Retractable Attic Staircase

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  #1  
Old 01-01-09, 10:20 AM
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Question Retractable Attic Staircase

I have a wooden staircase to the attic that raises and lowers from the ceiling. There are two cables at the bottom of the stairs and they wind and unwind by way of a winch. The system is controlled by an electrical panel with about 5 relays and lots of wires.

The end of the staircase makes contact with a switch on the floor when it is lowered completely (open). There are two switches on the side of the opening that the staircase contacts when its in the uppermost position (closed)

The house is 20 yrs. old and I'm guessing that it was installed at the time it was built.

I can posts pictures if it will help.

Does anyone have any advice to help me get it working again?
 
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  #2  
Old 01-01-09, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by StanFromVan View Post
I can posts pictures if it will help.
Yes, pictures would be great!!! Or the wiring diagram if one's available.

It's probably just one of the limit switches.
 
  #3  
Old 01-01-09, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by StanFromVan View Post

I can posts pictures if it will help.

Does anyone have any advice to help me get it working again?
Maybe I missed the part where you said what exactly was wrong with it and what troubleshooting steps you have tried so far.

Yes, it would also be helpful to post photos and manufacturer info. If it's a custom job you are probably on your own. However if there is a wiring diagram available or the circuits can easily be traced in photos, you might get some tips.
 
  #4  
Old 01-01-09, 01:18 PM
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Sorry, the staircase was working perfectly until it didn't respond yesterday when I tried to raise it.

I tested the 2 way wall switch and there's no current, but there is 120VAC getting to the panel. I don't have any diagrams.

Here are some photos. Thanks for responses so far.

















 
  #5  
Old 01-01-09, 01:42 PM
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WOW..who lived there last? An electrical engineer or someone with lots of money to pay someone? Just looking at that, I can't imagine that is any sort of normal residential system. Looks more like an industrial product adapted for home use.

Again...WOW.
 
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Old 01-01-09, 02:01 PM
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Is this something you open and close often? If not I'd almost suggest replacing the winch and all that wiring with a couple of counter weights..

What voltage is the winch motor? AC or DC? If it is 120v AC I'd try running 120v straight to the motor to test it but it is a reversing motor so you would need to figure out where to connect.
 
  #7  
Old 01-01-09, 02:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Gunguy45 View Post
WOW..who lived there last? An electrical engineer or someone with lots of money to pay someone? Just looking at that, I can't imagine that is any sort of normal residential system. Looks more like an industrial product adapted for home use.

Again...WOW.
The original owner's brother was an electrical engineer. That why our electricity bill is so high --- lights turn on automatically in all the closets when you open them.

I really don't know why they didn't just put in a spiral staircase, but that what I've got to deal with
 
  #8  
Old 01-01-09, 02:26 PM
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Can you check those fuses, the one on top looks burnt. It may be just the way the light is hitting it. The fuses look like one protects line voltage and the other protects low voltage.
 
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Old 01-01-09, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
Is this something you open and close often? If not I'd almost suggest replacing the winch and all that wiring with a couple of counter weights..

What voltage is the winch motor? AC or DC? If it is 120v AC I'd try running 120v straight to the motor to test it but it is a reversing motor so you would need to figure out where to connect.
Yes, we go up to attic quite often.

The motor is 120VAC. If there's a problem with the motor, wouldn't there still be current running to the switch?
 
  #10  
Old 01-01-09, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by wirenut1110 View Post
Can you check those fuses, the one on top looks burnt. It may be just the way the light is hitting it. The fuses look like one protects line voltage and the other protects low voltage.

I've checked both fuses and they are OK.

I see that it says 24V on the terminal strip, but I can't find that voltage anywhere when I poke around with the multi tester.

There's a little component hanging down loose (see close up pic of panel - far left side around the middle) with 2 white wires connected to the 1st and 2nd connecting screws on the strip. Could that be a 24V transformer? When I check for AC voltage on the two leads, there's nothing.
 
  #11  
Old 01-01-09, 02:44 PM
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Follow those 2 wires feeding the "transformer" and trace back to see where they go. If it's just the 2 going to that terminal strip then it's not a transformer. It looks like it's wirenutted at the bottom, then go through the nipple to one of those switches. Switches good? not back stabbed?
 

