A great kitchen is all about the details, and even a simple element such as lighting can make or break the design. The newest trend in kitchen lighting is using LED, or light-emitting diode, technology. These long-lasting and energy-efficient bulbs give off almost no heat, making them perfect for reducing fire risk in the warmest room of the home.
Kitchen designers recommend using a variety of LED fixtures to create layers of light. Even in the smallest kitchen, a single light source cannot provide all of the illumination needed to make the space functional. A good design plan starts with overhead lights, such as ceiling fixtures or track lighting, for general, or ambient, lighting. Next, use task lighting, such as under-cabinet fixtures or recessed cans, over each work zone to give extra light without casting annoying shadows. Finally, add visual interest by using accent lighting to call attention to architectural details or decorative items (for example, use rope lights to highlight a toe-kick or panel lights in a cove).
In a brand-new kitchen, it's easy to create a lighting plan that uses only LED fixtures. Upgrading an existing space to LED is also possible thanks to new remodeling kits that allow you to easily replace your current fixtures with LEDs.
When shopping for LED fixtures for your kitchen, be prepared for sticker shock. They are the most expensive lighting option, with an up-front cost about six times higher than traditional incandescent lights. However, that price differential is more than made up over the lifespan of the bulb. LED lamps last about 50,000 hours versus 1,200 for a regular bulb (that's 6 years versus 50 days, if left on 24 hours a day). Also, LED also uses about 10 times less electricity, which translates into a lower utility bill and a more environmentally friendly product.
In addition to a big price tag, another downside of LED lights is their color, which can have a cool, bluish tinge that some people find too clinical and unrealistic. Check the Kelvin rating for bulbs before buying. A 4,000 rating is a crisp white popular in Europe, while a 2,700 rating is the warmer tone more common in America. It's a good idea to look at the bulbs in a real setting before deciding if they suit your tastes.