Here's an in-depth guide all about cabinet lighting including the different types of lighting for cabinets with examples of each type as well as examples for the main rooms of a home.
There are so many things that come to mind if you think about renovating a kitchen. What theme should you pick? Would an L-shaped kitchen be more functional or should you go for a G-shaped kitchen? What about the type of storage units, flooring options, and appliances?
Amidst all the excitement of revamping the heart and soul of your house, it’s easy to get carried away but you must not forget about one very important aspect: the lighting of the place.
Cabinet lighting is a highly useful and beneficial add-on to any kitchen. It augments the light provided by overhead or wall fixtures and boosts the mood and ambiance of the place. Plus, cabinet lights are a great way to fulfill the need for task-specific lighting, as well as give the place a more lustrous finish.
Besides the kitchen, various cabinet lights are also suitable for use in a bedroom, bathroom, living room, or any other place where you need more radiance.
Check out the article below to learn why cabinet lights are a must for all modern houses and the different types of cabinet lights that you can choose from. We also cover other important info such as the things you need to consider before buying cabinet lights, lightning color options, and more.
Table of Contents
Why Install Cabinet Lights?
Provide Extra Illumination
Cabinet lights beautifully complement the main indoor lights and can further brighten up the room or specific areas in the kitchen such as countertops. By providing better visibility, they help you in performing tasks such as cutting fruits and vegetables, preparing food, and accessing contents from the cabinets. After all, poor lighting can lead to that embarrassing moment of accidentally sprinkling sugar instead of salt.
Sometimes, shadows can form even with proper overhead lights. This is because certain wall cabinets or other furniture items placed in a room can prevent the light beams from spreading to the required corners. Under-cabinet lights overcome this problem by lighting up all nooks and crannies and giving the place a well-lit look.
Add Style and Elegance
Installing the right cabinet lights can add a touch of class and bravura to the place be it the kitchen, bedroom, living room, or even the bathroom. Different lights of different styles do not just add a splash of color to your house, but also enhance the ambiance, giving it a modern and contemporary look.
Things to Consider Before Installing Cabinet Lights
Before you shop for cabinet lights, stop and ask yourself these important questions.
Why do you need extra lighting? Is it just to uplift the place and achieve a futuristic feel or do you need more indoor illumination to perform certain tasks?
Will cabinet-door lights suffice, or would concealed under-cabinet lights look better and prove to be more functional?
If going for under-cabinet lights, you need to pay close attention to what items will be placed beneath the lights. For countertop lights, avoid halogen or xenon lights as they can make fruits and vegetables go bad if they are kept directly underneath the bulb for a long time. Similarly, for lavatory cabinets it is best to install lights with a warmer glow otherwise they can create sharp reflections in the limited space.
Take help from the color temperature chart below to get a clear idea of the light intensity that will be suitable for you.
Color Temperature Chart with Example
Moreover, for kitchen cabinet lighting, you must also take into account the material of the counters. Dark countertops like granite or black marble absorb light so choose fixtures with a high lumen value. Glossy stone countertops produce glare, so you might need a light diffuser to prevent that from happening.
Types of Cabinet Lighting
Cabinet lights can be fully categorized in the following ways based on various features such as their light source, shape, and design.
According to Light Source
- Halogen Lights
- Xenon Lights
- Fluorescent Lights
According to Shape
- Linear/ Strip Lights
- Puck Lights
- Rope Lights
According to Installation
- Surface-Mounted Lights
- Recessed Lights
According to Power Source
- Hardwired Cabinet Lights
- Plug-in Fixtures
- Wireless/ Battery-Operated Lights
Here’s what you need to know about each of these types.
Related: Types of LED Lights Bulb
Similar to xenon lights, halogen lights are a type of incandescent light fixtures and preferred where there is a need for higher illumination than what fluorescents or LEDs can provide. However, they are rarely used for decorative purposes because they consume a lot of electricity and consecutively, produce a lot of heat as well.
Homeowners living in cold regions often use halogen lights in the kitchen because the high heat output is not an issue. Instead, fixing these types of lights in their pantry shelves or on countertops helps them keep their food relatively warm. If you are looking for an under-cabinet light that is really bright yet still has a warm glow to it, then halogen lights are the way to go.
