Under Cabinet Led Lighting – A Detailed Breakdown With the Functional Use of Under Cabinet Led Lighting in the House.

For starters, allow me to explain that “High Power LEDs” should probably read led strip lights for home. By my calculations this whole setup uses about 23w of electricity.

Anyways, after getting new kitchen cabinets and receiving a good shiny granite counter installed it was time to get some truly impressive under-cabinet lights that might complement the look I used to be aiming for while being wonderfully functional too.

This instructable is going to show you how I created my DIY under cabinet lighting for under $120 but achieved professional results a lot better than every commercially available system I managed to see personally.

It is a true DIY system, not a guide concerning how to use a commercially available system. So before starting, understand that while I think this should actually be considered an “easy” project some basic skills will be required such as being comfortable working around electricity (which may be dangerous!) therefore you need to know the way to solder. Besides that though there aren’t any special skills or tools required.

Fair warning, this is actually the longest step! This is certainly basically my thought process on designing the setup. Skip this task to see materials list and make instructions…

Under cabinet lights could make or break a kitchen. They are able to add instant and real entice a location, but they have to meet certain criteria. They need to show good results task lights. They must add the correct “ambiance”. They have to match together with your current lighting scheme, and ultimately they should work efficiently and last a long time (simply because that installing lights under your cabinets often requires some modifications – it’s a pain to have to re-undertake it or constantly fix things!).

In designing my setup I could cross away from the typical halogen puck lights very quickly. They may be bright and delightful, however they have many weaknesses. They may be too big, too hot, and thus they don’t last very long (plastic cracks, glass falls out, and bulbs burn out quickly). Likely the worst part on them is the horrible volume of wire necessary to hook them up!

Scouring the web for project ideas turned up not many truly “DIY” LED options. Most DIY projects were related to installing a commercial product. I checked with local lighting stores and diy stores and located solutions which were either woefully inadequate or ridiculously expensive. I discovered some modular systems that came near a few things i was envisioning, having said that i quickly came to the final outcome i could build it to search and perform better, for cheaper.

I actually have some basic LED knowledge from creating a light for my reef aquarium. Oddly enough I believe the reefing hobby has given a monumental push to high-power LED lighting lately. I’ve also messed around with a bit of normal 5mm LEDs etc while tinkering with my arduino and other gadgets. I am just still by no means a specialist…

With LEDs you have to keep several things in mind. Namely, LED type & placement, power, thermal management, and color.

LED Type & Placement:

LED under cabinet lighting may be split up into 2 groups, strip lights and individual lights. The strip lights typically provide more even light through the surface (just like a fluorescent bulb), while individual, or “puck” lights provide a more dramatic lighting source with varying intensities that get started really high when you’re right within the light fading out when you move further from the light.

I went through several designs both for and found that typically strip lights use smaller SMD LEDs installed on an extensive, thin PCB or flex tape. These are generally nice, low-profile options, however, I discovered that they aren’t nearly as intense as single lights. Generally If I would do a strip light application using LEDs I would personally use 2 rows to get enough light. Using 2 rows increased the price significantly though.

I wound up settling on high power 3W LEDs, exactly like exactly what are commonly used in reef lighting, specifically the CREE XT-E LED. They may be very versatile, they put out a lot of light and there are various drivers that are ideal for powering this sort of 12 volt led lights, especially if you wish to get fancy with dimming (many support -10v dimming along with PWM dimming). The most important part is becoming the spacing right to avoid shadows and to have the right thermal setup. I experimented a great deal and decided that the best light was when the LEDs were spaced evenly apart within the cabinets about 12″ on center. More LEDs than 25dexupky and I could possibly be wasting efficiency (because I would end up dimming it quite often). Less LEDs than that I can be sacrificing several of the practical task lighting.

For power I went using a dimmable constant current driver. The LEDs I used have got a 3v forward voltage @ 700mA, to wire them in series you basically just add up the total forward voltage (I used 11 LEDs so 3×11=33v) and make certain the operator you buy supports that voltage at whatever current you want. 700mA is a good amount of current because it comes with a good efficiency however the LEDs won’t get as hot. The LEDs are rated to better than that, and even though they do get brighter the greater current you feed them, they get yourself a lot hotter and the efficiency drops too. I decided to utilize a reliable inventronics 40W driver.

A good point about this driver (plus some others too) is that it’s scalable. According to the datasheet @ 700mA it outputs at least 18v and a maximum of 54v. This means that for those who have 3v LEDs you can safely use at least 6 LEDs along with a maximum of 17 LEDs or so (you desire a little wiggle room at the top range). Utilizing the spacing I described above you could potentially light anywhere from 6 to 17 linear feet of counter top! If you still need more LEDs than that, don’t worry. Just search for a constant current driver that supports the voltage range you want. Simply take your LED voltage with the current you desire and multiply it with the # of LEDs you wish to have the voltage requirement. Meanwell, Inventronics, and Phillips Xitanium are just a few. A LED driver takes your homes 120v power and converts it into DC power for your LEDs.

Thermal management is going to be crucial in a very high power LED array, and even though I assumed about just using aluminum channel or flat bar at home depot I wound up with a more elegant (and a lot more effective) solution that didn’t cost any further. I spent time and effort trying to find heatsinks and even though I stumbled upon a bunch, they mostly has come from China or they were too tall for my application (I only have 3/4″ under my cabinets). I finished up deciding to utilize a really nifty looking circular heatsink which was designed for use with LEDs. A typical CPU style heatsink wouldn’t are employed in this application since the heatsink must be against wood, which means this design is perfect to acquire enough airflow. Additionally, you may get this heatsink in many different heights, and no drilling is necessary to mount the super bright led lighting or perhaps the heatsink to the underside from the cabinet! It’s the Ohmite model SA-LED-113E.

Let’s remember about color! This has become the most important… I might cope with those crappy halogen pucks before I picked a fluorescent light for this particular exact reason. The hue temperature will almost certainly dictate the mood of the lighting and also how good or bad things look underneath them. Imagine you’re preparing some food around the counter as well as the broccoli looks brown… You’re not going to would like to eat that. Now imaging checking out broccoli that looks clean and bright green, as if you just harvested it. That’s the potency of choosing the proper color light.

Warm white is definitely the color in most cases chosen, along with the color I desired for my kitchen. The kelvin range for “warm white” is between 2700k and 3500k. Warm white offers the highest CRI (color rendering index) and IMO things look most true to reality under this color lighting. I decided to keep on the slightly cooler end from the spectrum though, since I don’t have lots of windows. I chose 3250k LEDs which I found correlate quite well for the “soft white” compact fluorescent bulbs i use in the ceiling lights. On that note you have to try to match the color of your under cabinet lights to the remainder of the lights within your kitchen or it will look funny. So you would either are looking for the best color LEDs or you’ll have to change out of the other lights in your kitchen.

So those are fundamentally the principles I utilized to design the machine. According to your space you might need to tweak a lot of things, nevertheless i things i put together has worked out really Rather well in my opinion and for my purposes.