The Best Under Cabinet Lighting of 2023 - Tested by Bob Vila

By Timothy Dale and Shannon Lee | Updated Jun 30, 2023 3:49 PM

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The Best Under Cabinet Lighting of 2023 - Tested by Bob Vila

Talk about a bright idea! Bright light fixtures installed directly underneath the kitchen cabinets illuminate the countertops below for safer, more functional food prep and brighter small-appliance storage. Under-cabinet lighting is also considered a decorative element since the lower height of the light fixtures can show off a backsplash pattern better, just as puck lights can highlight work spaces in the kitchen. Additional areas of light can make a kitchen appear larger or, when controlled by dimmers, they can contribute to overall ambiance. The best under-cabinet lighting brings greater efficiency to a cooking space, a bit of class to a kitchen, and even connectivity with smart-home devices for optimal control and energy savings.

We conducted hands-on reviews of every product here, closely following testing guidelines and putting the lighting kits through rigorous use to help narrow down the contenders to the best on the market right now. The products reviewed here are all top-notch in their respective categories.

We performed hands-on testing of each product in this guide. We did so by closely following rubric and testing guidelines to help ensure each product met certain standards of quality and ease of use, as well as to keep our results fair and equitable. We looked at a variety of factors for testing, including the versatility of the light, the output each lighting set provided, whether the light was controllable (such as through a dimmer), and the ease of installation. We even looked at how easily the on/off switch or dimmer moved to produce the desired lighting result, as well as the warmness (or not) of the light, thus reflecting whether it was designed for task lighting, ambient lighting, or both.

The top-rated products below were chosen for quality, price, and customer satisfaction to help pinpoint the best under-cabinet lighting for kitchens. We performed extensive hands-on testing on each to help ensure the products lived up to their promises.

This lighting system produces 2,000 lumens of brightness—more than enough for kitchen tasks—and the light is diffused through a cover so that the brightness is uniform across a countertop. The light is a warm white, flattering to anything it illuminates. The under-cabinet bar lights can be installed with backing adhesive or affixed with screws. A light-emitting diode (LED) system that is fully dimmable from 0 to 100 percent, it also has an on/off switch for optimal control.

Our testing found that the dimmer switch offers flexibility in static lighting versus dimmable lighting depending upon the placement of the switch; placing the switch next to the on/off switch allows for dimmable control of all connected light bars, while placing it in between light bars along the run results in static light from those near the switch and dimmable for those connected after the dimmer. This can be quite helpful in creating targeted lighting for tasks as well as dimmable lighting for atmosphere.

Though it’s a low-voltage system at just 12 volts (V), it offers the flexibility of two different power-supply options: One runs from the wall outlet, through an AC adapter and to the lights, and the other can be wired directly into an electrical system and then flow through an AC adapter to produce under-cabinet lighting. Having both options means choosing between a simple, straightforward installation or wiring directly into an electrical system to hide the cords and operate the light using a household light switch.

Get the Litever under-cabinet lighting at Amazon.

This under-cabinet LED lighting system of four light bars produces 800 lumens of brightness per bar. The thin, sturdy light bars can be connected directly or linked through a cord for customizable coverage. They can be installed via peel-and-stick-backing adhesive or by using screws. Keep in mind the on/off switch and dimmer are on the same unit and must be installed nearest the AC adapter, which potentially limits the options for customization.

The Lightkiwi Dimmable Under Cabinet Lighting Kit is a 24-volt low-voltage system that plugs into a power outlet. A dimmer switch controls the brightness output, and a low-energy red light remains lit so that the on/off switch can be found in the dark. The dimmer has a memory function that sets it to the previous brightness level until the user decides to change it. Our testing found that the dimmer doesn’t dim all the way; the bars remain lit at a level that might be too much for users who want a very mellow light.

Get the Lightkiwi under-cabinet lighting at Amazon.

An affordable option for decorative under-cabinet lighting, the Holkpoilot Puck Lights include four battery-operated lights, plus a remote control. Each compact unit is just 3.5 inches in diameter, so they are easy to position. At full brightness they provide plenty of illumination thanks to the use of six LEDs, where many competitors only install three They can also be set to 10, 40 or 80 percent when ambient lighting is required.

