Compatible with dimmer switch. Also comes in a brown casing. Nice warm color, but it can be very bright if needed. Throws a smooth light pattern. Offers a lot of light for only 8 watts of power usage. Available from 12 to 48 inches.
Requires direct wire. Know what you are doing before you try to install.
Comes with a remote control for dimmer and timer options. Provides extra under-counter lighting easily. Can be turned on and off by simply tapping the light. Installation is easier than expected.
These are battery operated and cannot be hardwired. Not great if you want to leave the lighting on all the time or overnight.
Lengths are available from 9 to 36 inches for a good fit. Can be used for dimmable lighting, but also has a unit switch for on and off. Gives a nice amount of extra working light under the cabinets in the kitchen.
Install is direct wire, which can be difficult if you do not have experience.
Easy installation, but a Philips Hue Bridge is required as well to use this product. Can be operated with a smartphone app and Amazon Echo. Can use an extension product for more lighting.
Product requires adhesive.
Lights stick on easily using a built-in magnet. USB cord for recharging is included. Great for quick lighting and easy for anyone to install. Motion sensor allows light to come on automatically.
Light only lasts about 10 hours after full charging. Only comes on when you need it, which might not be good for overnight lighting.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
If there was ever a place in the house that needed extra light, it’s the shaded areas beneath the cabinets. Any time you’re looking under the cabinets, you’re standing between the ceiling light and the area beneath the cabinets, plunging them further into shade.
Whether you need more light in the kitchen, in the closet, over your workbench, or for your computer desk, under-cabinet lights are the way to go. All but a few of them are LED lights that keep electricity usage to a minimum. LEDs used to have artificial-looking light that was hard on the eyes, but the technology has advanced. Now they can produce a warm, soft glow or a bright white light without hurting your eyes either way.
Keep reading to choose the right light for your needs — whether it’s lights with direct wiring, battery-operated lights, or ones with a regular plug.
The physical size of under-cabinet lights is important. You have limited space under the cabinets that you don’t want it taken up by huge lights, so you need flat lights that lay as flush with the mounting surface as possible. Styles of lights are rolled strips, hard light bars, and round puck lights. Get out a measuring tape and see how much room there is from the bottom of the cabinets to the top of the tallest appliance or item under the cabinet. If you’ve only got two inches left, a light that hangs down two and a half inches isn’t going to work for you.
Direct wire: Direct wire lights are lights that must be hardwired to the wires in the wall. Unless you’re comfortable doing electrical work, you should hire an electrician to install them for you. Keep in mind that this entails an additional expense beyond what you’re paying for the lighting itself.
Batteries: Battery-powered lights are good, but they typically don’t last as long as the manufacturer claims — lights can drain a battery faster than you think. Batteries aren’t environmentally friendly, either.
LED: LED lights are far and away the most popular and most widely available types of lighting on the market. LEDs are inexpensive to produce. They don’t generate a lot of heat, and they have an extremely long life compared to ordinary light bulbs. The technology in them has improved, so they’re not nearly as harsh on the eyes as they used to be.
Lumens refer to how bright a light is, whereas watts refer to how much energy is used. Unfortunately, incandescent light bulb manufacturers confused the issue for many years by using watts to measure brightness. For instance, a 100-watt bulb was brighter than a 75-watt bulb, which was brighter than a 60-watt bulb, and so on.
With the advent of LEDs — which use a fraction of the wattage to create the same amount of light — all that had to change. Note that the watts for LEDs are industry averages. Your lights may vary.
Wireless remote: LED lights often come with wireless remote controls. Older models included a physical remote with each system. Frequently, modern systems are controlled via an internet connection so you can turn them on and off with your smartphone.
Inline switch: Under-cabinet lights that plug into the wall sometimes come with an inline switch on the cord itself. That way, you don’t have to reach under the cabinet to feel around for the on/off switch. It is a popular option on an increasing number of models.
Motion sensors for under-cabinet lights have a spotty record. Motion sensors are a fairly technical item in their own right. Including them in an under-cabinet light means significantly raising the price of the lights or significantly lowering the quality of the motion sensor. Neither is a good option, so we recommend caution.
Bar lighting: A bar light is exactly what the name implies: a long, rigid bar with LEDs built into it. The physical dimensions of the bar are unchangeable. What you get is what you get, so be sure you note the length, depth, and width before buying them to make sure they’d fit under your cabinets.
Cuttable/adjustable strips: These are rolls of flexible material with LED lights strung along the strip. They can often be cut to a custom length, although there are limitations. They are sometimes advertised as adjustable.
Adhesive backing: Because LED lights are lightweight, they can be mounted with an adhesive backing instead of using screws or drywall anchors. You can still use those methods if you prefer, but it’s not always necessary. The downside is the adhesive doesn’t always stick.
Inexpensive: Anything under $20 is considered the low price range. This is where you can find lights with electrical cords, basic puck lights, and rigid bar lights.
Mid-range: From $20 to $55 is where you find remote controls, LED strips, kits with multiple light strips or bars, and the occasional dimmer knob.
Expensive: Above $60, you’ll find smart systems that connect to your smartphone, have millions of different colors, or both.
If your kitchen cabinets aren’t connected in one continuous run, but you want to put LEDs under all of them, you can connect them with 12V cable.
If you’re installing LED strips near areas of high condensation (stoves, hot water taps, etc.), you should get strips that have a coating rated at IP65 to protect your lights against short circuits.
If you want your under-cabinet lights to come on at the same time as your kitchen lights, get direct wiring lights.
We like Wobane Under Cabinet Lighting Kit. The kit has everything you need to install the four sets of lights either inline in one long strip or side by side for extra lighting in one area. The 3M backing holds the lights firmly in place on virtually any surface. There's no need to change batteries since it plugs into the wall.
We also like Litever Under Cabinet LED Lighting Kit. Again, this kit includes everything you need in order to install the six light bars. They can be installed in a number of different configurations to meet your lighting needs. There is an inline dimmer switch on the electrical cord so you can raise or lower the light to exactly the level you want.
Q. How many LED strips can be linked together?
A. The answer to this is based on the wattage used. For most applications, you can run 80 watts of LEDs from a single plug before the power starts to drop at the end of the line.
Q. Why are my under-cabinet lights flickering?
A. You might have a bad dimmer. Conversely, you might have one of the newer dimmers that has trim adjustments that allow for flicker at certain points on the dial. Consult your manual to determine how to reduce the flicker.
Q. Can under-cabinet lights be used to keep food warm?
A. No. LEDs and fluorescent lights don’t produce heat. Incandescent bulbs produce a lot of heat but are rarely found in under-cabinet lights.
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