Skip to main content

Under-cabinet lighting options that stay hidden and brighten your kitchen

Few types of lighting can elicit the pure drama of under-cabinet lights. Although typically used in kitchens to add extra light for meal preparation or to read recipes, under-cabinet lights can go beyond the kitchen to add function and style to other rooms in your home.

When used as accent lighting, under-cabinet lights add dimension, depth, and visual impact to any space, from showcasing objects inside glass-front cabinets to spotlighting unique architectural features like a cove ceiling. From functional lighting for a laundry room, workroom, or home office, to dramatic accent lighting for a living room wall unit, or master bedroom shelving, under-cabinet LED lighting can enhance virtually any room in your home.

Recommended Videos

Clean kitchen countertop with containersThe 411 on under-cabinet LED lights

As you can likely guess by the name, under-cabinet lighting refers to light fixtures commonly installed beneath kitchen cabinets to light up the countertops beneath. They are made to be hidden from view and easily blend into the room without taking away from the room’s style. Under-cabinet lights are highly prized among home buyers, making it a relatively simple and easy way to improve your kitchen’s look and feel while increasing the resale value of your home!

It’s important to choose the correct color temperature and CRI (color rendering index) to get the lighting result you desire with LED lights. The most popular CCT (correlated color temperature) ranges from 3000K to 4000K for kitchens. Any light below 3000K will result in a yellowish tinge that negatively impacts color perception, particularly in food preparation areas. Most home lighting is between 2700K and 3000K, so lighting above 4000K will make your kitchen lighting result in a noticeable color mismatch with the rest of your home.

If you’re planning on DIYing your under-cabinet LED lights, you should opt for plug-in installation styles. You don’t need electrical knowledge when opting for plug-in (or plug and play) lights. Still, there are some design limitations and drawbacks, mainly that they need to occupy electrical outlets that you may have wanted to keep free for countertop appliances, etc. 

Hardwire installation are self-contained fixtures, meaning the components necessary to operate the light are contained within the unit and require a separate 120V power feed from the wall. Hardwire installation is more complex and should be left to professional electricians.

Under-cabinet lighting options

Low profile LED linear fixtures: The most widely-used under cabinet LED lights, they beautifully illuminate high-function kitchen zones like countertops, stoves, and sinks. Emitting light evenly across the entire length of the fixture, this type of under-cabinet lighting is used to brighten the shadows that cabinets can create and bathe the kitchen work area in light.  Highly efficient and long-lasting, they throw off minimal heat and provide low operating costs. They are offered in standard lengths from 8” to 40” to work in almost any kitchen space. 

LED puck lights: These small, compact lights provide ample, more focused light than linear fixtures while using low voltage. You can use them to light countertops, open shelving, glass-front cabinets, and more. Prized for their versatility, they can be surface mounted or recessed depending on the look you are trying to achieve. 

LED puck lights are currently outselling traditional linear fixtures because they offer comparable performance at half the cost and just a fraction of the energy consumption.  LED puck lights are also offered in battery-operated formats, eliminating the need to run wires and making installation a breeze.

LED light bars: With a lower profile than linear fixtures but a higher one than tape lighting, LED light bars are the perfect compromise under cabinet light choice. They generally deliver more light than tape and are easier to clean. Ultra-compact and simple to install, light bars work exceptionally well in tight corners and small spaces. They are still also linkable, letting you chain together multiple bars for L-shaped areas and tricky layouts. A great alternative to hot halogen and fluorescent under-cabinet systems, LED light bars are highly efficient, low maintenance, and give off very little heat.

LED tape lights: This unique strip lighting system comes in 16-foot reels and mounts easily to the underside of virtually any surface. Exceptionally versatile, LED tape lights can be custom cut to any length, connected for longer areas, and used for various applications, including: above cabinets, below counters, inside cove or tray ceilings, under kitchen islands, and more. Placed near the floor as toe-kick lighting, LED tape lights give a dramatic illusion of floating cabinetry. 

