Low Voltage vs. Line Voltage Track Lighting

Track lighting with fireplace
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Track lighting had its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, which in this world of shifting trends means it's primed for another comeback.

Understanding the two major types of track lighting--low voltage or line voltage--make a big difference when you are doing this job yourself.

Track Lighting

Track lighting is a type of illumination system where the long metal "track" is charged with electricity, and interchangeable fixtures or track heads can be inserted at any point on that track. 

  • It Really Stands Out - It is a fairly invasive way of illuminating your kitchen or bathroom: it's there, it's obvious. The most common type of track lighting tries to blend in with the ceiling. By contrast, a newer style of track lighting calls attention to itself with curvy, stainless steel tracks and drop-down pendant fixtures. It's all a personal choice. 
  • Flexible - You can endlessly mix and match tracks to reach any part of a room.
  • Tracks Are Flexible Too - Tracks are not all like those from decades past. Newer tracks can be curved in different directions, in addition to the "mixing and matching" mentioned above.
  • Add or Subtract Lights - It's easy to pop in another track head or fixture where you need extra light or take out lights to save energy. Components are rarely interchangeable between different manufacturers. 

2 Types of Tracks

  • Linear Track - Straight tracks with enclosed electrical contacts that come in lengths up to 96 inches.
  • Flexible Track - Monorail tracks with exposed contacts; can be curved.

Heads or Fixtures

Track heads have expanded beyond the old "gooseneck" style. One significant development has been the pendant light. By dropping the light on a cord (up to 42"), greater illumination and pinpointing of the beam is achieved.


Bulbs depend on the fixtures, but common wattages are 35W, 50W, and even up to 90W. Of course, with energy-efficient LED bulbs, you can get same amount of light with a small fraction of the energy used.

Low Voltage vs. Line Voltage Track Lighting

Line voltage systems are the most common type of track lighting. They draw directly from a 120-volt feed.

Low voltage systems draw their power from a transformer, and this transformer must be mounted near the track system.

Features of Line Voltage Track Lighting Systems

  • 120V
  • Direct feed
  • Usually cheaper than low voltage
  • Avoid problems of having a transformer in view

Features of Low Voltage Track Lighting Systems

  • 12V
  • Better energy consumption
  • Brighter light
  • Requires transformer, which means having to hide the transformer
  • Usually easier to install yourself
  • No danger when touching any point of the track below the transformer because the voltage is too low

Components You Will Need

  • Connector - "T", "L", and straight connectors serve to connect separate tracks.
  • Transformer - Transformers are used for low voltage systems.
  • Pendant Adapter - Attaches pendant lights to tracks.
  • Accordion Flexible Track Joiner - These connectors let you send tracks off in directions other than straight or perpendicular.