Track Light Installation

DEAR MIKE: I want to replace my old light fixture with track lighting. Is it much different from replacing a regular light fixture? -- Chuck S.

DEAR CHUCK: There are a few minor differences, but nothing that should cause any problems. If you have replaced a light fixture before, this will be a piece of cake.

Whereas a single light fixture has one or more bulbs in a single group, track lighting spreads single light fixtures along a track. You can lengthen the track or even change directions with different connectors, and still control the lights with a single switch.

Track lighting can give a room a much different feel than that of a single light fixture. With track lighting, you can direct the light where you want it. If you have artwork you want to highlight, just point a bulb toward it. By adding different bulbs (e.g., spotlights or floodlights), you can completely change the way a room feels.

To replace the fixture, start by turning off the power for the circuit at the main panel. Remove the light cover and the old fixture base and test the wires to make sure that the power is off.

The wiring for the track light is the same as for a single light fixture, except that instead of attaching the circuit wires to a fixture's base, you will attach them to a connector.

Connect the white circuit wire to the white fixture wire and the black circuit wire to the black fixture wire. Then, attach the green grounding fixture wire to the bare copper ground wire in the box. Carefully tuck the wires into the box.

Attach the mounting plate to the ceiling box, making sure that you don't pinch any wiring. The track, in turn, will attach to the mounting plate, but before you secure it, make sure that the track is oriented how you want it.

In addition to the mounting plate, the track will need to be secured to the ceiling in several places. The track will have pre-drilled holes for mounting. If you are lucky, you can screw it into a ceiling joist, but more likely you will need toggle bolts to secure it. The bolts will be included in the track lighting kit.

If you have to use the bolts, mark the position of the holes in the track and drill a hole in the ceiling. The size of the hole depends upon the size of the toggle bolt. It is better to start small and move up. Some toggle bolts have their sizes stamped on them so you don't have to guess.

Attach the toggle to the track and push it into the hole. As the wings of the toggle clear the drywall of the ceiling, they will pop open and provide plenty of holding power. Gradually tighten the toggle bolts.

You can add connectors to extend the track or to change direction by sliding them into the end of the track. Close any open ends of track with dead-end fittings.

Once the track is in position, tighten the locking screws on the mounting plate. Insert the electrical connector into the track directly beneath the mounting plate and turn it 90 degrees until it snaps into place.

Attach the power-supply cover over the mounting plate.

Install the individual fixtures into the track in the same manner as the electrical connector. Decide where you want the fixtures to go, place them in the track and rotate them 90-degrees. Add the bulbs and direct the light wherever you choose.

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