Track Lighting Fixtures Systems & Parts Types 2021
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Track Lighting Fixtures Systems & Parts Types 2021
For a flexible and customizable interior lighting solution, nothing beats track lighting. In this track lighting buying guide, you’ll discover the basics of track lighting, the different sorts of systems that are available, and what to keep in mind when purchasing track fixtures for your space.
What Is Track Lighting?
Track lighting is based on a system of fixtures called “heads” or “bullets” connected to a “track.” The track, or monorail, contains electrical conductors that power each track head to cast light throughout your space.
The Advantages of Track Lights
- The ability to individually reposition and adjust each head to customize the illumination in your rooms.
- Certain systems allow you to choose the points along the track where you want to position each bullet.
- Can be installed on both ceilings and walls, depending on the design of your space.
- Track heads are available in a variety of options, including low-voltage halogen bulbs and energy-efficient LED styles.
So if the thought of adding new wiring for individual fixtures sounds daunting and complicated, or if you are intrigued by the idea of adjustable illumination, track lighting is the perfect option. . . . But before getting started, here are a few things to help you pick the right system for your home:
Three Types of Track Lighting
There are two types of light kits, which give you everything you need in a single, handy package:
One type of track kit simply installs into the ceiling junction box just like any other ceiling fixture. These kits feature light heads which are attached to either a fixed or adjustable swing-arm bar. The light heads can pivot and rotate but are not able to slide back and forth along the bar.
Complete linear track kits (consisting of track, adjustable light heads, and canopy) are also available. With these kits, you can move the heads back and forth along the bar and also add additional lights, if you wish.
2. Linear Track
This type uses linear strips of track, usually in 2-foot, 4-foot, 6-foot, or 8-foot lengths.
Connectors are used to join the pieces, so you can create a custom layout for your room. You can choose the style of lights you want, and position them anywhere on the track.
Flexible pieces of track are used that can be curved to create rounded, flowing shapes.
Unlike linear track that lays flat on the ceiling surface, monorail hangs down from the ceiling from standoffs, offering a sleek contemporary look. Complete kits are also available.
Line Voltage vs Low Voltage
Line Voltage Systems – These systems connect to your home’s standard 110-120 volt feed, just like any other ceiling light.
Low Voltage Systems – These track systems use a transformer that converts or steps-down your home’s regular current to a lower voltage, commonly 12 volts. These offer a more controlled, focused beam of light.
Decorative vs Task Lighting
You’ll also want to note that track lighting can serve more than one purpose. Many track kits offer a decorative look and produce wide beams of light, making them best suited to general lighting purposes.
Linear and monorail systems feature track heads that offer a more focused beam of light, making them perfect for task lighting in work areas and for spotlighting art, plants or architectural features.
Customizing Your System
Track light kits come with everything you need, but linear and monorail systems can be custom configured. We feature designs from top brands like Juno, WAC, Lightolier, and Pro Track. Not all track, connectors, and lights work together, however, so be sure to always choose compatible parts.
Connecting Linear Track Pieces
With most systems, you can link multiple lengths of track by using straight, T-shaped, or L-shaped connectors. Again, be sure to use compatible parts.
Cutting Linear Track
Track that can be cut will be noted in individual products for details. Always make sure the cut end is either connected to another length or capped with dead-end cap.
In general, you’ll want to place track heads on linear and monorail track every 12 to 24-inches. You can place lights closer together for a specific use, such as lighting a work area, but keep them at least 4” apart.
Sloped Ceilings or Walls
Many track systems can be used on sloped ceilings, or even on a wall surface. We will note in copy whether a design can be installed in such a way.
Using a wall dimmer adds extra versatility and ambiance to your system. For LEDs, be sure to use an LED compatible dimmer. Line voltage systems with incandescent bulbs work with a standard wall dimmer.
Types of Track Lighting
The type of track light you choose depends on the location and what you want the light to accent. Track lights have two main parts: the rail (or bar) and the track head. Rotate the track light heads to different areas of the room for ambient lighting, toward collectibles for accent lighting or over a work surface for task lighting. Use track lighting in the kitchen, living room or office. For more information on lighting your home, check out Home Lighting Tips. This section assumes an electrical box is available.
Linear Track Lights
Linear track lights can be used in either residential or commercial settings to provide accent or task lighting. The track comes in 4- and 8-foot lengths so you can extend the size of the fixture as needed. Components, such as T-connectors, allow you to have a second line of track divert from the main line. This type of configuration is useful in galleries.
