Linear Under Cabinet Layout Guide
Designing Your Linear Under Cabinet Lighting System
At its most basic core, a linear under cabinet lighting system consists of four elements: stabilizer tracks, cable, a transformer and bulb holders.
How does the under cabinet system work?
The transformer takes your home's electricity and converts it down from 110 volts down to 12 volts (or 24v, depending on your requirements), the voltage required by your lampholders. From there, your low voltage cable runs off the transformer to supply power to your lights. The cable fits into the stabilizer tracks, which are screwed to the underside of your cabinets. Last but definitely not least, the lampholders themselves are then clipped into the tracks; there are little blades on the bottom of these that pierce the cable, completing the circuit and powering the lights.
Step 1: DETERMINE YOUR LENGTH
Determine the length of the surface to be lit. This is referred to as a "run". Convert the linear foot measurement of the run to inches for easy calculations.
Example: 12' run = 144" total inches
Step 2: SELECT YOUR TRACKS
Determine how many tracks you will need based on the length of your run. Take the total linear feet of the cabinet widths and divide that by 48 (length of the track itself). This will give you an approximate total of how many stabilizer tracks you will need. The tracks may be cut easily with scissors to custom lengths so that they fit under the cabinets perfectly.
*Tip: When cutting tracks to fit under the cabinets, shorten the size by 3" to allow for the cable to fit inside the tracks properly while fishing it between cabinets.
3: SELECT LOW VOLTAGE CABLE
Determine the total length of cable needed based on the total length of the run(s). We recommend to measure liberally so that you have enough cable when installing. A few extra feet is always better than not having enough. A cable splitter may also be used for multiple cable runs to originate from one location. Cable is available in either black or white and sold in various pre-cut lengths. (See actual product page for details). Additional cable may be necessary depending on the transformer location.
Step 4: CONFIGURE YOUR SPACING
For general under cabinet lighting applications we recommend spacing the lampholders every 6" on center. This will allow for an even dispertion of light unlike traditional puck lighting that give "pools of light" and do not illuminate evenly onto kitchen counters and back splashes. For cove lighting applications above kitchen cabinets we recommend the spacing to be about every 10" on center. This is a general guideline only and lampholders may be spaced however you prefer depending on your installation needs.
5: SELECT AMOUNT OF LAMPHOLDERS
Divide your run by the spacing guidelines you prefer. This will determine the number of lampholders needed. Each lampholder accepts (1) bulb in either 5 or 10 watts depending on the lighting ouput you desire. Lampholders are available in either black or white and in either 12v or 24v volt options.
Example: 12' run = 144" so then 144" / 6" = 24 lampholders.
Step 6: SELECT AMOUNT OF BULBS
Choose the number of bulbs you need based on how many lampholders you are using. The Xenon bulbs are available in either 5 or 10 watts each and either frosted or clear. We recommend using frosted which reduces glare onto shiny surfaces like granite or marble back splashes. Although the bulbs have a long life we advise buying a few extras to have on hand. Note: Kichler brand lampholders come with pre-installed bulbs.
7: SELECT THE PROPER TRANSFORMER
Multiply the watts per bulb by the number of lamp lampholders. This will determine the total wattage consumed in the application and will determine the transformer wattage required.
*Tip: You never want to over wattage a transformer and you want at least 50% (ideally) of the transformer to be used when powering your linear under cabinet lighting system.
Example: 30 lampholders x 10 watt bulbs = 300 total wattage. This requires a 300 watt transfomer.
These are the basics of designing a linear under cabinet lighting system. It is very easy to install. This is truly a D-I-Y home improvement project! Shop Under Cabinet Lighting
Q: Why should I use a linear system over puck lighting?
A: Puck lighting is good for specific targeted areas like bookcases or to highlight a glass vase in a cabinet, but linear lighting offer a very bright and functional task light for preparing meals and even dispersion of light. 90% of new homes today use a linear system for both under cabinet lighting and cove applications.
Q: What's the difference between 12v and 24v systems?
A: 12 volt systems are used for applications that don't extend beyond 30-40 feet in length. If the run of cable is longer than that, you may want to use 24 volt to mitigate any voltage drop off after 40 feet. If you are using (3) multiple runs of 20 feet each from the transformer to the cabinets; this would still use 12 volts as each run meets the 12v requirements by not being longer than 40'. It's only if one continuous run exceeds the 40 feet that 24v is used.
Q: Where do I install the stabilizer tracks under the cabinets and how do they attach?
A: The stabilizer tracks install at the front of the cabinet, about an inch or so back from the lip. The lampholder then angles towards the back of the counter and back splash. Don't worry, this will make sense when they're in front of you. The lampholders once clipped into the track are just a hair shy of an inch, so you'll need at least a one-inch lip at the front of your cabinet; otherwise they'll be plainly visible. The goal is to see the light and not the hardware. We recommend using 3/8" screws to mount the tracks to the underside of your cabinets. You may also use double stick tape, but it's not very reliable long term. Tip: Do not mount the tracks toward the back of the cabinets as you will see the hardware and the light dispersion will not be optimal.
Q: Can I control a linear under cabinet lighting system with a dimmer?
A: You can dim either Kichler or Sea Gull's linear system to allow for mood lighting. For smaller applications which use an electronic transformer, you can use a standard incandescent dimmer. For larger jobs that use a magnetic transformer, you MUST use a low voltage magnetic dimmer. If you do not use a low voltage dimmer, your system will flicker and not work properly. In both cases, the dimmer gets wired on the 110v primary side.
Q: How to I get the cable to where I need it to go?
A: The simple answer here is however you can. Typically, you would start the cable at one end of your run and then drill a small hole between your cabinets to allow you to fish the cable through and so on. Although the cable is low voltage, hiding it behind drywall is not a good idea as some local electrical codes consider this a violation. Tip: When laying out your installation consider how the cable will get to where it needs to go. Measure twice, cut once mentality.
Q: I've installed my system and it doesn't light. Why?
A: The most common reason is that once the installation is complete people add (1) lampholder and flip the switch to see if it goes on. It will not in most cases. Transformers usually need at least 50% of the capacity used to illuminate the lampholders. If your system doesn't light, add more lampholders. Secondly, the cable and power meeting the transformer may be loose or have crossed connections. Check your connections to make sure they are correct.
If you further clarification or you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to call us at 877-237-9098 and we will be glad to help.