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How To Install Track Lighting

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How to install track lighting in your kitchen or other rooms in your home.

Track lighting installation has gained steadily since its introduction to the residential market because it track lighting combines a mix of task lighting and directional lighting. Track lighting is also relatively easy for the do it yourselfer to install, especially if you are replacing existing lighting fixtures.

Track lighting is an excellent way to light areas in your home that are small or poorly lit. The heads cast light on these, otherwise shadowy areas, making the space useable. Track lighting is frequently installed above a kitchen island or bar to provide adequate light for eating, reading and socializing. The light from a track lighting system also provides highlights to granite, stone and synthetic countertops, making them sparkle as they were meant to do. Track lighting in kitchens can also be used as task lighting for work areas above cutting boards, appliances, and sinks.

Kitchen Track lighting

Track Lighting Types

Track lighting is versatile due to the use of a track, which provides design elements and directional flexibility. Lights can be repositioned, direction of the light changed, and with some fixtures you can attach special track pendant lights for more design options.

In most cases the light fixture heads chosen must be of the same manufacture as the installed track. There are mounting differences between manufacturers, so it is important that you consider possible future changes before you purchase your track lighting kit.

Some fixtures have electrical conductors on opposite sides of the track where lighting heads can be clipped into place or slid down to other locations. Other fixtures use a bar where the lights are permanently fixed, but the heads can be positioned to cast light in many directions.

Lighting track with wiring inside grooves

Fixed Lights on a Track

While many people consider track lighting to be hard-wired, there are also types that can be plugged into a receptacle and mounted on a wall or ceiling. Plug in track lighting is commonly used under kitchen cabinets to add task lighting to countertops.

Plug in Style Track lighting

Installation

If you're thinking about installing track lighting in your home, there are a few things to consider. If you have an existing ceiling light fixture that you would like to replace with a track lighting system the installation is a relatively simple. If you don't have an existing ceiling fixture to replace then you're going to need a brand new outlet box and switch, along with the proper wiring. If adding a new electrical circuit is not a project that you are comfortable undertaking, you may wish to consider contracting the project to a licensed electrician.

This information is to be used as a guide and always read and follow the manufacturer's instructions. They understand the proper and safe installation and use of their track lighting products.

Replacing an Existing Fixture

Inspect the parts and read the instructions carefully that come with the track lighting kit. Make sure you have all of the parts that are supposed to be included and that you have purchased any additional parts that are necessary to complete the installation. You may want to purchase an outlet box bar if you have an older home as the existing one may not be the correct size.

1. Remove The Existing Fixture.

Turn the power off by switching off the appropriate circuit breaker. Check that the power is no longer on the light fixture by turning the switch on again.

Note: The electrical box can contain more than one circuit and there may be live wires in the electrical box. As long as you only work on the wires for the old light fixture you do not need to shut the power off to the other circuit.

Disconnect and remove the old light fixture.

2. Attach The New Track Light Connector.

The wires that were connected to the old light fixture are attached to the new track lighting connector. Twist the wires together with electrician’s pliers and use the wire nuts to join the wires together.

3. Attach The Track To The Ceiling.

Plug the wire connector into the end of the track.

Hold the track in its final position and mark the location of the mounting holes using a pencil or nail. Use a 1/8" or smaller drill bit and drill pilot holes through the marks. This will tell you if you have a joist or open space behind the drywall or plaster. If you have a joist you will need to use a wood screw and if it is hollow you will need to install a drywall anchor.

4. Attach The Connector Cover.

Snap the connector cover over the connector body and make sure that all the wires are tucked inside the connector body. Don't allow any wires to become crimped by the cover.

5. Mount Light Head Fixtures

Mount each lighting head into the track by aligning the contact blades parallel to the track. Rotate the base of each head approximately 90 degrees allowing each head should lock into place. To move heads along the track, simply unscrew the base and move it to your desired location. Install the light bulbs in the light heads.

When adding heads always make sure that you are not exceeding the total wattage rating of the track lighting. Never use bulbs that are higher than the rating of the fixture.

6. Completing the Project

Turn the power back on to the circuit. Turn the track lighting on at the switch and adjust the direction of the heads accordingly. Tighten all position adjustment screws to ensure that the light heads will not move over time due to their weight or the vibrations that occur normally in all homes.

Use caution not to touch the bulbs with your fingers as the oil from your fingers can cause the bulbs to burn out prematurely. Also the bulbs get very hot quickly. Carefully adjust any gimbals as they can be hot as well.

3 comments

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Posted on Jun 7, 2011
Rox B
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Posted on May 22, 2011
Roberta Baxter
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Posted on May 20, 2011

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Daniel Snyder

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