Once you decide on the track, select the track head.
Step head track lights are the standard style and work with any décor type.
Round Back Head
Round back head track lights have a sleeker, more modern design.
Pinhole head track lights have a partially exposed back, giving them an industrial look.
Gimbal head track lights swivel 180 degrees and have a flat light surface that mimics movie camera lights.
Flexible Track Lights
Flexible track lights work in residential or commercial settings to provide an accent or task lighting too. The best Flexible track can be curved and cut to the size that works for you. Curving the track creates a customized look and permits you to move the track closer to highlight specific areas.
- Tools & Home Improvement
Once you decide on the flexible track, select the track head:
- Flexible track head
- Mini pendant
Fixed track lighting kits have everything you need to assemble a track light. Most track heads are still adjustable so you can direct light where you need it.
Plug-in track lights are available too if you don’t want to deal with hard wiring a light fixture.
Mix mini pendants in with track light heads to create a customized look and to have a mixture of task, accent and ambient lighting.
Track Lighting Styles and Finishes
Shades: Many track heads, such as linear track heads, are metal and designed to match the track rail. Flexible and fixed track lights are more decorative and are available in glass shades. Popular track light shades include:
- Frosted glass
- Amber glass
- Tiffany-style glass
- Champagne glass
- Colored glass
- Brushed nickel
Finishes: Take a cue from the existing finishes in your home. If the door handles and cabinet hardware are all in brushed nickel, choose a trim in a complementary finish. White is your best option if you want the track light to blend in with the ceiling. Popular track light finishes include:
- Oil-rubbed bronze
- Brushed nickel
- Polished chrome
Mount track lights approximately 18 inches to 24 inches from the wall you want to light.
Refer to the manufacturer’s instruction manual for step-by-step instructions, safety, warning and caution information. If in doubt, consult a qualified electrician.
Don’t forget light bulbs. Things like color temperature, lumens and wattage all play a factor in your room’s quality of light. Halogen and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs are the most common bulbs for track lights. LED track lights save on energy costs, are cool to the touch and the light is less damaging to artwork. In general, look for a warm white color temperature for living rooms and bedrooms, a bright white color temperature for kitchens and workspaces and a daylight color temperature for reading nooks and studies. For more information on light bulbs, check out the Light Bulb Buying Guide.
- Family room
- Living room
Points to Consider
- Highlight paintings and pictures
- Angling lights minimize glare and reflection
- Make rooms seem larger and lighter
Points to Consider
- Best in smaller rooms
- Enable safe movement
- Multiple tracks allow you to cover a large area for general lighting
- Living room
Points to Consider
- Ideal for working areas
- Enhance energy efficiency
- Supplement ambient light
- Junction boxes may require professional installation.
- Use a floating-canopy connector with a junction box for power along the track’s length.
- Use a live-end connector with a junction box if you need power at the end of the track.
- Cord-and-plug connectors allow you to connect to a standard outlet.
- The number of fixtures you can use is determined by the total wattage of the fixtures.
- Dimmer Switches. Allows you to adjust the level of light you use.
- Track Suspension Kit. Allows you to hang track lights from high ceilings so the light source is closer to the area needed.
- Track Connectors. Let’s you join straight track lengths to form various configurations.
- Lenses. Alters the shape and color of light to create unique effects.
Are track lighting fixtures interchangeable?
Most units are interchangeable if they are in the same track category. For example, one brand’s J track lighting will be interchangeable with another brand’s J track lighting, and so on. However, you can’t simply add in fixtures meant for J track to an H or L track
What is the best track lighting?
- Best Overall: Globe Electric Kearney 6-Light Foldable Track Lighting. …
- Best Budget: Canarm James 4 Bulb Track Light. …
- Top Best Modern: Tech Lighting Tiella Kit. …
- Best Industrial: LNC Industrial Wood Canopy 3-Head Track Lighting. …
- Best Traditional: Lithonia Lighting Adjustable Decorative 3-head LED Lamp.
What are the different types of track lighting?
There are three standard types of tracks used worldwide. They are often termed “H”, “J”, and “L” track, after the names of the manufacturers that established the standards, Halo, Juno, and Lightolier. To identify a track fixture, if it has three contacts, it is likely an “H” type.
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