. The hardest part of the install was figuring out what breaker to turn off at my electrical box.

Below are pictures of my new under cabinet lighting, dimmer, and electrical outlet.  My next new home project blog post will be about my new pantry lighting using our Microfluorescent T4 fixtures around an interior doorframe.

BEFORE / AFTER Under Cabinet Lighting

Kitchen Kitchen with Under Cabinet Lighting
Kitchen Backsplash Kitchen Backsplash with Under Cabinet Lighting

Xenon Line Voltage Under Cabinet Task Light Installed

Xenon Thin Line Voltage Under Cabinet Task Light Xenon Thin Line Voltage Under Cabinet Task Light

Switch & Outlet BEFORE / AFTER

Toggle Switch with Standard Electrical Outlet Maestro Dimmer with Upgraded Electrical Outlet

Chris Johnson

I am the President & CEO of Pegasus Lighting. Beyond my day job, my professional interests include small business, technology, web design and development, operations, marketing, and social media. My personal interests include spending time with my two children and wonderful wife, reading presidential history and business books, and striving for my work | life balance.

32 thoughts to “New Home Project: Under Cabinet Lighting”

  1. Since the fixture you used has a hi/low switch, would that have been sufficient or do you really need a dimmer switch?

    Also, can the connector on the side of the light be removed (if you are not going to connect two lights) to reduce the total width of the light? For example, I ordered a 10″ light, but the full width with the connector is 10-1/4″.


  2. I chose a dimmer switch because it controls all of my fixtures (the hi/low switch only controls each fixture individually) and the dimmer allows complete control over my light output (the hi/low switch has one dimming option). This is a purely a personal choice. You definitely do not need a dimmer.

    I do not think that you can remove the connector on the side of the light. We will check into that for you. If you can, then I will post a comment on this blog post.

  3. Was there any particular reason you had the lights mounted to the rear of the cabinet or simply because that’s where you prefered the light? Just curious, as I am currently trying to decide which lights to go with and where to mount.

  4. The under cabinet lights were installed at the rear of the cabinets because I have recessed cans installed directly over my counter top. Thus, I did not need to have my under cabinet lights installed at the front since I already had very good lighting from the cans. I needed the task light under my cabinets near the back.

  5. I’m in the midst of what was supposed to be a little kitchen facelift that has mushroomed uncontrollably… And now we’re stalled on the undercabinet lighting, totally confused because we hear and read conflicting things from different sources. I’m pretty sure we want xenon for warm white light and less heat than halogen (no fluorescent or LED for me), but why did you choose line voltage over low voltage? Like you, all of my wiring is in place and I just need to decide what type of lights and order them already. I also want to be able to control all of the undercabinet lights in my kitchen with one dimmer light switch instead of running around flicking switches on each unit. I’ve seen a system at a local lighting store that is low voltage xenon with little lightbulbs spaced every 6″ along a wire, and you can cut the wire to the size you need and add more or take away some bulbs in the future. I like the idea that each countertop would be bathed in evenly distributed light from one end to the other, but my husband wants to do line voltage because he says the transformers are nothing but trouble and they get too hot and blow out, pain in the butt, etc. But all of the line voltage undercabinet lights I’ve seen just come in standard lengths and on some cabinets I get lucky and it’s close, but on others I’d have a strip of light with dark spots on the sides. Do you guys sell the custom size low voltage xenon lights, if so, what are the pros and cons, and if not, why not? Thanks for posting your before and after photos, by the way — I went through six kitchen and bath magazines today and although they credit a garbage disposal that you can’t even see in the picture, not a single one of them tells you what type of undercabinet lighting was used in any of the kitchens!

  6. Thanks for the comments and question Rebecca. I can understand how a little remodel can mushroom. I chose line voltage under cabinet lighting because the sizes of each fixture worked very well in my kitchen. I also like having evenly distributed light and the line voltage sizes were perfect for my situation. Thus, since line voltage worked for me I did not really consider the low voltage options. To be honest, I also did not want to deal with the transformers if I did not have to. However, that does not mean that I would not have done low voltage if I felt like I needed a different solution.

