Undercabinet Lighting Buying Guide

When remodeling or building your kitchen, you want to balance visual perfection with seamless function.

Undercabinet Lighting Buying Guide

The overhead lighting you choose will illuminate the space enough to function, but perhaps not enough for your personal preference and safety.

When remodeling or building your kitchen, you want to balance visual perfection with efficiency. The overhead lighting you choose will illuminate the space enough to function, but perhaps not enough for your personal preference and safety.

The height and size of your cabinets combined with the design of your kitchen could block light from getting to your countertops in certain places. Shadowy countertops can be very dangerous when cooking and can make your kitchen less appealing, open, and welcoming to yourself and others.

Buying Undercabinet Lighting may seem simple at first but can quickly become overwhelming. This buyer's guide will take away the stress of choosing Undercabinet Lighting by giving you the different types, factors to consider, recent trends, and opportunities for personalization.

Benefits of Undercabinet Lighting

While your overhead kitchen lights do a great job of illuminating your countertops and shelving, some shadows are inevitable. Installing Undercabinet Lighting may seem like a luxury at first, but over time will prove its convenience and long-term value.

Here are some of the main benefits of Undercabinet Lighting:

  • Lowers Your Energy Bill by using less electricity than an overhead light
  • Fewer Shadows to help make meal preparation smoother
  • Adds unique style that is beautiful and unique to your taste and home
  • Significantly increases the value of your home if you decide to sell it later
  • Easier on your budget because with lots of DIY fixtures and cheap installment options

4 Factors to Consider when Buying


The type of installation you want is important because it can significantly impact your budget and your timeline for competition.

Plug-in lights and battery-operated lights are great for instant gratification with minimal preparation and effort. You just attach them to the underside of your cabinets and begin to enjoy them. The disadvantage is that you will have to turn them on separately from everything else, which annoys some homeowners.

Hardwire lights, in most cases, require an electrician to come in and install the fixtures in your cabinets and connect them with your existing kitchen electrical system. The main benefit is operation because the lights will work with a single switch or dimmer already integrated into your system. That means more convenience and fewer extra steps.

Lighting placement

Lighting placement is important because it will determine how much space you have for your fixture to fit within the specs of your cabinetry or work surface. Take accurate measurements before you start this process to ensure you get a lighting system small enough to hide under your cabinetry's edges or face.

For your undercabinet fixtures, make sure the location rating is "damp" or "wet." This is to ensure your light fixtures will function even when exposed to the moisture and steam from cooking.

Bulb Type

Bulb types are important because they strongly influence the ambiance of your kitchen, power usage, and installment possibilities.

Fluorescent bulbs are an option but are not recommended. Typical options offer a cold, flat light that is unappealing, but you find specialty options with different temperature colors, which we will discuss later. Compact fluorescent bulbs are also a great option for someone looking to use less electricity and minimize bulb noise while maintaining a long bulb life. A huge disadvantage is that neither of these can be put on a dimmer.

Incandescent bulbs are the most common because they're inexpensive and have a warm temperature color that most homeowners like. They offer almost as much versatility as LEDs when it comes to fixture types and integration options with your existing electrical system. These are not the most energy-efficient option though.

Xenon bulbs are a little expensive but will pay for themselves with their long life, reliability, and energy efficiency. They have a white light color but are more like a shop light than regular daylight. This might feel a little overly bright and uncomfortable in your kitchen.

LEDs are famous for their energy efficiency, versatility, long lifetime, and minimal cost. They are also a great option if you are looking for directional lighting instead of the diffused, ambient lighting offered by the other options on this list.

Halogen lights are a little more expensive, but they are the closest option for getting a "natural daylight" feel in your kitchen. Keep in mind with these bulbs that they run hotter than any other lighting type.

Color temperature

Color temperature is important to your undercabinet lighting because it will determine the lighting color that will define the look and feel of your kitchen. Your choice here will also influence the type of bulbs and fixtures that fit your preferences.

The type of lighting you want in your kitchen will determine the color temperature you are looking for in your bulbs and fixtures. Also consider:

  • Task Lighting is for ultimate illumination and provides detail-oriented light for tasks like chopping vegetables and reading recipes. This is perfect for food enthusiasts!

    o Your ideal will be around 5000 - 6500K, which is as close to daylight as you can get. This is a great option for someone who wants an open, light feel to their kitchen.

