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Electrical Question from Pamela about Replacing Old Light Switches

One problem we are having has to do with the electrical switches which were used. They are small with as many as 5 to a plate and they stay in a neutral position. To turn them on, we push upward and the switch returns to its position.


Electrical Question from Pamela about Replacing Old Light Switches

Received from Pamela a Homeowner in Fort Worth, TX

Question: We are renovating my late parents’ home which was designed by my father and built in 1955. One problem we are having has to do with the electrical switches which were used. They are small with as many as 5 to a plate and they stay in a neutral position. To turn them on, we push upward and the switch returns to its position. To turn them off, we push downward and the switch returns to its neutral position. Some of the switches no longer work and many of the plates need to be replaced. Some of the switches seem to be wired into the plates. Are there replacement switches like these available or is it possible (and not too expensive) to replace them with more conventional switches? Thanks, Pamela

Additional Comments: I have been wracking my brain about what to do and if this website can help, it will be one of my favorites! We desperately need to get the house fixed and on the market!

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical question.
Hi Pamela – The switches shown in your photo and what you are describing is an old method of low voltage light switching. The switches that were commonly used function exactly the way you describe. The switches activate or deactivate relays that are used to turn the lights on or off. The relays are usually located in the attic or the basement. Many times the relays stop working but can be replaced for about $40 each. The switches and relays are still available.  Typically when I perform a upgrade wiring project and this type of system is found, the entire system is removed and replaced using current wiring methods. As long as these units are maintained and accessibly located and the relays are mounted in approved enclosures there should not be a problem. It would be a great idea to locate the relay boxes and inspect the connections and splices.

The Following links will assist you with your electrical question:
Low Voltage Light Relay

For more information about Light Switch Wiring
Light Switch Wiring

This link is helpful as a Homeowner
Do-It-Yourself Electrical

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