The wife and I decided that we were tired of half-finished projects around the house, so we’ve agreed to move forward with finishing the kitchen.
About a year ago our stove died on us, leading impulse buy of a fridge in the clearance aisle. When we got everything home, we discovered that our brand new to us counter-depth fridge was 1/4" too wide to fit the fridge opening, so we did some frantic rearranging of the cabinetry and gave the fridge a wall all to itself.
As soon as we had counter space, we sort of just… stopped. We never finished painting where the fridge had been or finished up the trim, etc.
Our original under cabinet lighting was installed by me when we first moved in three and a half years ago. It was the cheapest halogen puck light kit that Home Depot had available. And let me tell you, it was damned cheap, both quality and price-wise. We kept losing halogen bulbs every couple of weeks, and I got tired of trying to get my extra large fingers into the extra tiny puck light without oiling up the bulb and ruining it… So I just unplugged it all and we’ve lived without.
Enter the wife saying “I miss our under cabinet lighting… Fix it.”
My heart started racing, the adrenaline kicked in, and I immediately called Alan Greenspan for a loan, because it was about to get real.
Replace crappy halogen with amazing LED. Make it look professional. Integrate it into the smart home in a manner that makes it easy for the wife to control.
Colored or solid?
I originally opted for RGBWW strips, and purchased two of the Supernight strips. I researched them pretty thoroughly before pulling the trigger. The issue I was concerned about was whether or not the white alone would be bright enough, and how bad the colored LEDs would skew what I was looking for in a good rich warm color.
I’m the cook of the home and I want a LOT of light under the counter, but I need it to be even lighting without hot spots and without being directional.
Integrated into Hue/SmartThings.
Lots of light.
Easy to install.
Originally, I purchased the Supernight kits as mentioned above, along with a Philips Hue Tap switch, a Dresden Elektronik FLS-PP Ip Zigbee ballast for RGBW lighting, and an LED Amplifier to ensure that I could potentially expand and/or double up the LED strips to increase the lighting. I also picked up a 12vDC 60 watt power supply to run the show. I realized after the fact that I had severely under calculated the power supply requirements for two strips of RGBWW LEDs, so I started browsing Amazon again, and that led me to revise my plan.
My second round of research led to locating a second style of LED strip that will work better in our environment. This resulted in the LEDENET Warm White double row of LEDs, 5 meters, 72 watts of dissipation per strip. The meager power supply I had purchased wouldn’t touch even one of these light strips long term, so I had to find something with some more oomph. I also didn’t want to dedicate an entire RGBW Zigbee controller and separate amplifier to a single light channel. It seems a waste of a good piece of hardware that will work with my Supernight LED strips. When these LEDs arrived yesterday I connected them direct to the power supply and nearly blinded myself with how bright they were. When held up in “under cabinet” position while blocking as much of the rest of the strip that wouldn’t be under the cabinet as possible, it resulted in an extremely bright light with no observable shadows from an object placed far enough under the cabinet to block the lighting. This meant I was getting great wide angle light exposure that was reflecting off the walls and surfaces around the object. This is EXACTLY what I was looking for.
Because of this, I either needed to find a Zigbee/ZWave compatible single channel dimmer that could handle a large amount of current, or I needed to find a line-voltage dimmable power converter from 120v to 12v that had plenty of wattage handling capability. Enter the Weanas 120 watt transformer designed for line-voltage dimming.
Install a standard outlet in a location under a sink or in one of the upper corner cabinets and run the outlet using a GE Z-Wave Dimmer (12724) mounted in the switch box to the right of the sink, and I now have fully dimmable LED under cabinet lights that I can apply my current “Kitchen lights on when motion” rule to. Currently, this rule triggers the overhead LED can lights. Four of them with a 75 watt equivalent output, each. It’s a bit too bright, especially when you stumble into the kitchen at 4AM, like I do every morning. Shift the rule to the cabinet lights instead and things get much nicer.
