The days of fluorescent lighting as the only option for upper kitchen cabinet undermount lighting are long gone. The advent of LED lighting has changed kitchen lighting forever, and for the better. There are numerous options, from tubular LED lengths to ribbon lights — my under-cabinet lighting choice of late however, is the wired puck light with remote control.
Although battery operated puck lights hasten the process, and may be the correct choice for lighting as an after-thought to introducing undermount cabinet lighting in a finished kitchen, or possibly replacing old fluorescent lights by abandoning the old wiring, I much prefer a wired setup for new lighting that is introduced during a kitchen remodel. The installation process does require some forethought — the concealment of wiring from light to light may present some challenges when jumping from upper cupboard to the next (when cabinets aren’t joined), as it did at a recent kitchen upgrade location.
The undermount lighting brand Illume is a nifty solution to undermount. And the specific style chosen offers a remote which allows several features: on/off, dimmer, memory presets as well as a dozen colour options. The product is sold in either three, or five-packs and each pack comes with a power transformer (that plugs directly into any outlet) and a remote. The LED lights are roughly three inches in diameter, and each comes with an easy to install bracket mount. The leads from each light are plug and play, and are connected in series.
For the kitchen remodel at hand, five separate lights were required to complete the undermount lighting design. However, and because a wide kitchen window separates the two main upper banks of cabinets, it would be necessary to introduce an extension between the second light and the third, which are separated by the 64-inch window. Although the leads (in and out) on each light are 24 inches, the placement of the lights below the uppers dictated a 42-inch extension. A similar situation also presented itself between lights four and five, between the 30-inch gap of upper cabinets at higher elevation for the range hood placement. Unfortunately, this particular style of lighting does offer an off-the-rack extension option. As such, additional puck lights were purchased so that two extensions could be fashioned on-site, using multiple 24-inch leads from the unneeded additional puck lights.
The outlet that was installed for the microwave cabinet would serve as the power source for the undermount lighting transformer. A three-eighths hole was drilled through to the underside of the upper cabinet and the small transformer was permanently mounted using the supplied screws. The placement for each of the five LED pucks lights was pre-established and the lights were mounted using the supplied bracket mounts, ensuring the leads of the lights were streaming in the proper direction (in to out). The first two lights were connected, and tested. To connect the third light, the 48-inch extension was connected to the out lead of the second light. To hide the wiring and extension to the third light passed the window, the wiring was carefully embedded into the drywall (that would eventually be covered by tiled backsplash to the window jamb. From there, the wire was tucked into the gap between the jamb and frame along the perimeter (down adjacent side, along the bottom, up the opposite side) until the wire was once again embedded into the drywall up to the neighbouring upper cupboard. The third light was then tested. The third and fourth lights were then mounted and tested. To power the fifth light on the opposite side of the range hood, the wiring was fed up into the main upper cabinet, through the 30-inch higher elevation cabinet, and down into the opposing main upper at the far side of the cooktop location. The fifth light was then tested, and mounted.
With all five LED puck lights mounted and working, the excess wiring was neatly bound together with the supplied ties that also allowed for easy mounting to the underside of the upper cabinets using two-sided tape. Was completely installed, the entire array of undermount lighting is concealed by a slim valance along the bottom-side perimeter of every bank of upper cabinets (pre-installed during the cupboard mounting process). Unlike other brands of lighting that offer an inline on/off switch, this style allows the ease of lighting control using a battery operated remote. The receiver for the lighting array is located near the power transfer, below the microwave cabinet. And because additional lighting was purchased simply to create the required extensions, the homeowners benefit by having several remotes.
The Illume brand of multicolour lighting also offers a Wi-Fi hub, which when introduced, allows lighting control via mobile app and boasts 16 million colour options. In my experience, the app has been less reliable than the in-hand remote. Nonetheless, technology has come a long way and we are the beneficiaries. Undermount kitchen lighting has never looked so good.
Having the ability to colour up the kitchen might not interest everyone. However, for homeowners who love to go all out during the holidays, an orange hue at Halloween, and green or reds during the Christmas season might be appealing. Pink or blue could even indicate a gender reveal at a baby-shower.
No matter, the standard soft white light is always readily available, and can be dimmed at the touch of a finger for those late night snack attacks — after all, no one likes being blinded in the middle of the night. So, it’s best to keep those remotes in convenient and easily accessible locations.