It is often difficult to upgrade an existing under counter light fixture to LED technology, without replacing it completely. LEDs require many new components not found in traditional under counter lighting fixtures. For example, LED technology for illumination normally requires advanced thermal management. Some designers have found clever ways to incorporate all required parts, and form a drop-in under counter LED light replacement. Several popular examples include the LED fluorescent tube replacement, or the LED MR16 replacement, both of which may be used as under counter LED lights. In such cases, the old bulb may be removed from the originals lighting fixture, and the LED bulb inserted in its place. Due to design restrictions, not all traditional bulbs are directly replaceable with LED bulbs.
If you wish to replace your under counter lights with LEDs, the first step is to determine if you will require bulb replacements, or will need to remove and replace the entire under counter fixture. If you can identify the specific bulb type from the lighting fixture, you may be able to locate an LED bulb replacement. If you cannot identify the bulb, or an LED replacement is not offered, then you may need to replace the entire under counter lighting fixture. If you decide to replace the entire fixture, there are several ways to proceed. The most obvious would be to find an off-the-shelf product, designed specifically for under the counter lighting applications. Such products should already include a power supply and mounting hardware, so minimal assembly would be required.
Many prefer to customize their lighting to meet specific requirements. Others may operate on a strict budget, and need to incorporate power supplies or other componets which they have already acquired. Lets assume you already have an AC/DC converter, and wish to incorporate that into your new under counter LED lighting system. The light engine portion of the fixture (LEDs) can be purchased in various forms, requiring varying levels of modification or final assembly. The level that you choose to commit to will depend strictly on your budget, completion deadlines, skill level, and personal preference. Each of three possible platforms has been listed below:
It is possible to obtain an assembled light engine, which includes the LEDs, LED drivers, and thermal management. The installer will simply install the unit into an appropriate enclosure, and then connect a power supply and switch if necessary. With this method, the least amount of assembly and modification would be required. The process still permits enough flexibility to customize the under counter LED lighting to the specific application.
For increased flexibility, it would be possible to obtain an LED array, drivers, and heat sink, separately. The installer would need to assemble these components together, forming the light engine to be employed in the under counter lighting application.
A truly custom approach might involve a higher level of design and assembly, as where each LED, circuit board, driver, and heat sink, would be obtained separately. Obviously this approach requires time and dedication. A project of this magnitude will typically benefit companies involved in product research and development, as opposed to the hobbyist simply wishing to build a set of under counter LED lights for his or her kitchen.