The Unique Challenges With Corner Cabinet Lighting

Corner antique reproduction cabinet lighting poses unique challenges on two levels. On an aesthetic level, the color temperature of the light must be carefully selected. This is because the contents of such displays are atypically more intricate and sophisticated in color and form and demand the highest quality of lighting to be properly showcased. On a functional level, corner cabinet lighting can be equally challenging when it comes to resolving the complications that inevitably arise from heat buildup.

Most corner cabinets are actually half cabinets, with the upper portion of the cabinet consisting of two hinged glass doors that notoriously trap heat in a smaller than average cubic volume.  One must either take special steps to reduce the heat output of cabinet lights, or one must use a light source that will produce less heat without sacrificing lighting levels or lighting quality.

A bit of history is in order to understand how the present generation of corner cabinet lights evolved in the first place.  In the beginning, there was only incandescent light. Corner cabinet lighting systems were originally built by craftsmen using small incandescent lights installed in the display portion of the case.  Incandescent was and still is the closest approximation to natural sunlight, so these early corner cabinet lights produced a luminance that was incredibly “golden” in tone and ideal for lighting fine antiques and rare collectibles.

There were two drawbacks, however. The first drawback was heat output.  Because incandescent lamps produce their light by burning incendiary gases, forward throw heat is an inevitable by-product of their operation.  Any forward throw heat is bad enough, and it is further compounded by closed glass doors that further trap it and magnify its intensity.  The second drawback to incandescents is their short lamp life.  They simply do not last for very long, and replacing them costs both money and poses a constant maintenance inconvenience.

In order to address the problem of heat buildup and short lamp life in corner cabinets, lighting manufacturers began to develop a new, hybrid form of incandescent light called xenon.  They also began to work on the development of dimmer controls that would allow lighting levels—and therefore heat levels—to be lowered at will. This resulted in a slightly whiter light source that still had the essential “golden” touch of early incandescents, but it was a much more controllable source and one that lasted much longer. While great strides were made in the 60s and 70s in the development of xenon low voltage lighting and dimmer control technology, forward throw heat was still an ever present challenge to some degree. While it could not be minimized, it could not be completely eliminated.  Furthermore, reducing heat in corner cabinet lighting installations also meant reducing the intensity of the light. In some cases this can add a very decorative touch to cabinet contents, but in other instances, it can create too many shadows for elaborate displays to be properly showcased.

The ultimate solution to all of these concerns came with the most recent level of evolution in corner cabinet lighting. This new level is LED lamp technology. LED finally allows for the production of higher light levels with less heat. The patent pending Phantom LED festoon, for example, is a 1.7 watt unit that produces the equivalent of 5 watt xenon bulb. However, the heat produced by the production of light is dissipated by a heat sink that draws heat away from the cabinet interior. Additional benefits of LED 2800K lamp technology are the longest lamp life of any cabinet light source (40,000 hours on the average), and a power consumption of only 20%-40% that of xenon and incandescents.

LED corner cabinet lights are available in the warm color temperature of 2800K (a very close approximation to xenon), and the respectively cooler color temperatures of 2950K and 5000K to accommodate a full range of applications when it comes to lighting virtually any type of display.

Of course, Phantom Lighting’s policy is to never limit the options of our clients. Some decorators feel that the specific ambient qualities of incandescent or xenon sourcing are an absolute must for the specific cabinet lighting displays they are creating. In these cases, we recommend the use of dimmer controls to control heat, and we also suggest that lights be turned off for periods of time to allow heat to dissipate naturally. Also, our engineers strongly recommend that for lighting closed corner cabinets with glass doors, one should never use more than a 5 watt xenon or incandescent lamp.

Related Topics:

Lighting IdeasLow Voltage Display Lighting