In Focus: Track Lighting
You know about lightbulbs and we have certainly had more than enough to say about the energy-saving efficiency of LEDs. However, a bulb is only as good as its base. The right lighting fixture can elevate and solidify a room’s décor. From track lighting to chandeliers, this four-part series will breakdown the major categories of home lighting and provide groundwork for finding the appropriate fixture for any space in your home.
We have already covered the basics of lighting via fixtures on the wall in How to Choose Wall Sconces. Therefore, we will instead begin with the trending and extremely versatile track light fixtures. Track light fixtures are obvious in definition, in lieu of traditional wiring; an electrically-wired rail is screwed into your ceiling and powers a series of lights that are suspended from it. The rail or track allows the light fixtures to be placed anywhere along its length and angled in a variety of ways. Typical linear lengths are four or eight feet, which are either hard-wired or some versions are adaptable to wall plugs. Track lighting began as illumination for galleries and museums, as well as commercial installations. Yet this sort of sparkle has exceeded its niche and proved its glow to be useful in highlighting specific spaces. Art work, doorways, and details get some extra “oomph” with these clear-cut spotlights. Choosing a track light can be divided into two sections: the track and the fixture, or track head.
There are several types of tracks that can accommodate track lights. Each one is differentiated by the number of the contacts in the track line. Tracks are generally either the 120-volt American household standard or equipped with transformers to step down the power to the low voltage rating of 12 volts. Low voltage tracks tend to last longer. When they are fitted with LED bulbs in the fixtures, the system can run a 10,000 to 100,000-hour range in comparison to the 700 to 1,000-hour lifespan of a line voltage bulbs. You can also find tracks in varying lengths and in single (all the lights turn on and off together) or two-circuit (lights turn on and off in two independent sets) tracks. The three most common types of tracks are titled after the companies that first pioneered them.
H-Type. The H-type track was originally created by Halo and is the most commonly used track type for new installations. This track uses three wires to create a circuit and is the most well-grounded of the popular tracks. Fixtures compatible with H-type tracks have three contact points, one for each wire.
J-Type. The J-type track was standardized by Juno and it has two wires. There is one positive and one negative wire on a single-circuit track. Fixtures compatible with J-type tracks have two contact points.
L-type. The “L” in L-type tracks stands for Lightolier. It also has a two-wire configuration. However, L-type tracks are slightly narrower than their J-type and H-type counterparts.
Monorail and Flexrail. These versatile track type can have H-type, J-type, or L-type wiring. They are pre-formed and rather than a linear tracks, this kind of track can curve to fit your architecture. Monorail tracks come already curved while you can shape flexrail track yourself to match, for example, a curvy kitchen island. These tracks also tend to be more decorative and have more finish options than linear track systems.
Track light fixtures, also known as the track heads, come in countless styles and shapes; they can even be pendants. Each track head will have base with two or three contact points to connect to the track overhead. The arms of the track heads are highly adjustable, swiveling and turning to the angle of your choice. Frequently track fixtures use MR16 or standard light bulbs, however you can find fixture that accept bulbs like AR111s and BR40s for a more diverse beam spread. Incandescent or fluorescent type bulbs are prevalent but LED bulbs can significantly increase the life of an installation. The list below describes some of the basic categories of track head fixtures.
Step Head. As the most familiar track head, the standard step head is easy to find and can match any décor, home or office.
Round Back Head. For a sleek, minimalist look, the modern shape of the round back fixture is a great addition to bring focus to the home theater in your living room or the artwork in your hallway.
Pinhole Head. A pinhole track head describes the partially exposed wire back of this track fixture. Similar to the round back track head, this fixture has a contemporary feel with an emphasis on industrial style.
Gimbal Ring Head. Although all track heads are mobile to a certain degree, the gimbal ring track head is uniquely able to exhibit a 180-degree range of motion. This track fixture features an open design and small trim that gives a movie camera light impression.
There are plenty of other fixture shapes to choose from, like barn door heads for a distinctively cinematic experience; it’s really dependent on the style of your space. Furthermore, it is not uncommon to see track lighting fitted with dimmers or, to control each fixture individually, a digital DALI interface might be installed as well. Linear track kits are also available to ensure a consistent tone to your room.
If track lights are not quite your speed, our next article will take a good look at the classic ceiling light. Below, you can write down your suggestions for the best track fixtures, comments on brilliant ways to spotlight a Picasso, or questions about using track lighting to enshrine your trophy case full of cat paraphernalia. You can find more lighting ideas for your space on our Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Instagram. Please call our fashionable staff at 1000bulbs.com, who are waiting in the wings to help you find latest and greatest in home lighting.