Home Info and articles Upgrading fluorescent cabinet lights to LED

Upgrading fluorescent cabinet lights to LED

Older fluorescent light fittings
Old fluorescent fittings like this are generally no longer available

If you currently have fluorescent lights under your kitchen cabinets, or anywhere else, then you should consider upgrading them to LED. Why? Because the fluorescent tubes will be unavailable at some point in the near future - some tubes and light fittings have already gone. There are also gains to be made because the LED lights will use less electricity than the old fluorescents. You can save up to about 50% for the same light output.

Under cabinet lighting is a great way to illuminate your kitchen, especially work surfaces. Strip style lighting provides the best spread of light with the least shadows so it's a very good choice.

Historically these lights would have used some type of fluorescent tube. Fluorescent tubes and their light fittings have been available in many styles, with varying lengths and tube types. The old fluorescent tubes are generally described by a 'T' number, such as T4, T5 and T8, which indicated the diameter of the tube.

Fluorescent tubes are ok, but they are quite hard to recycle at the end of their life. These days, LED under cabinet lights are a much better choice as they do exactly the same job and use less power to do it.

Is it difficult to upgrade to LED strip lights?

In general, upgrading from fluorescent to LED is quite easy and probably not as expensive as you might think.

Physical installation

Clips for installing under-cabinet strip lights
New fixing clips in are supplied with each light fitting

Every new LED cabinet strip light comes with appropriate fixing clips. These are screwed to the relevant surface and the lights just clip into place. Most fittings have two shapes of clip so you can install them in different orientations to suit your cabinets.

Electricity supply

Both the old fluorescent lights and the new LED alternatives all run at mains voltage, so there are no transformers to worry about. Your existing light switches will still work and you can often use the same cables too.

The part of the entire LED upgrade that's most likely to cause a problem are the connectors at the end of the cables, as there are many different connectors out there.

Electrical connectors at the end of the lights

If you're lucky, your old connectors will 'just work' with your new LED lights. This is the easiest situation as it's really just plug-and-play.

However, most people will need to adjust something to make the right connections. Each new LED light is supplied with a new 'input cable'. This is a cable with the appropriate socket connector for the light at one end and bare ends at the other. This cable can often be used to connect the new lights when the old connectors don't fit. Here are a few common types of existing installation and how to deal with the upgrade:

1. Each existing light has a cable going to a shared junction box

Junction box
You might have a junction box like this with all your old lights connected to it

The new bare-ended input cable should replace the old cables. The bare ends will be connected to the existing junction box and the socket end will connect directly to the new LED light.

2. Cables come out of the wall directly to each light

In this case, the connectors on the end of the cable will need to be replaced with an appropriate connector for your new LED lights. There are two easy ways to achieve this:

1. Replace the old connector at the end of the existing cable with a re-wireable socket to match your new LED lights. The rewireable sockets are purchased separately, and in this case, the new input cables will not be used.

2. Remove the old connector from the end of the cable then use a new junction box to connect your old cable to the bare ends of the new input cable. The socket end of the cable will connect directly to the new light.

3. Old lights are daisy-chained together

Just like the old fluorescents, new LED strip lights can also be linked together either with cables or butt-joint connectors. The first light in the chain will have the power coming into it, either from a junction box or directly from the wall.

When installing the new LEDs, the first fitting will use it's supplied input cable to connect the power. Then additional lights can be easily connected using 'link leads' (purchased separately) to take power from one light onto the next. Usually, up to 6 light fittings can be linked in this way. The new link leads will ensure that the plugs and sockets are correctly matched to your new LED lights.

How much will it cost to upgrade to LED strip lights?

Toru LED strip light
The Toru range of LED strip lights is highly recommended

The exact cost will depend on which lights you choose as well as any optional extras that you require. However, as a very rough estimate, £10 (including VAT) per light fitting is a reasonable guide. Each light is supplied with fixing clips and a power input cable.

Which LED lights should I choose?

There are many manufacturers and brands of light available, but we have a good history with the Toru range of LED strip lights. They are very popular, great value for money and very reliable. The range includes lengths from 224mm to 1159mm, with warm, cool and daylight white colour temperature options.

Toru LED lights have rewireable plugs and sockets available that can be used to utilise your existing cabling. There's also a colour-switchable light in each size in case you're not sure which colour light would suit you best.

In our office, it's become a catchphrase for our customer service team - 'Just buy a Toru!'. It will just work and you won't regret it.

Connector matching

There are two common types of power connector used on LED lights. You might like to purchase LED lights that use the same connectors as your old fluorescents.

Power connectors for Valo LED lights

These connectors are used on the Valo range of LED lights

View the Valo range

Power connectors for Toru LED lights

These connectors are used on the Toru range of LED lights

View the Toru range

FAQs for upgrading fluorescent strips to LED

Do I need to hire an electrician?

If you're replacing your existing lights with new LED's then you don't need to hire an electrican to do this work for you. However if you're not comfortable with any aspect of the work then we would always recommend consulting a qualified expert.

Can LED strip lights be 'daisy chained' together?

Yes! Most fittings can be linked using either cables or a butt-join connector for a seamless lighting solution.

How much will it cost?

A very rough estimate is £10 per light fitting.

Which lights should I choose?

There are many brands and models of LED strip light, but for an easy answer: After measuring the space the lights are going into, buy a Toru LED light of the appropriate length.

Which colour temperature should I choose?

Almost all the old fluorescent tubes that we have seen have been warm white. To keep the same colour of light, you should buy warm white LED lights too. You can also choose whiter lights if you like, and there's models available that have 'colour changing technology' (CCT) so you can try each colour and change it whenever you like.