How to Choose Track Lighting
Track lighting systems are versatile lighting solutions that can be used to power spotlights, floodlights, pendant lights or any other fixtures with the proper adapter and voltage. Characterized by their concealed conductors, the tracks are used on ceilings and walls in settings that demand performance and adjustability.
When a ceiling can’t accommodate recessed lighting, because of beams, for instance, track lighting enables you to position fixtures close to the ceiling, keeping sightlines clear. It’s ideal for directing light at art and objects, says San Francisco-based architect Lorissa Kim, as well as for task lighting several areas of a larger room at once. Plus, she says, if you tend to change positioning of your furnishings and accessories, track lighting offers much more flexibility to adjust your lighting accordingly than fixed fixtures.
Track is an especially appealing option in situations that require long runs and can use line voltage (120V). Line voltage allows for longer runs without the concern for voltage drop. Through the use of a concealed conductor, track systems are able to safely run at 120V without the risk of shock. While there are low voltage track systems available, the majority of systems are line voltage.
To configure a track lighting system, there are four things to consider:
- Track Type
- Layout and Components
A track lighting system consists of lengths of track that are available in several different types, including line or low voltage, single or two-circuit, and flexible or straight. It is important to consider all factors when selecting a track system to purchase. The manufacturer, adapter standard and voltage will determine what fixtures can be used with a system and will play a major role in deciding if a system is appropriate for a particular installation.
Layout and Components
Systems are available with standard straight track or with flexible track in single-circuit or two-circuit configurations. Almost any layout is possible using a creative selection of track connectors and track lengths. Depending on the type of track, systems can be installed directly to, or suspended from, the ceiling.
One of the most important factors to consider is how to provide power to a track system. If power is being supplied in the middle of a run, a canopy with a power feed is required. If power will be supplied at the end of a run, an end connector with a power feed can be used.
The first thing to consider when choosing fixtures for a track system is whether the two are compatible. It is important to choose fixtures that use the same track standard as the system itself. In some cases, manufacturers will offer adapters so that their fixtures can be used with several of their systems. Another thing to consider is what is being illuminated. Highlighting a piece of artwork would be best accomplished using a precision spot light while more general illumination might be better served with a flood light or pendant.
In addition to the track standard, the voltage of the fixture should also be considered. If a low voltage track head or pendant is to be used on a line voltage track, an inline transformer will be required. This usually takes the form of a small box near the point where the fixture attaches to the track. This transformer will convert the line voltage (120V) feed to the appropriate low voltage (12V) signal required by a low voltage fixture.
Most track fixtures can be modified for many applications by purchasing accessories. You can use special lenses to change the shape of the light (honeycomb louvers, spread lenses and beam elongating lenses) or the color (color lenses and color dichroic lenses). A framing projector or barn door accessory can be used to help direct and focus the light.
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