If you’ve been relying on natural light and one overhead fixture to supply illumination in your kitchen area, you may have noticed a trend – namely, you only have decent lighting at certain times of the day, not to mention certain kinds of weather! When it comes to countertops, you need good lighting to work, make meals, clean up… and installing undercounter halogen lighting is the best solution to resolve this issue.
Halogen lighting can be mounted to the underside of suspended or overhead cabinets, and can be either plugged in or hardwired – though choosing a hardwired option is better for hiding unwieldy cords that might otherwise stray about the room.
You also have the general choice of using fluorescent strips or halogen strip or ‘puck-style’ lighting fixtures. Although fluorescent light strips are typically cheaper on your initial purchase, halogen light fixtures provide you with a softer, more natural light – far more similar to natural sunlight. However, both are easy to install and can be done in one afternoon.
Mounting Puck Halogen Lights
Choose the kind of halogen lights you need based on what area of countertop you want to illuminate. Strip lights are good if you want light on the entire countertop area, although in most kitchens this isn’t the case. Some areas may not need an entire strip of lights, in which case the smaller, puck-sized individual halogen lights are best.
These tend to be available for purchase in packages of two (sometimes more), and can be easily mounted in the exact location that you require. After placing these lights, they are then wired together using snap-together fittings that are actually included right in the light kit. You then connect only the last light to a low-voltage transformer that is then plugged into a receptacle.
Installing Your Undercounter Strip Lighting
1) Strip lighting is a little more involved than puck-lighting, so it’s a good idea to turn on the lights and move them around under your cabinets in order to determine the best placement. Try moving the lights as close to the cabinet front as possible, since that will give you the best coverage of your countertop area underneath.
2) Read the manufacturer’s instructions for marking holes with mounting hardware. In some cases, your package will come with a paper template, but if they don’t, just make your marks on the cabinet bottom through the mounting holes.
3) After marking locations for the mounting screws, drill your pilot holes. Place the screws into the underside of the cabinet, and install the light strip! Then plug it in, using the low-voltage transformer that comes with most halogen fixtures. This should plug right into a nearby receptacle.
4) Finally, you want to check to see if your light strip can be seen at eye level. If you find that you can see the bulb poking out from underneath the cabinet, make a quick valance using a ½” wood strip – cut it 1 to 2 inches wide, and make it the length of the light fixture or your cabinet, whichever you find more aesthetically pleasing.
5) Finish the strip to match your cabinets, then either nail or screw the valance directly onto the bottom of the cabinet’s front edge. You won’t regret it – the valance will both hide the light fixture and prevent light glare from shining back into your eyes while you try to work!