Track Lighting Guide
Track lighting can be an extremely confusing and overwhelming checklist for anyone who does not deal with the product daily. We at Butler can help you find lighting for nearly every facet of your home lighting experience.
No matter the project, remember to focus on functionality and getting the job done. The extensibility of the application(s) for track lighting can add up through the amount of material needed as well as manpower for installation so it is important to have an understanding and a good plan. Other options besides track could be specialty recessed lighting, surface mounts, or disc lighting.
Buyers beware. Rail track lighting and fixed track lighting have to be measured to fit your existing space exactly. Modifying fixed and rail lighting is not an option. Many of these may be stunning and appealing to the eye but there are many limitations! Just ensure your measurements and placement of the power supply are 100% accurate to the fixture you purchase, as well as meeting specs with your electrician.
Track lighting costs will come down to the extensiveness of the project, how much material is needed, whether you decide to use up-to-date LED lighting, and how savvy you would like to accommodate it. Most track lighting projects, from a materials point of view, are not very expensive. Track heads, transformers, and finding compatible fixtures are confusing to most people and also carry most of the cost. There is no good way of breaking down budgets. Start with what you need and then look at your options available within those guidelines.
Here are some typical track lighting terms and components you will absolutely need when planning something like this. Consult with a professional electrician for the best results.
The best choice will depend on your personal style and the space where the fixtures will be installed as well as any specs or spec guidelines to follow. Basic track configurations by Nora, WAC Lighting, and Tech Lighting come in variations of 2-4-6-8-12 feet and in most cases can be cut for custom sizing (when using straight track). Track type (track head compatibility for connection), 1 or 2 circuit tracks, as well as deciding on whether to use a low-voltage track configuration is your next step in the selection process. Power feeds and canopies are other components to remember when selecting track lighting, where and how will the power be supplied? A floating canopy is a great component to use when placing the track pieces on off-centered junction boxes. Connector feeds, used to connect one piece of track to another, are also another track component that extends the usability and personalization of the application.
Track Lighting Voltage Options
Do not mix 12v and 24v in the same lighting application.
Line: Standard wiring providing 120 volts. These are easier and less expensive but come with less optionality. Long-term costs and maintenance could add up. Think of the life of the project.
See some Line-Voltage Track, Line Voltage Options
Low Voltage: Low voltage uses a transform as a middleman instead of direct wiring. This ensures more energy control as well as more optionality of track heads and light sources. These cost more upfront but help with longevity.
See some Low-Voltage Track, Low Voltage Options
One Circuit: All lights are controlled in unison.
Two Circuit: More optionality as far as light controls.
Common Categories Of Track
- Straight Track: We use this type of track for most of our projects. It is easy to use and manipulate sizes and configurations.
Packages are available with all of the components you need like this bundle below:
These styles are directly related to how the canopy on the track head is connected, you cannot use different styles. However, in some cases, you can mix and match brands as long as the track and head canopy style is the same. But this is a last resort option and not recommended.
The letters represent WHO was the first to make these fixture types. Here are the three types:
- Juno, known as J style is a 2-wire track system
- Halo, known as H style is a 3-wire system
- Lightolier, known as L style is a 2-wire system
Each track head is compatible with only the corresponding track! This makes adding and removing the heads very easy, they usually just clip on and off.
Don’t know what style you have, want, or need? Send us a picture!
Track Light Bulb Types
What are your options when it comes to light bulbs and track lighting?
Similar to light bulbs themselves, the best way to break this down is source light source type and then the bulb itself.
- LED Track Light Bulbs: The buzzword around the industry is your best option. Check to ensure that the bulbs are compatible with line voltage or low voltage. It may cost upfront but the benefits are profoundly greater than other options. If you plan on using LED bulbs in place of another bulb on an existing track system, check your specs to make sure it will work! Bulb base, voltage, and wattage or VERY important from a safety perceptive, contact us to check!
- LED integrated track heads No bulb! Check to ensure that the bulbs are compatible with line voltage or low voltage. The light source is built into the fixture and in most cases can be removed and replaced. This takes the bulb searching out of the equation as well as replacing bulbs. Warranties on all LED bulbs/fixtures range from 2-5 years!
- Halogen: The closest to LED. These give off heat as well as expand while cooling and sometimes shattering. These are very bright and still used in some cases for the type of light it emits compared to LED. LED is still a better option if you can upgrade from here.
- Incandescent: These bulbs are your typical light bulbs used before LEDs were a “thing.” Many have a hard time moving from incandescent to LED due to the light it outputs being more bright, white, uglier bulb…but modern LEDs have caught up to some of these decade-long complaints. Ask a professional what type of LED you can use for your desired light application as well as the color and brightness of the light. See our bulb guide!
- CFL and Fluorescent: Often used in a commercial or industrial setting, these options are highly cost-effective but still have hefty installation and power bills.
The Typical Lamp Style Used For Track
BR Lamp Style
Bulb Reflector bulbs have a large beam spread and larger bulb style and is the typical bulb used in many track lighting applications. Used in bigger applications like kitchens, living rooms, and open areas. These can be mixed with PAR-style lamps as well. Make sure all bulbs on your system are the same. Check the ring of your bulb to see what yours is!
MR Lamp Style
Multifaceted reflector bulbs (or MR bulbs for short)have pressed-glass reflectors that help them to direct light at a precise angle. Using these for art and wall/architecture highlighting is ideal. These are used in both home and commercial applications.
PAR Lamp Style
PAR (parabolic aluminized reflector) includes a reflector for more exact beam angles. They may look similar to BRs and sometimes be interchanged, but PAR-style lamps call for more precise beam angles creating more shadows. These are ideal for smaller areas.
