Kitchens are often dark places, which makes no sense. We spend a ton of time in them. A good way to brighten up your countertops is to install LED under-cabinet or under-cupboard lighting.
These systems are superior to conventional fixtures and look fabulous in a modern kitchen. They’re easy to hide away under cupboards or shelves, they’re super energy efficient, and LEDs last for ages.
There are a ton of products vying for your attention, including plenty of duds. This article is intended to help you track down a great, affordable, and easy-to-install under-cabinet kitchen LED system. We’ll look at four of my favorite LED under counter lighting kits, reviewing each one.
Why LED lights are well-suited as under-cupboard kitchen lights
So why exactly do LED under-cabinet kitchen lighting kits get such rave reviews? In a nutshell, they have significant advantages over incandescent and fluorescent alternatives.
- Long Life: Under-cabinet LEDS almost never burn out. High quality ones can last over 50,000 hours (that’s over 20 years of typical use.)
- Energy Efficiency: LEDs quite literally use a fraction of the electricity that conventional fixtures do. They slash your power bill and lower your carbon footprint.
- Safer Fixtures: One reason I installed LEDs in my 1950s home? They don’t get very hot, which reduces the potential for fire, scorching, and excess heat.
- Adjustable Light Quality: Under-cabinet LED fixtures are great for creating a mood. That’s because their light spectrum is easy to adjust. You can even get LED lighting kits that alleviate seasonal affective disorder (SAD.)
- Easy Install: Whether you’re using fixtures, strip lighting, or all-in-one units, they are easy to install. They’re lightweight and often don’t require any cutting, wiring or drilling.
1) Sunbeam: Slim, modular, one of the best LED kitchen kits
- Pros: Can be daisy-chained, ultra-easy to install, plugs in, dimmable
- Cons: No hard-wire option
- Price: Check price
If you dread complex installations, this stealthy and inconspicuous Sunbeam light fixture is perfect for you, Anyone can install these.
It attaches easily underneath any counter or cabinet using two screws or an adhesive strip. Each fixture is just one quarter inch thick, and uses just 4 watts. They string together, so you can set up almost anywhere, and they plug in to a wall outlet.
The Sunbeam is motion activated: just wave underneath the sensor to turn it on. It’s dimmable too. The warm 2700k light is high quality, perfect for bookshelves, counters, cabinets and closets.
Note: according to the manufacturer, these cannot be hard-wired to a switch.
2) BLACK+DECKER: Puck-style LED, great for under counters, bookshelves, cupboards
- Pros: Comes in 3, 5 and 7 puck kits, uses just 12 watts, 24-inch light spread per puck.
- Cons: Hard-wiring is not recommended.
- Price: Check price
If you’re hunting for a low-cost, easy-to-install LED under-counter light that’ll plug in, you might consider these versatile little puck lights from BLACK+DECKER.
With their brilliant, warm, spotlight-like quality, they make counters look fantastic, with a light spread of about 24 inches per light and 10-step brightness control. The system uses just 12W in total.
They install easily on the bottom of counters and cabinets with simple adhesives, and you turn it on by waving. The kits come with up to seven pucks, but you can use fewer and simply detach the ones you don’t need.
These should not be direct wired, since they use a transformer.
3) Hamilton Bowes: Contractor-grade LED lighting system for under cabinet or cove:
- Pros: Highly modular, high-end quality, can direct wire, dimmable
- Cons: Not really a kit, so you must pick and choose what you need
- Price: Varies by the piece
This expansive LED light strip system by Hamilton Bowes is a wonderful way to tuck flexible lighting almost anywhere. It is a high-grade, Energy Star lighting system, with an inviting, comfortable spectrum.
This is less a kit than a system. You pick strips and pucks of varying size, brightness, and colour quality, and daisy-chain them together.
That means installation is slightly more involved, but the kit is still very straightforward; you don’t necessarily have to worry about splicing wires or drilling holes. The strips are lightweight and easily mount with adhesive tape.
This is 110v / 120v compatible, with no transformer. You can use the wall outlet on-off switch, or direct wire it (if you’re familiar with basic splicing and wiring.)
I love the modularity, you can pick and choose only what you need. That said, everything is sold separately, including power cable and connectors.
4) Brilliant Energy: Simple, battery-powered, long-lasting LED pucks
- Pros: Wireless control, no wiring headaches, install anywhere
- Cons: Neither as flexible nor as bright as pluggable units
- Price: Check price
If you’re looking for under-counter-ready puck lights that are battery powered, I highly recommend these ones; they last up to 100 hours.
Yes, they’ll require regular battery changes, but these pucks are perfect “go anywhere” lights. You can use them underneath cabinets, in closets, bathrooms, on bookshelves, in the garage, etc.
Tap the lens to turn it on, or use the included remote (which will control both pucks at once.) It even comes with a timer to save battery life.
What’s the best style of hidden kitchen LED light?
There are several different under-counter LED lighting styles available today. Picking the best kind depends entirely on your needs. The diodes are very small and can be arrayed in various configurations.
Puck-Style: These are best if you want to spotlight a particular area. On a kitchen counter or bookshelf, spotlighting can have a dramatic visual effect. They’re also the best choice if your light fixture is easily visible, since they won’t stand out.
Strip Lighting: LEDs are often arrayed in long, flexible strips. Because they’re ultra slim, strips can be hidden almost anywhere, and they can usually be cut to size.
Panel / Bar Lighting: Ranging from a few inches long to several feet, these fixtures are often designed as standalone lights (either plug-in or battery-powered.) In many ways they’re the least versatile, but the easiest to install.
Dimmable: All LED lights are theoretically capable of dimming. However, not all control systems can handle that function. If you need dimming, be sure it is specifically listed. (When you put a non-dimmable LED on a regular dimmer switch, it flickers.)
Battery-Powered: Some lighting kits use batteries. This can be a boon because you don’t have to worry about running electrical wires under your cabinets. The downside, of course, is that you’ll need to periodically replace these batteries. I suggest picking up rechargeables, if you go this route.