How to Install Track Lighting

Installing track lighting in your home or business allows you to highlight features, art, or products in a stylish and flexible way. Track lighting comes in many varieties, from simple plug-in systems to hardwired tracks, allowing you to tailor the lighting to your specific needs. With some basic tools and safety precautions, you can install track lighting on your own.

Choosing a Track Lighting System

When selecting a track lighting system, consider the following:

Hardwired vs Plug-In

  • Hardwired track – Hardwired track lighting is installed directly into your ceiling and wired into your electrical system. This provides a clean look, with no need for trailing cords. Hardwired track allows for more flexibility in positioning and aiming lights. However, it requires basic electrical skills and tools to install.
  • Plug-in track – Plug-in track lighting has tracks that plug into wall outlets. This type is very easy to install, not requiring wiring work. But plug-in tracks may be less flexible in aiming lights and you’ll need to deal with the cord trailing from the outlet.

Track Type

  • Monorail track – Monorail track lighting systems have a single track that holds individual light heads. This type gives you the most flexibility in positioning lights along the track.
  • Two-circuit track – Two-circuit track lighting consists of two parallel tracks, allowing you to control two separate sets of lights independently. Useful for highlighting separate areas.
  • Three-circuit track – Three-circuit track has three parallel tracks for controlling three separate sets of lights. Provides the most flexibility.
  • Cable track – Cable track lighting uses twisted pair wiring to suspend lights. More decorative but less flexible than rail systems.

Light Heads

  • Directional lights – Directional track heads allow for pointing the beam in a specific direction. Use for accent lighting.
  • Adjustable lights – Adjustable track heads tilt and swivel to aim the light. Provides flexibility.
  • Non-adjustable lights – Fixed track heads without adjustability are available for simpler installation.
  • Spotlights – Spotlights give a focused, dramatic beam. Use for highlighting art or architectural details.
  • Flood lights – Flood lights have a wide, diffuse beam to provide general illumination. Good for ambient lighting.
  • Combination lights – Some track heads offer both spot and flood beams in one unit. Allows you to adjust from focused to diffuse.

Track Length

Measure the area you want to install the track lighting to determine the linear length you’ll need. Standard lengths are often 2 ft, 4 ft, or 8 ft sections. You can connect multiple sections together. Leave room at both ends for power feeds and adapters.


Low voltage track systems will require a transformer to reduce the household 120V current to 12V. Select a transformer with enough wattage for the number and wattage of the light heads.

Hardwired Track Lighting Installation

Hardwired track lighting takes more skill to install than plug-in track, but provides a cleaner, more integrated look. Here are the basics for installing hardwired track:

Step 1: Turn Off Power

Shut off power to the circuit you’ll be connecting the track lighting to. Turn the breaker off in the main electrical panel.

Step 2: Install Mounting Brackets

  • Mark the location where you want to install the track with a pencil line. Ensure the line is perfectly straight and level.
  • Mount sturdy brackets along the line to support the track. Ceiling joists or wood blocking make ideal anchors.
  • Space brackets 2 feet or less apart along the entire track run.

Step 3: Connect Wiring

  • Run 14/2 NM electrical wire from the ceiling junction box to one end of the track line.
  • Use wire connectors to connect the hot, neutral, and ground wires to the corresponding wires in the track.
  • Cap off the unused end of the track with an end cap. This completes the circuit.

Step 4: Mount the Track sections

  • Align the track sections with the mounting brackets. Secure with screws through the bracket slots.
  • Connect adjoining track sections with splice connectors, threading all wires through consistently.
  • Attach connectors and power feed caps to the ends of the tracks as needed.

Step 5: Install Light Heads

  • Attach light heads to the track by inserting the electrical contacts into the groove and twisting to lock in place.
  • Position and aim each light head as desired along the track.

Step 6: Turn Power Back On

  • Turn the breaker back on to provide power to the track lighting circuit.
  • Test that all lights and switches work properly. Enjoy your new track lighting!

Plug-in Track Lighting Installation

Plug-in track lighting systems are much easier to install than hardwired track, not requiring any electrical work. Here’s how to install plug-in track lighting:

Step 1: Determine Location

Decide where you want to install the track lighting heads. Look for a wall outlet in that general area that you can plug the track adapter into.

Step 2: Mount Track

  • Mark a straight line on the ceiling where you want the track mounted.
  • Attach metal L-brackets or wood blocks at regular intervals along the line.
  • Set the track in place on the mounting clips and secure with screws.

