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Universal Design

Improve Kitchen Lighting
and Electrical Plans

Learn the basics for greater comfort and safety.

 
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Good lighting can do wonders for any kitchen. It makes all the kitchen surfaces more visible, which is important because you’ll feel more secure and safe as you prepare and cook food. Good lighting can also make small spaces seem larger. Plus, adequate light can create a sense of well-being.

Light It Up!

A well-illuminated kitchen has two types of lighting: general lighting, the overall illumination that comes from daylight or from overhead fixtures, and task-specific lighting. Both are important in the kitchen. When it comes to general lighting, a large ceiling fixture with long-lasting, eco-friendly fluorescent bulbs will give off plenty of light and mean fewer trips up and down a ladder.

You can improve task lighting by installing fluorescent fixtures under the cabinets or by adding lighting over the range, sink and other areas where much of your work takes place.

Electrical Plan

It’s essential to install an electrical system that is safe and easy to use. The number and placement of outlets is especially important in a kitchen — for ease of use and to satisfy current building codes. A good, inexpensive strategy is to install a surface-mounted cable raceway at the back of the counter or under the cabinets to make more outlets available for small appliances. All outlets, especially those near water, must be changed to ground fault interrupter outlets, known as GFI outlets, to avoid the possibility of shock. And remember to install your light switches and electrical outlets no higher than 48 inches (122 cm) from the floor for easy reach.

Watch the Cords!

If you must use extension cords, select only those with built-in circuit breakers. The thickness, or gauge, of the wire is what determines extension cord ratings. Many cords are intended for use only with table lamps and present a fire hazard when used for kitchen appliances with a heavy electrical draw. Read the gauge of the wire on the extension cord tab to see if it’s adequate for the appliance you have in mind.

Keep It Current

Relocate your fuse box or service panel from a hard-to-access location (like the basement) to a place you can reach easily in your kitchen or a nearby hallway. And update your service panel. Most older homes have a 60-amp service panel, although the minimum used today is 100 amps. Current safety codes require separate circuits for appliances such as microwaves and refrigerators. If you’re renovating your kitchen, ask your electrician about the need to upgrade the electrical power and whether worn-out insulation around the wiring should be replaced at the same time.

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'Revitalizing Your Home' by Rosemary Bakker (book cover)

Rosemary Bakker is the author of the AARP Guide to Revitalizing Your Home, which is available through Barnes & Noble. Bakker holds a master of science degree in gerontology and is a certified interior designer.

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