Cabinet Lighting Essentials
What is cabinet lighting?
By definition, it is the process of lighting the interior (and, by implication, the contents) of any cabinet. Such a cabinet can exist purely for the purposes of display, as is the case with many antique reproductions, corner cabinets and fine china displays, or it may exist for a functional purpose, such as those used in large residential kitchens or retail displays.
Why do we need special cabinet lighting?
Well, for one thing, even the brightest of general room lights are simply too dim to adequately light the interior of a cabinet with even a rudimentary design. In fact, the more ornamental the design of a cabinet is, the more the reveals and vertical stiles will block exterior room lights and cast shadows on the contents inside.
The presence of shadows is further magnified by cabinets that are built with doors. Even with doors designed with glass pane windows that allow you to see the contents inside, the door trims themselves present significant obstructions to external light.
Therefore, internal cabinet lighting is a must-have in order to create aesthetically superior showcases.
What are the different types of fixtures used to light cabinet interiors?
Overhead lights, also known as puck lights, are used in some kitchen cabinets, mirror-back cabinets, and curio cabinets that have several mirrored surfaces and glass shelves. The vertical, downward shaft of the light beam is magnified by these mirrors and creates a high-intensity lighted interior which is good for illuminating small collectibles.
In kitchen cabinets they are a reasonable lighting source, but they offer little decorative value because they concentrate too much light in the center of the cabinet and less around the sides.
For optimal cabinet lighting, you really need linear strip lights. These fixtures affix to either the bottoms of shelves or the interior of vertical cabinet stiles or door interior trims.
Some linear strip lights, of course, are better than others. Due to the highly customized craftsmanship of cabinet building, it makes little sense to force a fixed-length strip light into an interior proportioned around unique and highly variable dimensions.
Also, it makes even less sense to use a fixture that protrudes obnoxiously into the aesthetic realm of the display. Such an intrusion is an eyesore to say the least.
A little bit of common sense combined with a lot of advanced technical engineering brings us to the conclusion that the best display cabinet lighting fixtures are custom-made, low-profile linear strips that are manufactured to fit the specific dimensions of interior horizontal and vertical cabinet surfaces.
What is the best type of lamp to use for lighting displays?
That depends on what you are intending to do.
There are essentially three different types of light sources you can choose from—incandescent, xenon, and LED—and all three offer both advantages and disadvantages specific to respective applications.
Let’s review for a moment what these are and view a LED festoon lamp comparison chart.
Incandescent lamps have been around since the early 20th century, and they still have that Golden Age ambience—along with a slightly golden tint to their light—that makes them much warmer than natural sunlight.
The drawbacks to incandescent lamps, however, are the same ones faced by Thomas Edison. They are notorious power hogs. They don’t last for very long at all, so you have to keep buying replacements.
They also tend to get very hot, so you cannot leave them on indefinitely—especially in a closed cabinet of any kind.
Now, with certain linear strip cabinet lighting devices, such as those made by Phantom Lighting, dimmer controls can compensate for both of these drawbacks. Dimmers reduce both the power draw of the lamps and the heat the lamps produce.
Xenon is basically a high-end form of incandescent lamp that is renowned for its longer lamp life. Also, it produces just as much heat as standard incandescents.
Again, we are back to that heat issue we talked about earlier; and we are back to relying on dimmers to regulate both voltage levels and forward throw heat.
LED Lamps are the most promising luminaires that science has created to date, and their impact is now being felt in all levels of commercial and residential light manufacturing.
LEDs solve the problems of replacement costs with astoundingly long lamp lives. They also use about 80-90% less power as incandescent-based equivalents. Even better, they produce minimal heat and can be left on throughout the day and night without risk of overheating contents or fixtures.
While incandescent and Xenon lamps have a fixed color temperature, LEDs are available in different degrees of warmth or coolness. Warm tone LEDs offer the same color as Xenon, plus there are cooler selections similar to Halogen or even cooler choices for whiter, crisper tones.
The only drawback to LED festoon lamps is that they lack all the properties that exactly match those of previous generations of technology. However, as progress continues to be made in LED engineering, we anticipate this will change in the not too distant future.
What is the optimal luminance level for cabinet lighting?
There is no hard fast level we can recommend for all displays. The general rule of thumb we recommend you follow, however, is based on the reflectivity of your contents.
The more non-reflective a surface, the higher lighting levels you can have.
Can cabinet lighting be done cost effectively?
Yes. Even with incandescent sourcing, dimming lights by only 25% reduces power consumption 20%. With LED technology, power savings are even greater.
What are some important considerations to take into account?
If you have a closed cabinet, never use xenon above 5 watts, and be sure to use your dimmer controls to regulate the intensity of your cabinet lighting. Alternatively, use low wattage LEDs instead.
How do Phantom linear lights fulfill these requirements?
For one thing, all Phantom Linear LED Lighting Strips are custom-made to fit the exact dimensions of both new construction cabinets and existing cabinets that need to be retrofitted with light fixtures. They are also fully dimmable, and they can be ordered in either incandescent, xenon, or LED lamps.
Also, Phantom makes both horizontally-mounted lights and vertically mounted lights so cabinet styles of all custom builds can be appropriately illuminated. Our fixtures are very low-profile and are easy to conceal, making them the dream come true of the interior designer and the collector who wants the people in the room to see the light but not the fixture.
Cabinet Lighting from Phantom Lighting System, a Houston based cabinet lighting manufacturer provides superior low voltage LED, incandescent and xenon cabinet lights for a wide variety of custom cabinet lighting installations, including exclusive concealed wiring for adjustable shelves, under cabinet lighting and kitchen cabinet lighting. Phantom is about display lighting creations - not about seeing light bulbs. Therefore, we have six custom cabinet lighting series of low voltage cabinet lighting fixtures designed to ensure that the light source is concealed from each viewing angle, no matter how severe. Whether you are using our standard incandescent lamps, xenon lamps or LED replacement lamps your cabinet lighting system will be spectacular!
Feel free to contact us toll free at 800-863-1184, locally at 713-863-1133, visit our mobile website, lighting blog or online lighting showroom to discover which Phantom Lighting products and models will best adapt to your particular lighting needs.