The Holkpoilot puck lights can be controlled by touch or via a convenient handheld remote. This is also used to set the timer that automatically turns them off so users don’t need to remember to do it themselves. Options are either 10, 30, 60 or 120 minutes.

Each puck light requires three AAA batteries, and we find it frustrating that these are not included. The lights are attached to surfaces using peel-and-stick 3M adhesive tabs, and feedback on the effectiveness of these varies. Some users have found them almost impossible to remove, whereas others thought it didn’t provide sufficient hold. They should be fine on a smooth, dry surface, but they are not designed to be repositioned.

Get the Holkpoilot under-cabinet lighting at Amazon.

Hardwiring under-cabinet lighting may be complicated, but the results—free of cords plugging into outlets—lend a clean, neat look that’s desirable in a kitchen. This 120-volt line-voltage under-cabinet LED bar light system is ideal for those choosing the hardwired route, as its slim design in five different lengths (12 inches, 18 inches, 21 inches, 24 inches, and 36 inches) blends right into existing decor. It provides what users need for kitchen under-cabinet lighting and nothing more; the simplistic, minimalist design could appeal to those who prefer sleek lines.

The light affords a uniform look thanks to a glare-free frosted cover that diffuses the 1,250 lumens of brightness. The bar light has an on/off switch and is compatible with dimmers, but a dimmer switch is not included. Since this is hardwired, the addition of a dimmer switch or even the installation of this unit itself might require professional help.

Get the Harrrrd under-cabinet lighting at Amazon.

For under-cabinet lighting that activates when someone enters a dark kitchen, or that provides simple accent lighting to dishware or appliances, this wireless option is the way to go. The moderate 1.5-volt system produces only 180 lumens of brightness, and the white light is harsher than the others we tested, which is good for task lighting but not so good for atmosphere.

Installation issues won’t be a problem and buyers won’t have to look at messy cords with the BLS lighting. It installs in seconds with backing adhesive or mounting screws and operates with three AA batteries. If batteries aren’t an option, use the 37-inch USB cord to power the LED bar light; there is also a hardwire option. Note that the USB wall adapter is not included with the light kit.

The under-cabinet lighting is attached at only two points, allowing the light to rotate down for additional lighting angles. This feature also makes it possible to change the batteries without detaching the light. The system includes automatic motion detection that can be adjusted for sensitivity, or it can be turned off altogether. It can also be set to be on, off, on only during the night, or on only during the day. The light turns off after 20 seconds of sensing no motion, giving ample time to leave the kitchen with this bar lighting the way.

Get the BLS under-cabinet lighting at Amazon.

Battery-operated puck lights are a convenient choice for under-cabinet lighting, and this six-pack from Brilliant Evolution is extremely popular. At just 1.25 inches deep, they are more discreet than many, and thanks to either screw or adhesive fixing, they can be positioned almost anywhere. Each puck offers 55 lumens of warm glow lighting, and unlike rivals that only offer a few dimmer levels, they are fully adjustable. There is also a single-touch option of 50 percent brightness when required. An auto-off timer is another user-friendly feature that can be set for 15, 30, 60 or 120 minutes. The lights can be operated by simple touch control or via a wireless remote.

Brilliant Evolution claims each puck light will run for up to 100 hours on three AAA batteries, and we were pleased to find a full set of 18 was included. With the relatively modest lumen output, it is reasonable to expect this kind of performance. A few buyers report that the lights consume batteries faster than expected, but this doesn’t appear to be a common problem. The Brilliant Evolution puck lights are also available individually or in packs of two or three.

Get the Brilliant Evolution under-cabinet lights at Amazon.

LED lighting is the best option for under-cabinet lighting, and the affordable, versatile Wobane Under-Cabinet Flexible LED Strip Lights system exemplifies why. The LED strip lighting produces an impressive 1,100 lumens of brightness and can be installed in seconds using the strong adhesive backing. Its 12-volt low-voltage system plugs directly into a power outlet so there’s no need to hire an electrician to install it, nor will there be any need to change batteries in the future.

