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Track Lighting Installation Tips

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If you’re shopping for track lighting, it’s easy to find yourself confused or even a bit overwhelmed by all of the options. But a properly designed track system has function and versatility that serves many parts of the home very well, like kitchen islands, art lighting, hallway lighting and others. We’ll break down the process to help you get your system installed in three simple steps.

3 Steps to Designing a Track Lighting Installation

1. Pick a Track Standard

The foundation of any track lighting system is the track itself. The track is the part that attaches to the ceiling or wall and it’s what the light fixtures are affixed to. It’s important to keep in mind that not all track lights (fixtures) fit all track types. There are three standard systems—and a bunch of proprietary ones. The three standards were developed by the early manufacturers of track lighting (Halo, Juno and Lightolier), and we carry fixtures that are compatible with all three systems.

We refer to each by the first letter of each company’s name; if you already have track lighting installed, here’s a picture to help you figure out what you have:

Three Track Lighting Standards | YLighting

Three Track Lighting Standards

Other track options to consider include TECH Lighting and Bruck Lighting. Bear in mind once you buy a proprietary system, you are restricted to track light fixtures made by the same company. To avoid problems, we recommend you pick one of the standards—H, J, or L—and stick with it.

2. Determine Layout + Power

After you’ve decided where you want to install track lighting, there are a range of track lengths and connectors to let you create the ideal layout (more on connectors below). Once you have the parts, you’ll find that they connect easily, kind of like an erector set.

Your track lighting will, of course, need power. There are two main methods to do this: a power supply attached to a junction box or a power cord from the track to a standard electrical outlet.

In order to connect the track to the junction box with a connector, you can either use a floating canopy connector (if you need power anywhere along the length of the track, excluding the ends) or a live end connector (if you need power at an end of the track). You may need to use a canopy plate to completely cover the junction box underneath the live end connector.

Using either a floating canopy connector or a live end connector will create the finished, “designer” look seen in professionally-designed interiors. However, if you do not have an existing junction box in your ceiling, you will need the services of an electrician to position one for you. If you want an easier approach, you can also use a plug and cord set (for L-series | for H- and J-series) to connect a live end connector to a plug on a wall. Make sure that you use the right plug set and remember that you will still need a live end connector. The corded solution may not look as clean as a junction box connection, but you will not need an electrician to install it.

After you have decided between, L, H, or J and have designed your track layout, you will need to make sure that you buy track fixtures that fit your track.

Track fixtures come in two main types: low voltage and line voltage. Line voltage is the raw voltage that you will find in standard outlets and junction boxes – 120 volts in the US. low voltage fixtures, which consume less electricity and provide a whiter light than line voltage fixtures, use 12 volt power and therefore require a transformer to convert the raw 120V to the desired 12V.

This transformer is a rectangular block about 4″ long that serves as both the base of the fixture and the connection to the track, and comes as an integral part of any low voltage track fixture we sell. Since the conversion from 120V to 12V happens on the fixture itself, the track remains at the line voltage, meaning you could theoretically have both low voltage and line voltage fixtures on the same track, though few people choose to do this. You can have a large number of fixtures on a track; this number is dictated by the total wattage of the fixtures you plan to use and you can find the formula at answer 34 of our frequently asked questions.

3. Choose Your Lamps

Lamps (bulbs) differ in the diameter and brightness of the light that they create. A few common ones you’ll find are:

  • Spot lights, which create a focused bright light for illuminating specific things or places such as a picture, piece of art or workspace. These use a small (under 25) beam angle. When you shop YLighting, you’ll find a description of the beam angle produced by each bulb.
  • Floods, which use a large beam angle (25 and up).
  • Low voltage fixtures, which use use halogen or LED MR 16 and MR 11 lamps.
  • Line voltage fixtures, which use a variety of lamping, depending on the fixture recommendation.

Combining floods and spots enables you to light both specific objects and general areas from the same track.

Other Features

That’s all you need to put together a professional track lighting set-up. There are numerous ways that you can now modify or accessorize your track lighting, with things like:

Feel free to ask us any questions. You can find general track lighting installation instructions on the Internet at sites such as this one; however, we cannot be responsible for the accuracy of their content. If in doubt, we always recommend you consult a qualified electrician.

To learn about how to choose track lighting check out How to Choose Track Lighting.

 

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Jerry Bolton

Jerry likes to keep up with the latest trends and technical changes of the ever changing lighting and LED business. Jerry enjoys going wine tasting with his wife Evelyn and watching his daughter and son excel in soccer and basketball.

