Confused about wiring for switch


Old 01-07-05, 10:57 AM
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Confused about wiring for switch

We live in a mid-1950s house with a number of odd, "electronic" switches that have horizontal rocker-style switches that also push inward (there are springs inside, I believe). You push in one side to turn it on, the other side to turn it off, but the switch pops out to the same position afterward, so you wouldn't be able to tell if the switch is in the on or off position. There are ballasts connected between the switch and the light, and they tend to make a loud buzzing sound when turned on or off. One of the switches has recently been failing: it often won't turn off once turned on, no matter how many fancy tricks we try with rocking and pushing in the switch. I've finally decided to replace it with a regular switch, which I went out and bought, but now I can't figure out the wiring.

The old switch has three connections, all lined up in a row, directly behind the rocker switch. The screws behind the left and right sides of the switch are connected to red and black wires, and a third screw behind the center of the switch is connected to a white wire. There is no green wire to indicate a ground. All three of these wires run high up into the wall beyond where I can see (there's no wiring box behind the switch plate, just the open wall interior), and are not connected to any other wires (at least not where they can be seen, before they disappear into the wall). There are no other switches controlling this light (a flourescent ceiling fixture), so it's not a 3-way switch.

The new switch has only two screws, plus the green grounding screw. My question: what do I do with all the wires, and if one of them can't be used for a ground, what do I for a ground?

Any help would be appreciated!
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Old 01-08-05, 11:04 AM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
This sounds like an old GE low voltage system with relays. You can't replace this with a regular switch. The old GE switches are still sold but can be hard to find. Occasionally somebody posts a web site that sells this stuff, but I don't have it recorded. Maybe somebody else can point you, or maybe you can google for it.

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