LED light strip project....

Again, I am probably the last person on earth to discover an amazing product.

So if you are behind the times like me, pay attention.  Because this little project is total awesomeness and possibilities are unlimited!!!

I shared in December my Christmas above the cabinet lighting.  

I originally ran an extension cord up through holes I drilled in the cabinet above my refrigerator, but my wonderful SIL Joel actually hardwired an electrical cord to my under counter lighting. Now I have a permanent plug on top of the cabinets that is connected to my under-counter lighting...a flip of the switch and both my upper and lower lighting comes on! 

After Christmas I left the Christmas lights on top of the cabinets.  I knew it was only a temporary solution and I would need to find some type of permanent light source. Seriously, you could tell they were Christmas lights...kind of cheesy! 

I knew I wanted LED lighting.  The cost of the lights are usually a bit pricey, but they are extremely cost efficient to run.  The HUGE upside for me is they put off NO heat.  I leave my under-counter lights on all the time and they never get hot.  And supposedly, they last a lifetime...whatever that means.  

But the LED strips I used under my cabinets cost about $50 for one 12" strip. I only needed three strips to do under my cabinets, but I knew I would need 5-6 to get a good affect on top. Since this is honestly more for aesthetic appeal than function, that was really cost prohibitive! 

So I went searching for a solution.  My first thought was plain ole' Christmas rope lighting. I know they have LED rope lighting.  But wouldn't you know....I didn't bother to look for it until AFTER all the after Christmas sales...so I couldn't find one box of rope lighting in the stores. 

So I went to my second favorite shopping spot (Lowe's being my first!)...AMAZON! 

Amazon has everything.  And since I wasn't sure exactly what I was looking for, the customer reviews really helped me narrow down my search.

Anywho, I ended up with these amazing LED light ribbons.

I honestly thought it was some kind of "rope" light, but it is just a little 16' strip with these VERY bright and tiny LED lights about every inch! The strip is very flat, only about 1/2" wide and has "sticky" on the back. I bought two rolls. I did read that you have to have the transformer so I ordered that as well. It is a must...it is a converter...you can not plug these lights into a regular outlet!!! And they don't come hardwired with a plug on the end.  

All told, I spent about $50 for 32' of LED lighting and the converter!!!  That is the cost of ONE 12" LED light strip!

So it was time to "install" the above the cabinet lighting.  Seriously?  Install? I am not joking when I say a 5 year old could do this.  It is a matter of twisting four wires together, peel, stick, plug! 

Now, this is ASSUMING you have a power source on top of your cabinets.  If not, this may be the best way to get power above kitchen cabinets. You could plug the power transformer into a remote hub and turn it on and off that way! Amazon has those too ;)

As I mentioned, Joel installed a permanent plug for me that is controlled by the same switch that controls my under counter lighting.  He took an extension cord, cut the "plug in" end off (the "male" end), ran the wiring down between two cabinets, stripped the wires and hard wired it into my existing under counter lighting. (This is NOT something a 5 year old could do!)

To connect the LED light strip to the power transformer you merely twist the like-color wiring together (black to black, red to red) and SECURELY connect with wire nuts or electrical tape.  It is hard to tell in this picture, but there is a black wire and a red wire inside the large black wire coming out of the transformer!

Then I laid out the entire strip and began peeling and sticking along the back side of the top of my cabinets! Seriously...this is not rocket surgery...YOU CAN DO THIS ! 


Before you do this, make sure the tops of your cabinets are clean and dry. The strip is pretty sticky (it professes to use 3M) but if you have dirt and gunk on top of your cabinets, it won't stick well! I shared my "nasty little secret" here along with a little tutorial on how to manage this mess!

I would strongly suggest getting the "warm white" like I did...and even then, they seem a tad "stark" to me.


But never fear...there is a DIMMER specifically for LEDs!!! I have ordered that and hopefully it will be in this week!  It allows you to adjust the brightness of the LED lights (remotely).  I'm hoping it will allow me to dim the lights just a tad so they don't seem so "stark" in contrast to the under-counter lighting.

The great thing about these little lighting strips is they can be cut to ANY length.  I only needed a short piece to the right of the transformer, but needed more than 16' to go all the way around the other side. So I just cut one strip and used that piece to connect to the piece that was too short. The "connectors" come with the power /converter strip!  I will honestly say, getting this "connection" to work is not as easy as you might think. It may seem easy, and I am sure it is suppose to be...but not so much for me.  But eventually it worked and all is well.


Now the truly awesome thing about these little light strips are the ENDLESS possibilities.  They have "water proof" strips that are encased in some kind of water proof plastic...I would imagine kind of like rope lighting. Most of the reviews I read said they emit an odor so I don't think I would put them in the house.  But how awesome would those be around a deck or patio.  Or maybe an RV awning!  (I "stole" these pictures from the internet...sorry)

RV lighting

Under cabinet lighting

Under cabinet lighting

And honestly, it is a MUCH cheaper way to add under counter lighting than the way I did it originally.  The downside being you would have to have an electrical outlet and someplace to put the power transformer since it is also a "converter" and necessary! You cannot just hardwire these strips directly to a regular 110 switch...it has something to do with them being DC vs AC...don't ask...just don't do it.

I am very happy with the results. Again, I do want a dimmer to "soothe" the brightness a bit, but it makes a huge different in the lighting in my kitchen.  The first pictures show my kitchen with NO lights on and only natural light through the window.  The second picture is with the under and above lights on...no overhead light! Huge difference!

As you can see, I don't do a lot of "decorating" on top of my cabinets outside of the holidays.  I know me well enough to know it will do little but attract dirt and gunk.  For example, I don't even drink...that wine is probably 20 years old and is only up there for show! I have a hard enough time keeping what little I have displayed clean!  But with the new lighting, I may just have to do a little froo-froo!

You know, the more I look at pictures of my kitchen, the more "aware" I become of the hulking black refrigerator!  When I designed the layout of this kitchen 14 years ago, I really wanted a "counter-depth" refrigerator...one that was flush with the cabinets.  But they were much more expensive and had less cubic square feet...with two teenage boys, that was a deal breaker! Now, not so much, and every time I see pictures, I realize how desperately I need one...hum.