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
3. Solder
4. Electrical Tape
5. Multimeter

*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.

*Power Supply

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.

*White Paint

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.


<p>This how-to guide is very helpful especially for people who are not that inclined in this sort of work. Aside from the light option you've presented, I am also considering a set from this review list http://www.reviewswise.com/indoor-kitchen/indoor-appliances/under-cabinet-led-lighting/ . I am hoping I could pull this off.</p>
Ya! I made it , I am using Led lite plates 30 leds per ready made pcb for under 1.2$ that and got some cheap power supply under 1$ which work great, it has been for more than a year and it works great.<br>I am also using old left over Alluminum section from windows as heatsink. Its a great project to work and the outcome is great. Person who uses the kitchen will defiantly love it.<br>cheers
<p>I wish you would do a separate 'ible' on power supplies. Like most, I have a box full of old inverters that powered obsolete or dysfunctional computer equipment. Would one of those do to power the lights? What should I look for to be certain that I won't set the house afire?</p><p>Thanks for a great instructible. I'm definitely gonna do this one.</p>
Consider LED lighting strips instead, less power required and there are a number of off the shelf solutions available. LED strip comes as one role and can be cut where needed for much neater installation. Cold cathode was awesome 7 years ago, but we've now harnessed the power of, well, saving power!
<p>Good suggestion!</p><p>I would still like to have more information about re-purposing those power inverters. Do you know if they can be used to power LED strips?</p>
<p>I realize that your question has already been answered, but I thought I would mention that I have done this with a number of my old power inverters sitting around. For the most part all of the leds I have had are 12v so the only thing I have had to watch for is the amps. It seems pretty realistic to run about 20-30ft of the led light strips on a 3amp or less 12v inverter. The strips I use are very similar to these <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Flexible-Daylight-Non-waterproof-Lighting-Gardens/dp/B00HSF65MC/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1470342850&sr=8-6&keywords=led+light+strip" rel="nofollow"> https://www.amazon.com/Flexible-Daylight-Non-wate...</a></p><p>The only notable difference with the &quot;waterproof&quot; ones is that they have a pliable tube that wraps around them the full length, I personally prefer the non-waterproof ones because they have the double-sided sticky tape on the back.</p><p>As a side-note I would highly recommend plugging the inverter into an outlet that is ran by a motion sensing switch, I did this on my kitchen and it is fantastic. When you enter the room you will hear the motion sensing switch click, and about 1 second later the lights are on, stay on for about 3 minutes (with motion) and then turn of automatically. I did the motion sensor as a 110v normal switch with a standard 110v outlet that powers up the inverter, That way the inverter wasn't powered up all the time just to operate a 12v motion sensor.</p>
<p>Howdy Kris!</p><p>Thanks for the link to the LEDs. Can you suggest a brand of motion activated socket? Looking online I'm a bit confused. What I would prefer to do is to plug the motion detector outlet into an existed outlet on house wiring and then plug an inverter/supply into the motion detecting unit; thus LED lights I power with inverter/supply will come on only when there is motion in the kitchen.</p><p>Again, thank you for really good information.!!!<br></p>
<p>I don't think I fully understood how you want to do that.</p><p>You want to connect the motion sensor to an existing 110v outlet? / Or is it an existing light socket?</p><p>There are a couple of options depending on what you want to do. If you want to plug into a standard wall outlet you could extend it with a small cord into a project box where your motion sensor switch is, and outputs to an outlet mounted in the same box, then plug the inverter into that box. This would provide you a moveable solution, but binds everything to that box.</p><p>If you are using a light socket that is no longer used for something else you could replace your light switch with a motion sensor like this one</p><p><a href="http://www.homedepot.com/p/Leviton-180-Degree-Pir-Incandescent-CFL-LED-Occupancy-Detector-White-R02-IPS02-1LW/203826482" rel="nofollow">http://www.homedepot.com/p/Leviton-180-Degree-Pir-...</a></p><p>and then replace the socket itself with an outlet, or one of those old adapters that spins into the light-socket and gives you prongs for a plugin, then you would plug your inverter in there. That switch could also work in the project box as well.</p><p>If you don't have a replaceable switch that controls the light socket you could also run the invertor directly off of the socket, and then put a 12v motion sensor after the inverter.</p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Sensky-BS010W-Motion-Distance-Adjustable/dp/B00KTCTV8G/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1470429695&sr=8-2&keywords=12v+motion+activated+switch" rel="nofollow">https://www.amazon.com/Sensky-BS010W-Motion-Distan...</a></p><p> The downside to this design is that the inverter would be on all the time which would probably decrease its lifespan and generate heat. </p>
