By Craig DiLouie, LC
What you need to know:
- Track lighting is a flexible solution for contemporary spaces
- Basic system includes trackheads (lights) mounted on energized track
- Trackheads typically provide ambient or accent lighting, including wall washing
- Track itself may be rigid, flexible (rail) or cable
- Track may be line-voltage (typically higher-wattage lamps producing more light) or low-voltage (typically smaller trackheads providing precise beam spreads)
Need a flexible lighting solution? Get on track. Track lighting consists of luminaires (light fixtures) placed on energized track. Since track can be configured in a wide variety of patterns, and the luminaires, also called trackheads, can be attached anywhere on the track and aimed in any direction, it provides homeowners with a range of lighting options.
Where to Use Track
Typical track applications including living, family and hallway spaces with high ceilings or contemporary décor. It is particularly well suited to spaces that require movable and aimable accent lighting, or for sloped or concrete-slab ceilings that do not allow for recessed lighting. The accent lights typically use directional reflectorized lamps (light bulbs), with a variety of beams spreads available. While often used for accent lighting, track lighting can also be used for general lighting and wall washing. It is also compatible with dimming for additional flexibility.
Line-voltage trackheads tend to use higher-wattage lamps, delivering more light, while low-voltage trackheads tend to be smaller and therefore less visible and obtrusive. Low-voltage track typically accommodates trackheads that aim and focus light on small tasks or provide decorative highlighting. For example, small, low-voltage, dropped pendants can be used to light task surfaces such as countertops; multiple pendants are often hung together to light a specific horizontal surface. Trackheads require a transformer, which may be mounted remotely around the end of the track (when using low-voltage track) or directly integrated into the trackhead (for mounting on line-voltage track).
How to Mount Track
The track itself may be rigid, flexible or cable. Traditional rigid track, available for line- and low-voltage track systems, consists of an extruded strip permanently mounted to the ceiling, cut, joined or set in a variety of patterns using L, T, X or flexible connectors. While a variety of finishes are available, white is popular as it matches most ceilings. It can be mounted flush onto or recessed into the ceiling plane.
Flexible track, or rail, is a semi-rigid metal strip that can bend to complement the surrounding architecture, or mounted on, close to or suspended from the ceiling. This allows interesting curved shapes such as circles and spirals. It is usually sold as an electrified low-voltage strip, although some line-voltage systems are available. Cable track generally consists of two parallel electrified wires hung under tension between two opposing walls or ceiling-mounted suspension points. The cables make a distinctive statement, and are typically low-voltage.