How to Wire a Kitchen

If you're remodeling your kitchen, be sure to note how many plugs, cords, lights, and appliances there are. It will help determine your wiring layout.

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Electrical services abound in modern kitchens: lights on the ceiling; lights in, on, and under cabinets; counter receptacles with the capacity to run six or seven appliances at once; and separate circuits for appliances, including the refrigerator, dishwasher, and microwave. A medium-size kitchen may require six or more circuits.

Below, you'll find tips and information on everything in a kitchen that requires electricity. This information is helpful when remodeling a kitchen and important for every homeowner to know. 

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Types of Kitchen Lighting

General lighting (or ambient lighting) is usually provided by ceiling-mounted fixtures. Consider fluorescent fixtures with daylight tubes and opaque lenses to disperse the light. Or install a series of recessed canister lights or incandescent fixtures.

If you use a track fixture for general lighting, you get better illumination if you run several tracks around the room rather than having a single track in the middle. That way the light comes from several different directions.

Cove lighting mounts on top of wall cabinets and points upward, providing general lighting and creating a halo effect.

Area lighting focuses on a certain spot while also providing some general illumination. A recessed canister light equipped with a spotlight bulb, for instance, may shine down on the sink. Be sure to position it so the person doing dishes does not cast a shadow over the work area.

Pendant lights are ideal area lights placed over a dining table or a counter. Position them over the center of the table or counter and adjust the heights so they do not shine into people's eyes.

Task lighting directs a beam of light at a work surface. The position of task lighting is critical: It must be in front of the worker to eliminate shadows but it must not shine into the worker's eyes. A perfect location is available in almost every kitchen: the underside of wall cabinets. Undercabinet lights are available as fluorescent or low-voltage halogen fixtures.

Accent lighting spotlights an object such as a wall hanging. Small lights inside a glass-door cabinet draw attention to a collection of fine china and crystal.

You can put in a grow light pointed at decorative or culinary plants. A typical grow light cannot supply plants with all the light they need, but it can be a supplement.

Consider Light Switches

Think carefully about the location of switches. If you position four or five next to each other, people may be confused about what switch controls which light. Where possible, position switches near their lights.

Be sure that you can turn on lights easily, no matter which door or entryway you use. Often the most convenient arrangement is to use three-way switches so that a single light or series of lights can be controlled by two different switches. Typically the lights in a kitchen are on a single 15-amp circuit.

Kitchen Receptacles

Codes often require a separate circuit for a refrigerator. A microwave oven may need its own circuit too, depending on its size and power.

Most codes require two circuits for countertop receptacles. In some regions, the receptacles must be ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and must be on 20-amp alternating circuits. In other areas, the required arrangement is to have two 15-amp circuits with non-GFCI receptacles wired with split circuits so the two plugs are connected to two different circuits. Check local codes.

Wiring for Kitchen Appliances

An electric range, cooktop, or oven must be wired to a dedicated 240-volt circuit. Other appliances are 120-volt.

An undersink receptacle for the garbage disposer may be split so that one plug is switched and the other is always hot, allowing you to plug in a garbage disposer and a hot-water dispenser. Or the disposer may be hardwired into a switched box. Usually the switch is placed on the wall near the sink.

A dishwasher may have its own circuit, or it may be on the same circuit as the garbage disposer. A range hood typically is hardwired.

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