Add Light to a Dark Pantry with LED Strip Lighting


Our kitchen pantry is small with metal shelving. While the interior of the pantry is quite tall to match our 11 foot ceilings, the door is narrow and short. This prevents limited light from making it inside, even with our kitchen lights on. So we got the idea to improve the pantry by:

  • Adding additional shelves at both the top and the bottom that were shallower in depth. This would give us a bit more storage room and a place for seldom used items higher up and out of the way.
  • Add lighting to the pantry when the door was opened.

Before – No Lighting; Difficult to See

For the lighting, I decided to use LED Strip lights. The reason for strip lighting is that it would provide even lighting from the top shelf to the bottom shelf. A single light near the top would have only lit the top, seldom used shelf while the lower shelves would still receive less light due to packed middle shelves. I watched a few online videos and decided to give some LED lights from Aqara a try. While in retrospect, this may have been a bit overkill (the LED strip have full color home automation capabilities), it provides the ability to have the lights come on when motion is detected or the door is opened via a wireless door switch. I ended using the motion detection option and am pleased with the results. All of the parts used are listed at end of the article.

The first problem on adding light was there was no electrical outlet in the pantry. Our electrician resolved that by adding an outlet in the ceiling. Since the LED strips are extendable strips, I needed the power end of the LED strip near the bottom on one side of the door. This position allowed me to run the LED strips from the lower-left corner up and over the door frame and then back down the other side. I purchased 90 degree “Corner Diffuser Channels” which are light aluminum panels about 3 feet in length that hold the LED strips in place. They are designed to fit in the corner where two walls come together. This positions the LEDs in the best direction. You can optionally clip on a diffuser panel covers that cover the LED strip and helps diffuse the light making it bit softer. I ended up not using the diffuser covers as the light looked evenly dispersed and bright without them.

Nice bright light evenly distributed to all the shelves.

The Aqara LED Strip comes as a base unit with a power adapter and a controller switch allowing on/off and other control. You get a about 6 feet of LED strip attached inline to the controller. You can operate the LED strip somewhat from the controller, but to really use the strip, particularly with a motion sensor or door switch, it all has to communicate using Zigbee (a popular home automation protocol) through a central hub. So for my setup I used the Aqara M2 hub which connects to my home Wifi.

After downloading the Aqara app to my phone, I was able to connect the M2 hub to my Wifi.  Then the app could see the Aqara LED light strip as well as the motion sensor. Once the LED strip and motion sensor were added to the app, I could add simple If-Then automation logic to turn on the lights to full white brightness anytime the motion sensor detected motion. Another If-Then logic was added to turn off the strip once no motion was detected for one minute. The app communicates with M1 hub through Wifi and M2 hub uses Zigbee to communicate with the light strip and the motion sensor. Zigbee is fast so there is no delay when motion is detected.

By the way, Aqara makes many more useful gadgets that all work together including cameras, moisture and sound detectors and much more. Most of my existing home automation uses the older SmartThings hub with the Z-Wave protocol and all of this works with Google Home and Alexa. I do plan to add more Aqara devices since they are Matter compatible. Matter is the newest industry standard that working to make all brands of home automation devices compatible with each other as much as possible.

Additional images show where the LED strips power adapter and controller are mounted near the bottom inside of the pantry wall and get power from an extension cord.   I strung the extension cord down this same inside wall so it is secure but hidden. The power adapter and the controller boxes were attached to the wall using two pieces of 3M VHB Scotch Dual Fastener strip I cut from a 10 foot role. These are like “super velcro” and hold quite well. One small strip was attached to the wall and the other to the power adapter. Then just press them together and you hear sort of a click they attach. This allowed them to be easily removed if I needed to adjust or replace them.

The motion P1 Motion Sensor from Aqara is battery operated and very small. It will operate about 2 to 4 years on a single battery. I used small Scotch Fasteners to mount the motion detector. These are about 1 inch square with adhesive and work like Velcro strips. One side had the hooks and the other is a soft fabric that attaches tightly to hook side. By placing the detector on the side wall near a shelf, it will turn on the lights only if you step closer to the shelves. This allows us to open the pantry door and pull an item from the small shelving attached to the door without activating the lights.

All in all, we are pleased with the result. The additional storage (2 additional shelves) along with sufficient lighting make finding things in this small pantry much easier.  There are lots of choices for LED strip lighting available so you just have to evaluate your needs and see what will work best for your situation. I recommend using Youtube videos to learn whats out there and the pros and cons of each product.

Aqara LED Lights
Aqara M2 Hub
Aqara Motion Sensor
Aqara LED Strip Extensions
Corner Diffuser Channel
3M Hook & Loop Strip – 10 ft

Speak Your Mind

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.