Jewel-toned glass pendants, suspended by a slender, graceful cable from a sinuous silver track -- clearly, this is not your fathers track lighting. The new generation of track lighting brings design-friendly beauty to what has always been one of the most versatile lighting styles available.
When you say track lighting, some people still think of those clunky plastic fixtures with the giant light bulbs that they remember from their high school gymnasium, says Norm Brown, regional manager for Norburn Lighting & Bath Centre in Vancouver. But today s track lighting is smaller, more efficient, more flexible and more design friendly.
Track lighting has always been a great way to direct light to a precise point in your home -- from your favorite piece of artwork, to the primary work area in the kitchen. But early track lighting, with its very basic straight plastic tracks and simple plastic fixtures, didn t always complement a more creative interior design.
Modern track lighting offers more visual appeal, with slender, monorail design straight tracks, flexible track systems, cable systems and ribbon-type systems, says Tom DeCicco, marketing manager of track and surface products for Cooper Lighting of Peachtree City, Ga.
Fixture styling and the materials they are made from are ever-changing, providing countless aesthetic options for consumers, he adds.
The development of low-voltage systems, that operate at just 12 volts, instead of the standard 120 volts, has allowed manufacturers to create smaller, more visually appealing tracks and fixtures, says Joe Rey-Barreau, consulting director of education for the American Lighting Association, and a professor at the University of Kentucky.
We are seeing looks that are much more modern and futuristic, he says. Fixture styles range from glass pendant lights and metal domes, which are very popular in modern designs, to classic cylinders in a variety of colors. Ready-made tracks come in traditional linear patterns or a range of curves, waves and zig zags.
Flexible tracks and cable systems allow homeowners to customize the look by bending the track to meet their specific design needs. Tracks can even be installed on walls now, where once they were restricted to ceiling installations, Rey-Barreau notes.
The advent of monorail track and wire cable systems has revolutionized track lighting, Brown says. For example, many homeowners are using the new cable systems to solve a typical home decorating problem -- positioning of the dining room light fixture. Builders always offset the fixtures. In the past, homeowners had to choose between not standing up straight near their dining room lights, or creating the dreaded swag effect by looping the light cord and adding a hook in the ceiling to move the light where they wanted it. Modern track lighting solves that problem by allowing you to adapt your fixture to a cable track system that moves the light to exactly the right spot, Brown says.
Track lighting is a very viable product to solve lighting problems in existing homes, he says. Every type of track lighting does the same important thing -- it delivers electricity to where you want the light, and delivers light to some feature you want to draw the eye to.
Updating your interior design with new track lighting can be easy. Confident do-it-yourselfers can tap a wide range of track kits that simplify installation as well as design decisions. Or, you may opt to simply switch out your old fixtures. Most major manufacturers are designing their new fixtures to fit into older tracks, Brown says. To find out what new fixtures may be available for your old track, look for the manufacturer s name inside the light fixture, he suggests.
The experts agree -- the future of track lighting is brighter, more efficient and flexible fixtures. Technology like Light Emitting Diodes will boost a bulb s usable life from about 2,000 hours per year to well over 100,000 hours, Brown predicts.
Miniaturization continues, Rey-Barreau adds. We are seeing bulbs as small as 3/8 inch in diameter that produce an amazing punch of light in a very small package. Courtesy of ARA Content.