Under Cabinet Lighting (LED or Xenon): Use these tips to Install them yourself.
LED or Xenon Pucks (recessed):
To install LED or xenon under cabinet lighting pucks, the cabinet bottoms are simply drilled out (whatever spacing you prefer) with the correct size hole saw bit recommended by the manufacturer (the hole saw can be attached to an ordinary cordless drill). The puck light is then friction fit into the hole from the under side of the cabinet. The inside of the puck and it’s wiring is then exposed on the bottom inside of the cabinet as well as the the low voltage power feed that is fed into it during the cabinet install stage (see “electrical” below). All the wiring connections are done inside the cabinet and stapled or taped in an organized, low profile arrangement on the inside base of the cabinet. The last step is simply to install one of the standard melamine shelves that comes with the cabinet over top of the wiring. Grooves are cut out of the bottom face (you can use a circular saw set to a depth of about 3/8″) to allow room for the wiring. The shelf is carefully put in it’s place and attached from below with a couple of carefully placed screws.
Electrical for under cabinet lighting (if you are wiring Xenon pucks, you should always get the advice of a qualified electrician):
There are two choices when running the wires for new under cabinet lighting pucks. In series, or in parrallel. If they are zenon pucks, they require a much higher electrical current, so it is best to wire them in parralell. This means that you must run a seperate 18/2 low voltage wire to each puck (or group of 2 or 3 depending on wattage), from a place where the transformer(s) can be hidden from view, and all the individual puck wires can be wired into an electrical junction box. I usuall choose the sink cabinet to place one or two square (usually 4x4), surface mounted electrical boxes. Inside these boxes is where the transformer(s) will be housed and the individual wires will be spliced into the low voltage side of the transformer. This arrangement is required by most electrical codes, to allow both the line voltage and the low voltage sides of the circuit to be “hard wired” within a grounded electrical box. Because of the numerous low voltage wires required with xenon pucks, it is almost necessary to run these wires within the stud cavities to keep it looking neat and tidy. However you choose to run these cables, it will require several seperate low voltage wires to be run from the electrical box (in the sink cabinet) to the inside bottom of the cabinet in which the puck(s) are mounted. According to most electrical codes, it is OK to splice the low voltage feed wires to the puck lights, using the tiny #29 wire nuts. The line voltage side of the circuit must be run through a switch placed in a position you would prefer. This is often a difficult challenge if you have limited access to the stud cavities. You can get plenty of helpful advice from your electrician about your most practical options.
If you choose to install LED pucks for your under cabinet lighting (or strip lighting, for that matter), the procedure can be much simpler and often does not require an electrical box for wire splicing. As long as you have a regular wall receptacle near where you will be hiding your transformer, you only need to plug one end of the wire into the wall plug, and plug the other end into the first LED puck (or into the end of just one LED strip light). The first puck is then plugged into the next (in series) until you have a “daisy chain” of several. Most LED puck transformers can drive several pucks because they require as little as 1/10th the current required by xenon pucks. It is also for this reason, that there is no need to run seperate wires to each group of pucks as you would for xenon. The wire that strings all these pucks together often also contains a switch that you can conceal out of site, to allow you to switch on and off. If you want a bit more flexibility in switch placement and switch asthetics, you can also wire a wall switch into the line voltage side of these circuits. This however, is something you will have to get your electrician to advise you about, since it will require line voltage wire splicing inside of a grounded electrical box. The benefits of LED’s are not only their low power consumption, but also their long life. Some manufacturers claim they can last 5 to 10 times longer than regular halogen (xenon). They also radiate far less heat. This can be an advantage when pucks are installed under a cabinet that is used for food storage.
Have fun installing your under cabinet lighting pucks or strip lights!