Kitchen track lighting is flexible, inexpensive, easy to relocate, and it provides task lighting exactly where you need it. In other words, track lighting is ideal for kitchens. From sleek, curving tracks with high-intensity halogens that wind around the kitchen to straight tracks with LEDs that illuminate the countertops, track lighting proves to be the lighting solution that can do it all.
Pros and Cons
Add more light heads as needed
Easy to exceed power draw limitations
Halogen lamps are expensive
Features of Kitchen Track Lighting
- Flexible: Where track lighting really excels is in its flexibility. Tracks can be mounted virtually anywhere you need light.
- Energy-saving: Track lighting can actually be an energy saver. How? You only need to install as many lights on the tracks as you need. Also, tracks can be wired independently, so that one track can be left off or dimmed, while another one picks up the lighting duties.
- Lightweight: Lighting tracks can be attached to ceiling drywall with anchors. Tracks are generally not so heavy that they need to be screwed into joists (wood). They can be mounted on a hollow surface with molly bolts.
- Bulb cost: Factor the cost of expensive halogen bulbs into your purchase if you decide on halogens. They can often rival the cost of the track lighting kit itself. Most newer track light heads are using the long-lasting LED bulbs or LED heads that are self-contained.
- Visual impediment: The one thing about track lighting that's inescapable is that they hang low from the ceiling, creating a visual obstruction. With a higher 10-foot ceiling, it isn't so noticeable. But 8-foot ceilings are too low for some of the lower hanging types of track lamps.
Types of Track Lighting
Choose between linear track lighting, flexible monorail tracks, and cable (or wire) track lighting.
Basic Linear Track Lighting
A basic track lighting kit comes with three to five mounting heads, a 4-foot track, and all the mounting hardware. Available colors: black, white, or brushed nickel. This is about as basic―and inexpensive―as it gets. Prices usually range from $45 to $100.
The steel mounting plate works off of an existing ceiling box (or you can install a new wire from scratch). Wires extend through the mounting plate to the track. The track attaches to the mounting plate.
Once that's done, most of the installation work is complete. You only need to hang the rest of the track on the drywall or on joists. Tracks usually have a generous number of pre-drilled holes, so you'll be able to use existing holes with no need to drill new holes.
Lamp heads twist into the track. Push the terminal into the track and turn the mounting head 90 degrees to lock it into place. Finish by adding lamps.
Elbows are available that will shoot off more tracks in other directions―but only at 90-degree angles.
Flexible Monorail Track Lighting
Flexible kitchen track lighting can be curved in any number of ways to accommodate dark areas―or simply because curved tracks add to the look of the kitchen. This is an increasingly popular style of track lighting.
A basic flexible track lighting kit comes with a 12-foot track and four 50-watt heads.
This is called line voltage track lighting, which means that a separate transformer is not needed. Because there is no transformer, the base of the track lighting is smaller and sleeker.
Flexible track lighting also comes in low voltage, where a separate transformer is needed to provide low voltage power to feed the track. The heads for this type of track are often quite small and modern in appearance.
Cable or Wire Track Lighting
When attaching the track to the ceiling is a problem, one solution is to install cable (or wire) track lighting. Two parallel wires stretch across the room, from end to end.
The wires are left uncoated, so the track heads can be moved to any position on the cable. These are always low voltage, since the wires are exposed and uncoated. The transformer is often located in a hidden location to provide for a sleek look.
Switching and Swapping the Fixtures
The real fun of installing kitchen track lighting is not so much the tracks―it's the fixtures. Once you have the tracks installed, you can swap out the fixtures whenever you want.
If you want to go from contemporary to traditional, for example, all you need to do is purchase new track lighting heads for around $10 to $20 per head.