For the professional look, I didn’t just want to double side sticky tape the LEDs directly to the bottoms of the cabinets leaving them exposed. This looks unprofessional in my opinion, and in the case of the LEDs I purchased leaves them exposed to direct contact and damage. LightingWill sells aluminum channel with diffusers for all kinds of LED strip lighting. I picked up a five pack of one meter length channels with extra end caps so that I can now encapsulate the LED strips within a protective housing. These channels will be mounted to the bottom of the cabinets with the plastic clips included, and if these give me problems I’ll switch to 3M double sided adhesive tape.
I have eight cabinets and an over the range microwave with a smooth flat surface located all the way back against the wall (away from the burners). The total length of all under cabinet surfaces is less than five meters, so I’ll fall well within the requirements of the power supply, the length of the LED strips and the aluminum channels I’ve purchased.
The hardest part of the entire project will be pulling a couple of cabinets in order to run wiring through the soffit above them, though I could probably just tape the end of the new low voltage wires to the ends of the old halogen stuff and tug gently to pull through without pulling anything off the walls. The worst part of the project will be when the wife discovers the amount I charged to the Amazon credit card…
I’ll post more here as I complete the project, likely this weekend, as everything should be in by Friday at the latest.
The colored LEDs and Zigbee controller with the power supply and amplifier will very likely be installed downstairs in the basement. I’m in the process of wiring the large (16x26) living area with in-wall speaker wires, ethernet and electrical so I can install my 140" Da Lite projection screen and surround system. The LEDs will make great accent lighting in some more of the LightingWill light channels once I have paid off the years of debt I have committed us to.
This is definitely not a cheap hobby. sigh
Edit: Photos added. I’ll add descriptions tomorrow when I am not on my phone.
Edit 2: Descriptions added, order fixed.
From left to right image order:
This is the original fridge location. The cabinet located in the bottom with the butcher block on top was originally located where the fridge currently is. This had a single overhead cabinet that could not be easily reached with any kind of wiring, and the counter surface just collected all sorts of crap. Kind of like it appears in the image below. The gap between the upper left and the one on the right may be filled with small shelves I build, or I’ll call the cabinet makers anad order a laarger cabinet on the right side to replace the one that’s there. Have not yet decided. Wiring will run through the overhead soffit.
Corner showing old microwave. The three cabinets overhead have old puck lights installed underneath them. These will be coming out.
Sink, window, etc. There’s a recessed light overhead controlled by the top switch in the box on the right. The bottom switch is the disposal. I’ll be cutting the plaster and removing the old metal box, replacing with an old construction blue double or triple gang box to make room for the new smart switch(es).
Opposite corner. This is where the power for the existing puck lights is. They plug into an outlet in the back splash and then run up in cabinet.
I hastily installed them so they look like crap.
Microwave and last cabinet on the right. The microwave has good built-in lighting, but I can’t control it with the under cabinets, so this will also have an LED strip attached at the far back for additional lighting just behind the vent filters to keep the heat from cooking to a minimum and still give me light.
And now for the under cabinet view of the crappy job I originally did. The tape was just to keep wires up. It worked well. A lot of the wiring that’s hanging is because I started to pull it out, then remembered to take pictures. Oops.
Here you can see how I’ve run the wires in the cabinets. I’ll be replicating this and using very small wire nail caps to hold them in place securely. The new wire I have is smaller than the wire in the image. Also, the existing wire is line voltage, which I’m not comfortable with inside of a cabinet.
(Editor’s note: This isn’t the original image I wanted to post, but I can’t seem to locate it again. The wire pulled up and over is after I had to cut it out when I removed the overhead cabinet to install the microwave.)
The Right Stuff: (Whoa oh oh oh oh…)
Sorry for the silly song reference, but if you know it, more power to you.
Product came in. I’ve been measuring and cutting the LED strips to be about a quarter to half inch shorter then the distance between the inside edge of the lower recessed area in each cabinet. This allows for the end caps to be installed on the U channel as well as enough space for the wiring to come out and be tucked up inside the edge of the cabinet.
See the below images for what everything looks like.
U-Channel with diffuser on the living room rug.
LEDs laying in the U Channel for a brightness test, diffuser installed.
This is the dimmed way down. The camera’s auto settings make it appear super bright.
Maximum brightness, hand thrown in to show the light levels as best I can.