What Are Track Lights?

When speaking of track lighting we refer to the kind of lighting that consists of a series of light fixtures placed on a ceiling-mounted structure, which is usually made of metal.

This lighting system, which is highly practical and also pleasing to the eye, consists of a ceiling-mounted track made of metal or plastic material, on which various types of light fixtures are attached. Plexiglass is occasionally used for some products.

The tracks can be more or less visible, depending on the style we wish to lend to the interior design, as they become an integral part of it.

There are numerous light fixtures that can be matched with this track system and can be very easily removed. They can be placed at various points in order to best adapt to every need within a private home and not only. Because of its features, track lighting is perfect for illuminating modern and minimalist large rooms, even in private homes.

How Does Track Lighting Work?

Track lighting is a specialized lighting fixture, or lighting fixture system. The system is mounted to a ceiling or wall and accepts and powers individual light fixtures, or heads. Well, yes, but what does that mean?

The Parts of Track Light Systems

Track light systems have two main parts. One is the track, which is wired to power and holds the conductors for the heads. It looks, in cross-section, like a square “U,” or a square that has the center part of one side missing. This is the part that’s mounted to the ceiling or wall, with the opening facing down or out.

The two system conductors for the power–the hot and the neutral–are copper strips which are mounted on insulating material inside the track. One of those copper strips is located on each side.

The most common form of track lighting still consists of straight pieces of track that are attached directly to the surface of the wall or ceiling. They come with a piece that connects to a ceiling outlet, special 90-degree pieces for making turns, couplers to join two straight pieces together, and a “dead end” to safely cap the track at its end, but there are also curved or wave track fixtures as well as ones that are suspended below the ceiling.

What defines track lighting is that the heads can be mounted anywhere along the length of the track.

The Heads

Heads are the lamp-holding fixtures. Each has a piece with two metal tabs that connect it to the power inside the track. Those pieces also lock the head to the track and secure it in place.

Just as the straight tracks are still the most common, the most common track lighting heads are still the canisters that hold one reflector flood light bulb, and are aimed to throw the light where you need it.

As that implies, there are alternative track lighting heads available now as well. The most common alternative heads are pendant fixtures. These come in many different colors and shapes. Most hold a single light bulb inside an open shade, but some take more than one light bulb–like a mini-chandelier.

How to Install Track Lighting

If you want to have a customized track lighting system made with the straight track cut and fitted to your space, you might want to hire an electrician to do that part of the work. Getting the pieces cut precisely and properly spliced together so that the continuity of the conductors and their polarity–the relative position of hot and neutral–is kept the way it was designed to be can be tricky, and it has to be done right or it won’t work at all. Plus, there’s a bit of an art to getting a straight track to look perfect once it’s up.

That said, you still get to be the designer and the light installer, if you’d like to be. You can not only choose the heads and the light bulbs you want, but you can also put them up, check the effect, and change where they’re aimed if you decide you’d like something different.