Kitchen Design/Remodeling/Kitchen Cabinet Lighting

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QUESTION: A few years ago we had florescent lighting installed under our kitchen cabinets.  We used Utilitech fixtures that used T8 florescent bulbs.

It is extremely difficult to replace the bulbs when needed, especially when your 72.  The cover is hard to remove and the bulbs are difficult to extract.  A few months ago one bulb could not be removed.  The manufacturer told me how to remove it, which worked, but the fixture broke. And Utilitech no longer sells the 35 inch size.

Because of all the difficulties I thought I would get LED lighting, which supposedly last 30,000 hours.  I don't know which is preferable from a maintainability perspective.  Do the LED strips and lights produce a lot of heat compared to the florescent bulbs?

Should I get the LED strips, the strips that have LED lights in them or something else?

"Evergreen" Dining Room + Kitchen
"Evergreen" Dining Roo  
ANSWER: Hello, Steven.

I'm so glad you've asked this question! You have lots of company, people who are looking to upgrade their kitchen lighting.

LED lighting is the best kind of lighting there is for several reasons: (1) It comes in very thin strips that are pre-glued and can be attached to the underside of your wall cabinets (or other locations) -- more on that below; (2) Unlike the fluorescent fixtures you've used, LEDs are dimmable; (3) Most LED lighting is rated for 50,000 hours or more; (4) As the technology has been accepted, the price has come down considerably; and (5) Strips can be cut to size (there are connectors every 3 inches or so), to give the best, most even coverage.


Here's how I recommend the installation of LED strips, to get the best task lighting: LEDs require a transformer that can be tucked into a back corner of your cabinet. The wire(s) can be fished down the wall to the connecting point. It's best to start and end at a back corner, and go all the way around the inside lip at the bottom of the cabinet. 32-mm ("European" or "frameless" cabinets may require an additional moulding at the bottom, which can also be decorative). If you're remodeling your kitchen down to the studs, all of this wiring can be done ahead of time, for the best results. You're going to love the results!

LED lighting can also be used to enhance cabinets with glass doors, or  bookshelves (place the strip along the inside edge of shelf lips). LED lighting can be used on the inside edge of crown moulding that's placed on the inside edge of a skylight, so the skylight doesn't become a "black hole" at night. If you've got tall ceilings, the same kind of treatment can be used on crown moulding that's dropped down at least 6" from the ceiling, to create indirect lighting around the perimeter of a room.

Over six years ago, when I was designing our new home, I dropped the ceiling in the main hallway, the dining room, and the kitchen to 8'. This gave us room to do a "trayed" ceiling with indirect dimmable LED lighting. At that time, it was prohibitively expensive, so my husband created our own LED strips with individual lamps attached to perf board. I've attached a picture of our dining room and kitchen, so you can see the results. All of the LED lighting requires only 100 watts!

So, where can you get this wonderful light source? My husband and I recommend LED Wholesalers. Here's a link to their website that will give you information about flexible strips and the power supplies: http://shop.ledwholesalers.com/index.php?route=product/category&path=39

Greatest luck with your lighting transformation!

Regards,

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ
D. P. Design

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Diane,

I'm a little confused about your answer.  I checked out LED Wholesalers and they said that the strips can't be linked together.

If I got a 16 foot strip I would need to cut two 3 foot strips and one 1 foot strip and then link them together.  I looked at their kit and they don't include any way to connect the strips after they're cut. So I don't know how I'd connect the strips.  Currently my fixtures are linked by about 6 inches of insulated wire.

Now I have 3 florescent fixtures that are wired together and turned on and off by a wall switch that was installed by an electrician.

Would I be able to use the same wall switch for the LED strips? From what you're saying I need to attach the wiring from the wall switch to the transformer which is the attached to the LEDs.  So I will have to attach the transformer under the cabinet closest to the wall switch instead of inside the cabinet (it may protrude).  I think I'm getting more confused.

Hopefully you can provide guidance.

Steven

Answer
Hello, Steven.

I don't know who you talked with at LED Wholesalers, but it really doesn't matter.

LED strip lighting is made to be cuttable into sections, and connected to the power supply (or other strips to turn corners, etc.). My husband has considerable experience with this type of lighting, so I've asked for his help. This is the way that Jay explained it to me: If you know that your under-cabinet lights are wired in series, it is possible to use one larger transformer for all of the lights. If you're not sure, it would require a transformer for each section of the lights. You can use the same wall switch for all of the lighting. Word of caution: If you're using a dimmer switch (highly recommended!), it has to be compatible with the power supply you purchase.

Connecting the lights to the transformers is relatively easy. If separate transformers are hidden inside the cabinet above. Jay is taking over the rest of the discussion, at my request:

Jay here. Every roll of LED lighting I've purchased over the last few years comes the same way. The end of the strip has a wire and plug connected to it. Cut the plug off, and you have wires for the first strip.

The other end of the strip has wires connected to it. There's your second strip.

Now, you have a strip without any wires. Notice that you can cut the strip in specific places, and those places have small copper-looking pads. These are what I call, "connection places" where you can solder wires. If you've never soldered wires up, it shouldn't be hard to find a person that does electronics as a hobby that can solder a pair of wires to these pads for you.

Steven, I hope this helps you. I'm sorry that LED Wholesalers wasn't helpful. They've been a great resource for us, for several years. We're going to contact them and complain about their poor service and lack of product knowledge to help first-time users of LED lighting.

Good luck, and great lighting!

Regards,

Diane Plesset, C.A.P.S., CMKBD, NCIDQ
D. P. Design  

Kitchen Design/Remodeling

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Diane Plesset

Expertise

I will answer questions about kitchen design, remodeling: appliances, cabinets, countertops, lighting/switching, accessible kitchens, kitchens for multiple cooks, kitchen trends, flooring, windows and doors, ventilation, safety, function, and style.

Experience

25+ years as a kitchen designer; over 10 years as a Certified Master Kitchen-Bath Designer. Hundreds of projects completed, in all styles, all ranges of investment. Multiple design awards and published articles (see below). Public speaker and lecturer about home remodeling. Co-host of a local radio program for over three years, currently the host of "Today's Home" on Lifetime WebRadio every Sunday afternoon (website: http://www.todays-home.com)

Organizations
NKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Association); NAHB (National Association of Home Builders); PRO (Portland Remodelers' Organization); IDPC (Interior Design Protection Council)

Publications
"THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling" (book published in 2003), Gentry Magazine, Designers' Illustrated Magazine, Interior Coordinator Magazine (Japan); San Jose Mercury News, San Mateo Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Oregonian, Statesman Journal Newspapers.

Education/Credentials
Multiple degrees, including bathroom design, kitchen design, lighting design, and residential interior design. Classes and seminars attended frequently, to maintain current knowledge about products, trends, codes, and technology.

Awards and Honors
Multiple certifications: Certified Master Kitchen-Bath Designer (NKBA), Certified Interior Designer (NCIDQ, National Council of Interior Design Qualification), and Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (NAHB). Awards include: Henry Adams Designer of the Year, CoTY, Master Design, Chrysalis, Best of the Best, Excellence (Best home in its category), and NABE (Best how-to book, 2003).

Past/Present Clients
To see photos of completed projects, please visit my website: http://www.dp-design.com/portfolio

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