    The low voltage xenon lights that you are talking about sound like our Xenon Low Voltage Light Strip. So, yes, we offer the custom-sized low voltage xenon lights. Our light strip have 3 or 4 light bulbs per 12 inches of strip. The most popular use of this product for under cabinet lighting would be to use the Xenon Festoon Lamps. However, you could also use MR11 halogen light bulbs with this system. The xenon light strip would require either a magnetic or electronic transformer installed close to your installation and the system can be controlled by one dimmer switch.

    To be honest, I think the pros and cons are unique to each person and each person’s situation. For your situation, based upon your comments, I guess I would say that the pros are that you will be able to “bathe” your countertop in evenly distributed light like you want; you can control it by one dimmer switch; you can get the exact amount of lighting you want; you can get a very custom lighting solution.

    The cons…well again these are really unique to your wants, but I guess the fact that there is a transformer. However, I would not let the transformer stop you from getting the lighting solution you want in the end. I think it is better to be happy with your overall installation, then to choose lighting that you may not 100% like in the end.

    Finally, I will shoot you an email to provide you with my contact information if you would like any other assistance. Good luck and thanks for visiting our site!

  7. Rebecca,
    I couldn’t help but respond to your post. We remodled our Kitchen about 5 years ago and installed the Xenon Low Voltage Festoon lights under our cabinets. ABSOLUTELY the best decision we made. Along with the dimmer switch the lighting is excellent. Oh and by the way the transformer has never failed……. Good Luck in whatever you choose

  8. Jack:
    What wattage? Frosted or Clear? We have a black granite counter top and I don’t like seeing the bulb reflection. Thanks.

  9. About a year ago I installed Hampton Bay model 7200 LED puck lights under my cabinets. There is 3 pucks in a set and I installed a set under 2 cabinets. These lights are on only a couple of hours a day. One month ago one of the pucks started flickering and went out. Since then, 2 pucks on each side have gone out. I contacted Hampton Bay and they have discontinued this model. Hampton Bay is owned by Home Depot. Home Depot was kind enough to replace the model 7200 with another model. However this model is 12v low voltage. The wires are about 6 or 7 foot long.

    My question is: Can you safely cut and shorten the 12v wires? What is the best and safest way to splice the wires?

  10. Yes, the 12V wires can be cut and spliced. I suggest that you first cut the 12V wire in a convenient location that will not be that visible under most circumstances – maybe tucked away in a corner. Then remove about 0.50in of insulation from each of the two cut ends. Then wind them around each other VERY tightly and cap them off with a small wire nut and then wrap electrical tape around the wire nut and a small portion of the two wires. Since these are 12V wires carrying very little current to LED light fixtures this should be fine. If these were 12V wires carrying 25 amps of current to a high wattage low voltage lighting system, this would not be a good solution.

  11. Great forum everyone! I am in the process of remodeling and want to hardwire in the Xenons as well. A couple of questions! I am in Canada (not sure where you guys call home) but while reading your questions/replies I noticed a few things! Can I use 12/2 wire instead of the 14/2. Pretty well everything in the house is run off 12/2 and the power source for these comes from the same wire into a junction box. I also have two dimmers in the same box for two separate lighting projects. You mention that I have to remove the ‘fins’? What exactly do you mean? I’m an avid DIY guy and all this helps! Anything you can suggest would be much appreciated!
    Thanks in advance!

  12. Ed – I am glad that you found this post and related comments helpful. First, this under cabinet install is mine and I am in the US. We reached out to our supplier and our supplier tells us that YES you can use 12/2 wiring in these fixtures. However, there are orange stab connectors inside the fixtures and these may need to be cut off and wire nuts added and used instead. This is because the 12/2 wire is larger than the 14/2 wire and the orange stab connectors may be too small for your gauge wire.

    Second, the “fins” I referred to in my post were on the dimmer. The Maestro dimmer I used has two fins on each side of the dimmer for heat management. If you are installing this dimmer in a single gang wall box then there is no need to remove the fins. However, if you are installing the dimmer in a two gang wall box, like I did, you will need to remove the fins on whatever side of the dimmer that is next to the other switch inside the wall box with the dimmer. In my case, I had an electrical outlet on the right-hand side of the wall box (see pic above). Thus, I removed the fins on the right-hand side of the dimmer. Removing the fins de-rates the max wattage of the dimmer since you are negatively impacting the heat management of the dimmer itself. This is why I stepped up to a 1000-watt dimmer for my installation. Make sure you add up your wattage and if you are removing fins think about increasing the maximum wattage if necessary.

