LED cabinet lights, like most other LED lights, have a rated life of around 50,000 hours, though many will last far longer. How long is 50,000 hours? If operated 24 hours a day, a light rated for 50,000 hours will last for nearly six years, and if operated for 12 hours a day, that light will provide more than 11 years of illumination.
Let’s compare that lifespan to other cabinet lighting options, like incandescent, CFL or more sophisticated technology like a xenon fixture. Incandescent bulbs provide a meager 1,000 hours or so of illumination before replacement is required, while a CFL will perform for about 10,000 hours. Xenon lighting generally comes with a 10,000-hour rating, too, though there are some xenon lights that can last longer.
No other technology compares to LED in the longevity department, and this keeps replacement frequency and operating costs down.
It depends. Not every LED light is dimmable, though many are. Whether a fixture is dimmable or not is rarely apparent just by looking at it. In most cases, you’ll have to check with the manufacturer to know for sure. If you’re working with a cabinet lighting designer, they will usually have dimmable LED lights available, so no calls to the manufacturer are necessary.
It’s not enough to have dimmable LED lights, though, because LED fixtures aren’t compatible with leading edge dimmers. Leading edge dimmers are used with incandescent fixtures and are the most common in residential buildings. They are calibrated for dealing with higher wattage fixtures, and this includes incandescent lights. LED lights are on the other end of the wattage spectrum as they require much less energy to output the same amount of illumination. This is great for efficiency, but it means leading edge dimmers may not handle LED lights properly. For example, the dimming range may be reduced when pairing a leading edge dimmer with an LED fixture. Since LEDs operate at such low wattages, the dimmer may consider the LED light “off” when it is really set at a low output level.
Trailing edge dimmers are the solution to this problem, as they are calibrated specifically for LED fixtures and their low wattages. With a trailing edge dimmer, and a dimmable LED fixture, homeowners have the same level of control that a comparable incandescent or xenon system could provide. Trailing edge dimmers can be installed quickly and inexpensively by an experienced electrician, as well.
LED cabinet lights are safe to use with most items and materials, and are considered especially safe for light-sensitive objects like artwork. LED technology is extremely efficient, especially when compared to most other forms of lighting. Built on solid state circuitry and a semiconductor die, LED fixtures are precise with their power-to-light conversion. This not only keeps efficiency up, it also keeps heat levels down.
LED lighting generates negligible amounts of radiant heat, to the point where LEDs are typically cool or slightly warm to the touch during operation. There’s little risk of injury should a curious observer explore the cabinet with their hands. Reduced heat also reduces damage to things like books and photos, and minimizes the risk of fire.
UV radiation is another frustration for homeowners, as it can cause rapid discoloration in sensitive materials like fabrics, oils and watercolors. UV radiation can also cause photos to fade, ruining priceless mementos before long. LED lighting is an encouraging development in this area, though, because it also generates little UV radiation. It’s this property that has art museums and galleries considering the transition to LED lighting, and the technology is already in place in world class institutions like The Smithsonian and Sistine Chapel.
In the end, most homeowners will make their decision on aesthetics, and LED is competing with favorites like incandescent lamps. For decades, LED’s only limitation was its appearance, as its early iterations were limited in color and power. Those are no longer concerns and LED now offers a superior aesthetic that is fit for any setting. LED lighting is being considered by art museums, after all, and art museums need their lights to complement the subject’s beauty.
Modern LED lighting is versatile in its appearance, and is available in a range of colors and color temperatures. It can render color better than incandescent and CFL fixtures, and can output greater volumes of light than both. Phantom’s Ultra series of LED cabinet lighting, for example, produces 200 lumens per linear foot, which makes it one of the brightest cabinet lights on the market. LED lighting is also prized for its ability to generate even lighting. The directional, rather than radiant, nature of LEDs ensures they are easy to control and meter, so there’s no distracting hotspots or dead areas.
Given their sophisticated engineering and recent addition to the marketplace, LED fixtures cost more upfront. With time, though, LED cabinet lighting systems make up some of this cost with fewer lamp replacements and less system maintenance.
If longevity, controllability, safety, power and aesthetics are concerns, then LED technology should be the first choice in cabinet lighting.