Under Cabinet Lights Questions

Old 12-21-11, 11:34 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: USA
Posts: 58
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Under Cabinet Lights Questions

Hello all! I'm trying to figure out what is up to code and what is not, and my head is spinning from all the different articles/posts I've read. So I bought 120V Xenon puck lights from HD a while back, because they were cheap, I liked how they looked, and wanted to dim them (I was planning to wire an outlet to a dimmer). I was just gonna hang them under the cabinets, and then run their cables to the top where they would plug into the extensions cords that came with them. That was before I bought the kitchen cabinets. Since then, DW decided she wants taller cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling (with crown molding). I know it is against code to enclose extension cords, plugs, even junction boxes with molding, so I'm now looking for an alternative installation.

The actual lights are very simple, small, and are attached to a 4ft cord with a removable plug at the end. I wish the lights could daisy-chain off one another, but that is not the case. What I would like to do, is to install recessed 1/4" MDF panels under the cabinets (Ikea), giving me 3/4" space for wiring/recessing these pucks. So I have to figure out a way to legally connect these lights to a power source. Wiring an outlet in every other cabinet so I can just plug them in is not my favorite option. And as far as I understand, Pigtails MUST be in a junction box (many how-to's for U/C lights conveniently ignore this fact after showing you romex under the cabinet). So from what I know, and what I've gathered, this is what it looks like I have to do:

Install a shallow junction box either underneath the cabinets (and have a cutout for it in the recess panel) or in the lower corner of cabinets, so each puck can reach it with its own 4' cable. Take the removable plugs off the light cables, and run them into the junction box. Pigtail them to a romex, which I can run into an outlet in one of the cabinets (No, not an appliance circuit) behind the cabinets themselves (Ikea leaves 1/2" space behind each cabinet). This outlet I can control via a wall switch. And then each other jbox can daisy-chain off the previous. Put on a faceplate, or perhaps even an ultra slim deco switch for group on/off control, and it won't look too bad.

The major questions here of course are

1) Is it OK for me to recess mount the pucks in the recess panel I put under the cabinet? The recess installation was intended for tops of cabinets it appears to me, so I wonder if there is a heat buildup issue if the plastic back of the puck is in a somewhat concealed space.

2) Is it OK for me to run the light wires into a junction box to be pigtailed to romex? (the same way we do when we install a ceiling light). If concealing them behind my 1/4" mdf is an issue, I can even put some kind of conduit over them, or maybe even a wiremold channel.

I even read somewhere that if you put conduit over it, you can even run light wire behind a wall ! Is this true? I thought only romex was allowed inside a wall...not that it matters here.

If you want a diagram or pictures of what I'm thinking let me know. Obviously I'm trying to do as clean of an install as possible, with preferably nothing but the painted MDF with recessed lights showing on the bottom. Any other ideas to achieve this are welcome!

Thanks in advance for any help!
Old 12-22-11, 06:58 PM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 13,904
Received 167 Upvotes on 146 Posts
I think it might be esier to look for a hard-wired lighting system instead of the plug in style.

Hard wired lighting cannot be on the small appliance branch circuits for the receptacles.

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Your question will be posted in: