4 Under-Cabinet Lighting Ideas to Brighten Up Your Kitchen in Minutes

published Oct 20, 2022
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(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

When you stop and think about it, kitchen cabinets are kind of like big boxes on your wall, which means they’re great for storing dishes and drinking glasses but bad when they cast shadows on your counters. These shadows result in a dimly lit counter space, creating a less-than-ideal kitchen setup that could be downright dangerous (sharp knives and low lighting don’t mix!).

Thankfully, brightening things up isn’t as complicated as it used to be. Whereas you once had to mess around with drilling pilot holes and running finicky wiring through your cabinets, with modern under counter lighting solutions, you can light your space in minutes — and we mean minutes. By adding lighting to this one key spot, you’ll be able to make cooking that much better, more enjoyable, and, well, just plain visible! Below, we rounded up four need-to-know under counter lighting tricks that are inexpensive, easy-to-install, and (maybe best of all) renter friendly.

(Image credit: Morgan Schemel)

Puck Lights

Puck lights (named for their hockey puck shape and size) use either xenon, halogen, or LED light bulbs. They are easy to install and give off single, focused spots of light. Depending on which type you buy, they either plug into a wall outlet or require batteries, and they either screw into the bottom of your cabinets or can be stuck directly onto any surface using adhesive dots. Know that battery-powered options are good for only occasional use, as battery life isn’t terribly long (consider buying rechargeable batteries if you go this route). Some of these lights require you to tap them to turn on, and there are also remote control models that are dimmable.

(Image credit: Reagen Taylor)

Fluorescent Light Bars

Unlike the big tubular ceiling lights you think of when you hear the word “fluorescent,” these options are fairly compact, can easily hide under the cabinets without being seen, and are lightweight enough to stay put using just velcro if you don’t want to commit to screws. Most are plug-in models, but there are some that can be hardwired. Unlike puck lights, the light under these bars covers more area, but because they are fluorescent, the light has that cool (as in, not warm) office-like quality that’s not always the most inviting. They also aren’t dimmable, but depending on which ones you buy, you might be able to tether them together to turn on/off at the same time.

(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

LED Light Bars

Like the fixtures above, these lights are considered “plug and play,” meaning there’s no messy rewiring needed. Most come with all the necessary hardware or adhesive patches, which makes installation a breeze. LED lights also have the added benefit of being very energy efficient. Unlike fluorescents, they are more adjustable, often with three-way switches. Although they used to be more expensive, they’ve been around long enough now that prices have come down considerably, making them a great option.

(Image credit: Julia Steele)

Under Counter LED Strip Lights

These options combine the efficiency of LED bulbs with the flexibility of rope, making them an intriguing choice for your kitchen. They come on peel-and-stick tape that can be cut to size, and you can do some fun things with them, like changing the color of the lights to red or blue. Depending on how you configure it, make sure the set you buy has everything needed: Many of these kits are modular, so you have to add in adapters, dimmers, and wifi/Alexa capability, if those features are up your alley. Even though their design makes it easy to cover a good-sized area, just know that these strips don’t have the same light output as the other options.

This post was originally published on April 17, 2018 and was last updated on February 22, 2021 to reflect current prices and offerings. Sarah M. Vazquez also contributed to reporting.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: 4 Under Counter Lighting Solutions That’ll Brighten Up Your Kitchen in Minutes