I remember these. It was sort of like an X10 system with wires.
One big problem was maintenance. These were usually installed in a
home during the original construction. The relays were mounted in
electric box cutouts with the relay mechanism outside the box and
inaccessible behind the plasterboard.
If a relay went bad, it was almost impossible to replace it without
smashing a hole in the wall.
The switches also went bad, from time to time. They were really no
more than SPDT momentary doorbell buttons.
There is a whole line of switches made
for these things. Actually, they are
not strictly SPDT, but are momentary
SPDT with a center off (the rest
position). They have them in single,
double, triple, etc gang. When my new
church was built about 20 years ago, the
wonderful architect designed 2
multi-purpose rooms, but didn't put in
light switches. The switches, actually
breakers, were far from the rooms. I
can't tell you how many times, during a
meeting, someone at the breaker panel,
while turning off other light, would
plunge our meeting into darkness. There
were 2 circuits in each of the 2 rooms.
I put in the GE relays and 2 switches
in each of the 2 rooms. The circuit
breakers were marked, "you touch, you
die" .... well not actually. They were
moved to the bottom of the breaker box.
Anyway, I used the low voltage units
because I had to snake the wires through
concrete block walls, which is nearly
impossible. So, the low voltage wires
actually come down from the ceiling in
an adjacent closet. I could have run
conduit, but it would have been much
more difficult. I have had 1 of the
relays and 2 of the switches fail in 20
years. I think the switch failed
because the relay was intermittent and
people were pressing it harder and
harder .... finally breaking the switch.
BTW, I 1st saw this stuff in the 60s
in a custom built house. Also, in the
late 70s, I worked for a company that
used them in all their offices for
Thanks so much fellas!
by the way, I'm in Kansas... the wire is probably 14 gauge or whatever
code is. The relay stuff was all that I was concerned with.... sorry
for stating "16 gauge" when it's actually the usual romex.
Very glad to hear I don't have to replace my entire house electrical
just to add a few can lights... From what I've gathered from all of
your comments, I can just work around these relays and switches and
just make new runs from my breaker box.
Art Todesco wrote:
Talking about 16 gauge Romex, I was in
Bangkok in the late 90s and in the
hotel, I noted that the lights in the
closets were wired with 16 gauge Romex.
Of course, being non-US, it was 240
volts and was probably fused at 7 amps.
I was shocked to see Romex in a large,
downtown, many story building. But, I
guess the codes are different there and
most US cities.
I've seen the ones that work like 2 SPST switches with a common
button, where you press on one end to close one switch, the other end
to close the other switch. They may be designed with a common
connection. Such a switch might be used with a 2-coil latching relay,
for on and off. I don't know why you'd use one for a doorbell.
BTW, I have been considering such a switching circuit for my bedroom.
Never heard of this, but what a great idea.
Indeed, wish I had this in my place.
I have an idea that in places w/ stricter interpretation of the NEC, that
this probably wasn't allowed.
At one time, NYC allowed only *eight* #12 wires in 1" emt, and *three* in
1/2"! No romex allowed, etc.
I believe they've relaxed some of this, but it gives you an idea of how
tight-assed some places can be.
Mr. P.V.\'d (formerly Droll Troll), Yonkers, NY
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