Commercial Lighting: Track & Monorail Lighting Guide

Track Lighting

Focused and bright, LED track and monorail lighting brings directional illumination to your home. Often considered to carry an industrial look, this style of ceiling lighting offers versatile, yet focused sources of light from a series of directional heads or pendant lights. A track or monorail system is the perfect choice for contemporary rooms and either fulfil a functional purpose of directing focused downlight or acts as a provider of general, ambient illumination. And with the use of LEDs, your home will be stylish and energy-efficient.

Where Do LED Track & Monorail Lighting Works Best?

Almost any room benefits from the presence of an LED track and monorail light system. Many track and monorail lighting designs are flexible, making them versatile and adjustable to your needs.

  • In kitchens, consider a track light system mounted over your island or string together a set of mini-pendants on a monorail system.
  • Directional track heads highlight artwork and photos in the living room and also work well among existing table lamps and floor lamps.
  • In the hallway, an overhead track or monorail system provides guiding light and is the ideal choice for narrow spaces thanks to the slim profile of these fixtures. 

Read more: Lighting Ideas: How to Choose Lighting for Your Living Room?

LED Track & Monorail System for Every Style:

Although LED is considered a modern form of lighting and is up to par with the latest trends in technology, selection of track and monorail fixtures plays a prominent role and lighting fixtures appeal to a wide variety of interior decorating styles. Traditionally styled homes benefit from the familiar colors and finishes of track and monorail lighting.

Choosing the Best LED Track & Monorail Lighting:

As with any type of lighting, you’ll want to choose fixtures that blend in with your existing aesthetics and fit the desired purpose you need. Know the purpose, will your track and monorail system be used for focused downlight or are you using it to provide ambient overhead light in the bedroom or living room? Once you know the intended purpose of the lighting system, you can then refine your options by size (length, width, height) and important design features like color, finish, ability to be dimmed, etc.

What’s the difference between monorail lighting and track lighting?

Lightolier designed track lighting in the 1960s, revolutionizing the way we spotlight our spaces and ushering in a new generation of flexible lighting. Revolutionary in its time, track lighting remained popular for decades, a lighting solution perfect for both commercial and residential spaces alike. Over time, the track began to evolve, and eventually, the monorail was born.

Bendable and high tech, monorail takes the track to the next level. The bulky track heads of the traditional track are slimmed down with monorail, thanks to surface mount or remote transformers, creating a slightly more attractive track head with better beam control. Add to that a variety of decorative finish options and a flexible rail, and suddenly track takes on a new look.

Also read: What are the Different Types of Lighting Systems?

What is the difference between 1-circuit and 2-circuit monorail?

1-circuit monorail means all fixtures are on the same electrical circuit. They all turn on and off at the same time and dim at the same level. 2-circuit monorail offers a second electrical circuit that can be controlled separately from the first, allowing for more dynamic lighting layers. This is useful when you have pendants and accent heads on the same monorail system. For example, you can light art on the walls with the MR16 heads, light your dining table with pendants, and control both types of lighting separately.

What types of fixtures can you use with monorail?

Today, there’s an abundance of 1-circuit pendants and 2-circuit pendants referred to as both fast jack and free jack pendants. There are also a variety of halogen and LED 1-circuit monorail heads and 2-circuit monorail heads. Each one uses a universal connector that attaches to a standard monorail connector. You can find adjustable spot heads for monorail or flood accent heads to highlight artwork or architectural features, mini pendants for the monorail, and special light channel suspensions. 

How many fixtures can you fix on a monorail lighting system?

Monorail systems are expandable, so you can scale them to any size that fits your needs. Ultimately, the number of fixtures that can go on one system is determined by both the fixtures’ wattage and the total wattage that your transformer is capable of handling. An average monorail system uses a transformer of either 75W, 150W, or 300W. A 300W transformer will allow for 650W fixtures or approximately 24 LED fixtures (which typically range between 8 and 16 watts each).

How do you know which components to buy for my setup?

Your specific component choices are determined by your particular configuration. For simple configurations, use easy Monorail Kits with all required hardware.

Should you use halogen or LED fixtures?

Monorail works well with both LED & halogen fixtures. In the past, most monorail fixtures used halogen bulbs, but LED has taken off, with more LED options available than ever before. LEDs are five times more energy-efficient, which not only saves money and energy but also expands design possibilities. Because they operate at 1/5th the wattage of halogen lamps, you can fit more LED fixtures on a monorail system.

