When Pegasus Lighting’s President Chris Johnson heard that his neighbor Greg had installed such a unique solution to his dark pantry problem, he knew it was perfect for our Weekend Warrior blog post series. The Weekend Warrior series is part of our quest to bring our customers unique products and offer creative ideas for DIY lighting projects around the house.
Written by guest blogger Greg Prospero
For years my family has struggled to deal with an unlit kitchen pantry. It was dark and deep leaving its contents shrouded in spooky mystery. You might reach in for a box of Oreo cookies and come out with a bag of dried organic snap peas. To avoid these frustrating mix-ups we resorted to using our iPhone flashlights or a small battery powered LED puck light – neither of which delivered satisfactory illumination of the pantry contents.
This DIY will explain how you can bathe your entire pantry in bright and uniform LED light whenever you open the door. The build is simple and low cost. There are only a few parts and the lighting is powered by 8 AA batteries that should power your lights for more than 15 hours.
- Magnetic Reed Switch (similar to this one)
- 5 Meter Pure White LED Tape Light
- 8 x 1.5v AA Battery Pack (Two Layers with wire leads)
- Extra wire (for increasing the length between the LEDs and battery pack, etc)
- Heat Shrink Tube (or electrical tape) for insulating exposed wires
- Phillips screwdriver
- Wire cutter & stripper
- Soldering iron (and solder)
Note: If you don’t feel comfortable with a soldering iron you can use “wire nuts” to connect the wires. It’s slightly less elegant but perfectly functional.
The neatest part of this build is the small magnetic switch that triggers the light to turn on when the door is opened. These switches contain a small magnet in one piece and a hinged metal conductor in the other piece. When the magnetic part is close to the switch it will cause the circuit to close or open depending on how they are configured. You will need to make sure that you chose the correct setting, typically the switches are labeled:
- Common: Wire one side of your black battery lead to this point.
- Normally Closed (NC): Wire the other side of your black battery lead to this point.
- Normally Open (NO): Leave unused.
The labels indicate if the circuit is “normally” open or closed. In our case the door is normally closed and we don’t want the light to turn on until it is open. Therefore we will connect part of the battery lead to this post.
Now that you understand how the proximity switch works we can wire it up:
- Red wire from light connects to red wire from battery pack
- Black wire from battery pack connect to “Common” post on switch
- Black wire from light connects to “Normally Closed” post on switch
Install eight AA batteries and test your switch. You’ll note in the picture (above) and video (below) I’ve initially connected to the wrong posts resulting in the light turning on when the door is closed! Oops! I still didn’t realize this mistake until I mounted the switch in the door. Thankfully the fix is as easy as moving one wire to the right post. Thank goodness. Test your switch for three factors:
- The direction of the magnetic trigger (there is one right way usually indicated by an arrow). Note the direction and consider labeling it before your mount it to the door.
- Try rotating the magnetic trigger 90 degrees along the long axis. Ideally this will work and it will allow you to mount the switch discreetly and easily along the inside door jamb as described below.
- Note the proximity for activating the circuit. You’ll actually have to move the magnet half about an inch away. It’s possible that this could be an issue in certain configurations.
Magnetic Switch Demonstration Video
I was unable to identify exactly how much power my light strip used so my estimates below may not be correct. Regardless, let’s take a look at how long the battery pack will last. Each of the 8 batteries generates about 1.5v of current (DC). When combined they have about 2000 mAh (mili-amp hours) of capacity. My 16 feet of LEDs draw about 2000 mAh. This means that the light will be powered for approximately 1 hour. While one hour may not seem like much time to a light, you need to think about how much time your pantry door will stay open. For us, we estimate that it remains open less than 2 minutes per day. At that rate our rechargeable batteries will last for about 1 month. If I find this to be too much of an inconvenience I will look at buying a larger capacity rechargeable battery.
Once you are done testing you can mount the light and switch.
The 5 meter LED strip is long enough to mount a few inches beyond the door jamb. While the LED strip has an adhesive backing that seems pretty strong, I recommend adding a dab of silicon glue or wood glue every one or two feet to ensure solid adhesion to the wood frame. You can do this later after mounting with the adhesive backing.
- Start on the bottom and pull back a few feet of the adhesive covering that protects the back, working up and around the door. You may need a small ladder or chair to reach above the door. You may also want an assistant to slowly feed you the LED tape, otherwise the weight of the unhung tape will pull the tape off the wall.
- Corners are tricky. The tape can coil around itself and be twisted laterally. You’ll need to leave the corners unattached from the wall. It may not be pretty but it will allow you to bend around the 90 degree corner.
- Once the LED tape is affixed to the wall using the adhesive backing, go back and add a dab of wood or silicon glue every foot or two. This will make the mounting permanent but also allow you to remove it without too much difficulty or damage to the wall. Of course nobody will see this tucked behind the door jamb, so the finish is not really critical.
I mounted the switch on the bottom of the door jamb on the hinge side. This location is nearly invisible and relatively protected. My switches came with an adhesive backing, however you may need to use screws for yours.
- Confirm the “direction” of the magnetic part of the switch (you did this during the testing section of this DIY).
- Think about the proximity that the switch triggers. You probably have about an inch of leeway. The point is that the mounting doesn’t need terribly high levels of precision.
- Observe the space that you have to work with. Make sure that you have a flat surface that you can adhere the wired half of the switch to.
- Mount the magnetic half on the door. With the above observations complete, choose a location and gently adhere the switch to the door in case you need to move it.
- Mount the wired half of the switch to the inside door jamb.
- Test that the light turns on when the door is open and turns off when it is closed.
- Press the adhesive switches firmly against their mounting points to make them semi-permanent. Consider adding screws to make them more secure.
Many thanks to Greg for sharing this clever project with us!
Coming up on the Weekend Warrior blog post series: I install a wall mounted reading light in a book nook, and Chris updates his bonus room and kitchen with LED recessed retrofits.