The flexible under-cabinet strip light is very thin, so it’s perfect for tucking up on the underside of cabinets where only the illumination is visible. Its flexibility also allows for installation around corners and curves with ease. Additionally, the strip can be separated into four equal-length pieces for more customization options. The sole drawback is that these lights are not dimmable and only operate via an on/off switch. However, we were delighted to discover that the light is very warm, reminiscent of candlelight, and perfect for setting a relaxing atmosphere.

Get the Wobane under-cabinet lighting at Amazon.

The Torchstar LED Safe Lighting Kit connects with Amazon Alexa for fully customizable brightness control. Use voice control or the app to adjust the brightness in 1 percent increments from 0 to 100, or set a timer to turn lights off on a schedule. This lighting system requires the use of a smartphone app; the instructions might be confusing to some. Once installed and connected, this lighting set offers very fine control from mood lighting to bright task lighting. There is also a simple on/off button that allows for controlling the lights without the app, but this cuts deeply into the options this light offers.

The under-cabinet LED bar lighting is easily installed with backing adhesive, and it can be mounted at a 45-degree angle instead of shining directly down. This 12-volt low-voltage lighting system produces 900 lumens of brightness and plugs directly into a power outlet. With this system, get motion detection that can be turned off or left on auto to illuminate the room anytime someone enters.

Get the Torchstar under-cabinet lighting at Amazon or Wayfair.

This straightforward offering from Brilliant Evolution provides the convenience of a wireless light with the bright task lighting necessary for easy meal prep. It’s a small but mighty light at 8.5 inches long by 2 inches wide, and less than 1 inch in depth, which opens up a world of placement options under kitchen cabinets. It requires strong adhesive light strips, but once in place, it will stay put. Install it with screws for added security.

The 65 lumens come to life with a simple tap of the frosted screen; four LED lights brighten up the space with a warm/bright light. It’s a bit too harsh for ambient lighting but ideal for lighting up small spaces, such as a countertop nook. It runs on three AA batteries (not included) and can perform just as well on alkalines as on rechargeables. Either way, expect up to 100 hours of runtime. The beauty of this light lies in its simplicity and size; it provides ample lighting right where needed, and it does the job well.

Get the Brilliant Evolution under-cabinet lighting at Lowe’s.

LepoTec’s 54-LED under-cabinet light has a number of interesting features that make it a valuable and flexible addition to any kitchen. The 12.5-inch strip provides 300 lumens of warm lighting that can be set to on or off like any normal light, but it also offers motion sensing. Movement within a 100-degree angle and from up to 10 feet away will turn the light on. If no further motion is detected, it will turn itself off after 20 seconds to extend battery life. This is not only ideal for those late-night trips to the fridge, but also means it can be used for increased safety on stairs and other areas.

The LepoTec cabinet light is magnetic, so it will stick to fridges, freezers, washing machines, etc. A thin magnetic strip with adhesive patches is provided for fitting under cabinets. This gives the added advantage of making the light portable so it could be used to light the way between kitchen and laundry room or basement, for example.

Power comes from an internal lithium battery that can be recharged via USB in under an hour. However, when used in always-on mode, it does only last for about 3 hours. It doesn’t have a brightness adjustment either, so some may feel it is best as supplementary under-cabinet lighting rather than the sole solution.

Get the LepoTec under-cabinet lighting at Amazon or Wayfair.

To buy the best under-cabinet lighting for a given kitchen, keep these important considerations in mind.

The type of under-cabinet lighting—LED, fluorescent, halogen, or xenon—will determine its aesthetic and maximum efficiency rating.

LED lighting is the most popular and most energy-efficient type of under-cabinet lighting. Originally, LED lighting was expensive and only offered directional lighting, but now even smart-home–compatible LED lighting systems have become more affordable. However, they are still the priciest choice of the four types. Current LEDs also offer whole-room diffused lighting that can be used in overhead fixtures, replacing the common incandescent bulbs.

