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Track Lighting

Track lighting is wonderfully flexible and adaptable. It allows you to configure your lighting to meet your unique, individual needs.

Track lighting is wonderfully flexible and adaptable. It allows you to configure your lighting to meet your unique, individual needs.
Track lighting is ideal for highlighting artwork or architectural details, and it can also provide ambient, general or task illumination for your room.

Designing your Track Lighting System:

Step 1: Choose a model of Track

The track itself is of course the foundation of any track lighting system 
Several manufacturers offer track lighting systems and It is important to keep in mind that not all track lights fixtures fit all track types.
There are three major track manufacturers and a quite a few other systems on the market. The three major manufacturers of track lighting  are Halo, Juno and Lightolier. We carry track lighting by W.A.C.. They manufacture three types of fixtures that each are compatible with one of the three major systems. 
When you order, please choose the type that fits your system, or when ordering an entire system stay with one type.
Each product code refers by the first letter to one company’s name. ( WAC-H... fits Halo, WAC-L... fits Lightolier,and WAC-J... fits Juno track lighting systems)
There are other track systems on the market that are not compatible with the above standards.

Step 2: Design and Power

There are a range of track lengths and connectors at available to help you create the ideal layout of your track lighting system
They connect easily without the use of more tools than a screwdriver.

There are two main methods of powering your track: directly in hard-wired into the ceiling, usually through a junction box or with a power cord from the track to a standard electrical outlet.
The first solution is by far the most common one, but there are situations, especially in remodels, where a junction box is not available. For those problem cases a power cord with a plug will do the job of powering the track. You will still need a Live End Connector to power your track with a plug and cord set. This solution may not look as clean as a junction box connection, but you can do it yourself fairly easily.

If you are planning ahead and planning track lighting for new construction the track can be wired directly to the ceiling without any ceiling plates showing. A live end connector or a Straight I Power connector that both have the same shape as a section of track will bring power to the track in the most unobtrusive manner.
In places where a junction box is already available, a "Floating Canopy" will cover the junction box while bringing power to the track. This can bring power to anywhere along the track excluding the ends.

Step 3: Choose Your Track Fixtures

After you have decided between the type of track you want to use,  L, H, or J and have designed your track layout, you will now need track fixtures that fit your track.
Track fixtures come in two main types: low voltage and line voltage. Line voltage is the 120V that you will find in standard outlets and junction boxes in the US.
Low Voltage Fixtures consume less electricity and provide a whiter light than Line Voltage Fixtures. They use 12 volt power and therefore require a transformer to convert the 120V to 12V. This transformer is rectangular, about 4" long and serves as both the base of the fixture and the connection to the track. It comes as an integral part of any W.A.C. Lighting Low Voltage Track Fixture . Since the conversion from 120V to 12V happens on the fixture itself, the track remains at the line voltage, meaning you can use both Low Voltage and Line Voltage fixtures on the same track.
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 the length of the run.

Step 4: Choose Your Bulbs

Bulbs vary in the diameter and brightness of the light that they put out. 
Most Low Voltage Fixtures use MR 16 and MR 11 bulbs. You need to determine the wattage and beam spread that will work best for your application.  Large beam angles (25 degrees and up) are floods. Smaller beam angles (under 25 degrees) are spots. You can combine floods and spots to light both specific objects and get more ambient light from the same track.


Track Lighting
by Eric Strandberg, The Lighting Design Lab

Track lighting is one of the most commonly used and misunderstood of the lighting system types. It is a powerful tool for a lighting designer but can also be rather confusing without an understanding of some basic track lighting principles. Because track lighting is very directional, track systems perform best as accent lights or task lights. They do not work well providing general light in large rooms. Also, track lighting requires the assembling of different components to make a complete system.

Track is a surface mounted channel that holds the lighting units (or 'heads') in place and brings power to them. Because it is surface mounted, track is particularly easy to install, especially in remodels. The track is usually mounted to the ceiling but it can be mounted to a wall, a beam or dropped from the ceiling on stems or cables. Power is usually fed to the track from the end (an "end feed" or "live end") but it can be powered from anywhere along the channel with special adapters. There are also adapters that allow for various track layout configurations; corners ("L") and branches ("T") are the most common. Normally the various track components are only compatible within a given product line, which means that company A parts will not fit on company B track.

There are a dizzying variety of track heads to choose from though the differences are mainly cosmetic. Two track heads may look very different, but if they hold the same lamp (or light bulb), then the light output will be much the same. Most track heads use directional lamps of some kind and in general I recommend the PAR lamps as a starting point. They are line voltage halogen, are energy efficient, have good optics and excellent color quality.

When the lighting needs are particularly demanding my other favorite lamp is the low voltage halogen, (usually the MR-16). This lamp is mainly used as an accent light because its precise beam control causes shadowing that can interfere with tasks. Most of the heads that use the low voltage lamps have the transformer built into them so they can be used on the same track as the PARs. Both the PAR and MR-16 lamps are available in most hardware stores.

Remember, all light fixtures, but particularly track are just glorified light bulb holders, you are choosing the proper lamp and finding a way to hold it in space. Ideally one would pick the appropriate lamp for a given application (task, accent, wall wash) and then find a track head that will hold it. There are many track heads that hold fluorescent lamps, and these are quite cost-effective in commercial applications.

The beauty of a track system is its versatility. The track layout can be expanded or reconfigured, one can move the heads around, add more, change types, point them in different directions, and so on. This flexibility can be the cause of some problems when it comes to placement. To avoid glare and shadows track lights should shine at a near wall or directly down on a work surface. Keeping in mind that track is mainly an accent and task light, in most rooms the points of interest (artwork, furniture, architectural details) are at the perimeter as are the tasks, so the track should be placed 18 -36 inches out from the wall for most normal room heights. The higher the ceiling the farther out. The down side of track is that one sees the fixtures and it can look a bit cluttered especially in a low ceiling application. However, in the proper setting a well-planned out track system can add much to the decor. Much of this information applies equally well to recessed lighting.


by Eric Strandberg, The Lighting Design Lab

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