SlimShady218 New Reader
9/4/18 3:22 p.m.

The Mrs. and I are embarking on another kitchen remodel and are looking into under cabinet lighting options.  Has anyone ever looked into this?  We are wanting a hard wired solution, not a plug in type, and one that is dimmable and LED, we have no real preference between the strips and puck lights and doesn't need to change colors.  Just about all of the systems I have seen are the plug in type and the dimming is only through the included dimmer, not a wall dimmer.  We have about 25 LF of upper cabinets in 3 different areas and I'm tearing out the existing back splash so accessibility to the walls really isn't an issue.  I am envisioning making a single gang box a 2-gang box for a dimmer switch, running up to a transformer (if needed) that would sit on top of the cabinet and then run wires out of that to the locations under the cabinets.  Any suggestions?  What am I forgetting to take into account.


Thanks for the insight.

daeman Dork
9/4/18 4:58 p.m.

I'd go strip light over pucks, it's a much nicer effect.

The good part about led is after the transformer is low voltage, so extending the wiring should be fairly safe and easy. That'd at least allow you get the transformers up into the ceiling.

As for hardwiring the transformers, its obviously possible, but you'll need someone to chime in regarding the legality of doing it. All my led down lights are transformer type with batton outlets in the ceiling cavity. Means in the event of a failure I can climb into the roof, unplug the old and plug in the new without the need for an electrician (not that hard wiring is an obstacle to me, but it probably will be for the next owner)

As for dimming, if you bought units that are able to be dimmed, I'm pretty sure you can put a dimmer unit in series with the power supply to the transformer. I'm using my down lights for reference, being transformer type, I have a dimmer wired that way and it works as it should. But I'm not sure how it would work if you were to dim the infeed power to a transformer that has a dimmer built in.

As for the dimmer itself, if you go that way, you'll want an LED compatible dimmer, they're a bit more expensive than STD dimmers, but not bank breakers. Bonus is the ones I got are fully programmable. I can set them up so the dimmer knob doubles as the on off switch, set the max and min light levels, set what light level they come on at, fade in/fade out and whatever else I've forgotten.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/4/18 5:20 p.m.

Ikea has your back here. They have a modular setup that lets you mix panels, strips and pucks all off a central transformer. It's designed to be plugged in but the last time I installed a set I did as daeman suggested and hid outlets in various spots.

There's a little round wireless remote that can trigger multiple transformers with two light levels.

You'll need the lights, the appropriately sized transformer(s), a plug (!) and the remote control. It's a good setup, I've been running them for a few years.

SlimShady218 New Reader
9/5/18 9:54 a.m.

What a worm hole I just went down.  It eventually led to smart home technology and now I'm considering jumping on that band wagon.  Thanks for the input, keep it coming, at the point nothing is off the table.

nderwater UltimaDork
10/15/21 12:06 p.m.

Digging this one back up.  Three years have passed--have you guys found any other cheap and easy options?  I need three sections of under-cabinet lights totaling about 20 liner feet.  Each of sections has 120V power already.  What have you tried and liked?

Duke MegaDork
10/15/21 1:08 p.m.

In reply to nderwater :

When I did mine 10+ years ago, I just bought self-drivered hardwired LED strips that seemed reasonably priced (not too cheap; not too expensive) online.  No idea what the manufacturer was but they are still going strong.

The big things you're looking for is a color temperature in the 3000k-3500k range (4000k max) for a nice warm, slightly-yellow-to-neutral light.  The other half of that equation is a Color Rendition Index (CRI) as close to 100 as you can afford.  CRI is a measure of how "clean" the light is, meaning does it have weird undertones that may affect the color of objects.

My undercounter lights were pretty early in the game and the CRI is not great.  For general lighting they are fine (better than fluorescent, that's for damn sure) but they have some odd overtones on specific color objects.  For instance, most meats look undercooked because something in the light really emphasizes the purple tones.  It's not bad because I have halogen downlights as well, but if I ever replace those with LED lamps I am going to have to be careful about CRI.



java230 UberDork
10/15/21 2:21 p.m.

I just did mine, used silicone encased strips, single transformer under the sink. I used Progress Lighting Hide-a-light. 

dxman92 Dork
10/18/21 11:24 p.m.

Ikea gets my vote..

NoviceClass Reader
10/19/21 7:51 a.m.

We put UCL in our house when we built it a few years back. 

Honestly have never used it, with just the natural light, and the recess cans we used, it always seems bright enough.

It wasn't expensive, so it's not a big loss, but I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to do it again.

z31maniac MegaDork
10/19/21 8:31 a.m.
SlimShady218 said:

What a worm hole I just went down.  It eventually led to smart home technology and now I'm considering jumping on that band wagon.  Thanks for the input, keep it coming, at the point nothing is off the table.

I keep getting tempted by smarthome stuff. But haven't been able to pick a system yet. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/19/21 10:31 a.m.

I recommended ikea the first time, I'll recommend it again :) I've used several generations of their stuff and I quite like it.

dculberson MegaDork
10/19/21 10:43 a.m.

When we bought our house it had old T5 fluorescent based under cabinet lights that were terrible - noisy, flickered when turning on, etc. - they even heated up the cabinets and made the food inside go stale more quickly. So I got some finished looking low profile transformers off eBay and LED strip lights and they look awesome, turn on immediately, and illuminate more evenly. I was able to drill tiny holes between the cabinets and pass the 12v power through so I did the whole kitchen with only two transformers. It was pretty dang cheap, too. I used a couple wiremold boxes to connect the 120vac to the transformers in a finished looking and safe manner.

This isn't the exact stuff I bought but should be equivalent: led strip transformers, choose wattage based on strip length wiremold boxes

It does require some soldering and additional hookup wire.

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