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Things you should know about 12V Track Lighting

What is 12V Track Lighting?

A lighting “Track” is a term used by the lighting industry to best describe a metal (or sometimes plastic) extrusion. The extrusion houses two copper conductive strips that are designed to carry 12V positive + and negative – currents along its length. 12V Tracks are available in varying shapes and sizes and are generally manufactured in 1m or 2m lengths.

Why use Track Lighting?

The 12V spotlights that are designed to fit into or clip around the 12V Tracks are generally very easy to move along the length of the track usually requiring only the loosening of a thumb screw or quarter turn of a locking nut. For this reason track lighting offers a great deal of flexibility and is an excellent system for use within applications that are constantly changing.

Where can I use 12V Track Lighting?

12V tracks can be installed into almost any type of retail or exhibition applications including ceilings, window displays, wall displays and showcases. Different designs usually have their own way of fixing but most can be mounted using screws. There is also a 12V track system that carries a double sided adhesive backing that will adhere to most surfaces including glass, wood and metal.

How does 12V Track work?

“We strongly recommend that all electrical installation is carried out by a qualified electrician so the following information should be used as a guide to understanding how track lighting systems operate”.

As with all 12V lighting, a power converter or transformer is required to “transform” the mains voltage (240V in the UK, 120V in the US) into the Seperated Extra Low Voltage (SELV) operating voltage of the bulbs, known as “lamps” in the lighting industry. When purchasing a 12V track you will require a “live end” (also known as a live feed) and a “dead end” (also known as an end cap). A live end allows the electrical connection between the transformer and the lighting track using a suitable 2 core flex and the live end simply plugs into one end of the track whilst the dead end finishes the track at the opposite end.

It is possible to operate 12V track from electronic transformers that are light weight and much more compact but in this case the transformer should be positioned no more than 2m away from the track”.

The cross sectional area of the flex is dependant upon and should be calculated on the total number and power of spotlights being operated on the track.

Some 12V track systems offer transformers that incorporate a live end and simply “plug in” to the end of the track. Our experience has found plug in track transformers to be very unreliable and would h2ly recommend installing a remote alternative”.

How many spotlights can I use on a lighting track?

Each 12V lighting track system will have a recommended maximum power rating usually measured in amps (A). For example, if the maximum rating of a 12V lighting track was 20A this means that no more than 240W should be operated on it (Amps x Volts). The Ampage (A) of a spotlight can be calculated by dividing its Wattage (W) by the operating voltage (V) for example 35W / 12V = 2.916A. In this case a 20A track will accept a maximum of 6 x 35W halogen spotlights and lamps.

Again, from experience, we have found that 12V track systems operate at their optimum when they are not “pushed to their absolute limit” and would recommend running 12V tracks at least 15 to 20% below their maximum rating.

Which 12V track is best for my display?

Due to the small physical size of 12V track they can be incorporated into applications where space is an issue. Tracks can be screwed or rebated into timber uprights, they can be glued to glass panels and aswell as illuminating products, can be used to support glass and wooden shelves to form part of the display case structure.

What lamps should I use on the lighting tracks?

For applications where budget is the key factor then halogen lamps can be used to illuminate products on display. As with all halogen lamps, they do tend to emit a lot of heat, but for applications such as china, jewellery and crystal displays, halogen lamps are ideal. Halogen dichroic reflector lamps are available in 2 main sizes, 35mm diameter (MR11) lamps and 50mm diameter (MR16) lamps. MR11 lamps tend to be the most popular when incorporating into display cases as they are less obtrusive and are available in 10W, 20W or 35W versions. They are also available with a silver or black coated reflector to completely cut out glare and ensure all of the heat is emitted through the front of the lamp.

We would recommend, installing 20W lamps into most display case installations in conjunction with a transformer that will operate 35W lamps should you wish to increase the brightness at a later stage.

Although 50mm diameter (MR16) halogen reflector lamps are bigger in diameter they are available in a much more diverse range. These lamps are avilable in 10W, 20W, 35W or 50W and as well as being available with coated reflectors are also available in different colour temperatures meaning that along with the standard warm (almost yellow) light normally associated with halogen lamps there are also 4000k, 5300k and even 6500k lamps that are cool (blue) white almost replicating actual daylight. This kind of lamp is perfect for diamond and watch displays that require extra sparkle.

As a rule of thumb, we have found that warm white lamps are more effective for illuminating gold displays and cool white lamps for illuminating silver, crystal and china displays.

Is there a cooler lighting solution that won’t damage my heat sensitive displays?

Yes, LED lamps are the ideal lighting solution for applications where heat emissions are an important factor. LED or Light Emitting Diodes run relatively cool (compared to halogen) and will also last for up to 50’000 hours, 10 times longer than an average halogen lamp. The down side of using LED lamps is the cost but when the energy consumption and maintenance costs of an LED lamp are compared to 10 halogen reflector lamps the average savings are roughly 70 to 80%. LED lamps are available in warm white and cool white versions with up to 3 high power LED’s incorporated inside. Due to the importance being placed on LED’s for the future, the brightness of these lamps is increasing at an astonishing rate and the current 5W LED lamps that are equivalent to 35W halogen are soon to be superceded by a new 7W version.