  13. Great info Chris. I’ve already calculated the wattage and I’m within the 80% (or the suggested maximum wattage) for a 15 amp breaker. I will have a look at the dimmers and re-read the specs on the packaging. I’m in the middle of a major kitchen reno so I’m sure I will have more questions. Thanks again, I’ll be back!

  14. Ok Chris, I checked the dimmers and they are Leviton Decora brand that are basically a sealed box-type unit so I didn’t see any ‘fins’ to remove. One of the dimmers in the double gang box is controlling one ceiling fixture with 3 incandescent 60w bulbs. The other will control one 60w incandescent and six 50w PAR 20 pot/can lights. With 3 or more ‘devices’ (I assume they mean individual lights) the specs allow up to 400w per dimmer so I am within range.

    I also installed the first of my Xenon lamps (each one has 2 25w bulbs, one at each end of the fixture). The power source is from a junction box in the ceiling below that has only one 50W PAR 20 bulb and one switch running to/from it. The Xenon works fine but seemed to get a little hotter than I expected on the higher setting. It is hardwired and can be controlled from a switch, not a dimmer … yet! I want to continue to wire each of the fixtures together using the 12/2 Romex but since two of the four are on the other side of the kitchen, I will have to run a 10 foot connection, under the floor, up into the other wall to connect them. Ambitious but doable. My question is, do I simply connect the Romex to the other END of the Xenon fixture and continue onto the next one until all four are connected to the one wall switch OR do I make the Romex connection at the same end as the initial / existing connection. I hope the wording doesn’t make this sound more complicated than it is, I just need to know what wires to use in the fixture to connect all the lights together! Ok, I’ll stop there for now and see what you think! Thanks so much for the help.

  15. Ed – From your fixture description I am not familiar with the xenon lights that you are installing. My previous comment about your 12/2 wire was specific to the xenon under cabinet lights that we sell and the ones that I installed in my own home. Did you purchase your lights from us? If so, which ones? I might be able to get some assistance from our supplier. Otherwise, I would recommend that you speak with a licensed electrician in your area.

  16. Chris, the lights are from Home Depot, I will get the Model / Name later and hopefully you might be able to go from there. I will take your advice and consult an electrician friend. Thanks.

  17. Update! The lights are Illume brand, Xenon Linear System Line Voltage Models 3011 and 3019. They can only be connected using the proper connection cables which snap into either end as necessary to combine the lights in a series. It is a great system in that only the 1st light in the series needs to be hardwired and the rest literally ‘snap’ together. The only problem is that the longest extension cable available is 36 inches! In my case I want to connect the lights on opposite sides of the kitchen so I will need about 8 of these extension cables. I don’t know if I am comfortable running them inside the drywall in the event there is a problem and I have to access them where they connect. I’ve though about running them down through some PVC pipe or similar housing where they could be easily pulled up but that is a bit of extra work. In the meantime, can you recommend a Xenon system that can be hardwired fixture to fixture and controlled / dimmed from a wall switch! Look forward to your reply Chris.

  18. Ed – I would recommend the Xenon Line Voltage Thin Under Cabinet Task Lights that I installed in my kitchen (the topic of my blog post) and that we sell on our website. In fact, these our our most popular product we sell! They can be hardwired together using either your 12/2 wire (as I explained in my previous comments) OR connecting cables, and of course, can be controlled by one switch/dimmer. However, our connecting cables are also a maximum of 36 inches so you would still have the same problem you are having with your Home Depot lights.

