To start with, permit me to explain that “High Power LEDs” should probably read led strip lights for home. By my calculations this whole setup uses about 23w of electricity.
Anyways, after getting new kitchen cabinets and getting a fantastic shiny granite counter top installed the time had come to obtain some truly impressive under-cabinet lights that will complement the style I was shooting for while being wonderfully functional at the same time.
This instructable will almost certainly explain to you how I created my DIY under cabinet lighting for under $120 however achieved professional results much better than every commercially available system I could see personally.
This is a true DIY system, not really a guide concerning how to install a commercially available system. So before starting, know that while I think this ought to be considered an “easy” project some elementary skills are needed for example being comfortable working around electricity (which can be dangerous!) therefore you need to know the way to solder. Besides that though there aren’t any special skills or tools required.
Fair warning, this is basically the longest step! This is basically my thought process on designing the setup. Skip this step to find out the types of materials list and build instructions…
Under cabinet lights can make or break a kitchen. They may add instant and real appeal to a place, but they have to meet certain criteria. They should be effective task lights. They must add the right “ambiance”. They have to match with the current lighting scheme, and lastly they have to work well and last for many years (because of the fact that installing lights below your cabinets often requires some modifications – it’s a pain to need to re-get it done or constantly fix things!).
In designing my setup I could cross from the typical halogen puck lights quickly. They may be bright and beautiful, however they have several weaknesses. They may be too large, too hot, and thus they don’t last extended (plastic cracks, glass falls out, and bulbs burn out quickly). Likely the worst part on them may be the horrible level of wire necessary to hook them up!
Scouring the world wide web for project ideas turned up only a few truly “DIY” LED options. Most DIY projects were associated with installing a commercial product. I checked with local lighting stores and diy stores and found solutions that were either woefully inadequate or ridiculously expensive. I found some modular systems that came near to what I was envisioning, having said that i quickly got to the final outcome i could build it to look and perform better, for cheaper.
I have some fundamental LED knowledge from creating a light for my reef aquarium. Oddly enough I believe that this reefing hobby has given a monumental push to high-power LED lighting in recent times. I’ve also messed around with a bit of normal 5mm LEDs and the like while testing my arduino along with other electronic gadgets. I am still in no way an authority…
With LEDs you must keep a couple of things under consideration. Namely, LED type & placement, power, thermal management, and color.
LED Type & Placement:
LED under cabinet lighting can be split into 2 groups, strip lights and individual lights. The strip lights typically provide more even light through the entire surface (just like a fluorescent bulb), while individual, or “puck” lights provide a more dramatic lighting source with varying intensities that begin really high when you’re right beneath the light fading out while you move further outside the light.
I underwent several designs both for and discovered that typically strip lights use smaller SMD LEDs installed on a long, thin PCB or flex tape. These are generally nice, low-profile options, however, I stumbled upon they aren’t as intense as single lights. Basically If I were to conduct a strip light application using LEDs I would use 2 rows to have enough light. Using 2 rows increased the price significantly though.
I wound up settling on high power 3W LEDs, exactly like just what are widely used in reef lighting, specifically the CREE XT-E LED. These are very versatile, they put out a great deal of light and there are numerous drivers that are fantastic for powering this type of waterproof led lights, especially if you want to get fancy with dimming (many support -10v dimming as well as PWM dimming). The key part gets the spacing directly to avoid shadows and to get the right thermal setup. I experimented quite a bit and decided the best light was as soon as the LEDs were spaced evenly apart beneath the cabinets about 12″ on center. More LEDs than 25dexupky and i also would possibly be wasting efficiency (because I would personally turn out dimming it most of the time). Less LEDs than that I can be sacrificing several of the practical task lighting.
For power I went with a dimmable constant current driver. The LEDs I used use a 3v forward voltage @ 700mA, to wire them in series you basically just accumulate the complete forward voltage (I used 11 LEDs so 3×11=33v) and ensure the driver you acquire supports that voltage at whatever current you need. 700mA is a great volume of current because it possesses a good efficiency although the LEDs won’t get as hot. The LEDs are rated to better than that, even though they do get brighter the greater current you feed them, they get yourself a lot hotter and also the efficiency drops also. I made a decision try using a reliable inventronics 40W driver.
A great thing about this driver (plus some others too) is it’s scalable. According to the datasheet @ 700mA it outputs a minimum of 18v and a maximum of 54v. Which means that if you have 3v LEDs you can safely use no less than 6 LEDs as well as a maximum of 17 LEDs approximately (you want a little wiggle room on the top range). Using the spacing I described above you could light any where from 6 to 17 linear feet of counter! When you still need more LEDs than that, don’t worry. Just search for a constant current driver that supports the voltage range you want. Just take your LED voltage with the current you want and multiply it through the # of LEDs you would like to receive the voltage requirement. Meanwell, Inventronics, and Phillips Xitanium are only a few. A LED driver takes your homes 120v power and converts it into DC power for the LEDs.
Thermal management will be crucial in a very high power LED array, and even though I thought about simply using aluminum channel or flat bar from your home depot I ended up with a much more elegant (and a lot more effective) solution that didn’t cost any longer. I spent lots of time in search of heatsinks and although I came across a bunch, they mostly originated from China or these folks were too tall for my application (I just have 3/4″ under my cabinets). I ended up deciding try using a really nifty looking circular heatsink that was designed to use with LEDs. A standard CPU style heatsink wouldn’t work in this application as the heatsink should be against wood, which means that this design is ideal to obtain enough airflow. Best of all, you may get this heatsink in a number of different heights, with out drilling is necessary to mount the super bright led lighting or even the heatsink for the underside of the cabinet! It’s the Ohmite model SA-LED-113E.
Let’s remember about color! This has become the most important… I might cope with those crappy halogen pucks before I decided a fluorescent light for this particular exact reason. The colour temperature is going to dictate the mood of the lighting along with how good or bad things look underneath them. Imagine you’re preparing some food on the counter and the broccoli looks brown… You’re not planning to want to eat that. Now imaging considering broccoli seems neat and bright green, just like you just harvested it. That’s the strength of choosing the right color light.
Warm white may be the color most often chosen, and also the color I desired for my kitchen. The kelvin range for “warm white” is between 2700k and 3500k. Warm white has the highest CRI (color rendering index) and IMO things look most true alive under this color lighting. I chose to be about the slightly cooler end from the spectrum though, since I don’t have numerous windows. I chose 3250k LEDs which I found correlate very well towards the “soft white” compact fluorescent bulbs i use in the ceiling lights. On that note you should make an effort to match the colour of your under cabinet lights to the other lights within your kitchen or it is going to look funny. Therefore you would either must find the correct color LEDs or you’ll must change out the other lights within your kitchen.
So those are essentially the principles I used to design the device. Dependant upon your space you may want to tweak several things, but I the things i come up with worked out really REALLY well in my view as well as for my purposes.