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Tape lights VS Aluminum Frame lights.

Obviously, the frame is a bigger profile, an inch tall, but as long as it's hidden underneath the cabinet it's not really a problem. Our cabinets also have an extra bottom trim to cover it up.

The frame also has individual switches that may be useful.

Other than these, are there any other pros and cons? Is the frame type outdated? Are the LED tape lights what everyone's getting? Is there a price factor? I've seen other tape lights not as pricey, I'm not sure why there are so pricey.

  • The reason the price on the LED strip you linked is high is because it's the manufacturers page, and that manufacturer does not sell direct. The strips are usually easier for a homeowner to install. They are also less costly per foot when comparing actual prices and not Progress Lightings highest manufacturers suggested retail. – Tyson Apr 20 '17 at 17:09
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The aluminum fixture is a classic fixture, comes in a box, has a power cord, you pick a spot and bolt it up and hook power to it. It also looks like some installer just slapped a couple lights under your cabinets.

LED strips are, by nature, a bespoke installation custom fit to your kitchen. It's going to look much better, though is more sensitive to the risk of an incompetent installer doing a bad job.

These strips are weird though.

First those strips are insanely overpriced; most of us pay $10 per 16 feet (5 metres). This is a lighting specialist company who is trying to be a one-stop shop for lighting contractors, and is dealing with these lights reluctantly as a sideline because they are in demand. They charge through the nose for the difficulty (for them) of supporting these "odd ducks" (to them). If anything they want to overcharge to steer their customers into their more conventional lights.

And these are 24V (the almost universal standard is 12 V). With either voltage, you are operating under the electrical code's low voltage rules, which are much easier to deal with.

The pictured tape lights are not the ones described. The pictured ones have a clear "dome" over them, which splash-proofs them and makes them easier to clean. This is one of two waterproofing options typically available, the other is a hollow silicone tube around the LED strip.

They are advising clips to fasten it, which is a good idea. Most are backed with adhesive, and this can let go after a few years.

Their strip interconnection options don't see to be very good.

They are claiming 15 watts in 60 inches which may be more light than you want. The common LED strips come in a lot of different power densities (watts per foot). This gives you great versatility, and you can alter the lighting easily after the fact as you learn what works. You are no longer married to a fixed "luminaire" that comes in a box. However, this flexibility also rewards those with real skill... an installer may need to "skill up" or get left behind.

Their recommended transformer is bulky and ungainly, there are other options. There are also dimming and multi-color options for those interested in that. Not from this company.

You can also get any color temperature you want, from 2700k incandescent-like to 4000k fluorescent-like to 5000k claw-your-eyes-out LED color.

  • Thank you for your explanation and opinion of the linked products. I was actually thinking the opposite, that the Aluminum fixture looked more professional and that tape lights were a cheap DIY version. After viewing all these comments, I'm not going to have the builder install the frame ones. I'd rather not pay an insane amount of money for something that isn't exactly what I want (very limited to options to begin with, and were only offering a xenon frame until I pushed hard to go to LED). Do you have good LED tape light suggestions or brands for either DIY or for a professional to install? – Jackie D Apr 21 '17 at 13:26
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    The bespoke is in the workmanship, not the lights. Honestly I always go for the cheap Chinese strips, and haven't been too disappointed. I have not done an exhaustive search for a reliable domestic vendor who stands behind their strips on color temperature and CRI. I would expect the price to go up a lot, but certainly not $125/metre, those are ripoff prices. – Harper Apr 21 '17 at 15:59
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The frame lighting uses 120 volts directly. The tape lights need an external transformer—finding a place to put that can be inconvenient.

The installed profile is different, but in your instance that probably makes no difference.

The tape version has a light output specification, but the frame lights do not (which is probably a marketing oversight).

You can undoubtedly shop more for better pricing. LED lighting has been improving very rapidly in the last 10 to 15 years so it is still reasonable to delay making a choice now and have better options in a few months.

