How to Install Under-Cabinet Lighting and Power


Installing under-cabinet lighting is an easy way to improve the functionality and aesthetic of your kitchen. With the right lighting, you can illuminate your countertops to make meal prep safer and easier. Under-cabinet lights also provide task lighting for cooking and cleaning while adding a modern, stylish glow to your kitchen.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk through the entire process of installing under-cabinet lighting and power, from choosing the right fixtures to connecting everything properly. With a few simple tools and by following steps, you can complete this project in a single weekend. Let’s get started!

Choose Appropriate Under-Cabinet Lighting Fixtures

The first step is selecting the right type of lighting for under your cabinets. Here are some of the most popular options:

LED Light Strips

LED light strips are likely the most common choice for under-cabinet lighting today. These energy-efficient options provide a bright, even light under cabinets. LED strips come in various lengths and can be easily cut to fit your specific space. They’re very thin, allowing them to be mounted flush against the underside of cabinets. LED strips are available in different color temperatures, from warm white to daylight.

Puck Lights

Puck lights, also known as under-cabinet disc lights, are round fixtures that can be installed in a row to provide focused task lighting. Puck lights aim light directly downwards. They come in a range of beam angles from flood to spot. Puck lights are typically smaller and more discreet than light strips.

Linear Fluorescent Fixtures

Fluorescent under-cabinet fixtures contain long tubes to distribute light evenly over cabinet spaces. Fluorescent lights are more energy efficient than older incandescent lighting. However, LED options now outperform fluorescents in efficiency. If you choose fluorescents, look for dimmable models.

Xenon or Halogen Lights

Xenon and halogen fixtures provide bright, concentrated light for under-cabinet applications. Xenon bulbs are compact yet powerful. Halogen lights can get very hot, so make sure they’re rated for enclosed installations. Xenon and halogen lights are less efficient than LED or fluorescent fixtures.

Calculate How Much Lighting You Need

Once you’ve selected fixture types, it’s important to determine exactly how much under-cabinet lighting you’ll need. A good general guideline is to install lighting that provides 30-50 footcandles of illumination across all countertop areas.

Here are some tips for calculating lighting needs:

  • Measure the linear footage you want to install lights under. This may be just a section like an island or entire kitchen perimeter.
  • Check the lumen output rating on lighting fixtures you’re considering. Lumen indicates brightness.
  • Allow for 2-3 feet between LED strip lights. Puck lights can be spaced slightly farther apart.
  • Factor in ambient light from ceiling fixtures to determine if you need higher wattage under-cabinet lighting.
  • Use an online calculator to determine how many total lumens will provide 30-50 footcandles on your countertops.

Getting the right amount of light is essential for comfortable meal prep and cooking. Too little light leads to eye strain and safety hazards.

Choose Dimmable LED Driver

LED strip lights run on low voltage DC power. You will need an LED driver that converts 120V household AC current into 12V or 24V DC power. Be sure to choose a dimmable LED driver so you can adjust the light level.

Here are key factors to consider when selecting an LED driver:

  • Wattage – Match the wattage rating of your driver to the total watts of your LED strip lights. Include 20% extra capacity.
  • Dimming – Look for units with 0-10V or PWM dimming which work with standard dimmer switches.
  • Protection – Choose a driver with overheating, short circuit, and voltage surge protection.
  • Noise – Ensure the driver has low noise/buzzing operation. Higher quality units will be quieter.
  • Safety certifications – Look for ETL, UL, or CE ratings to ensure safety.

Installing a dimmable LED driver gives you flexibility over the ambiance and allows creating scenes for different activities.

Select Power Feed Options

You will need to supply power to your under-cabinet LED driver. There are a few options for achieving this:

  • Dedicated circuits and outlets – Install new 20A circuit with outlet under one cabinet specifically for lighting.
  • Hardwire to existing circuits – Tap into nearby appliance circuits and hardwire driver into a junction box.
  • Plug into existing outlet – Use appliance outlet on counter circuit and plug in driver. May require extension cord.
  • Piggyback on appliances – Attach wiring to dishwasher or garbage disposal with splitting connectors.

Dedicated circuits provide the most versatile and safest option for powering under-cabinet lighting. Hardwiring also works well if you have access to a suitable circuit.

Gather Required Materials and Tools

With your lighting planned out, now you can prepare all the materials and tools needed for installation:


  • LED strip lights or puck lights
  • LED driver
  • Power wires or extension cord
  • Mounting clips and screws
  • Wire connectors
  • Wire crimping tool
  • Double-sided tape or adhesive


  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Level
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Screwdriver
  • Wire strippers
  • Electrical or masking tape
  • Ladder or step stool

Take inventory and make sure you have everything necessary for a smooth install. Having the right equipment will save you time and frustration.