Step 3: Attach Heads

  • Attach the light heads to the track by inserting the electrical contacts into the track groove and twisting to lock them.
  • Space and aim the heads as desired along the track.

Step 4: Connect Adapter

  • Secure the power adapter to the wall plate above the outlet using the provided screws.
  • Plug the adapter into the wall outlet and connect the low voltage wire to the track. This completes the circuit.

Step 5: Turn On Lights

Turn on the power and test out the track lighting. Adjust the light heads as needed. Enjoy your easy plug-in track lighting system!

Safety Tips for Installing Track Lighting

To safely install track lighting, keep these safety guidelines in mind:

  • Always turn off power at the breaker before doing any electrical work, including hardwired tracks. Prevent shocks!
  • Follow all local electrical codes. Use appropriate outlet boxes, junctions boxes, and wire sizes.
  • Mount tracks securely using correct anchors for ceiling type. Don’t let tracks fall!
  • Connect wires securely with wire nuts or crimp connectors. No loose wires.
  • Don’t overload circuits. Calculate total wattage used compared to circuit capacity.
  • Use low voltage transformers and insulated staples when wiring plug-in track low voltage cables.
  • Use tracks and connectors rated for the power system (120V or low voltage). Don’t mix types.
  • No cables in the tracks! Only insert compatible track lighting heads.
  • Adjust height of lights as needed. Keep very high wattage heads away from combustibles.
  • Check that all light heads are making solid contact in tracks before turning on power.

Following basic safety protocols when installing track lighting helps ensure you safely illuminate your space.

Troubleshooting Track Lighting Issues

If your newly installed track lights aren’t functioning properly, there are some common issues to check:

  • Breaker tripped – Check if a breaker has tripped and reset it. Ensure you aren’t overloading the circuit.
  • Bad connection – Check all wire connections for loose wires that need reconnecting.
  • Wire polarity reversed – Make sure track wires are matched correctly: hot to hot, neutral to neutral.
  • Shorted light head – Remove each head systematically to isolate the shorted one. Replace if needed.
  • Loose head – Be sure all heads are making tight contact in track groove. Twist to lock tightly.
  • Bad transformer – If using low voltage track, test transformer voltage output or try replacing.
  • Bad switch – Switches can fail. Test and replace switch if faulty.
  • Blown fuse – Check fuses in track adapters and power supplies. Replace blown fuses.

With some diligent testing and verification, you should be able to remedy any track lighting issues that come up and get your system working properly.

Track Lighting Inspiration

When installing track lighting, get creative with how you position the lights to illuminate your space in the best way possible. Here are some track lighting ideas:

  • Highlight artwork by aiming spotlights or floodlights on your favorite pieces. Adjust angles to reduce glare.
  • Use cascading lights over a bar or kitchen island. Hang pendants at varying heights for drama.
  • Illuminate shelf displays with track lights above. Focus beams on products.
  • Frame a bed or seating area with angled track lights. Create a focal glow that draws interest.
  • Accent architectural details like vaulted ceilings, beams, and columns using tracks along edges.
  • Add mood lighting to a dining room by installing tracks on opposite sides for cross-lighting the table.
  • Use tracks along the front of cabinets to provide under cabinet task lighting in kitchens, workrooms, etc.
  • Frame a mirror with floodlights or spots from two sides for a clean reflected glow.

Take the time to play with light positions and angles when installing track heads. The right lighting can make all the difference in highlighting your home’s best features!

Track Lighting Maintenance

To keep your track lighting performing well for many years:

  • Clean tracks periodically with a dry cloth to prevent dirt build up. Don’t use harsh chemical cleaners.
  • Clean metal shades and fixtures with a mild cleaner and soft cloth. Don’t use abrasives.
  • Check that heads are making tight contact in tracks. Adjust or replace if loose.
  • Check wires for fraying or cracking. Have an electrician repair or replace at first sign of damage.
  • Verify that end caps and connectors are tight. Replace if worn.
  • Check ceiling anchors and brackets every few years. Tighten if any are loose.
  • Consider upgrading heads over time for better fixtures. Most systems let you mix and match.
  • For hardwired track, have an electrician check the full electrical system every 5 years or so for safety.

With occasional inspection and cleaning, quality track lighting should provide many years of trouble-free use.

