LED Under Cabinet Lights!

As you saw in my last post, I'll be documenting the updates we make at my parents' new home here on the blog.

Today we're working with a relatively small project, but one that I've been looking forward to for some time. This home was built just a year or two ahead of the curve of when recessed can lights became the real norm and standard for general lighting. In my opinion, there is a lack of lighting installed here overall, but thankfully one area that got covered was the under cabinet lights. Coming from my childhood home built in the 70s with little kitchen task lighting, this is a real luxury.

Over the years, a few of the original fluorescent under cabinet fixtures have failed and had ballasts replaced, or in some cases the entire fixture replaced as older parts became obsolete. I just replaced one for my grandpa a couple years back. Over the last year or so since we moved my parents in full time, a few of the bulbs were reaching end of life simultaneously. I'd really hoped to change out to LED eventually and this seemed like the perfect opportunity, so instead of replacing a bunch of bulbs, we replaced the fixtures with new integrated LED versions.

New LED fixtures from KOBI Electric installed

Now, I'm normally pretty opposed to integrated LED fixtures. At some point they WILL fail, then you'll be left with having to replace the entire unit. But I have some major exceptions to the rule when the fixtures are low initial cost, and in the world of under cabinet fixtures there aren't many other ways to go LED. I didn't want to retrofit the existing fixtures with anything, as I was really looking to go with one of the new darker housing finishes on the market to compliment the appliances more. And if we're being honest, nothing in the way of individual bulbs can quite measure up to the even light distribution of a dispersed LED array, so something like using LED bulbs in a xenon fixture was out for me. As usual, I've thought this through quite a bit before making a decision, and I do feel the right decision was made.

So now we come to the fixtures themselves. I did a lot of looking around for quality fixtures from brands I'm familiar with and trust, but literally almost everything in that realm is SO ridiculously expensive. Even going to the home centers, the costs can be astronomical, and there you don't really know what you're getting. I'd seen the fixtures from KOBI Electric that I ended up choosing online before, but the extremely low price compared to what I'm used to seeing had me wary. 1000bulbs.com has them at truly incredible prices, not much more expensive than fluorescent options on the site. So in the end, I decided I had to see what these were all about. I'll just come straight out and say that they're pretty fantastic. They have a great lumen output (based on each fixture size) and a CRI of 90+. Of course being LED they use very little energy, there's very little heat, and the 3000K color temperature we chose is crisp and functional. They come in many standard lengths and connect together, so installing multiple fixtures in a row is a piece of cake. Oh, and they're dimmable too. Everything you could want or need at half or better the cost of most competitors. Now, longevity is the real remaining question, but these also carry a warranty that's pretty consistent with a lot of the brands I've looked at. Even if they only make it until just post-warranty as seems to be the usual case with warranties, I feel they will have been worth it at their current price. Their build quality is quite good, they're not the greatest I've seen and they could use a little more engineering with the wiring access enclosure, but at this price point those are things I cannot even begin to complain about. These do the job, and they do it well.

New fixtures from KOBI Electric

Installation is pretty much a breeze. It's never particularly comfortable installing under cabinet lighting, but these fixtures are pretty lightweight construction and just stick to the basics of a couple screws for mounting. Everything you need is included, although if you know your cabinets are pretty hard wood, you may want to consider supplying your own screws as the included screws with just about any brand of under cabinet fixture can be rather brittle and will often break, likely leaving you very angry and frustrated. Trust me. Easier to grab a pack of screws and avoid the frustration. The fixtures have key hole slots for mounting, which is what I used, but they also have captive screws installed under little doors on each end of the fixture. I would discourage using those; the tight space makes them hard to drive with a drill, and again the screws are super brittle. The key holes are where it's at if you want to avoid a mental breakdown while installing these. Knockouts are placed in multiple common places, but if you're fitting out an existing installation, it may be necessary to drill your own holes in an exact location on the fixture. This is easily accomplished, just be sure you don't hit any of the components inside the enclosure. The electronic driver for the LEDs inside was in the way for me multiple times while drilling my own holes, it's just stuck in place with adhesive and the wiring can easily be maneuvered in around it, just a little pro tip for you.

Unpacking the lights, hardware bags shown

Knockouts are placed in multiple strategic areas, both on the top and the back of the fixture

Removing the old fixtures

Here are some before and afters. The difference showing on camera can be a little trivial, but the new LED fixtures really give an extra punch, and direct the light more downward onto the counter where it's actually needed. As you can see, we also added an extra fixture where only two were previously installed together in order to better cover the long section of countertop below.



Excuse the state of the backsplash in these pictures, that's another project for another day.



I don't have a 'before' picture here, but this is over the little workstation area on the dining side. Previously there was a 3' T12 fluorescent strip here, we changed it out to match with the other lights.

With that, here ends our journey in under cabinet lighting. I really am amazed with these fixtures; to have something this truly nice available at such a competitive price point is pretty unbelievable. With integrated LEDs, I feel that it is important to consider your initial cost and realize that any fixture at any price point will eventually fail, so weigh the options accordingly. LED technology is always improving, so the most expensive, most warranty-backed option isn't always the best.

It's truly incredible what difference lighting can make. We'll continue exploring the impact of lighting in the next post. See you then!


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