How to install Track Lighting

by Lorenz Prem on September 12 2012 6:59 pm
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Track lighting is a versatile way to add lighting to any space. A lot of homeowners do not know that they can install track lighting by themselves without the help of an electrician. Let's take a look at what's required. Maybe you'll gain the confidence needed to install track lighting in your home.

Understand the components

Track lighting is sold in sets. Before installation begins, it is important for us to understand what each component does. This helps with correctly placing the track on the ceiling.

Track

The track mounts to the ceiling. It supports the heads, which span into the track. The walls of the track contain all the electrical connection necessary to power the lights.

Track comes in several different types. If you are building your own set from separate components, make sure the individual track sections match. If you are buying a set, the work of matching the components has been done for you.

Connectors

A connectors joins two sections to track. It connects the two tracks physically and bridges all necessary electrical connections.

Connectors come in many different shapes. Most retailers sell connectors that are compatible with track lighting sets they sell. You can extend a set by purchasing additional connectors and sections of track.

Lights/heads

The heads of a track light are movable lamps that can be positioned anywhere along the track. Heads can be purchased separately and added to the track. The manual of the track light specifies the maximum number of heads that can be mounted.

Power supply

The power supply block transfers power from the home's power lines to the lighting track. The block comes in several different shapes and sizes. Most power blocks install on top of a ceiling box.

The team at Home Depot has made an excellent video that details the steps explained in this guide.

Preparation

Safety always comes first. Turn off the circuit breaker that connects to the light you are going to replace. If you do not know which circuit breaker to flip, you can turn off power to the entire house. Installation should only take an hour or two.

Test the light fixture. If there is no power, remove the old fixture. Once the wires are exposed, test for power in all wires with a no-contact tester. It's good practice to check a wire before working on it.

Undo all electrical connections and remove the light fixture. You now have a bare junction box.

Installing the power feed block

The power block feeds power from the home's electrical system to the track. Typically there are three wires to connect: a phase, the neutral wire, and the ground. Some systems do not include a ground.

Read the wiring diagram and understand it. In most cases you need to connect the 3 wires to their counterpart of the same color using wire nuts. Sometimes the ground is connected to a grounding screw on the metal support bracket. Make the necessary connections.

Install the metal support bracket on top of the junction box. It screws into threads in the junction box. At this point the power block is ready to accept the track.

After the track is installed in the next step, insert the power connector into the track. This completes the electrical connections between the home's power line and the track. Install the decorative cover once the track has been secured.

Installing the track

Installation of the track is the hardest step of the installation. Attaching the track to the wall with screws is easy enough. Properly aligning the track to be straight square to the walls of the room is harder. All measurements take place on the ceiling, which is not easily accessible.

Track installation goes much faster with two people. One person holds the track in place, while the other does the measuring and fastening. If you are not experience with home improvement project, plan to have a second person around.

The key to a good installation is to take things slow. Take the time to measure everything twice. It's easier to move a pencil mark, than it is to move track.

Measure from a corner where to the walls meet the ceiling to the ends of where the track is supposed to be. Mark these locations with a pencil (pencil marks can be removed with an eraser). Position the track according to the marks. It should the parallel to two walls in the room.

Next position the track relative to the other two walls. Measure from each end of the track to the closest wall. If you want to center the track, the distance from each end of the track to the nearest wall must be the same.

Once you have found the correct position, attach the track to the ceiling with screws. The screws should be driven into framing to hold the track securely. Use a stud finder to find the framing members. A screw hole can be added to the bottom of the track with a drill. Be careful not to damage the current carrying rails in the walls of the track.

If you are installing several lengths of track with connectors, don't tighten the screws on a section of track until the adjacent section has been installed. This makes it easier to insert the connector, and to align the sections properly.

Installing the heads

The light heads are very simple to insert into the track. Add a light bulb to each head and insert it into the track. Most tracks require the head to be turned 90 degrees while it is being inserted. Make the contacts at the bottom of the head connect with the rails of the track.

Turn the power back on and test your installation.

Summary

Track lighting is an easy upgrade every homeowner can add to their home. If you are even remotely handy, you can install your lights yourself without the help of an electrician.

About the Author
"Lorenz is the founder of Hingmy. When he is not reviewing power tools or improving the site, he is building things in his workshop or playing hockey."
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