In this instructable you will learn how to set up and install inexpensive under cabinet lighting in your home with minimal cost and difficulty using affordable cold cathode tubes normally used for PC case mods. This is my first instructable. I will do my best to make it clear and easy to follow.
Previously when you prepared food in my mom's kitchen you would be standing between the ceiling light and your work surface, thus casting a shadow. Additionally, under cabinet lighting tends to look nice. It's quite the dramatic effect in person and definitely stepped up the look of the kitchen a lot. It's less harsh of a light in person and significantly improved visibility while working in the kitchen.
Cost & Power Usage
I was able to light my mom's entire kitchen for under $40.00 including all parts. Additionally, the lights are quite power efficient, using about 3 watts per light tube (I used 6 pair / 12 tubes total). Total wattage=36 watts, or 3amps at 12V. This is a little over half the power usage of a normal 60watt incandescent bulb. Your final project price will vary depending on your supplies and the size of your kitchen.
Compare With and Without
1. Under cabinet lighting on, Ceiling light off.
2. Under cabinet lighting off, Ceiling light on.
3. Both under cabinet lighting on and ceiling light on.
Step 1: Collect the Parts
Below are the parts and tools I recommend for this job. You can get away without some or substitute things. It's a pretty simple job to get this and set it up if you're handle with things and know the basics of electricity. This project is low voltage for the most part (wires between the inverter and lamp are very high voltage but you shouldn't need to mess with these at all) but of course always practice safety with electricity and unplug things before touching wires. BE SAFE!
Details for a few of the parts are listed further below.
1. Cold Cathode Lights w/ Inverters* (2 light tubes per inverter)
2. Power Supply (12V DC for these lights)*
3. Wire for connecting power to inverters
4. Staples or something else to hold up wires under cabinet
5. Power Switch (optional)
6. Inline Fuse (optional)
7. White Paint* (optional; see below)
1. Wire Cutters
2. Soldering Iron
4. Electrical Tape
*Cold Cathode Tube Kits
I used white 12" tube kits from petrastechshop.com. They put out quite a bit of light and come on quickly. The light is less harsh in person than the camera makes it appear. They were on sale at the time for $3.75 or something. Shop around for the best price. Make sure the kits you get come with TWO 12" tubes and an inverter. Some places try to trick you with just one tube included for the same price. One of my tubes didn't light and I emailed the store and they sent me a working replacement which I received two days later.
I used a HIPRO brand DC Switching Power Supply designed for a laptop. I got it from sciplus.com for about ten bucks. It's rated for 3.33A at 12V, aka 40W (watts = amps * volts). It gets quite warm as I'm approaching it's upper rating. Each individual lamp uses about 3 watts (6W for a pair) so total up your expected usage and get a supply over that. I am using 12 lamps (6 inverters) for a total of about 36 watts.
Before you start wiring things up, decide if you want to paint. If so, paint first so it can be drying while you work! Depending on how bright you want the lights to be and the color underneath your cabinets, you may want to paint under your cabinets to help reflect more light. I opted to paint the bare wood under the cabinets white to help with reflectivity so more light would reflect downward. This is entirely optional but it should help. Other colors may help soften the light, such as a pastel tan or yellow.