LED fixtures and LED MR16 bulbs are dimmable, cool to the touch, look more like standard incandescent lighting than halogens. While halogen bulbs have a color temperature of 3000K, LEDs are available in 2700K – the same color temperature as a standard incandescent bulb.

The Warm Dim LED bulbs are an excellent upgrade from halogen MR16 lamps, compatible with most fixture heads. The Warm Dim technology ensures the bulb dims from a soft 2700K or 3000K to an amber 1800K, similar to an incandescent.

Read more: 20 Amazing Outdoor Lighting Fixtures To Brighten Your Home!

What should you think about when configuring a monorail system?

  • Firstly, consider whether you want a remote or surface mount transformer. Are you configuring a new construction project, or does the ceiling exist with electricity already in place? If you’re configuring a new construction, you can choose monorail with a remote transformer that installs in a nearby closet or cabinet. This version offers a clean and sleek look. If the ceiling is already in place and you cannot access the area above, choose a surface mount transformer.
  • Secondly, consider what you are trying to light. What types of fixtures and how many do you want in your system? Think about what you’ll be doing in the room and what are you trying to highlight? Is it architectural or decorative features that you want to highlight? Have a clear picture of it.
  • Third, do you want to mount the monorail close to the ceiling or suspend it? If you have tall ceilings you can achieve spectacular designs with suspended monorail. Once you know, select the corresponding standoffs. A good rule of thumb is to suspend monorail no lower than 7’6″ from the floor.
  • Finally, how do you want the monorail itself to appear? Consider finish options, as well as the shape and layout of the rail. Straight monorail looks great, but you can also hand-bend the rail to create interesting curves.


What do you need to build a track or monorail system?

Track Lighting

There are three major components for each type of system:

1. Track/Rail:

The basis for either of these systems is the track or the rail itself. Keep in mind that many systems are proprietary; so if there is a specific fixture you want to use, make sure it’s compatible before selecting your rail or track. Track typically comes in 2-foot, 4-foot- 6-foot and 8-foot lengths, and can be shortened by field-cutting a long length or lengthened by connecting several tracks together. Monorail generally comes in 4-foot and 8-foot lengths can be bent to shorten and requires mounting hardware. You can also connect multiple rails together, but you’ll experience a voltage drop after a certain point.

2. Power Feed/Transformer:

Any lighting system will need, of course, power. Track systems are 120 volts, so they only require a power feed to connect the track line to your home’s wiring. Monorail systems are a bit more involved. These are usually low-voltage systems and require their own transformer. Transformers come in both surface-mounted and remote options to accommodate various installation requirements.

3. Light Fixtures:

The point of any lighting system is to light a space, so the actual light fixtures are a key ingredient here. Track lighting offers a much larger range of light outputs with directional fixtures – options include standard bulbs, line- and low-voltage halogen and LEDs. While track lighting doesn’t generally accommodate more decorative fixtures, some adapters will allow for some line voltage and low voltage pendants to be added to a track.

Tips:

  • When selecting your light fixtures for a track system, keep a running tally on the wattage of each. While the system itself is not limited, the circuit you are installing onto might be limited. Work with your electrician to make sure the circuit can handle the light fixtures you want to use.
  • Monorail systems offer a much wider array of decorative fixtures, including a diverse range of mini pendants. These can be used on their own or combined with directional heads to create a complete system with multiple lighting functions. As a low-voltage system, wattage is generally limited; the wattage of all the lights used cannot be greater than the output of the transformer. If you’re using LEDs, this is less of a problem as it has been in the past.
  • When planning a monorail system, work backwards. The system’s layout and fixtures are going to determine what transformer you need to power the system, so choose those first to ensure you build the system out correctly.


How to install a track or monorail system?

In most of the cases, a track lighting system is easier to install. The tracks can be cut to size and the components just snap together. The track itself will mount directly to the ceiling or a mounting substrate. As long as the system has been planned out properly, there shouldn’t be too many problems. Read more about light fixture.

Installing a monorail lighting system is a more involved process, and we’d recommend hiring an experienced lighting electrician to install it. The level of installation complications will vary depending on the transformer and the mounting system selected, but again, a smooth installation is possible with proper planning while you’re shopping for all the right pieces.

Final Thoughts:

Complement your LED track and monorail system with additional energy-efficient fixtures in the space. Look to flush mounts or chandeliers in the selection of LED ceiling lights, or turn to any of wall-mounted LED fixtures available. Introducing LED to your home will guarantee increased efficiency for you while also bringing noticeable style to your decor. Create the perfect mood in your rooms by placing your LED track or monorail system on a dimmer. Light dimming controls work with almost any system and require just a few extra steps during installation.

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