On Sat, 14 Nov 2009 19:22:49 -0500, in alt.home.repair, aemeijers
Switch-rated breakers? They must exist.
In my youth, many centuries ago, I worked at a gas station where all of the
exterior lighting was breaker switched. Being too young to know better I
never thought anything of it, but I didn't much like the two breakers that
would periodically fall out of the breaker panel when you switched them.
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Would a guy wiring up a backyard pole barn or private horse stable
typically be aware of the difference, and where to get them? The ones I
saw looked like normal residential breakers, with no visible markings
saying they were switch-rated, or the big heavy-duty appearance and feel
industrial stuff seems to have. These were not feeding big blowers or
heaters, or massive lights or anything. Just typical barn lights and one
or two outside floods.
aem, always eager to learn, sends....
I used to attend services in a church built in 1883. The lights in the
vestibule, nave, and chancel were controlled from a breaker box in the
vestibule. Otherwise, people would have had to look for the right wall
switch, walk to it, and perhaps turn lights on or off by mistake. It
also simplified wiring in a building with solid walls.
Looking at a recent ordinary SquareD QO 20A breaker, the paper label
near the wire terminal is marked "SWD". Probably not readable without a
The UL "White Book" (DIVQ) says "circuit breakers rated 50 A or less and
125/250 V or less are investigated for use with tungsten-filament lamp
loads." "For use with" is not explicitly the same as for routine
switching of. But "SWD" is explicitly for routinely switching
fluorescents. Do you need a "SWD" mark for routinely switching
incandescents? I thought you did, but the "White Book" doesn't seem so
For routine switching of HID lights (mercury, metal halide, high/low
pressure sodium) there should be a "HID" mark. I don't remember ever
seeing one of them.
Learn something every day on here. I never knew such things existed, and
they always used to smack me upside the head for playing with
residential-grade breakers, using them as switches. And I distinctly
remember threads on here saying not to do so. My construction experience
was only residential and apartments, not commercial.
The old way had advantages. A switch inside the front door. Otherwise,
a string dangling just above head level in the middle of each room.
Less wiring, which meant less installation and maintenance.
If a room had two doors and one switch, I'd rather walk a couple of
steps in while feeling for a string than cross the room and feel for a
If you go to bed in a room with a switch at each door and have no
bedside lamp, you have to walk to your bed barefoot in the dark. If you
have a string dangling in the middle of the room, you can be beside the
bed when you turn off the light. You could even tie three strings to
the pull chain so you could switch the light from the bed or either door.
OK, that's it! I'm running eye hooks and strings to all of the kitchen,
bedroom and living room entrances! Pull one string for on and one for
off. Now how to mark the strings... I'll go with the 1 and 0 which is
becoming popular. Off has a round loop on the string and on has a
straight... something, or nothing.
My house was wired in the 1920s. Except at the front door, there's no
sign that any switch ever had knob & tube wiring, so most switches must
have been added later.
Some of the switched lights were made with chain switches. Finding
places to install switch boxes must have been a problem. Two rooms are
switched from outside. The switch in one room is not near any of the
three doors. There are no three-way switches.
One bedroom still has no wall switch, and I've grown to appreciate it.
If you enter a room from a door with no switch, taking two steps and
feeling for a string can be easier and safer than crossing the room to
find the wall switch. It's a little inelegant because if you touch a
string hanging in the dark, you may have to wait for it to swing back to
your hand so you can pull it.
Inside the back door and at the back entry to the kitchen, I added
lights where I would have had to use surface-mount boxes for wall
switches. In each case, I used a couple of eye screws to run a string
down the wall at a good location. A tied string is easier than a switch
to find in the dark, you can work it with your hands full, and you don't
get the wall dirty. With another length of string and two more eye
screws, I could operate the light from more than one place in the room.
This versatility could be useful in a room such as a bedroom, where
rearranging furniture could make a new switch location desirable.
Chain-pull switches can be practical for ceiling lights.
Code is not the best way to build something.
Code is the worst you are allowed to build something.
When we were in Europe, most lights had multiple switches. Near as I
could tell they were all momentary switches with a change of state
relay in the panel. It was very convenient to have a switch at the
door to each bedroom, and another one you could reach from the bed.
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