Turn Off Power at Breaker

Before wiring anything, you need to shut off the power to avoid electric shocks or injury. Follow these steps:

  • Locate the circuit breaker box in your home. Typically in basement, garage or utility area.
  • Identify the appropriate circuit(s) that control kitchen outlets and appliances where you plan to wire under-cabinet lighting.
  • Flip the breaker switch associated with that circuit to the OFF (or OPEN) position.
  • Verify power is off by plugging in a test lamp or voltage detector at outlets.
  • Even with breakers off, proceed carefully and cautiously when handling any wiring.

With the lights and power off at the source, you can safely proceed with installing under-cabinet lighting fixtures and electrical.

Mount LED Strips or Puck Lights

Next, you can start mounting the lighting fixtures under your cabinets. Here is an overview of the process:

LED Light Strips

  1. Measure and cut LED strip to desired length. Allow space between strips.
  2. Clean underside of cabinets so tape/adhesive sticks.
  3. Peel backing and apply double-sided tape to LED strip.
  4. Press strip firmly against cabinet bottom and hold for 30 seconds.
  5. Use mounting clips screwed into cabinet as needed for support.

Puck Lights

  1. Mark locations evenly spaced underneath cabinets.
  2. Drill 1-inch holes for wiring at each spot.
  3. Screw puck light base into place over hole.
  4. Thread low voltage wiring through hole and attach to connector.

Stagger lighting placement for best illumination coverage across entire underside.

Connect Wires and LED Driver

With your fixtures mounted, now you can make the electrical connections:

  1. Run supply wire from breaker to LED driver location. Use NM-B 14/2 cable.
  2. Connect supply cable to driver input wires with wire nuts. Follow driver manual.
  3. Connect low voltage cable from lights to driver output. Observe polarity.
  4. Provide driver AC power by plugging in or hardwiring to junction box.
  5. Neatly tuck and secure all wiring using staples, cable ties, or wire clips.
  6. Make sure no wires are pinched or near heat sources, sharp edges or moving parts.

Follow all local electrical codes and manufacturer instructions when making wire connections. Use junction boxes where required.

Install Switch for Light Control

For convenient control over your under-cabinet lights, you will want to install a switch:

  • For code compliance and easier access, install switch on wall rather than under cabinet.
  • Standard wall switch works for simple on/off control.
  • Use a dimmer switch compatible with LED driver to control light levels.
  • Alternatively, install remote control system for brightness adjustment and lighting scenes.
  • Make sure switch amp rating exceeds total lighting wattage. 15 amp switch is common.
  • Run 2-conductor cable from switch to LED driver and complete connections.

The switch provides an easily accessible master control point for your new under-cabinet lighting system.

Power Up and Test Lighting System

You’re almost done! Follow these final steps to finish the installation:

  • Make sure all wiring connections and mounts are secure.
  • Verify no bare wire or connectors are exposed.
  • Replace fuse/turn breaker ON to restore power.
  • Turn on the lighting switches to test operation and brightness.
  • Check that all lights are illuminating properly without issues.
  • Make any wiring adjustments needed for optimal coverage.
  • Adjust dimmer levels or use remote to set the perfect ambiance.

Now you can enjoy your new energy-efficient under-cabinet lighting that provides perfect work lighting for kitchen tasks!

FAQs About Installing Under-Cabinet Lighting

Some frequently asked questions about under-cabinet installation:

How difficult is it to install under-cabinet lighting?

This is generally a very straightforward DIY project for homeowners with basic electrical and handyman skills. The wiring is low voltage and the LED fixtures mount easily. Just be sure to turn off the power at the breaker before starting.

What tools do I need?

You will need common household tools like a tape measure, screwdriver, drill, wire strippers, ladder, and headlamp or flashlight. Specialized electrical tools are not usually required.

Should under-cabinet lights be dimmable?

It is recommended to install dimmable LED drivers and pair them with a compatible dimmer switch. This allows you to control light levels and ambiance for different activities.

How do I prevent shadows with under-cabinet lighting?

Spacing the light strips evenly and close together will provide the most uniform illumination. Supplementary lighting may be needed over a deep countertop span to prevent shadows.

What is the best color temperature for under-cabinet lights?

Lighting between 2700K and 4000K color temperature is recommended. Warm white 3000K provides good visibility for food prep without harshness.

Can under-cabinet lights be plugged into an outlet?

Yes, low voltage LED drivers can plug into any nearby standard grounded outlet. Just make sure not to overload the circuit. Hardwiring direct to power is ideal.


Adding under-cabinet lighting can make a huge difference in your kitchen’s appearance, function, and safety. By following this guide’s step-by-step process, you can successfully install attractive and effective LED strip or puck lights under your cabinets. Just be sure to take the necessary safety precautions when dealing with electrical connections. In a weekend, you can gain beautiful, modern task lighting that makes cooking meals an absolute pleasure. Your kitchen will be more inviting than ever!