R Lamp Style
R style lamps are a little less precise than PAR lamps. They are used for sharp-edged beam spreads and illuminating a precise but general area with some light escaping the focus. These are used more generically than PARs
Track heads must match the type of track installed on the site.
Track head selection comes down to preference, application, and style. Always keep in mind compatibility with your track and power supply type.
- LED Integrated
LED Integrated Track Heads
Socket Based Track Heads
Bulb Sold Separately
Power Supply And Extending Power Supply
Depending on the application or the use case of the track, the power supply is dependent on what is at hand.
Is your current junction box off-centered? Do you need to know where to place a not-yet-existing junction box?
Many options are not hugely expensive but knowing what to use and when to use it is the pivotal part. If you forget one of these small parts it could set you back in lost time and electrician fees.
Here are common ways of connecting power to the track:
- Live end feed, this is a feed at the end of the track run where the power is connected to the junction box.
- Floating Canopy, this can be placed anywhere on the track itself. This is a great option for awkward junction box positioning.
- Fixed Canopy, these canopies are set in stone on the fixture. The canopy would directly cover the junction box and the fixture will be installed as is. Not a lot of optionality.
Connector Options For Custom Track Designs
Typically coming in white, black, and bronze, connectors are ways to create the design or layout of the track lighting. This is where the heads will be positioned. Make sure you plan accordingly and have the correct connectors to create your ideal track lighting configuration! Forgetting one of these could set you back.
Typical Connectors Used:
Inline Feed With Circuit Breaker
Straight Connector - connecting or extending a track run
Flexible Connector - connecting or extending a track run at an angle from 0-90 degrees.
T Connector - Looks like the letter T
I Connector - Looks like the letter I
L Connector - Looks like the letter L
X Connector - Looks like the letter X
Other options used in specific application circumstances:
Wire Cover Connector
How To Install
Plan the layout: The first step in installing track lighting is to plan the layout of the track and position of the light heads. Measure the space where the track lighting will be installed and sketch out a plan to determine the best placement of the tack and the light heads. Consider factors such as the height of the ceiling, the size and shape of the room, and the purpose of the lighting(task, accent, or general illumination)
Install the track: Once you have a plan, you can begin installing the track. Depending on the specific track lighting system you are using, this may involve attaching the track to the ceiling using screws or brackets, running electrical wire to the track, and connecting the track to the electrical power source. Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully to ensure a safe and proper installation.
Install the light heads: After the track is installed, you can attach the light heads to the track. This typically involves sliding the light head onto the track and securing it in place with a locking mechanism. Again, follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to ensure a proper installation.
That’s it! With these three steps, you should be able to install track lighting in your home. As with any electrical installation, it is important to follow safety guidelines and to consult a professional if you are not comfortable with electrical work.
Energy costs are an important factor to consider when selecting track lighting for your home. The cost of operating track lighting can vary depending on several factors, including the type of light bulbs you use, the intensity of the lights, and how often the lights are used.
One way to reduce the energy cost with track lighting is to choose energy-efficient light bulbs, such as LED or CFL, which use less energy and last longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. These bulbs may have a higher upfront cost, but they can save you money on your energy bills in the long run.
Another way to reduce energy cost with track lighting is to use timers or smart controls to turn off lights when they are not needed. This can help prevent unnecessary energy usage and lower your energy bills.
Finally, consider the intensity of the light when selecting track lighting. High-intensity lighting can use more energy and may not be necessary in allsituations. Consider using lower-intensity lighting or dimming the lights to reduce energy usage when appropriate.
By considering these factors, you can choose track lighting that is energy-efficient and helps to lower your energy costs.
Commercial and Bulk Options
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We at Butler Lighting have been fulfilling the lighting needs of our customers since 1948. Whether you need lighting for your home, multi-family project, or restaurant, we can provide whatever lighting that you need. We will work within your budget to get your lighting to a state that you will love. As a family-run business, we put an emphasis on communication and a commitment to hard work. We at Butler work with over 150 vendors to and we can handle any lighting job you can throw at us. If you have a lighting job, or a job that requires fans that needs to be finished contact us today, and we’ll take your lighting to the next level.
Track Lighting FAQs
Track lighting can be used in any room of the house as long as there is an electrical power source available. Track lighting is often used in kitchens, dining rooms, living rooms and bedrooms, but it can also be used in other spaces such as bathrooms, home offices, and hallways.
There are several benefits of using track lighting, including the ability to adjust the direction and intensity of the light, the flexibility to add or remove heads as needed, and the ability to create a customized lighting plan for a room or space. Track lighting is also relatively easy to install and can be used to highlight specific features or areas of a room.
To choose the right track lighting for your space, consider your budget, the design style of the room, the purpose of the lighting(task, accent, or general illumination). MEasure the space and sketch out a plan to determine the best placement of the track head . Consider the height of the ceiling, the size and shape of the room, and any other features or obstacles that may affect the placement of the track lighting.
Installing track lighting is generally a straightforward process, but it can vary depending on the specifics system you choose. Most track lighting systems come with detailed installation instructions, but it may be helpful to consult a professional electrician if you're not comfortable with electrical work. If you do decide to install the track lighting yourself, be sure to follow the instructions carefully and take all the necessary safety precautions.
To maintain and clean track lighting, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning and care. This may involve dusting the light heads and track regularly, using a soft, dry cloth to wipe away dirt or fingerprints, and replacing light bulbs as needed. Avoid using abrasive or harsh cleaning products, as they may damage the finish of the track or light heads.