How to Install LED Under Cabinet Lighting
We learned how to install LED lighting after undertaking a kitchen renovation to sell a home. Once we updated our kitchen, we changed our mind about selling. And after realizing just how easy LED lighting strips are to install, not to mention energy efficient, we couldn’t wait to do the same in our basement laundry room! Energy efficient features always add value to a home – whether to enjoy or sell.
Adding DIY under cabinet lighting is a great solution if you need more task lighting in naturally dark spaces – or on prep surfaces in the evening once the sun goes down!
Installing LED tape lighting is an easy project (it has a self adhesive sticky back). But it doesn’t always go to plan (as you’ll read later).
When planning the lighting needs for your situation, keep in mind that you can purchase LED lighting with varying numbers of LEDs per foot (ours is available in 9, 18 or 36 LEDs per foot). If you want the option of dimming your lighting, purchase one that is specifically made to be dimmable with an AC dimmer.
Our LED lighting is separate elements. To make it easy on yourself, you can also buy a kit with everything you’ll need.
You may set this up differently, but in our laundry room we located the low voltage transformer on the other side of the wall, in the furnace area. The transformer reduces the 120 volts of the electrical line into just 12V to run the LED lights.
To wire for the LEDs, Hubs just plugs in the transformer then runs the wire from the LED strip right through a small hole in the wall. Notice that he also wired in an LED dimmer, which is totally optional.
Since the hole is right underneath the cabinets, it’s barely noticeable.
Because the LED strip lighting has a peel ‘n stick adhesive backing, you could stick it directly onto the undersurface of the cabinets. However our IKEA cabinets are perfectly flush on the bottom (no recess) and we didn’t want to be staring at bright LEDs directly. So we mounted the LED lights into an aluminum channel with a diffuser. Another advantage of this set-up is that it protects and keeps your LEDs dust free.
First, attach the mounting clips into the underside of the cabinets with screws. Then the aluminum channel snaps into the clips.
Positioning of LED lights is important. Closer to middle front edge of the cabinet will allow the counter below to be well lit. Easy peasy and ready for LED lighting!
Now it’s just a matter of peeling the backing.
And sticking the LED strip right into the centre of the channel.
BUT…. before you do that, it’s a good idea to connect your strips and test them out first.
Why, you ask? Well, if you buy your LED strips from an open stock retailer, like us, it’s easy for the customer service rep to grab two different colour temperatures. Here, we have a cool white LED strip combined with a warm white. Not the look we’re going for.
It’s not a good idea to stare directly at LEDs, so we turned the lights off to make sure. Yup, that’s a distinctive yellow glow!
Luckily Hubs stuck down the cool white LED strip first! But he had to schlep back to the store to exchange the other strip. TIP: before leaving with your purchase, make sure you check so you get what you come for!
Now that we’re back on track, it’s time to connect them! Multiple strips can be combined with one of two methods. You could solder pieces together with a wire lead, or even splice them. But you can also us a plastic connector to join two strips. We chose the plastic connector.
Notice the – and + signs on the LED strip below? When you connect two pieces, you have to ensure that you are joining like to like to maintain the same polarity. So you may have to turn your LED strip around.
If using a connector, ensure that you cut half way through the copper (refer to directions to make sure this is correct for your own brand). The piece probably fine for soldering but likely too small for the connector and will get re-cut.
The LED strip easily cuts with scissors.
Peel the backing then slip the copper into the connector. Close the connector, ensuring it snaps shut. This can be tricky. So, if necessary, you can carefully apply pressure with pliers.
Before moving on, test the lighting once again to ensure the connection is properly done.
After sticking down the rest of the LED strip, snap on the diffuser.
Diffusers also come in different options. We chose this frosted one over opal.
Installation complete and the aluminum channel is barely noticeable below our custom IKEA cabinets.
Last, but not least, to turn the lights on and off, we use this remote control.
Funny story: before our first basement flood (and subsequent water leak repair), we’d come down to the basement and find our under cabinet lights on. Hubs thought I was leaving them on and vice versa.
We’ll never know for sure, but we think one of our nearby neighbours had a similar remote that accidentally kept turning our lights on. We ended up exchanging our unit and haven’t had a problem since.
Well the lights might be done, but the work is never ending. After this project, Hubs had a wide variety of other DIYs to complete the same month, like opening our diy pond s for the season. Head to our blog (link below this post) for links to those.
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Enjoyed the project?
- LED Light Strips (Speciality retailer)
- Aluminum Channel (Speciality retailer)
What do you do if your cabinets aren't flat on the bottom but are recessed?