What is important to consider in track lighting design?

May 15, 2015 5

Track lighting design 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.

There are a 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 – try the PAR lamps as a starting point. They are line voltage halogen, are energy efficient, have good optics, and excellent colour quality.

When the lighting needs are particularly demanding, consider 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.

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 hard part is choosing the style of track head that best fits your home.
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The beauty of a track system is its versatility. The track layout can be expanded or reconfigured, you 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.

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Track: Tech Lighting – Aero Head with Prism Shield Accessory
Pendant: Tech Lighting – Aero Cone

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