Under Cabinet Lighting Project has gotten out of hand... Wife is more pleased than expected


(The Viking AKA "Holy Crap You're a Giant!") #1

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.

The Project:
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.

The Decision:
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.

The Features:
Integrated into Hue/SmartThings.
Professional appearance.
Lots of light.
Dimmable.
Easy to install.

The Parts:
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.

The Environment:
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

Pictures incoming. :slight_smile:

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.

Power supply.

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.


Under-cabinet Lighting - Replacing with Intelligent, color LED
[RELEASE] SmartLife (H801) RGBW LED Strip Wifi Controller & Bulb
Under Cabinet lighting options?
(John C) #2

Thanks for the story – as well as pointers to suitable parts. One of these days, I will be tackling a similar conversion from halogen under-cabinet lightning to LED and the information is helpful!


(Eric) #3

I also appreciate the story. We are remodeling our master bedroom which includes creating a 8 x 18 walk in closet. I plan on having a lot of the shelves with lighting. I’ll be back so keep us updated.


(Dale C) #4

Love the story, Why not post some “before” pictures of where you plan on installing the lights and then of course the “after” as well when you done. I am wondering if you might have other money and time saving options for hiding the wire you hadn’t considered. I ended up concealing wiring inside the cabinets themselves. I was considering using the expensive aluminum channeling but I wanted to see if using much less expensive corner molding would suffice. As I showed off the lighting no one commented on it looking bad since it is totally hidden from view and even those that got their head under the cabinets to look only had good things to say. I never ordered the metal channels.

… P.S. I know a good marriage counselor after your wife sees the Amazon bill :grinning:


(The Viking AKA "Holy Crap You're a Giant!") #5

This is where I have some of the wires I’ve run for the halogen setup, but does not apply to all cabinets due to the layout.
I plan to post before images once the kitchen is cleaned from our recent microwave swap (old one is on the counter waiting for someone to rescue it).
In other cabinets I’ve had to stick the wires up underneath for the old lights. All of that will be coming out when I start the new run process.

I plan to use the old wires to pull the new wires through the cabinetry.


(Ron Talley) #6

I used 5 wire thermostat wire and ran to each cabinet in parallel from this controller:

Connected the controller to a GE-Z-Wave on/off switch.

Use Alexa to dim to %.

Regular 16ft. RGBW off of amazon with these connectors from therm wire to rgbw adapaters.

Works Great for me and was dirt cheap!


(The Viking AKA "Holy Crap You're a Giant!") #7

@rontalley That’s a good solution as well.

What I’m going for specifically is something that can be operated by anyone without a smart phone or tablet, or the need of any third party solutions.

If I have a dimmer switch built into the wall to control the under cabinet lights, it looks and operates exactly like a hard-wired system and anyone can control the lights without any additional control devices.

Having a smart dimmer just adds all of that functionality.

On that note, all of my stuff has come in, and I start the project tomorrow night after work.

I’ll get some pictures of the LEDs in the channel this evening and post the few photos I currently have of the existing kitchen and lighting. Please bear with the mess. We’re in the process of purging excess crap, and the kitchen has become a catch-all as part of it.


(Michael Hess) #8

I will route mine in eventually, this was my quick and dirty method. The H801 controllers can control 5 channels so I have white on both sides independently, then color across the board. Need to grab a second controller for the rest of my counters. And I too bought a too big fridge and moved the cabinet on the right and must fill a gap, someday… Oh need to plug that power adapter in behind the fridge too. I call this “real word professional.”

Oh and this for pushbutton control of colors, the cabinet lights automatically, and Alexa is right near by.


(Ron Talley) #9

So cool that there are so many approaches to this stuff! @Synthesis, I might redo my setup to mimic yours above as I too like the idea of dimming by switch.

To be honest, I don’t think that anyone has even touched the switch in months as it is all automated now. :slight_smile: We do love party mode though! As the music plays, the lights dance and change colors to the music. So Darn Cool!!


(The Viking AKA "Holy Crap You're a Giant!") #10

Started the light assembly this evening. Opted to solder to the next point or two in rather than directly at the end to avoid any potential shorts against the aluminum U-Channel.

I have not yet installed the under microwave light, but this is a shot of the under cabinets lighting up along with the built in light on the microwave. I’ll get the LEDs installed tomorrow in that area.

I haven’t done anything with the line voltage side yet. I’ll be working on that tomorrow, as I have to pull the upper cabinet to the right of the sink in order to run wire in the wall behind it. Once I do that, I’ll get the outlet installed in the top of the corner cabinet so that it is out of the way. This will also be where I handle my low voltage interconnects.

Bonus shots taken with the overheads off.

When you don’t have enough hands, and you need to solder wires. The cabinet survived with no ill effect, and the lights work beautifully.

More incoming tomorrow, along with under cabinet photos.


(The Viking AKA "Holy Crap You're a Giant!") #11

New next to old.



