Find out how to improve the lighting in your kitchen by adding task lighting under your kitchen cabinets.Get tips on installing dimmer switches so you can adjust the light to different levels for dinner preparation or for enjoying a meal with guests. Learn about fluorescents vs halogens vs LEDs.
LESLIE: Well, if you find that your cakes are tasting salty and your meatloaf is sweet, what you might be lacking is not actually some good cooking skills but the right lighting in your kitchen .
TOM: That’s right. And the kitchen is one of the best places in your home for task lighting. And one place that’s usually lacking that is under kitchen cabinets. Here to talk about that is This Old House  host, Kevin O’Connor .
Kevin, welcome to the program.
KEVIN: Thank you for having me.
TOM: And it’s always amazing how much we do with so little light in the kitchen.
KEVIN: Isn’t it? Have you chopped off any fingers lately?
TOM: Thankfully not. But I’ve got to tell you, it’s – a missing element is that task lighting. And I think a lot of folks don’t realize that. You really need several types of light in a kitchen for it to be truly efficient.
KEVIN: Yeah. And one great place to add this task lighting is underneath the upper cabinets, under mounted lights, we call them. And think about it: these cabinets go over most of your counter space , which is where you’re doing most of your work. You might be working on an island some of the time but you’re also going to be working on those counters that wrap your kitchen. So this is a great place to add lighting.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And I think a great place to add dimmer switches, as well, in the kitchen.
KEVIN: Well, the dimmer switches really get you two lights in one, right? So when you’re doing all of the prep and you’re working in the kitchen, it’s nice and bright, you can see what you’re doing, you save a couple fingers. But then when you’re serving dinner and you’re having a cocktail afterwards, you can turn them down to dim and it just is a good mood lighting throughout the kitchen.
LESLIE: Or sneaking in for that late-night snack.
KEVIN: Or sneaking in for the ice cream.
TOM: Now, what kinds of fixtures do we have to choose from here? Are they all pretty much the same or are there a lot of options, as always?
KEVIN: Well, no, there’s a lot of options that are out there. And for me, there’s three different kinds: you’ve got the fluorescents, you’ve got the halogen/xenon bulbs or you’ve got LEDs. And they all have different qualities.
Now, the fluorescents , they burn a little cooler and they use less electricity. And one nice thing about them is that there’s not a lot of heat thrown off of them. So if you put them underneath the cabinet and the peanut butter is up above, the peanut butter is not all soupy when you open up in the morning. But they do produce a particular color light that some people don’t like.
And I think that’s why some folks go for either the halogen or the xenon bulbs, which is the second option. And they emit a very bright, white light. Halogen is the brightest; xenon burns a little cooler but lasts a little longer. And when you put those in, you just have to know that you need a transformer, generally, to step down the voltage.
TOM: Now, of all the types of lighting that’s out there, the newest – and what I think is probably my favorite – is LED.
KEVIN: Yeah, LED is out there and we know these are super-efficient. They’re also cool to the touch so your peanut butter doesn’t become soupy. And while they were new just a few years ago, these days there are a lot of different options out there. Whether it’s a continuous ribbon that you stick to the bottom, whether it’s a traditional fixture that you mount to the bottom of these cabinets, the choices for LED lights are growing with every passing year and they’re a great option.
TOM: And you know, there are a lot of kits that are out there today with kitchen-cabinet lighting . So, you don’t necessarily need an electrician for this project.
KEVIN: You don’t. I mean believe it or not, you can actually just plug some of these things right into an existing outlet. But if you don’t want to do that, if you want sort of a cleaner look, you can actually wire them yourselves. They’re pretty easy to do. They often come in these small, little strips that you mount and wire and you’re good to go.
TOM: Good advice. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, this is a great project and one that you’re really going to enjoy for many years to come. Thanks for stopping by The Money Pit.
KEVIN: Thanks for having me.
LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and a lot of great step-by-step videos on home improvement projects that you can do, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by The Home Depot. The Home Depot, more saving, more doing.