how to wire undercabinet lights

dottietMarch 11, 2010

This is my situation: New remodel. Tile counters & backspash. New cabinets. Upper cabinets go all the way to the ceiling.I want undercabinet lighting (not halogen) for two areas- each has two cabinets side by side. I want to be able to turn each light on & off with a switch on the light fixture itself. Big point here: I do not want to have plug cords running to an outlet. I don't want to see the wires or plugs. Can I hardwire the fixtures by running the wire up into the cabinet and then out the back of the cabinet all the way to the breaker box? Is it code to have a wire running from inside a cabinet? Now, given my wants, what fixture (I'm leaning towards fluorescent) do I buy? What manufacturer or what do I look for? Are there hardwired fluorescent that have an on off switch right on the fixture? Do I need a separate wire for each fixture or can two be linked together and still be switched on separately? I also think I need electronic blasts because I want them to come on instantly & not have to hold down the switch while the light flickers. I know I'm asking alot, but I'm doing the remodel by myself (electrician will help)but I need to know where to cut the existing wallboard for the wiring.I'm planning to take off the bottom 3 feet of drywall to facilitate wiring sinc the present wall has no plugs at all. Thanks to anyone who can help.

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paredown

Kitchen wiring requirements are very strict and quite complicated.

For starters, if you truly have no existing wall outlets, you will need to provide at least 2 20a GFCI circuits for wall outlets to meet code. These cannot be used in conjunction with any other wiring.

Usually you will then need a 15a dedicated circuit each for:
dishwasher; fridge, hood fan (esp if this is a microwave/fan combo, in which case the requirement may be 20a) If you have a disposer it can be combined with the dishwasher circuit--but check your local requirements.

Cabinet lighting falls under the miscellaneous requirements, but usually it would be combined on a 15a circuit with other lighting (or even other non-GFI floor level plugs in some jurisdictions).

You cannot have any aftermarket soft cord style wiring enclosed in walls (although running it through cabinets is OK)

Depending on your configuration, you may find it easiest to locate a utility box either on the underside of the cabinet (ours have a deep recess so it is easy to do it that way), or even inside the cabinet, and install a standard double outlet and then have that outlet switched by a wall switch.

If you wanted to have two "strings" or runs of UC lights, you could add second run from the wall switch, & have each side of the plug switched separately.

The typical installer leaves some NM (Romex) cable poking through the drywall, which you would then bring in through the cabinet back into your J-box, install the outlet etc. Normally they would leave some slack and you can cut the drywall to move it up or down, once you know where you want it to come out of the wall & then patch appropriately.

If you UC lighting is low voltage (like pucks or some strips) you would then plug in the little power bricks, & run the manufacturer's low voltage wire through holes drilled in the cabinets to hook every thing up. You can keep it fairly tidy by stapling in place and bundling unused wire & zip-tying it by the transformers.

Some UC lighting is made for direct wiring--in that case the NM (Romex) wire coming through the drywall is hooked directly to the junction box on the fixture, & often the manufacturer's own wiring is used to link (by holes drilled through cabinets) to the next fixture.

But if you wanted to control the UC lights from a wall switch, it may still be easier to install an accessible junction box to collect the wall switch wire(s) and power feed from the breaker box, since usually the room provided on the U/C fixture is not large enough to add the additional wires needed for a wall switch.

If the fixtures have separate on/off switches (some do, some don't), leave them all on at the fixture, and then use the wall switch to control them.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 4:10PM
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inter_alia

Use low voltage (12v) lights and you can run the wiring inside cabinets, put inside a small PVC pipe chase. Or across the bottom under brown tape.

The way mine were done is pretty standard. Put an Outlet up high in the cabinet to plug in the AC-DC 12V power supply. Run the LV lights wiring to that. RUn the outlet off a switch.

The LED strip lighting is very nice and better looking then having boxes under the cabs.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2010 at 5:02PM
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brickeyee

"The LED strip lighting is very nice and better looking then having boxes under the cabs."

The typical power supply for 12 V under-cabs is rated at 60 watts and is less than one inch thick (often about 1.5 in x 0.9 in x 2 in).

If you can hide the light fixture you can hide the power supply.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 3:56PM
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wg999

When individual fixtures are fed with 110 into fixture, is it normal and proper to bring the romex from the wall through the back lip of the cabinet and under the cabinet, which would leave a slightly exposed piece of cable under the cabinet. i. e. from switch through back lip of under cabinet and into fixture..........thx for help

    Bookmark   October 12, 2010 at 10:26PM
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smithy123

''Usually you will then need a 15a dedicated circuit each for:
dishwasher; fridge, hood fan (esp if this is a microwave/fan combo, in which case the requirement may be 20a) If you have a disposer it can be combined with the dishwasher circuit--but check your local requirements''
First of all, although legal, you should NEVER!!! use 14awg for anything!!!! It is flimsy, easily overloaded, and you cannot run much of anything from it except a 13w cfl. I use only 12 awg wire with hubbell 20 amp tr (and sometimes hospital grade) receptacles. Second of all, just run a line back to the panel, put a 20a tr receptacle in the cabinet and use whatever lights u can drean of. just hide the wires in the cabinets.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2010 at 10:47PM
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spencer_electrician

14 awg wiring with 15 amp circuits is perfectly fine for lighting. Yes I prefer 20 amp circuits for receptacles but well planned out lighting circuits have no reason to need 20 amps. Who wants to make up a 4 gang box with 4 (3 way) switches with 6 12/2 cables and 4 12/3 cables coming in? Or daisy chain smoke alarms 300 ft through a house wasting wire that costs about 40 cents per ft. Not me!

A 15 amp circuit will safely hold 1440 watts of lighting. That is a bit more than one 13 watt CFL bulb. I'm all for doing things better than minimum code but you have to draw the line at what is wasting money and what is a better installation. What I don't like is all of these houses with a 15 circuit feeding all the kitchen lighting and other lighting, and then throwing something stupid on there, like the GFCI in the Garage. The circuit is already loaded with lights and adding so much as a shopvac to the load, the breaker trips.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2010 at 10:58PM
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