<p>I had something like this in mind. The electrical outlet in the wall would have a motion detector with female outlet plugged into it and the inverter would be plugged into the motion detector and would power the LEDs.</p>
<p>So something like this</p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Westek-MLC4BC-Indoor-Activated-Control/dp/B009KSEE4G/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1470458197&sr=8-2&keywords=motion+sensing+outlet" rel="nofollow">https://www.amazon.com/Westek-MLC4BC-Indoor-Activa...</a></p><p>or maybe this if you want the motion sensor separate</p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Westek-MLC12BC-4-Indoor-Activated-Control/dp/B009KSECO8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1470458197&sr=8-1&keywords=motion+sensing+outlet" rel="nofollow">https://www.amazon.com/Westek-MLC12BC-4-Indoor-Act...</a></p><p>plug your inverter into that and your good to go.</p><p>I personally would desire the one with the separate motion sensor that way you can use a more concealed outlet and just put the motion sensor in a more visible location. You could also focus the sensory area by pointing the sensor through a tube if desired.</p><br>
<p>Thanks, again, Kris!!!</p><p>I appreciate the links. I also like the idea of lighting the kickspace beneath cabinets. Great idea!</p>
<p>I haven't heard anyone mention this yet but I am planning on sub lighting the base of the cabinets as well, so the floor is well illuminated. </p><p>Also thinking about doing this in the bedroom to light around the bed so it is easier to see when coming into bed during the night.</p>
<p>If the voltages match (i.e. don't be using a 15V power supply with a 12V light), and the brick provides enough max amperage (i.e. your lights require say 5amps total and the brick is capable of say 8 [the amperage rating is the max available to be asked for, it will only deliver UP to that max]) then yes, you can use them. Cut off the laptop portion of the cord, verify which cable is positive and which is negative, and go to town soldering/splicing.</p>
If you have a check online (eBay/Amazon/your local online marketplace) you'll find plenty of listing, which will stipulate power requirements. Some are 5v DC, some 12, if the LEDs are non-programable/not individually addressable then the power consumption will be much less. Check the polarity of your adaptors and if needs be, you can remove the jack. I'd be surprised if you couldn't utilize them ?
<p>Thank you!!</p>
<p>This is great, but you can get LED under cabinet lighting for under $20.00 for a 4-strip at IKEA...</p>
<p>I am in the process of installing a under cabinet lighting on our kitchen. Your idea is so cool, however, is it efficient and long lasting? I wanna know and may try this soon. Thank you.</p><p><a href="http://www.reviewswise.com/indoor-kitchen/indoor-appliances/under-cabinet-led-lighting/" rel="nofollow">http://www.reviewswise.com/indoor-kitchen/indoor-appliances/under-cabinet-led-lighting/</a></p>
<p>The set I installed at my last place are still going fine and they were installed 7 years ago. Hope that helps.</p>
<p>My thoughts after doing this on two kitchens:</p><p>- I used flexible LED strips on one and LED bar lights for the other. It doesn't really matter that much what they look like because they are generally out of sight. The flexible ones can be stapled, glued or tacked in place. The bars can be supported by a wire or string loop. </p><p>- I get LED units rated for 12VDC. They have their own regulators built in. I find 12 volt bricks in thrift stores for $2 to $3. Make sure the current rating is higher than the combined current of the lights. (I also plan to run battery power in the house from a solar charged battery for use in emergency or just to save power cost)</p><p>- I have used ropelight for low glare lighting(very nice in a bathroom, mounted at the wall/ceiling. Some of these have an annoying flicker that drives some people crazy. They will need an adapter circuit if this bothers you.</p><p>- I put my lights on a motion sensor. This way you always have light when you enter the room and it always turns off when you leave. </p>
<p>Very nice and well done. ;-)</p>
<p>I like that these older instructibles are being recirculated for those of us that missed them. Just want to say you are a good son.</p>
<p>Awesome! Also, this is the cutest kitchen ever. </p>
<p>Great. Fast. Cheap. Beautiful. Useful. Thank you.</p>
what is an inverter? <br> <br>thanks! <br>marC:)
Thank you! This is excellent. Bought a house last year and now we're trying to make a closet w/shelves out of the area under the stairway that was totally closed off. Space is tight... want to keep the mini-renovation costs to a minimum. I found the answer for lighting the shelves here! <br> <br> I plan to use my old 400W desktop PC power supply.... I'll never use it for anything else. <br> <br>Great work and thanks for the post. <br>
&nbsp;You do not want to use velcro in a kitchen. Over time, grease, soot, and nasties in the air will clog the fibers and create a non-sticky, nasty mess. This mess will cause the velcro to fail, most likely into whatever recipe you are working on, which doesn't include lighting.
You are talking about the black hook and loop stuff which is just one type or model of Velcro. There are many kinds of Velcro, including coarser stuff that clogs less, and stainless. <br><br>In a home and above your sink, even the regular stuff is not going to get clogged. You would need to do so much deep frying that everything else in the kitchen gets ruined also. :-)