  • Chris

    Would I be able to by a track system for use with halogen lights and then switch to LED lights at a later time? Or are the tracks specific to the type of lights in use?

    • Stephanie Weldon

      @Chris: You certainly can! The lamping type is specific to the track head, not the track. There are quite a few LED lamping (bulb) options on the market that are compatible with Halogen fixtures. A great tip to
      determine if you can swap to LED down the road is to look at the bulb requirement for the track head(s) you are considering and do a quick product search for compatible LEDs. You will need to take into account if the track head is Line Voltage (120V) or Low Voltage (12V), and make sure you match the bulb base type. For example: if your Line Voltage track head uses a 50W GU10 Halogen Twist and Lock bulb, then you will
      need to find a 120V LED MR-16 bulb with GU10 Base. We refer our clients to bulb-only retailers like bulbs.com, 1000bulbs.com, or bulbman.com to order replacement bulbs. We ourselves refer to these sites all the time to compare bulb options. These sites make it easy to search by lamp type, base, voltage, etc.

  • Bella Staff Lee

    Hi Jerry, I have been having “Light Trouble” for years. My store uses Banvil Tracks, and my lights look like the Lightolier in the pictures you shown. I’ve bought different brands from Home Depot and other lighting stores, but the lights and bulbs keep burning out really fast. Thank you for your info, I finally understand that I may have been using lights that were incompatible with my tracks. Do you know where I can find light fixtures for the Lightolier tracks? Most online stores do not tell you which system their lights supports. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

    • Stephanie Weldon

      Wow! Sorry to hear you’ve continued to experience difficulty
      updating your track lighting! There can be a number of factors as to why the replacement lights are not compatible. It can be anything from the age of the track to possibly mixing modern low voltage track heads with a line voltage track. I would first recommend confirming that you are purchasing track heads with the compatible voltage. Second, I recommend reaching out to Banvil. If you already have a Banvil 2000 track system in place, it may be best to reach out to them regarding possible warranty issues (info@banvil2000.com or 888-822-6845). In theory L-Track track heads should fit any L-Track as long as they are of the same voltage. However, all systems work better with their own interchangeable accessories. And there is always the third option – it may be time to update your track lighting system.

      As you are aware, you can shop systems locally through major retailers such as Home Depot and Lowes. If you prefer the Banvil systems, they will be able to provide regional retailer information. And companies like YLighting.com are also great resources for quality track systems. Many of these companies extend trade discounts for trade and commercial clients as well as offer design and technical advice when you work with a Product Specialist or in house designer (services and advisement is often free of charge). I hope this helps you!

  • Mack

    can track lighting fixtures be used as a fixed light on the wall installed in a ball which affixes to the wall?

  • psydid

    Is there any way to connect two separate sections of track lighting that are separated by more distance?

    I have a room with a tricky arrangement. There’s no power fixture in the ceiling and not much way to install one, so it needs to be driven by a switched outlet on one wall. Furthermore, there’s a big support beam down the middle of the ceiling. It’s similar to this room:

    http://tours.tourfactory.com/tours/media/scene/big2/00/25/45/08/25450856.jpg

    ..if this room had a switched outlet behind the headboard of the bed.

    In order to illuminate both sides of the room, I wanted to put a track of lights along both sides of the beam, but I can’t find a graceful way to get power to them both.

    I could run two power wires from the outlet (bleh, lots of extra wiring).
    I could use some kind of splitter where the power cord reaches the beam (no place to really hide it, though, bleh).
    …or I could use a super-flexible connector that would let me chain the power from one end of the first track over to the second, except such a connector doesn’t seem to exist. Any ideas?

  • Andrew Apter

    Are their specialists who can visit one’s home and give advice on what kind of lighting to install?

  • larry

    I’ve found that the a/c to d/c head at the bulb is very expensive; and they burn out more often than bulbs. SO they are not an option anymore. I’d like an a/c track that has mounts for standard led bulbs one would buy in the store. The whole track should be as flush as possible and the hang as minimal as possible; no more than the ballast and bulb in a dc mount system. Where would I go to look for such a system. Hope I make sense here. Just tired of the American way of life; called planned obsolescence.

  • Dale g

    I have an interesting situation in my basement office. The only light in the room is a fluorescent light that’s on, basically, about 8 feet east of the center of the room. Then there is also the steel beam running across under the floor joists in a north/south direction. My office machines, computers, etc are in that west side of the room, with a huge lack of light! What I’d like to do is install a track light on the west side of that steel beam (I can hide the wiring more easily that way), then run the wiring to a wall switch (prefer a dimmer switch) and then route that to an electrical outlet. Is this possible?