- Provides good illumination
- Smaller in size and, therefore, considered a better alternative to regular incandescent bulbs in terms of heat output and energy savings.
- Burns hotter than any other type of bulbs including xenon
- Not energy efficient
- Have the shortest lifespan compared to all other types of light sources
Xenon lights are some of the oldest types of lighting, yet they are a popular choice amongst interior designers even today owing to their ideal color rendering index (CRI). Xenon lights emit a well-defined beam of clean and bright white light that perfectly illuminates the targeted area and makes it stand out from the surroundings. If you want to give your kitchen a touch of style and sophistication, then consider installing xenon cabinet lights as they will accentuate the shiny granite or marble countertops in a spectacular way.
Note that being an incandescent light, xenon light fixtures produce a lot of heat. So, it’s best to turn them on only for a short period of time (like when guests arrive), or use them for light-specific tasks rather than for providing illumination all day long.
- Have a perfect CRI i.e. they provide natural illumination like sunlight. This means that the color of surrounding objects is unaffected and things appear as they actually are.
- Come in a variety of styles and designs that can fulfill different needs
- Usually have a dimming feature
- Have a lower initial cost
- Get really hot and can be injurious if accidentally touched
- Emit a lot of heat
- Not energy efficient
Gone are the days when fluorescent lights were notorious for flickering uncontrollably, producing an irritating hum, and taking forever to turn on after one had pressed the button. Modern fluorescent lights present none of these problems, and are a popular choice when it comes to lighting options for residential as well as commercial places.
These light fixtures are available in sizes labeled according to the width of the fluorescent tube. For instance, T4 means fluorescent bulbs have a diameter of half an inch, T8 are an inch wide, T12 measure an inch and a half and so on. T4s are usually the best buy as they fit well under most cabinets and glow brightly without being uncomfortable to the eyes. Although the CRI of these lights is not as high as that of incandescent bulbs, they are commonly used due to various other benefits that they offer.
- Very low heat emission
- Provide sufficient illumination
- Available in varied tones such as warm white, cool white and even daylight.
- More cost-effective than xenon and halogen lights. They have lower installation and running costs.
- A flexible lighting option
- Available as linear lights as well as compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) that look like puck lights.
- Usually not dimmable except some CFLs
- Need to be disposed off properly as they contain mercury
- May not be suitable for certain applications due to low color rendering
LEDs are hands down the most versatile and energy-efficient option for cabinet lighting. Not only are they available in a range of styles and colors to choose from but they also have different brightness levels and are suitable for different purposes.
- Have a very low to virtually no heat emission
- Provide good illumination for various needs
- Save money by reducing electricity bill
- Latest models have a dimming feature
- Very durable
- CRI may not be high enough for certain uses
- Expensive than most of the other types of lights
- Can be difficult to install as some LEDs require a separate power supply
Linear/ Strip Lights
Linear lights or strip lights refer to light fixtures that contain one or several bulbs connected next to each other. They normally use LEDs and are used as decorative lights rather than the main source of indoor lighting. Some linear lights are specifically made for vanity or bathroom mirrors and feature halogen or fluorescent bulbs for a warmer glow. The style can vary from a plain rectangular box to linear bars with a more fancy design.
Linear lights eliminate shadows and provide well-distributed light on the entire surface. Check out the fun ways in which you can use LED strip lights to decorate your house.
- Best for accent lighting
- Provide even lightning and helps eliminate dark or dead spots
- Comes in different lengths that can be installed together to illuminate large counters and cabinets
- Cheapest lighting option in terms of installation and running costs
- Durable and often waterproof
- Available with numerous added features such as wireless design, color changing bulbs, etc.
- Easy to install and replace as most come with an adhesive back surface
- Not very luminous
- Suitable only for extra ambiance in rooms that have proper overhead lighting
- Might require a separate power supply
- Not dimmable
Pucks lights are so called because they bear a close resemblance to an actual hockey puck. Their rounded shape makes them ideal for spot lighting, illuminating specific areas and/ or giving the place a luxe look.
