January 29, 2019

A Monorail Lighting Guide

In the world of track lighting, the options are endless: Monorail 1-circuit, monorail 2-circuit, recessed track, outdoor track, cable lighting and beyond. Monorail is one of the most flexible options, a versatile and dynamic ceiling-mounted lighting solution that accommodates both adjustable track heads and decorative pendants. Hand-bendable, the rail can be shaped in a variety of linear or curvilinear configurations for functional flexibility and stylish appeal.



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

Lightolier designed track lighting in the 1960's, 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, track began to evolve, and eventually monorail was born.

Bendable and high tech, monorail takes track to the next level. The bulky track heads of 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 chic new look.


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 I use with monorail?

Today, there’s an abundance of 1-circuit pendants and 2-circuit pendants, referred to as both fastjack and freejack 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 monorail, and special light channel suspensions. Cirrus Float LED for Monorail is an example of such a fixture. Browse a variety of 1-circuit monorail components and 2-circuit monorail components.

The LED Scope is a great fixture with an adjustable beam spread that ranges from 20° to 50°.



How many fixtures can I put 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 I know which components to buy for my setup?

Your specific component choices are determined by your particular configuration. For simple configurations, we sell Easy Monorail Kits with all required hardware. Just add fixtures. For more elaborate setups and custom jobs, send us your drawings and one of our lighting consultants will help plan your configuration to ensure that you have all the necessary components for a beautiful monorail setup.



Should I use halogen or LED fixtures?

Monorail works well with either. 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 1/5 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 Sol-Light MR16 Warm Dim LED bulb is 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.

See our full selection of MR16 LED bulbs and MR16 halogen bulbs.



What should I think about when configuring a monorail system?

First, consider whether you want a remote or surface mount transformer. Is this a new construction project, or does the ceiling exist with electricity already in place? If this is new construction, you can choose monorail with a remote transformer that installs in a nearby closet or cabinet. This version offers the cleanest, sleekest look. If the ceiling is already in place and you cannot access the area above, choose a surface mount transformer. The main reason we like PureEdge Lighting monorail best? Their 1-circuit and 2-circuit surface mount transformers are the smallest and nicest looking.

Second, 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 the architectural or decorative features you want to highlight.

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.

The simplest thing you can do is send us your drawing. We will lay out a complete plan for your system, even down to the correct beam spread for your accent lighting heads.

Contact one of our experts for help with your monorail system.

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