Is Your Track Lighting Old and Dangerous?

Our staff answers track lighting questions all day long, and over the last 38 years we have seen almost everything. I wrote this article after receiving an email from someone telling us that our track lighting almost burned down their house! Sounds serious! And they had photos. The staff here sent it on to me right away. Luckily, I have not received an email like this one in the last ten years, but I was very interested in getting to the bottom of it.

The most important thing was to get all of the facts. We were so happy the customer had photos that helped us see what was going on right away. As they say, a picture is worth 1000 words! In this case, it spoke volumes. Here is what we found out:

First of all, they explained that they purchased the house 20 years ago and the track lighting was there when they moved in. So we know it is old—very old.

Second, based on the part number on the bottom, we discovered it was not actually made or sold by us. But regardless of where the lighting came from, it still needed to be looked into right away and we are always happy to help.

Third, there was no open flame and the damage from the fixture failure, with one expectation, was contained. We were very pleased with this.

Burnt Track Lighting Photos

Burnt old track lighting low voltage fixture Burnt Track Light Housing

 

Here is what we see in the photos—the low voltage electronic transformer got very hot. We suspect the capacitor just failed. Usually when a capacitor fails it does not do much, but this one was a potted and sealed and the potting melted and dripped out of the fixture down onto the carpet. Not at all good for the carpet, but you can see by the time it dripped there it did not cause a fire or further damage.

We recommended that the entire system be removed and a new system installed by a qualified, experienced electrician. Just a good idea because it is old. If you have an old system you might want to do the same. No lighting fixture is guaranteed for life, and one that is over 20 years old just needs to go.

Burnt old track lighting low voltage power track Burnt old track lighting power track.

We always recommend having an electrician look at your complete system, as just one loose screw somewhere in your house or building can cause you a number of headaches. Just think, a $100 inspection could save your entire property.

Here are some important things to consider about your track lighting:

How old is your track lighting?

Is it old and dirty?

Are the connections where the power comes into the track in good shape? Any discoloration? Exposed wiring?

Who installed it? Was it someone qualified that knew what they were doing?

Are your lights Halogen or LED? Halogen can cause a lot of heat. If you haven’t moved to LED yet, it might be a very good idea. We have several articles and videos that can help you easily convert to LED.

Burnt old track lighting low voltage transformer

Line vs Low voltage fixtures? Do you still have a lot of old low voltage fixtures like our customer in this article? You might want to consider taking them down because they have transformers that fail, like the one in this photo. I would consider replacing them with a GU10 fixture—same size, same MR16 bulb, except the bulb and fixture do not have a transformer.

Heated connections: The halogen bulbs pull so much power that over time the connections in your track lighting can get overheated. When they cool down and heat up over time they get loose. This can cause an overheat failure.

Shut off the power, have your electrician inspect the connections for blackened screws. Are all the screws tight? Is there corrosion, or was aluminum wire used? Are they stripped and unable to tighten? If there are any issues it is time for replacement.

Never ever, for any reason, put track where children can put their finger in it. It should always be high on a ceiling where it cannot be touched.

We love working with experienced, qualified electricians. They always make for a better and safer installation and will often save you money in the long run. My dad has a saying about that: “Penny wise, Pound foolish.”

Whether you are working on a retrofit project or a brand-new project, we would love to work with you. We are lighting people and love to help create a world with good lighting everywhere.

Thanks for reading this! If you want to reach out with a question, please use this link. If you have a project ready to go, use this to get it done quickly and in budget.

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Tags: Old Track Lighting, Burnt, Melted, Charred

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