  • Ambient lighting is for a warm welcoming glow that softens shadows and gives dispersed brightness. This is a good balance of function and achieving a certain aesthetic.

    o You'll need a 2,700 to 3,500K color temperature to create a warmer white light. That's like a typical incandescent light bulb.

  • Accent lighting is for adding depth and dimension to certain areas of your kitchen.

    o A 3500 - 4100K color temperature would be ideal. These are great for kitchens because they have a bright white output that is not overwhelming.

Types and categories

Fixture types

Puck Fixtures are round, short lights about 2-3 inches in diameter that put out more focused lighting that will add drama and depth to your kitchen. If you are looking for battery-powered fixtures, there are plenty to choose from with Puck fixtures.

Strip fixtures, also called tape fixtures, are great options for cabinet systems that are less modular for a kitchen that is more complex and unique. They come in long reels and are flexible enough to be laid over uneven surfaces or made to turn corners. Also, they have a shallow profile, allowing them to fit underneath almost any kitchen cabinet with ease. The main disadvantage is that they usually don't offer as much brightness as the other Undercabinet Lighting styles.

Lightbars are long, thin rectangular lights that look professional and give even, uniform light across your countertops. It is also very easy to set these up using connectors or linking cables so they can synchronize with the rest of your lighting. These are usually not battery-powered and usually require outlets or hardwire options. Most of these are fluorescent lights, but there are also LED options to choose from.

Homeowners say that light bars are a great option because they offer direct, task-style lighting that is great for cooking. Also, most light bar fixtures usually have a comfortable color-correcting tone to them.

If you choose a recessed lighting fixture, as most homeowners do, keep in mind the lighting trim type. For your kitchen, you will want a trim that:

  • Doesn't have a mirrored surface
  • Stays flush with the underside of the cabinet
  • Has no shield that restricts the light to a certain direction
  • Is Wet-location listed just like the bulb

Extra Features to Consider

Some high-end brands offer lots of customizable add-ons to integrate into their Undercabinet Lighting systems. Some of these include docking stations, speakers, tablet cradles, and even additional outlets that can make your home more comprehensive and unique to your needs.

Remote-controlled lights are a popular option for customers. Recently there has been a demand for the ability to change the color temperature of the lights also. The only drawback is that both of these usually require an electrician to set it up.

Indoor and outdoor use might be something to consider if you have a covered gathering area. If this is the case, make sure you choose a fixture that can function outside throughout the year despite temperature and moisture changes.

The color and finish of your fixtures is key to making sure your Undercabinet Lighting fits in with your existing kitchen fixtures and cabinetry style. Proper coordination here will give your kitchen a seamless, sleek, and professional look.

Professional interior designers also recommend that you consider the color and reflectivity of your countertops. If you have glossy counters with a lot of reflection, choose a light fixture with a lens so your kitchen doesn't get too bright. If you have dark counters, consider light bulbs or fixtures with higher lumens to make sure the brightness of the light is not dimmed.

A popular trend among consumers is being able to dim the brightness and intensity of their Undercabinet Lighting at will. If you want this also, keep in mind that you will not be able to use fluorescent light bulbs and fixtures. And like the previous option, this typically requires an electrician to set up.

In 2020, several lighting brands debuted sensor-triggered Undercabinet Light fixtures. Customers say that they not only save them money on electricity but also are great if your outlets lack an on-off switch, or if you have messy hands in the kitchen and don't want to touch many things.

Final thoughts

While Undercabinet Lighting is not a necessity, it is something that will make your daily life a lot easier and increase the long-term value of your home. It can also save you money by lowering your energy bills and providing cheaper lighting solutions for your home with cheap installment options. If you love cooking, they will make meal preparation smoother and provide a stylish backdrop for memories between you and your loved ones.

So, now you have learned the four things to consider when beginning your search for Undercabinet Lighting, the different types of fixtures, and different customization options according to your lifestyle. Now you can begin making informed decisions on how to choose an Undercabinet Lighting system that matches your vision, wallet, and functional needs. Happy shopping!