(The Viking AKA "Holy Crap You're a Giant!") #12

Not 100% done yet, but close enough to matter. :slight_smile:
Here’s a quick tour, and I’ll have the rest finished tomorrow.

The foam in the wall is where I discovered the drain vent line was running. So much for breaking the sink overhead light and disposal out into their own switches. Ended up having to fill the hole I had cut and going back to a two gang box instead of a triple gang box.

Video is processing. Give it a bit.


(Dale C) #13

So what is the final total cost of this lighting project going to run?


(The Viking AKA "Holy Crap You're a Giant!") #14

All in all, in the end it set me back about 230 dollars, including incidentals like a two gang old work style electrical box, a short length of 14/2 with a ground, 3M double-sided adhesive tape and two conductor power wire to run wiring to each location.

The four items I ended up using were the LightingWill aluminum extrusions, the LEDENET double row of warm white LEDs, the GE Z-Wave dimmer switch and the Weanas dimming transformer.

The remainder of the other items I purchased will be installed in the home theater room which I’m starting the A/V and Data wiring on this weekend.


#15

$230? …ouch.

Pulled off the same thing last month for a total of $30 with 2 items, a roll of these:
https://www.amazon.com/Abestbox-Waterproof-Flexible-Decoration-Controller/dp/B01IHDYYFS/

And a $8 wi-fi controller from Aliexpress running this wonderful custom firmware from @erocm1231 which gives super easy SmartThings control, including for the wife “Alexa, turn on/off the cabinets lights”

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/rgb-strip-WiFi-controller-1-port-control-15-rgb-lights-communicate-with-Android-phone-to-dim/32301423622.html


(Michael Hess) #16

Yeah but @Synthesis stepped it up a notch with the aluminium race ways, I do like those. But I’m too cheap to go that route. Already have 2 H801’s for my counters, may need a third before I’m done. Don’t have a nice smooth run of cabinets like you!


(The Viking AKA "Holy Crap You're a Giant!") #17

Fair enough. But, if you read my original post, I wanted anyone to be able to use the lights, even people who aren’t “SmartHome aware”. This is why I have a GE Z-Wave Dimmer in the wall with a phase dimming transformer for the LED strips.
In addition, I also wanted the LEDs fully enclosed so that there weren’t adhesive LED strips stuck to the bottom of the cabinets. It needed to look as close to “Professional” as possible.

Finally, the LED strips you posted aren’t bright enough for my intended purposes. If I had wanted to, I could have gone with a straight on/off Z-Wave wall switch and a power supply, but then I wouldn’t get the benefit of being able to have them come on dim at 3:45AM when I get up to head into the gym and don’t want to be blinded by light.

Having them dimmable is a VERY nice touch.


(Michael Hess) #18

I used the RGBW LED’s and the white is REALLY bright, more so than I thought it would be. Of course it’s not as bright as the white only ones since they’d have twice the density. Yours must sear the eyeballs at full brightness! The colors are a bit dimmer than I’d like because of this, but nobody else in the house cares. :slight_smile:

Your solution is very much overbuilt and appears like it will be bullet proof. I’ve got some double row LED’s in my theater room and they push my little 1.5amp wall wart into the “Is it warm enough to catch fire yet?” territory, fortunately they are on for only a few minutes before and after movie time, so I’m not too worried, yet. Only after being on for a half hour do I start to question my sanity.


#19

I meant no disrespect, and I have to say I do like the aluminum raceway install too. But you really should checkout these H801 controllers sometime, @erocm1231 's amazing work on them has given them the ability to fully control, dim, and even program animations into 5 different strips, “zones” or RGBWW channels from this little $8 box.

And paired with a motion sensor I too use mine to slow fade up to 30% when I go into the kitchen for late-night snacks, and in another install as animated halloween/christmas lights on my front door lol


(The Viking AKA "Holy Crap You're a Giant!") #20

I didn’t perceive any disrespect in your post. There are a million different ways to do the same thing, and everyone has different tastes.

I’m very interested in the H801 controllers, and am considering giving them a try in the theater room, which I’m in the middle of building out as we speak. I hung the projector and screen last night, and will be wiring in speakers this evening. Soon, I’ll be able to get drywall up, just waiting on my new dual 20A breakers for my breaker panel to arrive by mail.

Our home was built circa 1960, so we have the Pushmatic on/off breakers. Finding replacements is difficult, but Amazon sells breakers for the box that feature dual breakers in the same space as a single would fit. Since I have a full A/V/Internet rack in the furnace room with a Cisco ASA 5510 firewall, several Cisco PoE capable Gigabit switches and my receiver, HTPC, etc will all be in that rack as well, I intend to run a 20 amp circuit with 12/2 wiring to power the rack, the screen and the projector. A friend is building a Rest to Serial bridge for a Pi so I can integrate the projector to SmartThings. If I can find someone to build a DTH for the Rest bridge, I’ll be able to query status and control the whole thing from the SmartThings environment when done.

Also, I love that front door effect… I may have to put this Zigbee unit to work for that tonight, if possible.