While initially costlier, LED bulbs outlast their counterparts by double or triple the time. They produce less heat (a big asset in the kitchen) and, on a purely aesthetic level, can create millions of colors on the spectrum. All these benefits make LED lights with the appropriate lumen rating (the unit of brightness measurement) the preferred choice of many consumers for under-cabinet lighting.

Compact fluorescent lighting (CFL) is energy efficient and doesn’t produce a lot of heat, but it does have some unappealing issues. These tube bulbs tend to produce harsh light and emit an annoying buzzing sound. They cannot be used with a dimmer function, and turning them on and off repeatedly can shorten their lifespan. What’s more, because they use both mercury vapor and a phosphor coating to convert UV light to visible light, they cannot be tossed in the trash when spent—these bulbs must be disposed of according to Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.

Halogen lights use a gas compound containing halogen vapor within the bulb. When electricity is run through the filament, the compound reacts to produce clear, white light. However, halogen lights get very hot and should not be used where they might accidentally be touched. Efficiency wise, halogen bulbs are a step above fluorescent bulbs (and several steps above incandescent bulbs), using between 25 and 80 percent less energy. They fall below xenon bulbs and well below LED lighting in most categories but are a good midrange choice that will provide decent lighting at a moderate cost.

Xenon lighting casts clear, white light but, unlike halogen bulbs, it doesn’t use a filament. Instead, an electrical current is channeled through the xenon gas contained in the bulb, causing the excitation of electrons to produce light. Xenon lighting is cooler to the touch than halogen bulbs and also more efficient, lasting two to three times longer. LED lights outshine xenon and halogen lights in every category except price, but xenon bulbs are the next-best option for brightness and lifespan.

The voltage of under-cabinet lighting is separated into three main types: line-voltage (120V) lighting, low-voltage (12V or 24V) lighting, and battery lighting.

Under-cabinet lighting comes in three primary styles: strip lights, puck lights, and bar lights.

The energy efficiency and heat output of under-cabinet lighting depends primarily on the type of bulb used.

Fixed brightness feels out of place in our customizable world, making dimmers an important addition to an under-cabinet lighting system. By dimming the under-cabinet lights to a level suitable to the current use of the room, it can reduce the energy consumption and save on the electric bill. Dimmers can also adjust the brightness to suit the situation, sometimes as low as a night-light.

Installing an under-cabinet lighting system can be incredibly easy—or complex enough to warrant hiring a professional electrician.

Installing under-cabinet lighting can lower energy bills by using high-efficiency lights to illuminate one area at a time. This will provide more light for cooking and food prep while reducing the energy output of a lighting system. In addition to illuminating tasks such as food preparation on countertops, under-cabinet lighting can highlight a backsplash pattern that might otherwise be lost in shadow and/or enhance a mood—low brightness during dinner, for example—to create a relaxing atmosphere. Under-cabinet lighting can also enhance the home’s interior value by reducing shadows that make a room look small.

Check out the answers to the most common questions about under-cabinet lighting.

The number of under-cabinet lights you need will depend on the lumens per light produced, the type of light fixture, and the size of the room. In general, under-cabinet lighting should produce an average of 1,000 to 2,500 lumens for all surfaces that will be used for cooking or cutting. Other non-task-related areas for under-cabinet lighting don’t have lumen requirements, so you can choose as many or as few lights as you wish.

When mounting any fixture under a cabinet, position it toward the front. If there is a lens, face it toward the backsplash. The bottom-front rail of the cabinet should hide the fixture from your line of sight, whether standing or seated. If it doesn’t, consider extending the rail with a narrow board or trim piece.

The lumens for your under-cabinet lighting depend on where the lighting is being installed. Under-cabinet lighting for task-related areas like counters used for food preparation should have between 1,000 to 2,500 lumens to ensure you have plenty of light while cutting, peeling, chopping, or undertaking any other food prep activities. Under-cabinet lighting in the rest of the kitchen can range depending on your personal preferences.

Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.

Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.

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The Best Under Cabinet Lighting of 2023 - Tested by Bob Vila

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