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Track Lighting

Track lighting is one of the most versatile light types.

Although track lighting is great for highlighting artwork or decorative items on walls to create focal points, it can also provide ample and attractive illumination for an entire room.

Q: I think track lighting would make a great addition to my den, but I'm not sure how to install it. Should I hire an electrician for this, or can I do it myself?

A: (from James Young, Ask DIY electrical expert) Track lighting is one of the most versatile light types. Although it's great for highlighting artwork or decorative items on walls to create focal points, it can also provide ample and attractive illumination for an entire room.
If you're installing track lighting on a ceiling where an existing fixture is already positioned, this project is very simple.

Note: If you have any qualms about working with electricity, hire a licensed electrician to do the job for you.

Materials and Tools:

Track-lighting kit
Wire cutters
Circuit tester

Note: Most track-lighting kits will include all the components that comprise the fixture:

  • The light fixtures

  • The track

  • The mounting bracket

  • The cover for the mounting bracket

  • Screws and anchors

Steps:

  1. As with all electrical projects, you must turn off the power to the circuit you'll be working on before getting started. Place a sign over the panel while you're working to prevent anyone from turning the power back on while the project is in progress; then, to be safe, affix a second sign to the door of the breaker box.

  • After you've turned off power to the existing fixture, remove the screws that hold it in place. Once the wires are exposed, use a circuit tester to make sure there's no current in any of the wires. Several types of circuit tester are available; the one used in this project is an audible tester, which emits a continuous beeping sound if it detects current in the circuit.

    1. After you've determined that the wires are safe to touch, remove the wire connectors, then disconnect the wires and removed the old mounting bracket.

  • Next, take the new mounting bracket and use wire strippers to strip 1/2" of the insulation off the end of the neutral wire, which is identified by its white insulation.

  • Note: Each wire can be identified by the color of its insulation: the neutral wire has white, the "hot" wire has black, and the grounding wire usually has green. It's essential that you match up the colors when you begin connecting wires.) Then repeat the process on the remaining two wires.

  • Now you're ready to connect the mounting bracket to the wires extending from the opening of the old fixture. After twisting each wire of the fixture to the wire of the corresponding color in the opening, secure each pair together with a wire connector. (To do this, simply twist the ends of the wires together to hold them, then attach the wire connector and screw it on in a clockwise direction.)

    1. With all wires now properly connected, gently press them back into the opening.

    Position the mounting bracket over the opening and secure in place with the mounting screws, included in the kit.

  • Once the mounting bracket is in place, the next step is to secure the track. Place the track over the mounting bracket so that it's positioned properly on the ceiling.

    1. Note: Depending on the placement of the mounting bracket, the track may or may not be centered over it.

    2. Once it's positioned, use a pencil to mark the openings in the track where the anchors/screws will be inserted into the ceiling.

    3. Note: For drywall ceilings, use drywall anchors. Simply insert them into predrilled holes, then replace and secure the screws through the openings in the track so they're fitted into the anchors.

  • Tighten the screws on either side of the mounting bracket that hold the track in place. Then insert the component referred to as the "live end" in place; insert and turn until it's secure.

    1. Finally, position the lights in place on the track and have someone turn the power back on at the electrical panel. Once you've confirmed that all lights on the track are working properly, affix the cover over the mounting bracket to complete the installation.

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