Thursday, July 26, 2012

Under Cabinet Lighting

You would think that under-cabinet lighting is not a big deal, but for many years it was a common nuisance call that we would receive as builders.

In the past, most builders used fluorescent under-cabinet lights which were the norm for the industry.   However, fluorescent lighting is prone to hum or buzz.  Homeowners would notice an excessive buzzing sound coming from one of the fixtures.  We noticed this problem mainly on smaller under-cabinet lights and not as much on the larger fluorescent fixtures inside the closets, etc.  We learned the ballast is the most likely suspect of a buzzing fluorescent light. The ballast that buzzes too loudly may be defective, old or constructed of cheap components. But all ballasts hum to a degree.  Electronic ballasts on newer fluorescent light fixtures are less likely to buzz, but they do still hum somewhat, often at higher frequencies.

Q: Why do they buzz? 

Inside the ballast, current is being reduced by use of an electric coil around a metal core. This creates a magnetic field. Over time, this magnetic field can change the shape of the core material, creating an audible vibration as the alternating current we use for electricity flows through the wire.

Q Is there a better solution?

Yes.  About 7 or 8 years ago, we completely switched to Xenon and LED under-counter lighting.  They cost more, but the benefits are well worth it.

The most well known benefit of Xenon under-cabinet lighting is the combination of bright white light and long bulb life.  Xenon under-cabinet lights normally last three times longer than halogen lights and emit no ultraviolet radiation.  But for us, a most appreciated benefit was that there was not a noticeable buzz or hum as found in comparable fluorescent lights.  Since we changed over to Xenon, we have eliminated this nuisance for our homeowners.

I have also recently compared Xenon to Halogen and learned the following:
Xenon bulbs run cooler than halogen, which generates a great deal of radiant heat, and Xenon bulbs also last up to twenty times longer than halogen lamps. The average burn life of a Xenon bulb is 15,000 hours.  Xenon bulbs also have lower UV rays and are easier on food that is stored under cabinets in the kitchen.  

LED lights offer a long-term lighting solution that is suitable for any environment. Because LED lights last for many years, they eliminate the need for regular bulb replacement.  LED lights come in different styles so you're not limited in terms of design.  LED spot and downlights make an energy efficient replacement for halogens without you losing illumination. 

It may sound odd but LED light bulbs actually burn cool. Traditional incandescent light bulbs can emit anything up to 98% of their energy in the form of heat. In an under cabinet environment, the cool burning LED alternative is considered a far safer option. Users can expect anything from 50,000 to 100,000 hours of burning life from an LED light in comparison to traditional incandescent bulbs which only offer something in the region of 1,000 hours of use. 

Both Xenon and LED are excellent choices for undercabinet lighting. 

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