Let There Be (Under Cabinet) Light

Feb 19, 2015 +

I'm feeling a little stir crazy these days! The cold weather has kept us inside for far too long and I'm itching for the snow to melt and for spring to arrive. Are you feeling the same?

Winter puts a damper on home projects too. Who wants to spend time running back and forth from the garage to hunt for tools? Not me. We did manage to get one nagging little project out of the way though. Replacing our under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen is one of what I call a "5% project"... those projects and small fixes that don't actually take a lot of time but you keep delaying and delaying them because you can live with the minor inconvenience. That is, until you're stuck inside because of the snow and they start bugging you and you decide one day you just have to fix them :)

When we renovated our kitchen six years ago, we made sure to have our electrician add in an abundance of light sources, though you can't tell from the photo above because the room still looks dark, even with all the lights on and the curtain pulled back!

We have recessed pot lights down the centre of the room, a pendant over the sink, and under-cabinet lighting. Soon after the kitchen was done, the under-cabinet lights started acting up. Bulbs started burning out and we'd replace them, only to have them quickly burn out again. It got to the point where we just stopped replacing the bulbs and then the units themselves stopped functioning and we were left with the dark zones you can see above at the top left and bottom right.

These are the offenders. They're Xenon linear lights and we picked them because at the time, they had the 'nicest' white light. Little did we know that this particular light used xenon gas-filled bulbs which are similar to halogen bulbs and are known to run hot and have only a six-month life span. I wish we had done a little more research before we first installed them!

under cabinet lighting options

So we made a trip to The Home Depot to pick out replacements. We were using the existing wiring so our choices were limited to the linear lights. I knew I didn't want fluorescents and though there had been some improvements in xenon bulb life, I preferred the pure white light of the enviro LEDs. LEDs have come a long way and have lost that 'blue cast' they had in the early days. They also offer huge energy savings compared to traditional bulbs and these ones had an expected bulb life of 50,000 hours (vs 8,000 for the xenon). Sold!

We settled on the Illume LED Linear Dimmable lights. Replacing them was straightforward and required only
- removing the old light boxes
- attaching the new lights under the cabinets
- stripping back some of the plastic sheathing on the new wires and using the twist-on wire connectors to join the old and new wires

The Illume lights also came with connections to join two or more lights together, and a cord if you wanted to use it as a plug in.

And - ta-da! - the kitchen now once again feels light and bright...

Illume LED under cabinet lights

even at night. The LEDs are much brighter than the old Xenon lights and have a more neutral (not warm) white light. These lights are also dimmable (not all LEDs are) so we switched to a dimmer as well. Now I can actually see what I'm doing in the kitchen.

Illume LED under cabinet kitchen lights

Why did we wait years to fix this?! Tell me... do you have any "5% projects" lurking in your home and waiting to be dealt with?

Curious to see what our kitchen looked like before? Check it out here. And five years after the renovation, here's what we loved and what we would change about our kitchen.


I'm happy to let you know that I completed this project as a member of The Home Depot Canada's #HDBlogSquad. Over the coming months, four awesome home and lifestyle bloggers and I will tackle home projects both big and small and share how we do that with help from The Home Depot Canada. Visit these other bloggers to see what they've been DIYing, decorating, and dreaming up:


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