Whatever your decor, whatever your lighting need, under-cabinet LED lights can add both style and functionality to your space. With many different varieties of under-cabinet LEDs available to you, there is sure to be one—or more—that work within your room’s dimensions and needs. Whether you want to tackle a DIY project over the weekend or are launching a major lighting overhaul, LED under-cabinet lights enhance the look of your room while increasing the value of your home. 

Editors' Recommendations

Kim Renta
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kim has written for Bloomingdales, Movado, and various e-commerce wine sites. When she's not writing about wine and…
Get a stylish design: 4 key factors when choosing kitchen island lighting
What to look for when lighting for your kitchen island, the busiest spot in your home
White modern kitchen with black pendant lights and black stools

The kitchen is the heart of your home, and at the center of all the action is your kitchen island. It’s where you’ll prep and enjoy delicious meals as well as entertain friends and family. When necessary, it can transform into a home office or homework station for the kids, no matter the time of the day! This multipurpose space deserves its own lighting to not only illuminate your work but also to show off your personal style.

Unlike other rooms in your home where a single ceiling light may suffice, your kitchen island needs its own designated lighting display. The right lights over your kitchen island can create ambiance and style, and pull together the overall design of your kitchen. However, with so many lighting options to choose from, it can be overwhelming to determine which will work best in your space. So, if you're looking to renovate your kitchen island lighting, here are some bright ideas for an instant upgrade.

Read more
Lighting is essential to incredible home design — try these 4 amazing ideas
15521 the best modern floor lamps lamp

Whenever you redecorate a room, there's a lot to consider: flooring, furniture, color schemes, and much more. But home lighting can sometimes be something of an afterthought — and it shouldn't. Lighting is the perfect way to bring together a design and is often the key to a successful renovation.

There is a lot to consider when determining your home's lighting design. There are different types of light fixtures on the market, and the type of design you choose should reflect your personality and the overall aesthetic of your home. Whether you're opting for a top-down remodel or just want to update a room or two, there are a few considerations to keep in mind before making any big lighting decisions. Fixtures aren't cheap, so it's important to be sure you're buying the best ones for your intent for the space. Here are a few things to think about when adding or updating a lighting feature.

Read more
How to install a security light with a motion sensor in 3 easy steps
how to install security lights shutterstock 1340722961

Your home is your haven, and it should be where you and your family feel the safest. Keeping your home protected with a home security system is the most comprehensive way to guard it, but if you're not ready for that financial commitment, you can always install a motion-detecting security light outside. To answer any questions you may have, we'll discuss the benefits of motion sensor lights and how to install them quickly so you and your family can sleep a little easier.

Benefits of a security light with a motion sensor
While they don't come with all the bells and whistles of a complete home security system, outdoor motion sensor security lights give you a lot of bang for your buck when it comes to keeping your home secure.
Improve security
Of course, the primary benefit of a security light with a motion sensor is that it deters would-be intruders. Not only would an intruder be caught off-guard by the sudden burst of light, but they are likely to retreat and move along since they don't want to be seen.
Promote safety
Falls happen in the driveways and walkways of homes not only when the ground is wet or iced over, but also when it's too dark to see any trip hazards. With a motion sensor light, every time you enter or exit your home, you can be confident that you'll have a light to illuminate the way, preventing slips, trips, and falls.
Outdoor motion sensor lights also mean you don't have to remember to turn your outdoor lights on and off every time the sun goes down or a guest arrives. The light simply turns on when your movement is detected, with no effort on your part.
Since full home security systems can be pricey, motion sensor security lights present a more economical way to secure the home without breaking the bank.
Where to install motion sensor lights
For the motion sensor on your outdoor security light to be most effective, install it in a location with no obstructions, like trees or parked cars, that would otherwise prevent it from sensing movements in the area.  Ensure the sensor is approximately 10 feet above ground level and in such a position where any movement that occurs in the area will travel across the motion detector instead of moving directly toward or away from it. Cross movement is more easily detected by the sensor, so make sure it's perpendicular to any walking path.

Read more