Under cabinet light system selection


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Old 12-26-14, 08:41 PM
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Under cabinet light system selection

Hi all,

I could use assistance designing an under cabinet lighting installation. I see a set of constraints I don't know how to handle. The context:

- L-shaped cabinet run broken in three by chimney-type hood vent and large window over sink
- Low ceilings (7'6")
- Frameless cabinets running to the ceiling
- Desire for a 3/4" light rail/valence (to maximize countertop-to-cabinet space)
- Desire for single switch, dimmable, 3000K lights, strong lumen output

The constraints as I've been explained by my electrician, and thru online readings:
- Wires that come with fixtures (e.g. plugin cord or daisy chain jumpers) can't run behind walls
- Wires that come with plugin fixtures can't be cut and spliced, even in a j-box, for it affects the UL rating and will be rejected by city inspector
- Installing three new outlets to support plugin systems in or below each of the three cabinet banks would be unattractive
- Would prefer not to heat up cabinets with Xenon-level heat
- Budget is a factor.

Do I have any false constraints? Anything in the list above that's untrue?

Dilemma:
- Lighting systems that are 3/4" or less high/tall (LED strips, cables) would require a j-box for each cabinet bank, and one next to the remote transformer because they are not "direct wire". And their light output tends to be weakest.
- The only true direct wire (ie without supplementary j-box) systems are at least 1" tall. The most affordable are non-dimmable micro-fluorescent

I did find a 5/8" thick surface mount j-box, so I'm considering systems that can be hard wired that way.

Some candidate products:
- Ambiance, line voltage self-contained, direct wire LED strips. Downside: 1" thick, price ($$$)
- Juno Track 12. Downside: pricy when using LED, a bit more than 3/4" thick
- WAC StraightEdge LED strip. Downside: price ($$)
- American Lighting Priori T2 direct wire fluorescent. Downside: 1" thick, non-dimmable
- Ambiance Lx LED tape. Downside: lumen output weak, awkward connectors

Are there other systems that are thin (3/4" or less), hard wire'able, dimmable and sub $600 for a 14' run?

Thank you,
JP
 
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Old 12-27-14, 04:46 AM
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I would use adhesive backed LED light strips. They reasonably priced, can be quite brite, cut to length and are dimmable with the proper dimmer. They are available with individual components like connectors, wires and power supplies so wiring runs can be made on site to the length you want without having to splice and since they are intended to be used that way you're not cutting a manufacturers cord. The downside is you will need an outlet in each cabinet section for the power supply.

 
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Old 12-27-14, 05:03 AM
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Do you plan on tiling your backsplash? We use line voltage and run 14-2 sub sheetrock with notches in the studs and no-nail plates. Repair the boogers and add tile. That way all your wiring can be run unnoticed. I do like Dane's idea of LED strips. Not sure if they have the ability to be segregated across voids or not, but interesting.
 
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Old 12-27-14, 09:40 AM
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I agree with Dane, LED strip lights are the way to go. I suggest getting the brightest you can find, or doubling up on them. You can run the cable in the walls and free air splice as the are low voltage. You will have to install a transformer someplace, but inside a base cabinet works well with a switched receptacle.

Here is a good place to start: https://www.superbrightleds.com/project/under-cabinet/ but there are more available on other sites like Amazon.
 
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Old 12-29-14, 09:24 AM
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Thanks folks, that was very useful information. I've researched LED strips further, and clearly I was wrong in assuming that their lumen output was necessarily too low. For example, here's a kit with high CRI with more than 400 lumens per foot:

CRI 93+ Ultra Bright LED Strip Light Kit - 16 foot kit from Flexfire LEDs

Two questions remain:

1. Could I have 3 low voltage runs come out of the Zurik power supply (I think so):
http://www.flexfireleds.com/content/...tall-Sheet.pdf

2. @Tolyn: how certain are you that Massachusetts code allows free air splicing of low voltage connections? Worse case, maybe I'll use these low profile (5/8") j-boxes: 9459-15,Miniature Wiring Compartment / Splicer,White
 
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Old 12-29-14, 10:41 AM
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I put the tape LED's under my cabinets when I remodeled last summer. The are are about the perfect intensity and color. I used 3'250k color temp outputting 380 lumens per foot. Bright enough and a good color for task lighting on the counter but not so bright that they need dimming. After seeing them installed I returned the dimmer hardware and just control them from a standard wall on/off switch. The ones you choose though at probably noticeably brighter and might need dimming.

