We recently inherited a house and are in the process of fixing up a house so
it can be sold. We knew a few light switches weren't working so I started
to try and track it down. Some lights were always on, some lights wouldn't
come on. This is an old low-voltage system by Touch-Plate.
Finally found the problem in a closet in the basement.
View at your own risk.
These pictures could cause you to go blind or cause insanity.
Sorry, I finger farted my previous post.
Heres the part of the post that I didn't get typed.
Caution: these pictures could make weak people faint.
So, I need help. Serious help. I'm looking for an electrition in the
Omaha, Nebraska area that understands low-voltage system.
Would love to call an electrician. But would the average
electrician have knowledge on this kind of system ?
Fortunatly that rat's nest of wires only controls the light switches
in the house. Everything else is standard wiring.
We have the same system in our house, and that photo looks very familiar.
We did find an electrician who is familiar with the low voltage system. I
would specifically suggest that you find someone who was working as an
electrician in the 60s, the apparent heydey of these monstrosities.
My father inlaw was the original builder and only owner of the house.
He was originally a plumber but belonged to this group of good old
boys from all the various trades. The electrition that did the install
was part of that group. But he died years ago. In fact, I think the
entire group of good old boys has long since passed away. But their
sons are still around and have their own group. I'm going to contact
a few of them today and see if they know of anyone.
You have my sympathy. We recently sold our 1964-ish house in NJ with a
low-voltage system in it.
We found an electrician who works on this type of system by calling
around to the various electricians in the area. If the manufacturer is
still in existence, you might be able to get the names of local
electricians who work on their systems from them.
Besides relays going bad, another problem we had was with switches that
stuck. There is a flat switch that has a tendency to "hang" one of the
corners when pressed in, and this caused the whole system to lock in its
current state (some lights on, some off). The fix was easy - go around
pressing switches until you find the one that's stuck and press it again
to release the hung-up corner. And then replace the switch with a
One thing I miss: Some of the lights were wired up to be controlled by
five or six different switches, and there was a master control panel in
one bedroom that was hooked to nearly every light in the house.
Yes, it is easy to fix this once you realize what the problem is. The first
time it happens and you don't know that there is a stuck switch is enough to
drive you batty. It happened here only a few weeks after we moved into this
house, and we absolutely panicked. Now when it happens (not a lot, but
maybe a couple times a year) we know what to do.
I do like this feature. We have two master panels in our house: one in the
master bedroom and one in the kitchen, it is handy to walk in from outside
and be able to switch on most all the lights in the house.
Manufactuar doesn't have a list of electritions that work on their stuff.
To bad, that would have made it much easier. They suggested I go
to a electrical supply house and see if they know of anyone. Could
I pressed every danged switch in the house. And it's a big house and
lots of switches. None were sticking.
If you have a large house, those low voltage remote switching systems are
really great, and, as noted, in a master bedroom, a selector switch and
button arrangement can be installed to turn on or off just about any light
in the house or outside lights. It is a shame that someone has wired such a
mess as illustrated, but, and again, as noted, it is not a disaster, and it
can be repaired.
A remote low voltage switching system would be extremely desirable in the
case of long corridors in large buildings to control the corridor lighting
from several different places rather than using the usual 3-way and 4-way
lighting switching systems to reduce the voltage drop on the long runs of
It is also used for energy management. Computerized BMS systems (Building
Maintainence Systems) control the lighting levels based on occupancy and
In a residential setting, master stations of 16-24 zones allow one to actually
see which rooms are lit and which are not.
The OP is lucky that his system has one central location for the relays. This
arrangement defeats one of the acclaimed benefits of a LV system - saving wire.
Ding Ding Ding. We have a winner.
We found a master board with a ton of buttons on it behind the
curtins in the master bedroom. None of the buttons are marked
of course so it will be trial and error to figure out what is what.
Figuring out what button is for which light is much easier if you have a
small child handy. You stand there and push buttons and have small child
run from room to room to see what has turned on or off.
It took me forever to figure out which button was which on other master
panel. When we figured out what was what, I took an index card and made a
diagram of the panel and wrote above the area of each button what lights
were controlled by that button. I then put the index card on the wall above
the panel. Eventually you won't need it anymore, but we still have it on
the wall for when other people are here - somehow they like to be able to
turn the lights on and off without assistance <G>
My patience is bad enough, a small child would probably send me
over the edge. I will send the wife running instead.
In those pictures of the wiring from hell, there is a list of numbers
and locations. As none of it matched up with the boxes, I'm hoping
it matches up with the control panel upstairs. I can hope anyways.
We borrowed walkie-talkies from our neighbor's kid to do this. Cell
phones are even better.
Some of ours were marked with label-tape when we moved in, but they
weren't all correct. Nor were the circuit breaker labels. We ended up
having to remap the entire layout. But that paid off handsomely later
in time saved troubleshooting.
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