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Q: What kinds of things should I think through when it comes to choosing kitchen lighting?

A: Kitchen cabinets lights were once considered purely functional fixtures whose only purpose was to providing lighting for shelves and work areas beneath cabinets.  Utility as an only goal has changed a great deal, and as today’s larger homes and custom floor plans are transforming the traditional purpose and nature of kitchens and adding new functions and meaning to everything.

Kitchens Becoming More and Lighting Too.

Today’s kitchen has become more than a food storage and preparation area.  It has now evolved into a central gathering place for any variety of home entertainment events.  Kitchen cabinet lighting now must meet more than base-level requirements to produce optimal visibility and comfort.  Homeowners now are thinking through many facets of lighting, including: 

1.     Aesthetics

2.     Brightness

3.     Color rendering of lit surfaces

4.     Interior design

5.     Glare

Other aspects are equally important, such as safety, energy efficiency, ease of operability and maintenance.

Types of Kitchen Cabinet Lighting

Kitchen cabinet lights fall into two primary categories: in cabinet lights and under cabinet lights.

In cabinet strip lights provide interior lighting for cubic space and shelving. 

Under cabinet lights provide task lighting for activities done underneath a cabinet, such as food preparation and after-dinner cleanup. What’s more, they also provide mood lighting.

Up until a few years ago, very specific types of kitchen cabinet lights were used for either in cabinet or under cabinet lighting needs.  For most under the cabinet or task lighting applications, the puck light was a favorite fixture because it cast a bright circle of light onto the countertop that made it easy to see and work.  When electric bills ran too high, fluorescent lamps were often substituted for pucks because of their lower heat output and power saving advantages. 

Elaborate Kitchens and Luxury Countertops Contribute to More Glare from Traditional Lighting

Now, as kitchen build outs have become more elaborate and ornate, the dominance of puck and fluorescent under cabinet lights is no longer as absolute as it once was.  This is because larger numbers of people are replacing generic counter top materials with custom, more ornate granite and marble.  This presents a new dynamic for cabinet lighting manufacturers because these surfaces are highly reflective.  Kitchen cabinet lights must now shield the eyes from reflective glare in addition to providing the same levels of light as they did before.

While it is true that many fluorescents are housed in frosted fixtures that minimize glare, they do not render color with enough detail to do justice to the subtle shades and variations that custom counter tops feature.  Puck lights, with halogen lamps, render color better, but they are simply too intense and will almost always throw reflected light back into the eyes.

Enter Linear Lighting

In this type of setting, it is almost always better to go with custom cabinet lights in the form of linear strips.  These fixtures add value through both their low profile design and the unique qualities of glare free light they produce as an accent lighting source. 

Customized Each custom lighting strip is custom fabricated to exact kitchen cabinet or shelf dimensions.   It is virtually invisible to the casual eye and features special shielding that reduces reflective glare to near-undetectable levels. 

Xenon Bulbs Linear strips accommodate a wide variety of festoon bulb options.  A very popular bulb type for under cabinet kitchen lighting is xenon.  Xenon low voltage lamps render colors at a level almost equivalent to that of sunlight.  As a low voltage, dimmable lighting strip, it will bring out the subtlest red of granite and the multi-dimensional hues of marble like no other form of light—at a fraction of the cost of competing linear strip lights.

Incandescent Lighting Linear strips fitted with incandescent festoons are ideally suited for interior kitchen cabinet shelf lighting.  Incandescent lighting produces the “whitest” form of light and makes everything within the cubic interior of the cabinet clearly visible.  Unlike puck lights, they consume virtually no cubic space within cabinets, leaving more room for storage and a more balanced presentation when the cabinet is opened in front of guests.

A final good move for homeowners is to have at least one LED kitchen under cabinet light installed as a cost-conscious safety measure.  This eliminates the need to stumble through a dark kitchen to rely upon the refrigerator light as one’s sole source of illumination, and it adds a bit of comfort as well for the overnight guest who needs a midnight snack.

 

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December 18, 2013

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