Don’t settle for poor task lights in the kitchen. If you use the kitchen for serious cooking, treat yourself to the lighting a chef would expect. And if you don’t cook much, but love to entertain – ditto. For the work areas in your kitchen undercabinet lighting is a great way to light the counters and add some sparkle to your kitchen.
There are a lot of choices out there: Halogen, Fluorescent, Xenon and LED, linear lights, puck lights or tape lighting. Which undercabinet light is the best? Well, a lot of it depends on personal preference. If you choose a good quality fixture there is in my opinion no right or wrong. Halogen provides excellent task lighting and really brings out the sparkle in granite and many other unique stone surfaces. The clean, white light offers illumination that is hard to beat. The drawback of halogen under cabinet lighting is the heat it produces. In a kitchen that is really used for its main purpose, cooking, this might be a turn-off. Fluorescent Fluorescent under cabinet lights have a bad rep. Most of us still remember the cheap garage lights that flickered and hummed, and made us look sickly. If you haven’t changed out your fluorescent lights since those old days you are in for a surprise. Recent advances in the technology of fluorescent lights have made them an excellent option. The color temperature ranges have improved and so has the CRI (number on the Color rendering index), which measures the ability of a light source to reproduce colors.
What I like about fluorescent lighting is the even distribution of the light without hot spots. They don’t give off much heat and are energy-efficient. I am, however, worried about the recycling aspect and the mercury they contain. Fluorescent under cabinet lights can generally not be dimmed, which makes it difficult to use them as mood lights for an open floor plan. Xenon Xenon lamps (bulbs) look almost identical to their Halogen counterparts. Xenon and Halogen are two types of fill gas with different characteristics. Xenon lamps are incandescent line voltage lamps, which has the advantage that they don’t require special dimmers. Xenon gives off a warmer light than halogen while it runs cooler in temperature, which makes it a preferred choice in many kitchen applications. Another selling point for Xenon lamps is that they do not require that special handling you are asked to use when you deal with halogen lamps. It is often tough enough to change those tiny two-pronged bulbs. Now holding onto one of them with a tissue while contorting yourself under the kitchen cabinet light adds to the frustration. We have seen grown men cry! Xenon bulbs are not this sensitive. You can eliminate that one obstacle from the procedure and just hold them with your bare fingers. Yeah. But, then there’s the sparkle. They don’t quite have that crisp white light that Halogen has. Guess, you can’t have it all. LED Cool, long lasting, super energy efficient. What is there not to love about LED? LED has so much to offer. The main advantage is the incredible savings in energy and the long life span. In addition LEDs generate very little heat, which is a major plus in a kitchen. Add to that the advantages of a tiny footprint and virtually no maintenance and you see, why we are in love. Unfortunately many manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon when LED first came out without going all the way with their design. A lot of inferior products have hit the market and we now see a lot of LED under cabinet lights with horrible color reproduction. Other issues to look out for are hot spots where you see the reflection of the individual diodes on you counter top and multiple surface shadows. Luckily there are excellent choices out there that make LED under cabinet lights shine. Tech Lighting’s Unilume undercabinet light at first glance looks identical to many others, but if you mount it over a very shiny surface like black granite you see an evenly distributed light. “The Unilume utilizes tightly clustered blue LEDs, optimized mixing chambers and remote phosphor lenses. The result is incredibly consistent illumination and high efficacy within the smallest profiles possible”. Tech Lighting