4 Types of Under-Cabinet Lighting: Pros, Cons, and Shopping Advice

updated May 2, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Faith Durand)

The under-cabinet lights in my kitchen are chunky T12 fluorescents from the 1980s. They flicker and buzz and have that aggravating warm-up period every time you turn them on. In other words, they must go. This led me to research replacements, which I thought I’d share with you here! Whether you’re starting from scratch or, like me, are replacing old fixtures, here are some options to consider.

1. T4 Fluorescent Strips: Unlike the T12 bulbs in my current fixtures (which have a 1 1/2-inch diameter), T4 bulbs have just a 1/2-inch diameter. This makes for a much sleeker fixture. Today’s fluorescent bulbs are also much improved from their predecessors in that they don’t have a delay when you flip on the switch, they don’t produce a hum, and their color value is improved.

2. Puck Lights: These round, hockey-puck-shaped fixtures are popular because there are many versions of them that don’t need to be hard-wired or even plugged in. Battery-operated models with LED bulbs simply stick to the underside of your cabinet. These are a great option for rental kitchens or in cases where wiring would be prohibited by expense. Before LEDs, puck lights generally had xenon bulbs, but these burn hot, making them undesirable for kitchens.

Good options to consider:

3. LED Strips: LED strips can look a lot like slim fluorescent strips, but LED bulbs have an even longer life than fluorescents. They burn cool like fluorescents, too, which is always an advantage for kitchens. This is the most expensive option, as the fixture type is relatively new and prices have yet to settle. Also, the color can be a bit cool for some tastes, so test these out in-store if you have a chance. Some models require an external transformer, which can be bulky, so look for models that don’t.

Good options to consider:

4. LED Rope or Tape: These fixtures are extremely thin, making them easy to install, unlikely to get bumped as you work at your counter, and visually discreet. They don’t put out as much light as the other options, so these are truly for complementing already-strong overhead kitchen lighting. LED tape is also flexible, which could come in handy in particular scenarios:

Good options to consider:

Do you have under cabinet lighting? What type do you have and is it something you’re pleased with or something you’re wanting to replace?

See Faith’s process of installing Xenon light strips in her kitchen:

New Under Cabinet Lighting: Utilitech Xenon Lights Product Review