5 Killer Tips from “ASSIST Recommends” on Under Cabinet Lighting

I recently came across a great resource from the Lighting Research Center (a university-based center for studying lighting technologies). It’s designed for homeowners, contractors, and builders exploring best practices for residential under cabinet lighting.

In other words, it’s a completely objective source to determine what kind of under cabinet light fixtures are right for you or your clients. Perfect!

The research is published in two PDF’s – A Homeowner’s Guide to Residential Under Cabinet Lighting and How To Select Residential LED Under-Cabinet Lighting – so read the complete guides if you can. However, if you’re pressed for time, start with these 5 killer tips I gleaned from the research.

Match the Color Temperature With Your Kitchen:

Do you envision a yellowish, neutral white, or cool white (with hints of blue) light for your under cabinet lighting? It’s a matter of personal preference. If you’re a fan of yellowish light, we usually recommend you aim for a color temperature below 3200K. The 2700-2800K range will be closest to the warm glow of an incandescent lamp. Neutral white light is around 3200-3500K and it becomes cool white at about 4100K.

ASSIST recommends had an interesting suggestion about matching your under cabinet lights with the vibe of your kitchen using color temperature. Wood tones, warm colored tiles, copper toned backsplashes, and/or warm-toned walls, they said, would look best with a warmer color temperature (between 2700K and 3500K). However, kitchens with glass shelves, decorative glass tiles, cool-toned tiles, and/or cool metal colors would look best with a cooler color temperature (between 3500K and 5000K).

Counter the Effects of Your Countertops:

Glossy countertops are beautiful in the kitchen. Unfortunately, they can create a mirrored effect, reflecting the under cabinet light fixture right onto the countertop. If you have glossy countertops, make sure to choose a light fixture with a lens over the light bulb to minimize  reflections.

Also, remember that dark-colored counters and backsplashes tend to visually suck up the light. If your kitchen has black or dark gray color tones, you’ll want to make sure your light fixtures give off a good deal of light output.

Install for Even Distribution:

Mount your under cabinet light fixtures toward the front of the cabinet with the light source facing toward the back. This installation location will:

  • provide the most even light distribution possible for both the countertop and the backsplash
  • reduce the possibility of glare caused by direct view of the light source

Extend the Life of LED Fixtures:

It’s very important for an LED light fixture to dissipate heat from the lamp; otherwise, the light fixture may fail prematurely. All LED under cabinet lighting fixtures have some type of heat dissipation system. Help it do its work more effectively by leaving a gap between your light fixture and the cabinet (rather than mounting the light fixture flush against the cabinet). This will allow for air flow and maximum heat dissipation.

Account for the Lifetime Cost:

When you think about how much it will be to install under cabinet lighting, you shouldn’t just consider the cost of the light fixtures and the bill from the electrician. The annual energy cost and the replacement light bulbs you will inevitably purchase are also important – not to mention how frequently you might have to buy replacement light bulbs!

LED light fixtures, for example, have an initial higher purchase cost than incandescent or fluorescent under cabinet lights. However, due to the fact that they often last more than ten years before requiring a lamp replacement and consume minimal power, the total lifetime cost is very comparable and sometimes lower than comparable incandescent light fixtures.

Emily Widle

Emily graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in journalism. She enjoys scouring the news to report on the latest in the lighting industry as well as bringing valuable remodeling tips and exemplar home projects to light.

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