Super Bright LED's has a good selection of LED's and you can purchase components individually or in kit form. $425 for a 16ft long kit seems rather high but you often get what you pay for.

I have mine broken into four strips. There is one line of cabinets who's underside is at varying heights because of the sink and the LED's are in three separate strips all powered off one power supply. Power is fed to between strips 1 and 2 and 3 is powered off the end of strip 2. So, don't think that power has to be fed at one end.

---
Even though your link is for several different models of Zurik power supply I'd say you can run however many runs you want as long as you are using less than the power supplies capacity. Just split the DC output as needed.
 
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Old 12-29-14, 03:19 PM
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Yeah, $425 cannot qualify as inexpensive. The kits on SuperBrightLEDs are certainly attractive, but I cannot seem to find the Color Rendering Index (CRI) rating anywhere. A few friends have warned me that a decent CRI is important so food doesn't look all grayish. That is one of the features that make the kit I referenced more expensive: its 93 CRI. I think anything 80 and above should be all right.

I wonder if all LED systems built with a well-known chip, say 3528 or 5050, will have the same CRI? Or whether there's more to it than that.
 
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Old 12-29-14, 04:37 PM
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how certain are you that Massachusetts code allows free air splicing of low voltage connections?
I can quote MA code requirements, but the NEC (National Electrical Code) allows it. Low voltage can be spliced free air and splices are not required to be accessible. However, cabling is required to be rated for in wall use, when installed in a wall, which is why I suggest using 18ga stat wire or 14/2 NM-B.

Don't confuse CRI and lamp temperature. CRI is " the ability of a light source to accurately render all frequencies of its color spectrum when compared to a perfect reference light of a similar type" Source: Color Temperature & Color Rendering Index DeMystified Color temperature is how warm or cool a light appears. In my experience light temperature is more important than CRI. Most people like a color temperature 3500K or less. 2700K is close to incandescent light.
 
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Old 06-28-15, 06:45 PM
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It just dawned on me that I never circled back to explained what happened.

So I did indeed go with the fairly expensive LED strip I referenced, along with the Zurik power supply (installed in a nearby closet) and the low-profile j-boxes. I used 3M double sided tape to hold the j-boxes to the underside of the cabinets. And I purchased a plastic sleeve kit from a big box store to wrap the romex as it came through the wall for a neater installation. For switching, I used a Leviton VRMX1-1LZ 1000W Vizia RF ZWave Universal Magnetic Low Voltage Dimmer. I have several z-wave devices and wanted to integrate those lights into existing scenery.

I installed the strip about 3" behind the light rail such that it lights up the whole countertop front to back. I tested it right behind the light rail but that created a shadow line near the front of the counter, which I didn't want. Because I'm using glass back splash tiles, one can see the LEDs being reflected when seated at table height. No reflection is seen when seated at countertop height (I have an island). I tested that by putting a 3/8" thick piece of material right against the strip I could prevent this reflection (I used weather stripping foam in my test). But I've been too lazy to pursue.

The LEDs are BRIGHT! I usually have them at 50-75% though I love cranking them up when I'm preparing food. I cannot imagine anyone wanting anything brighter.

Well, there you have it. Hope this is useful to someone. Don't hesitate to ask questions if I missed anything.
 
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Old 06-28-15, 07:39 PM
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Thanks for the update! Glad to hear they turned out well. Just so happens that I just placed another ordered for some LED strips for another customer. I see many retailers carry a diffusion strip to help "soften" the lights.
 
 

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