Light spread, also called beam angle, can often be overlooked when choosing under cabinet LED lighting. The wattage output, finish and color temperature draw most of the attention when selecting a fixture.
Any puck style under cabinet light should be 90 degrees or better to avoid spot lighting or the “flashlight” look. Light spread shouldn’t be dismissed, as it can end up saving you time on the installation, a few extra bucks, and lead to a successful LED project.
The beam angle of a puck light varies per fixture and manufacturer, but usually falls in the range of 25° to 120°. You’ll want to choose a fixture that is appropriate for your application, but this is where taking a look at the light spread can save you some money.
Utilizing 120°, or a high degree of beam angle over a narrower angle not only looks better by creating less dark spots, but makes installation much easier with fewer lights.
A typical beam area of of 120° puck light with a height of 1ft. (.3m) is 2ft. x 2ft. That same height with a 50° beam angle would be closer to 1ft. x 1ft. You’re probably saying, “Well, wouldn’t the fixture with the 50° beam angle be much cheaper.” In some cases your’e right, but not always.
This can depend on the construction of the LED light and whether it’s metal or plastic, if there are parts, such as, surface mount rings that are sold separately, what lens the fixture has and the overall wattage of the light. All these can alter prices.
40 Degree Light Spread Example
In the photo we have several puck lights represented with a 40° beam angle. You can see that the coverage isn’t as robust and it can leave some dark spots within the backsplash and on a countertop.
120 Degree Light Spread Example
With the 120° beam angle represented here, you get far more overall coverage with a lot less puck lights.
The idea is to analyze your space and realize what it is you are trying to illuminate. With under cabinet LED lighting for kitchens you will want as much coverage as possible as this will most likely be a heavily used area for meal preparation, cooking and daily tasks.
Measure the distance from the potential light fixture to the surface area below. The correct beam angle will allow you to then choose how many fixtures you need to properly illuminate the area. With a larger beam angle you can often cover twice the amount of surface area than with smaller degree angles allowing you to use fewer fixtures.
There are many LED lights that are designed for specific uses in displays, store fixtures, furniture, closets or cabinets. Taking a quick look at the light spread or beam angle on these various lights can save you time during installation and a few dollars a long the way.