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Under-cabinet LED lighting install

Under-cabinet LED lighting install

Since our house was first built 13 years ago, it’s had very basic builder-quality under-cabinet fluorescent lighting. The lights were adequate, but not great. They were spread out widely, leaving dark areas under the multiple cabinets between each light. They didn’t direct their light very well for task work, and being rather bulky, the fixtures were also visible, sticking out under the cabinets:

This weekend Kathie and I replaced our old fluorescent under-cabinet lights with new ultra-bright high-efficiency LED strip lights. I bought a 5-meter (16.4 foot) spool of LEDs on Amazon for $25, from a company called HitLights. Here’s what the spool looks like:

To give a sense of scale, the 16.4 foot spool contains 600 bright LEDs—three lights per inch! The entire spool uses only 48 watts of electricity, less than a single incandescent light bulb. We have a few sections of cabinets, and none are 16 feel long, but that’s not a problem! The spool is designed to be cut with scissors at any 1-inch boundary, and after the cut, both spans are still perfectly usable. I’ll be cutting this spool into three sections for our three separate areas of cabinets:

Connectors can be purchased for a couple dollars to join cut segments together, to connect cut segments to power supplies, to make right-angle turns, etc., so there’s a lot of flexibility with how these lights can be used. Once we had the right length of lighting for our main cabinets (9 foot, 10 inches), we drilled some half-inch holes in the cabinet frames, and fed the lights through from one end of the kitchen to the other:

Next was the serious part. After shutting off the circuit breaker, we removed the existing fluorescent fixtures:

Each of the existing lights was controlled by a separate wall switch. For our new lights, we wanted to re-use one of those wall switches to control the entire row of lights. After removing the existing lights, we prepared one set of AC wires to splice into our LED light’s power supply:

The splicing was simple, and we used some double-sided tape and packing tape to secure the lights’ DC power supply and all the wires under the cabinets. The strip lights have a 3M peel-and-stick backing, so we peeled-and-stuck the lights to the underside of the cabinets. The circuit breaker was turned back on, the lights were successfully tested, and we now have much more useful, very efficient lighting in our kitchen:

Here is a view from above, showing that a granite countertop is very reflective, and you can see the lights’ reflection any time you’re working at the counter. We did a dry-run for a week by scotch taping the LED lights under the counter, and the reflection wasn’t a distraction for us, and is really not very different from seeing the reflection of the fluorescent light before. What you can really see here is how bright and uniform the light is, which is great for working at the counters:

And here’s a straight-on view of the end result… a result we’re both quite pleased with! The entire 10-foot section we installed uses only 25 watts of electricity. We have a few more smaller cabinets to do, and now we’re also thinking about some up-lighting on top of our cabinets. This would provide some nice ambient light across the entire kitchen at night, instead of always running our nine 75-watt recessed lights (675 watts total), which is our only option right now.

2012 Kia Optima SX
  • on December 26, 2011 -
  • cars
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2012 Kia Optima SX

With my Acura TL Type-S approaching five years old, it was time for my approximately quinquennial search for a new car. This time around, I seem to have surprised everyone I know by choosing a Kia Optima, driving it home in late October.

My decision basically boils down to value, and the Optima—just like its sister car, the Hyundai Sonata—offers a ton of it. Several friends have commented on my “downgrade”, but in almost every way that matters, this car is superior to my outgoing Acura TL, and it cost me $7,500 less than the TL cost me five years ago. Since cars lose value fast, I’m happy to give up the “prestige” nametags to gain extra features and save money. I came to a similar conclusion five years ago when choosing the Acura TL over another Audi A4, gaining a lot of extra features and saving thousands of dollars.

Some of the features that drew me in to the Optima were:

  • Heated front and rear seats, cooled and ventilated front seats
  • 274 HP engine that gets 20–25% better fuel economy than the Acura
  • Much better turning radius makes the car a lot easier to maneuver
  • Bluetooth audio streaming to listen to my iPhone music while it’s in my pocket
  • Keyless ignition so my key never needs to leave my pocket
  • Power seats with memory, dual moonroof, 18-inch wheels, navigation, rear camera, steering wheel paddle shifters, and lots of other convenience gadgets (including an air conditioned glove box—for my Coke?)
  • Five-star overall safety performance rating
  • Five-year/60,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and ten-year/100,000 mile drivetrain warranty
  • Looks great!
  • Consistently excellent reviews by all the auto magazines and web sites
  • Transmission shifts much more smoothly than the TL’s

As usual, shortly after the purchase, I took the car to LA Tint in Sterling, VA for some 50/38 ceramic tint.

My only complaint with the car is that on some types of pavement, the road noise can be pretty loud. The Acura TL had a very quiet interior. If it continues to bother me, I’ll look into adding some sound insulating Dynamat in the wheel wells and a few other spots.

It’s blog theme refresh time again
  • on December 18, 2011 -
  • computing
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It’s blog theme refresh time again

Well, despite the fact that it’s been a year since I wrote anything here on my blog—mainly due to a shift in focus to posting on The Last Pixel instead—I decided this week it was time to freshen things up on my personal blog.

Looking through the site I found many stale, uninteresting, or just plain broken pages from years ago. I’ve fixed most of those issues, and invested some time in re-organizing content and updating the blog’s look-and-feel to something more modern and clean. There are still a few old pages to clean up, and some new content I want to add, which will be completed soon.

For posterity, here’s a look at the “outgoing” blog theme, live from September 12, 2007 through December 18, 2011. theme from 2007-2011