Residential Track Lighting: Rigid, Flexible/Monorail, Cable Track Lighting

Track lighting is often used in residential applications to provide lighting that can be easily manipulated and aimed for maximum flexibility. This type of lighting provides a very convenient way to modify the light distribution to adapt the lighting system to different requirements (from spot lighting to flood lighting) and layout changes. Residential track lighting is typically found in multi-purpose areas as well as sloped ceilings or concrete-slab ceilings that do not allow for flush mount or recessed lighting. The track may be mounted flush with the ceiling, recessed into the ceiling, hung from the ceiling, or mounted horizontally or vertically on a wall. Versatile installation and the flexibility in luminaire configuration lend track lighting a great choice for applications where effective lighting and reconfigurable systems are of great importance.

In a residential or hospitality space, lighting is often built in layers that complement and build upon one another. The layers of light consist of ambient, task and accent lighting. Like recessed lighting, track lighting can be used to accomplish all these layers. A track system with multiple floodlighting luminaires can spread light across a large area for general lighting, or ambient lighting, which is the base layer of light. Track lights with narrow beam angles provide exceptional accent lighting that attracts attention and creates a focal point against the background of the general illuminance. Artwork, sculptures, wall hangings, and outstanding architectural features deserve to be seen and appreciated. Typically, track lighting provides approximately three times more light as much light on the focal point as the general lighting in the area. Track lighting also works well for task lighting. It directs concentrated beams of light to support visual performance. Track lighting provides adaptability and flexibility that are often required in a thoughtful lighting design. Use track lighting to show off your favorite painting in living rooms, provide greater task visibility in bathrooms and kitchens, and add depth and dimension to a dining room or bedroom.

A track lighting system is typically comprised of a track or rail along which one or more luminaires (track lights) is mounted. The luminaires may be selectively moved, swiveled, rotated and/or oriented to point in a desired direction by hand or with very little need for tools. Luminaires that are placed in different locations along the track can be added, changed or removed without the costly addition of new tracks or power supplies. Most track lighting systems include an adapter (or connector) that detachably engages the luminaire to the track for mechanical securement and communicating electrical current to the luminaire. Most track lighting systems are available with line voltage (120V, 220V, etc.) and low voltage (10V, 12V or 24V). Most track lighting systems are line voltage since low voltage setups don't lend themselves to long runs and high wattage fixtures. Residential track systems can be divided into three types depending on the track configuration: rigid track systems, flexible track systems, and cable mounted tract systems.

Rigid tracks are extruded aluminum channels containing insulated copper wires to form a continuous electrical raceway. Each linear track typically comes in a standard length of 2, 4, 8 or 12 feet. In North America, as well as in other regions, the configurations of lighting tracks are available in H, J, and L types which are named for the companies that first manufactured these standard types. The three types are named for manufacturers that established the standards for each type: Halo, Juno, and Lightolier. A rigid track system can have single, two, or multiple circuits available for each load circuit. These systems may be controlled by a simple switch/dimmer or by a more sophisticated control systems. Most residential track lighting systems are non-addressable, which means all luminaires mounted on an entire section or length of track will respond in the same fashion. Addressable track systems have the ability to control individually addressable track luminaires. Rigid tracks can be joined with L, T, and X connectors, or with flexible connectors.

Flexible or monorail tracks are semi-rigid metal strips that are hand-bendable, so the rail track can be shaped to form rounded, flowing shapes or other striking contour patterns. The most popular monorail designs are "S" curves and spirals. Monorail's streamlined, refined appearance makes it the most used track lighting systems in private residences. Monorail track systems come most as low-voltage systems and are available in single-or two-circuit configurations. The two-conductor rail can be cut to custom lengths and joined with other rails with connectors to create longer runs. Monorail lighting systems hang from the ceiling commonly by rigid or adjustable standoffs.

A cable-mounted track system consists of two parallel electrified wires that are hung under tension between two suspension points. Typical cable lighting systems use low voltage power which is provided by a surface-mounted or remotely located power supply.

Today's track lights are LED luminaires that may come with accompanying (non-integrated) LED lamps or as integrated systems. These luminaires are available in a wide variety of light distributions, from pin-spots to floods, for accent lighting, task lighting to flood for wall washing or general lighting. A line-operated integrated LED luminaire is designed with a constant current LED driver that may be located in any appropriate location within the luminaire. The LED lamps can be A19, MR16, PAR16, PAR20, PAR30, or PAR38 lamps. The light sources of the integrated LED luminaire or self-ballasted LED lamps may be SMD, COB or high power LEDs. Residential track systems are not only used to mount directional spotlights or floodlights, you also can hang pendant lights from the track. Track lights come in many shapes and styles for blending in with the interior design.

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