I'm actually in the middle of doing this lighting project right now.<br /> GB (Gardner Bender) makes 3/4&quot; cable plastic staples that mount<br /> these cold cathode tubes perfectly. Use one at each end of the tube.<br /> I swapped out the nails normally used to fasten the staples with<br /> two #4 by 7/8&quot; wood screws. Staples are white in color and are<br /> part number PS-1575. You can get them at your local hardware<br /> store for a couple of bucks for a package of 15.<br />
Definitely go LED.&nbsp; It will last as long as your cabinets and cost you nothing to run.&nbsp; <a href="http://www.saviolighting.com/WAC-InvisiLED-Tape-Light-p/wa-led-t.htm" rel="nofollow">www.saviolighting.com/WAC-InvisiLED-Tape-Light-p/wa-led-t.htm</a><br /> <br /> I got these installed a month ago and I've loved it ever since.&nbsp;
You broke the instructables rules. Its like rule one of the rules. You must use LEDs for all lighting. I thought everyone knew this : ) Although cold cathode tubes are cool too.
Actually, the rules state, they must either require high voltage, high efficiency, or both. ;-) This is both.<br />
wait . it don't have to all ways be about LEDs it can be some thing else =-p<br/>
haha, yeah I know. I'm surprised they didn't kick me for it! :) I thought about using LEDs then decided it would horribly complicate this. I would either have to connect a ton of cheaper LEDs to get the same amount of light as one of these tubes or else use expensive high output LEDs. Not to mention issues with mounting, diffusing the beam, connecting hundreds of little wires and resistors, etc. I do look forward to cheaper high output LEDs though...
These guys sell LED Strips that are pretty reasonable. I haven't bought from them but the strips look like they would be good for a project like this.<br/><br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.ledshoppe.com/ledstrip.htm">http://www.ledshoppe.com/ledstrip.htm</a><br/>
Careful with LEDs not intended for residential lighting. As you know, there are all sorts of colors that are called &quot;white&quot;. Typically, LEDs are cheaper and more efficient at higher color temperatures, but put off a bluer light. The softer/warmer light creates more heat and requires some sort of thermal management to keep from killing the LED/light engine.<br/><br/>For reference, incandescent bulbs put out light around 2,800K (energy star calls this 'soft white'), quartz halogen ~3,000K ('warm white'). Residential LED fixtures put out by major manufacturers tend to be 2,800K, 3,000K, or 3,500K. Commerical offices tend to run around 4,000K. The &quot;daylight&quot; bulbs put out around 6,500K.<br/><br/>The DOE solid state light website does a good job of discussing LED lighting: <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/ssl/index.html">http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/ssl/index.html</a><br/>
The lights that I see in the catalog are meant to go inside a desktop PC. Is there any reason not to use a desktop power supply for this as opposed to the laptop power supply? The laptop is prettier, but the desktop could be hidden or made into a cabinet. Mostly I have several of the desktop power supplies in my arsenal and the power plugs even look right. Oh yeah. I love the instructable. And my kitchen is now in pieces.
Good instructable. Undercabinet lighting is a great feature for a kitchen. I have only one comment not covered by someone else yet (that I noticed). It's kind of a safety issue to have an unprotected breakable glass element over a food prep area. You should really consider putting an acrylic shield over the bulbs/tubes. Building/electric codes require it. I say that because they tend to be safety-oriented, not in a big brother way. Good work.
The cold cathodes used here come inside an acrylic tube sealed at both ends. Very good point though if someone gets some different tubes from another source that aren't encased! I didn't think to mention that. Thanks!
How could you install this to work from existing US home wiring? I need to replace our current under-counter fluorescents - we think their ballasts are shot, as the bulbs are burning out with costly frequency. Is there an over-the-counter component for electronic newbs that could supply the DC inverters?
BIG LOTS sells a kit that includes 3 connecting 12W florecent fixtures that plugs into counter wall socket. $23/set. Each fixture is 18" long. In my kitchen I connected 4 fixtures to one outlet and 2 fixtures to another. This was a better setup for me and my limited skills.
If you don't want to mod a laptop supply or something, you can get 12V transformers for things like pond pumps, sprinkler timers, etc. Home Depot has some 12V supplies for these purposes but they cost more. However, they do support a much higher wattage than the laptop ones.
There are dozens of DIY undercabinet lighting kits available in North America. Everything from flourescent to led to powersucking halogen. They're easy to install and user friendly. Check out the orange box or other similar stores and you're sure to find something to suit your needs.
You are asking questions in which there are no good answers, other than 'Consult an expert.' The transformer can be purchased for US power. However, you may want to just replace the ballasts as they are usually fairly easy to replace and are cheap.
His bulbs came with inverters. My guess is most of them normally do, too.
Who puts plants (fake or not) beside their stove?? I would imagine it gets all gross and greasy.
People composing nice photographs to go with their articles do :-)
They are clean too! :)

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