Kitchen with White Inset Door Shaker Cabinets, Large Island and Custom Build Range Hood
In the built-in buffet pictured above, under-cabinet LED tape provides a soft, uniform wash of light across the counter. The fixtures are gracefully concealed by a trim light rail.

There are a number of factors to consider when selecting under-cabinet task lighting and cabinet interior accent lighting. Features to consider include energy efficiency, color and strength of the light, and cost of the installation.

3 Types of Light Sources

The types of light sources typically used in cabinet and under-cabinet installations are light-emitting diodes (LEDs), halogen lights and fluorescent lights). Each comes in a range of cool and warm colors, and all more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs.

If you will be in your home for a while, LEDs are hands-down winners. Initial cost will be highest, but the long bulb life (20 years!) and high energy efficiency will pay it back in two or three years. LEDs are dimmable (with LED-compatible dimmer switches), and come in bars, strips and spots.

Less expensive fluorescents are only dimmable with special ballasts, use more energy than LEDs to product the same light, and may take a few minutes to reach full brightness when turned on.

Halogen bulbs, the least efficient of the three, are often used for high-intensity spotlights, burn hot, are fully dimmable and have no warm-up delay.

kitchen with glass door cabinets on either side of professional stainless range hood with under-cabinet lights, white shaker cabinets and black granite countertops
In the kitchen pictured above, LED spots light circular work zones, leaving perimeter countertop surfaces in shadow.

Task Lighting

For task lighting across your countertop, bars or strips are best. In a new wiring installation, your labor costs may be lower with LED strips. However, if you are replacing existing fixtures, you may find bars to be a more cost-effective solution. Install the light fixtures near the front edge of the wall cabinets to minimize glare. Pucks work well as accent lights. Get tips on using light rail trim in your kitchen design.