  • Ah, thanks for mentioning the transformer issue. The tape lights I guess are also more customizable with regards to length. I'm having a professional hard wire install them. If cost weren't an issue, would the tape version be more preferred? Or could it really go either way? – Jackie D Apr 20 '17 at 18:01
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When I remodeled our kitchen and replace the cabinets, I used tape lighting for the under-cabinet lighting. You'll be splicing the tape lighting between cabinets and running other low voltage wire between the splices. i drilled holes in the back lip edges of the cabinets to run the wire and connected them and pushed this all up between the cabinets. This process kept the wires from being seen without actually have to stick your head under the cabinets. As for the transformer, my refrigerator is next to my cabinets so I was able to use one of the plugs for it for the lighting. Since I had the walls open I connected a switch to control the plug the transformer plugs into and broke the tabs on the receptacle itself so it became independent of the other. So, the refrigerator plugs into one that always has power and the transformer into the other that is powered by the switch.

I really like the light strips as they are not seen (which is the main reason), use less wattage, are led so they'll last a long time and produce no heat. I purchased my tape light just off of amazon a few years ago for something like $15 and it was 30ft long .

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The biggest difference you're going to see is brightness and longevity in my experience.

As mentioned in the other answers, you'll have completed modules (transformer packaged) - in some cases, but not all - with the larger frame type, but this frame also acts as a heat sink. The heat sink allows the company to use brighter LEDs if they want. So (generally) you can get modules that have a much higher brightness than the same length of tape LEDs. An additional point is that if the module has a packaged transformer, then each module will have its own transformer resulting in lower overall efficiency throughout the whole system.

On the other hand, as you noted, the tape LEDs are more customizable. Also since they operate on low-voltage DC (depending on your local laws) you can do all the tinkering and toying you want without having to invest in conduit and other fire safety items. Usually, tape is much cheaper in my experience, but the cheapness is offset a bit by the brightness difference.


Pros & Cons

Aluminum Module

Pro Will probably be brighter and last longer.

Con Probably more expensive, less efficient overall with regard to power consumption.

Tape LEDs

Pro Highly customizable, easy to install, inexpensive, low cost of operation.

Con Not as bright and/or shorter LED life.

  • The brightness difference is easily overcome by using different densities (LEDs per metre) of strip. This is also easily altered after the fact by doubling the strips proper or changing to a lower density strip, they are also dimmable. All subtle stuff that goes past the "luminaire as fixed appliance" mentality so many installers are used to... Strips are hard to work with. As for longevity, the weakest link is the power supplies, and LED strips require a modular approach so when the supply fails, swap it and keep your lights. Emitters proper, of any decent quality, will outlive us all. – Harper Apr 20 '17 at 20:22
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I just finished my kitchen remodel using stick-on tape lights under cabinet. As a do it yourselfer, I chose a product that explained everything in a way I could understand: how match the transformer based on the number of LEDs, how to choose brightness and color, wire everything, how to include a dimmer. It came out great. I couldn't be happier. The strips are sleeker and the LEDs smaller than the inexpensive ones from Amazon. Light is very bright - I'm glad I used a dimmer. I installed an outlet inside my corner base cabinet where they plug-in. I looked at aluminum frames when making my decision, but they seemed cumbersome and expensive.

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I typically recommend LED tape lighting for these reasons.

  1. Ease of install.
  2. Can be affixed vertically to avoid intense glare and reflection from glossy countertops.
  3. Is available in 24 volts.
  4. Options in Kelvin temperatures and CRI

On the other hand

  1. I typically recommend self contained LED light kits if the existing wiring makes it less expensive than tape lighting.

I do not recommend the local variety cheap LED tape or self contained fixtures from the major hardware stores.

  1. Have terrible CRI quality
  2. Are typically not available in 24 volts.
  3. No options in Kelvin temperatures or CRI

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