Installing Under Cabinet Halogen Lights

A kitchen is a brighter, more pleasant place to work when its countertops are illuminated by under-cabinet fixtures. Under-cabinet lighting provides a sparkling decorative effect and gives you excellent task lighting. A 120-volt system requires hours of fishing and installing fixture boxes in one of the most crowded and complicated areas of the house.

An attractive alternative is the low-voltage system. Low-voltage halogen lights operated with a remote-controlled, surface-mounted switch can be installed in a day and look as good as a more permanent system.

Type of Light

Under cabinet lighting is available in a couple of varieties: fluorescent or halogen strips and individual "puck"-style halogen fixtures. Fluorescent fixtures are less expensive than halogen, but halogen provides a light that more closely approximates sunlight. Both types of strips are extremely easy to install and can either plug into a receptacle or be wired to a wall switch.

Some under counter areas may not need an entire strip of lights. In such cases, small, individual puck-shaped halogen lights are ideal. Puck lights are available in packs of two or more and can be mounted exactly where you need them, then easily wired together with the snap-together fittings provided in the kit. The last puck in the string is connected to a low-voltage transformer, which is plugged into a nearby receptacle.

Installation

To complete this project, you will need only the lights, a wire stripper, some connecting wires, a screwdriver, drill, and keyhole saw.

Step one is to install the lights and transformer. Determine a location for each light fixture where it won't shine in your eyes as you work. Halogen lights can be safely attached to wooden cabinets but get hot and should be kept away from plastic and paper goods.

Remove the trim ring and lens from each fixture base and attach them with screws to the underside of the cabinets. Align them so the bulbs are the same direction. (Be sure the screws are the right length so they do not poke up into your cabinet.)

Drill small holes to allow the wires to pass into your cabinet, and plug their ends into the power block located inside the cabinet. Coil excess wire inside the cabinet. Connect the power block to the transformer. Drill a hole and run a wire from the transformer to a 120-volt receptacle.

To assemble the lights, once the fixture bases are installed, snap the lens cover onto the reflector ring. Some under-cabinet lighting kits come with a warning label to attach inside the cabinet door to caution users about the heat of the units. Next, install the switch.

The switch operates by battery power, so it can be installed anywhere in the kitchen and requires no wiring. Attach the switch housing by screwing it to the wall--use plastic anchors if you can't find a stud. Finally, Screw the cover plate to the switch housing.