Puck lights can feature LED, halogen or xenon light bulbs and can be installed as recessed or protruding fixtures. Depending on the total brightness and the bulb used, puck lights can be used as accent lighting, task lighting, main indoor lighting, or even as outdoor lighting. Wired puck lights might require trained electricians for installation but there are also many battery-powered models that can be simply glued or stuck to the required surface using adhesives.
- Provide focused spots of light
- Have a long lifespan
- Peel-and-stick puck lights are ideal for use in rental units or hard-to-access corners that need to be illuminated
- Require careful measurements to avoid overlapping or dark spots
- Halogen or Xenon puck lights are not cost-effective and get very hot
Pro Tip: To prevent pooling and create an even spread of light, leave a distance of 8 to 12 inches between adjacent pucks to overlap beams at the correct angle.
If you are looking for the best puck lights for your house, we recommend buying one of the following.
Multipurpose Wireless Puck Lights
These battery-powered LED puck lights can be operated directly or even remotely from a distance of up to 2 feet. They can be installed literally wherever you want and used for various purposes ranging from under-cabinet lighting to a convenient night lamp. The inbuilt LEDs provide 4000K natural soft white light and can be stuck to the furniture without scratching or damaging the surface.
Multi-Colored LED Puck Lights
Super bright, affordable and long-lasting, these wireless puck lights offer a dazzling spectrum of fun and vibrant colors. You can set them to a color of your choice or turn on the automatic color changing feature to give the place a disco-like touch. They also consist of an optional auto-off timer that can be set to 30 or 60 minutes.
Rope lights are quite similar to linear or strip lights except for the fact that they are slightly larger. Unlike strip lights, rope lights can be bent freely without damaging their structure. This makes them ideal for use in rounded corners or any other similar place. Rope lights have a trouble-free installation as they can be mounted anywhere using appropriate clips.
- Easy to install
- Suitable for rental units
- Easily adjustable length
- Available in light bulbs of multiple colors
- Require a transformer or other modifications before connecting to the main power source.
As is evident by the name, these types of cabinet lights protrude out from the surface on which they are installed. Although the entire light fixture is exposed, it does not look visually unappealing because the bulbs are fitted in neat enclosures and sometimes even showier cases.
- Can be installed on old cabinets without any alterations
- Must be fixed by skilled technicians otherwise, it can look crooked and unattractive
Recessed cabinet light fixtures completely hide the electrical parts inside the cabinet or underneath the surface on which they are installed. They have a hidden profile which makes them the ultimate choice for under-cabinet lights that look really chic and trendy, yet are comfortable to the eyes.
Hardwired Cabinet Lights
Hardwired fixtures are those that are connected to the main power line in your house via internal wiring. They are normally more durable and convenient to use but require the services of expert technicians for proper fitting.
Hardwired lights usually operate at the average rated voltage in houses, but some might necessitate the use of a step-down transformer before being connected to the mains. Needless to say, these lights cannot be fitted inside or underneath pre-installed cabinets without requiring extra electrical work to keep all the wires out of sight.
Plug-in fixtures are a midway option between hardwired lights and wireless lights. Much like cordless lights, these fixtures can be placed anywhere as long as there is a power socket nearby. These lights are a good choice to consider if you are looking for extra lighting options on a budget and do not mind compromising a bit on the aesthetics as there will be a small length of wire that will be exposed when connecting the lights to the switchboard.
Wireless/ Battery-Operated Lights
Cordless lights are the go-to option for all DIY lovers as they have a trouble-free installation and can be installed in several places and at varied angles as per the owner’s preference.
Some wireless lights need to be mounted using nuts and screws whereas others come with a stick-on feature that makes them even more user-friendly. Wireless lights might consist of rechargeable cells or single-use batteries that need to be replaced after a certain time period. To save power and prevent frequent cell replacement, these lights normally have an inbuilt motion sensor that causes them to automatically switch to standby mode when a specific amount of time has elapsed without detecting any activity.
Cabinet Lighting Examples (by Room)
The styles and choices are countless when it comes to cabinet lights. Now that you know about the different types available, you can choose the one that best meets your needs.