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Under Cabinet Lighting

Jan 1, 2008
Under cabinet lighting illuminates the work area below with fixture installed on the underside of the cabinet. Ideally, the fixture(s) used in under cabinet lighting should minimize their physical presence and conceal physical wiring as much as possible. While this form of lighting is technically geared toward practical activity, it is important to maintain aesthetic harmony with the surrounding environment and also produce the right type of illumination over the work area. Counter tops and food preparation need an evenly distributed field of linear lighting rather than hot spots of light that appear brighter than the rest of the work area. This light should blend comfortably with the general lighting of the room without producing discomforting glare.

Until recently, the most cost effective under cabinet lights were fluorescent. In fact, fluorescent was the lighting industry's power saving mainstay since being invented in the early 20th century. People never really preferred them to incandescents because of the glare and flicker they became notorious for producing. Today, better circuit designs and superior fixtures have since made it possible to use incandescent and LED replacement bulbs in under cabinet lighting fixtures. Low voltage technology can also make any bulb type less of a power hog. Selecting LED under cabinet lights now requires more of a designer's eye than an electrical engineer's technical skills. The ultimate goal in choosing the right fixture has now moved toward producing optimal lighting levels for work areas and creating balance and comfort with surrounding layers of light.

Under cabinet lights fall into one of two categories: puck lights and linear strip lights. Puck lights are circular in shape and mount in the center of the cabinet's under side. Linear strips mount underneath either on the front end or the back end of the cabinet. Until recent years, display cabinet lights used fluorescent lamps designed to create an even spread of light and reduce energy costs at the same time. Both types of fixtures now, however, present certain drawbacks when it comes to optimal under cabinet lighting.

Puck under cabinet display lights experience difficulty creating an even field of illumination. If a puck light is installed in the center of the cabinet underside, it will create a bright circle of light called a "hot spot" immediately beneath itself. Also, by design, surface puck lights require exposed wiring and low voltage transformers that may be unsightly and appear as an afterthought. If sitting at tables, banquets or bar stools, one's viewing angle changes and provides a clear view of these light sources. The only way to compensate for this is to install several of smaller puck lights in a series. Why do this if you can use a strip light products? In fact, with only rare exceptions, linear LED strip lights for under cabinet generally provide the best levels and distribution of light all around. Fluorescents will fit the bill in many respect, but in many instances will also create glare and seldom come with dimmable functionality. Furthermore, fluorescent strips are typically mounted near the back wall with the light thrown forward; putting too much illumination into a person's eyes from a sitting position.

LED strips for under cabinet lighting offer a number of advantages over both fluorescent strips and puck lights. For one, LED linear strips mount near the front of the cabinet and throw the light backward. This keeps the light from directly blinding the eyes works very well on surfaces such as granite and marble counter tops that are highly reflective by nature. Because each under cabinet light strip uses lamps that snap readily into the light strip itself, they do not require inconvenient bulb replacements that are common with puck lights. Also, unlike halogen bulbs in puck lights that become easily damaged by the oil from human fingers, some manufacturers such as Phantom Lighting design lamps of all varieties (incandescent lamps, xenon lamps, and LED light bulbs, to be handled and switched out by the end user without hassle to the person or damage to equipment.

Remember always, please, that under cabinet lighting innovation, options, and energy efficiency should always be balanced with aesthetic and topped off with end-user friendliness.
About the Author
For more information on cabinet lights and other strip lighting applications, visit http://www.phantomlighting.com/under-cabinet-lighting.htm and http://www.phantomlighting.com
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