  19. Yes, I have spoken to the Canadian distributor for these lights and that would be the biggest issue. I don’t feel comfortable enough running these connector cables behind drywall and in fact the distributor doesn’t recommend it either. They are very user friendly in the right application, just not for me. I have found a local cabinet maker who stocks lighting for his own use (ie. customers whom he designs kitchens for) and he is willing to sell me what I need. They can be connected with 12/2 Romex and have knockouts at each end and 3 along the back! A little more pricey than the Home Depot lights but worth it in safety and convenience. Hence my Saturday! Thanks for all the help Chris, us DIY guys need the help sometimes!

  20. The Xenon Line Voltage Thin Under Cabinet Task Lights specification page has very good information about sizing the fixture however I’m wondering if it is better to stay with the longest sized fixture that will fit under a cabinet or is it better to combine two shorter ones to get more even coverage under the entire cabinet?

    For instance, I have cabinets where the underside cavity measures 31 1/2 inches. Should I use a 22″ fixture (P043X-3) or should I combine two 14″ fixtures (P043X-2)?

    Secondly, when I combine 2 fixtures is the combined length exactly the sum of their lengths or is there some additional length for the connector between the two? For instance, can I combine and fit two 14″ fixtures (P043X-2) in a 28 1/2″ cavity?

    Thanks for an informative article and responses.

  21. Nitin – You can combine 2 fixtures directly, or end-to-end, in your cabinet cavity. Below is the text from our product description about this linking method…

    1) End-to-End – They can be connected end-to-end directly to each other using the plastic male and female connectors (which cannot be removed) that are included at the two ends of each task light. This method allows 2 xenon task lights to be touching each other at the point of connection.

    Read more:

    Also, check out the Specs & Measurements tab on the product page. Their is a diagram of 3 fixtures directly connected in a cavity.

    In your example, choosing two 14-inch fixtures or one 22-inch fixture is possible. Which one should you choose? Depends on your personal preference and your lighting goals. Either way, I think you will like the finished result. Good luck!

  22. Chris, appreciate the quick response. I did see the diagram you are referring to and I also see from the specification and measurements page that a 14″ fixture is really a 14 1/2″ long because of the male connector. I assume that since the two fixtures touch each other and presumably there is no gap between them, joining two fixtures will result in a length that is the sum of the individual fixtures + 1/2″? So joining two 14″ fixtures will give me one which is 28 1/2″ in length? Thanks.

  23. I am working on a total kitchen remodel (sheetrock removed) and would like to control 4 sections of LED lights with a single dimmable driver. Unfortunately, the areas cannot be connected without going thru a wall, ceiling or floor. Is there a 20 guage low voltage wire that can be run thru the walls to make the connection? or, can we run 14 guage wires from the driver to a to each section of LED lights? I would place those connections in an electrical junction box.

  24. Dale,

    I would strongly suggest consulting an electrician for a few reasons.

    First, to determine exactly what type of wire you should be using based on the load it will be carrying. You will need to use a thick wire from the driver to the lights because it will be conducting much more electricity than line voltage since it will be running at a lower voltage. The exact gauge depends on the amps the system will carry.

    Second, to make sure you are complying with local electrical codes.

  25. Great article Chris. I’m in the process of remodeling a kitchen which will have black granite counter tops. Because of the overhead soffitt design I doubt that I’ll be able to install overhead task lighting so I’m depending on under cabinet lighting to provide lighting for counter work. I read somewhere that flourescent light was the best to use with granite because it has less of a “mirror” effect. But I like the dimming capability of xenon. My question is will the xenon bulb mirror off the granite surface or does the diffuser put it on par with the fluorescent?

  26. Jim:

    To be honest with any kind of granite you are going to have reflections regardless of light source. Granite is a very reflective surface. Since fluorescent is not as directional in nature as xenon I can see how people would think fluorescent would reflect less on granite…and it just might. However, this is a very complicated question and there is no real single answer. Both light sources will reflect. Plus, a diffuser on a xenon fixture will help with the reflection however it will definitely still reflect. My xenon fixtures reflect on my granite.

    I will give you my personal opinion based on my tastes and what our company usually suggests…I think it is better to go with a light source that is dimmable so that you can control your light level. With fluorescent you are always going to have a high level of light. I hope my “round about” answer helps your project.

  27. Thanks Chris.
    I definitely want the ability to dim the undercounter lights so xenon seems to be the right choice.

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