06 May Bar Lights – Under Cabinet Lighting Series
Bar lights are probably the most recognizable fixture when it comes to under cabinet lighting. They hit the scene many years ago, and really helped homeowners avoid unwanted hotspots that were created by puck light products. Puck lights are still a fabulous options for smaller cabinets and counter spaces and quero cabinets, bar lights have surpassed them by providing an even stream of light across large areas of countertop, creating an aesthetically pleasing design. That being said, homeowners, builders, and renters alike have been installing fluorescent and halogen bar lights for their under cabinet lighting needs for years – but now there are more efficient and designer fixtures on the market.
While fluorescent options do provide lower energy use than its halogen counterpart, the lighting hue may not be that desirable from a designer’s perspective. Before the invention of quick start, the bulbs would take some time to warm up before they were functioning at their highest potential, causing unsightly blinking or provide dull light that slowly increases. For those homeowners that wanted to avoid the problems that fluorescent options created, they went with halogen. Halogen; however, functions at a much higher energy cost and only provides a yellow-hue of lighting. That being said, warm white isn’t the only hue option anymore when it comes to under cabinet lighting. While some traditional kitchens may maintain the rich oak cabinets and carmel countertops, modern kitchens are embracing a completely different color palette. Designers want the lighting to enhance the overall design of the kitchen and those fixtures that can only produce warm white lighting options really restrict their design flexibility. LED bar lights offer two things in combination that older bar light models cannot tout together, a variety of lighting hues and dimming capability. LED bar lights offer homeowners the ability to select warm white, cool white, and/or moon light options to provide their designer kitchen the color that will enhance the overall design.
Let’s face it, the more these products evolve the better the designers get at making sleeker models. In the past, light bars were about an inch and a half or an inch and a quarter thick. Now LED bar lights are down to three quarters of an inch. Almost half the original size! Newer, LED bar lights are being designed so they can be easily hidden by most light rails on cabinets to help you avoid seeing the fixture producing the alluring glow.
Last, bar lights are the most popular fixture for under cabinet lights because they make retrofitting from a previously hardwired fluorescent, halogen, or incandescent system simple. Homeowners can easily update their current system with a more efficient and improved lighting design, without worrying about changing the simple function of flipping a switch.
Note* Turn off the power to the existing system before your begin to retrofit your system. Not only should you turn off the power with the switch, but also take a quick trip to the circuit breaker to ensure the safest installation conditions.
The first thing you’ll need to do is measure the current bar lights that you have installed. Bar lights come in a variety of sizes ranging from 8” to 32” (some fluorescents even come in 42”). You’ll want to make sure you are replacing the current bar lights with LED bar lights of the same or only slightly smaller size. LED options to provide a better stream of light than the vintage options, so error on the side of slightly smaller if you can’t find exact size replacements.
Next, unscrew the original bar lights from the cabinets where they are mounted. Open the unit, and find out whether the current system is wired with a romex or conduit system. LED bar lights can easily hardwire into either option, you just need to know what your current system is using. Unwire the leads to the existing bar lights and bring in the new, efficient LED bar lights.
Thankfully, new technology has made installing LED bar lights much easier than the historical, inefficient models. Instead of needing to open the entire light fixture to hardwire your system, great products now offer a wiring compartment. Simply slide off the back panel and hook up your romex connector to the existing wiring. Then slide the panel back in place. Next, use the Ready Screw technology and mount your new fixture in place beneath your cabinetry. Note that Ready Screw technology has made installation much easier. You no longer need to worry about juggling the screw, bar light, and power tool all at once. New LED bar lights offer the screws permanently mounted in the fixture so all you need to do is hold the fixture in place, and tighten the screws. Last step is to mount the rest of your bar lights in place along your cabinets. The best part is with jump cable technology you only need to worry about wiring one of the fixtures! The rest can all be plugged into the unit you just installed with jump cables.
Viola! Your system has officially been brought into the 21st century. Under cabinet lighting is a design necessity, and now it’s easier than ever to find the right product that will work for your home. Find out more about puck lights and the best way to use them in your home next week!