Track Lighting Costs

Here are typical costs to install track lighting:

  • Track sections only: $15 – $25 per 4 ft section
  • Plug-in track kits with 4-6 lights: $120 – $200
  • Hardwired monorail track kits: $150 – $350
  • Professional full installation of plug-in track: $200 – $500
  • Professional hardwired track install: $500 – $1000

Extra costs may include:

  • Junction boxes: $5 – $20 each
  • Low voltage transformers: $20 – $60
  • Additional light heads: $15 – $50 per head
  • Specialty tracks like cable track: $25 – $50 per foot
  • Difficult high ceiling installations: $100+ per hour
  • Large open room installs: $5+ per foot depending on room size

On average, plan on budgeting around $500 – $1000 to have track lighting installed in a typical sized room. Costs rise the larger the area you want to cover and the more specialty fixtures you select. But the lighting impact can make track systems well worth the investment.

Track Lighting Pros and Cons

Here are some key benefits as well as downsides to consider with track lighting:


  • Fully adjustable and repositionable heads provide maximum flexibility
  • Long track runs make it easy to highlight large areas
  • Tracks mounted at any height or angle allow lighting ceilings, shelves, cabinets, etc.
  • Wide selection of light head types and styles for any lighting needs
  • Easy to expand over time by adding track sections and heads
  • Hardwired tracks won’t show any visible cords or wires


  • Surface mounted tracks and wires can look cluttered if not well planned
  • Plug-in tracks require dealing with adapter cords and outlets
  • Hardwired track requires electrical expertise for safe installation
  • Light heads can leave bright spots if not diffused well on ceilings
  • Higher upfront installation cost than simple pendant or recessed lights
  • Heads and systems require periodic maintenance over time

Overall, track lighting is an excellent choice when you want to precisely highlight displays, counters, artwork, architectural details, and more. Getting the right installation for your space requires planning, but brings outstanding benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions About Installing Track Lighting

Some common questions that come up about installing track lighting include:

How difficult is it to install track lighting?

Plug-in track lighting is quite easy, only requiring you to mount the track and connect the adapter. Hardwired track takes more skill, needing basic electrical wiring work. Experienced DIYers can usually handle the task, but you may want to hire an electrician if not comfortable doing electrical work.

Does the ceiling type matter when installing track lighting?

You’ll need to mount the track securely. For drywall ceilings, use anchors designed for ceiling loads. For plaster or concrete, use concrete anchors. For wood joists, screw directly into joists or add wood blocking. The track must be well supported along its full length.

How far apart should the mounting points be?

Standard spacing is 24 – 32 inches. But for heavier track systems with larger lights, make mounting points even closer at 16 – 24 inches. The goal is to make sure the track stays flat and doesn’t bend over time.

Can you cut track to custom lengths?

Most monorail style metal tracks can be cut to size with a hacksaw. Just be sure to file the cut edge smooth so the light heads don’t catch. Follow minimum lengths for power feeds and adapters.

How do I determine the transformer wattage I need?

Add up the wattage of all the low voltage light heads in the system. Choose a transformer rated at least 25% higher capacity than your total wattage to prevent overload.

What light heads provide the most focused beam?

MR16 halogen lamps with narrow spot beams give the tightest, most focused beam. LEDs also offer narrow spot options. Use spot heads to precisely highlight architectural or design details.

What’s the maximum light output I can use on a standard 120V household track?

Most residential tracks are rated to 300 watts per light head, with a typical maximum circuit load of 1500 – 2000 watts total. Check your track specs and plan lighting loads accordingly.

Should I group light types together on different tracks?

It’s best to group similar beam types on each circuit. Use one track just for tight spot heads, another for wide flood heads, and a third for ambient lighting heads, for example. Makes it easier to control different lighting moods.

How do I clean track lighting?

Use a dry cloth to gently wipe down track surfaces periodically to remove dust and dirt buildup. Clean metal shades separately with a mild cleaner. Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasives on tracks and fixtures.

Hopefully these tips give you a good overview of how to successfully plan and install track lighting in your home or business! Proper installation will let you enjoy the stylish flexibility of track systems for years to come. Let the light shine!


Track lighting is a versatile lighting option that allows you to highlight spaces in a focused, adjustable way. By choosing an appropriate track lighting system and taking care to install it properly, you can safely illuminate your home or business. Hardwired and plug-in tracks both provide great options depending on your space and comfort with electrical work. Position and aim thoughtfully, account for maintenance, and your track lighting can become a beautiful focal point. Know the ins and outs and you’ll be on track for an ideal lighting installation.