Last edited by wirenut1110; 01-01-09 at 03:01 PM. Reason: more info
  #12  
Old 01-01-09, 03:18 PM
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The more I look at the device hanging, it looks like more of a buzzer. It just looks like a coil hanging there
 
  #13  
Old 01-01-09, 03:19 PM
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The motor is 120VAC. If there's a problem with the motor, wouldn't there still be current running to the switch?
Probably but with a system this complex you can't be sure. There are multiple ways to troubleshoot. Me I like to work backwards.

My method for this once I've eliminated the obvious like external breaker and internal fuses.

Does the motor work? (Done by directly applying power.)

If yes: Trace motor leads back to where they are connected. If a relay is there power to the line in side of the relay?

When activation button is pressed does the relay close?

If no apply power directly from the secondary side of the auxiliary transformer (probably 24 volts) to the coil. Does it work?

If not do you get voltage (!20V) at the aux, transformer primary? If so do you get voltage (probably 24V) at the secondary.

That should get you started but as I said that is just my way. Others might have a better way.
 
  #14  
Old 01-01-09, 03:20 PM
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Originally Posted by wirenut1110 View Post
Follow those 2 wires feeding the "transformer" and trace back to see where they go. If it's just the 2 going to that terminal strip then it's not a transformer. It looks like it's wirenutted at the bottom, then go through the nipple to one of those switches. Switches good? not back stabbed?

As you can see from these close-ups, the wires go to a terminal labelled "A" and one labelled "L2" which is 120VAC. I also took a picture of relay "A".

The green switch on panel door and the right side are good. What do you mean by "back stabbed"?



 
  #15  
Old 01-01-09, 03:28 PM
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Yes, it's a buzzer I see the writing on the back plate. By back stabbed I mean the wires are just stuck in holes on the back of the switch instead of being secured with the screws. Backstabbed connections become loose after a while.
On the right side of the terminal where it says 120V, do you have 120 there? Also, we need to find the transformer and/or power supply for the low voltage.

I'm referring to the switches under and on the side of the control panel.
 
  #16  
Old 01-01-09, 03:53 PM
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Come on Stan, work a little faster there bud.Beer 4U2 or I will have had too many of these...lol
 
  #17  
Old 01-01-09, 04:13 PM
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Originally Posted by wirenut1110 View Post
Come on Stan, work a little faster there bud.Beer 4U2 or I will have had too many of these...lol

Hehehe... if that's the case, will I still be able to rely on your judgement???

Got to go out for a few hours... but thanks so much for you help up to now
 
  #18  
Old 01-01-09, 04:37 PM
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Might try giggling that upper contact switch. This switch would stop the motor from working as the ladder would have reached its upper limit. If the switch was stuck activated, then the motor would not work.

I assume that an associated relay should click when each switch is activated. If you wiggle switches and don't hear any relays clicking, then check for a relay power source problem.

I LOVE your house! This is neat stuff!
 
  #19  
Old 01-01-09, 04:45 PM
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What is in that "AB" box below the motor drive which does not have its cover removed?
 
  #20  
Old 01-01-09, 04:53 PM
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Great photos and cool toy. Have you checked the house for secret passageways?

What is in the Allen Bradley box up by the winding motor?

Have you tried to locate the guy who built this? He might enjoy fixing it or maybe he could find a schematic.
 
  #21  
Old 01-01-09, 10:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Bill190 View Post
What is in that "AB" box below the motor drive which does not have its cover removed?
It's a large Allen Bradley relay called "Bulletin 700 Type N"

 
  #22  
Old 01-04-09, 08:31 AM
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Where is the 24 volt transformer then?
 
  #23  
Old 01-04-09, 05:25 PM
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I've no idea. I've looked around and couldn't find it. Any ideas what might use 24V ? None of those relays do.
 
  #24  
Old 01-04-09, 06:01 PM
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Originally Posted by StanFromVan View Post
I've no idea. I've looked around and couldn't find it. Any ideas what might use 24V ? None of those relays do.
Are you saying all the relays have 120v coils, the buzzer too?

Don't mean to be a nag but I think it is time to use a systematic approach to troubleshooting. If you look back at my first post you will see one plan but perhaps the pros will chime in with a better plan.
http://forum.doityourself.com/electr...ml#post1492963
 
  #25  
Old 01-04-09, 07:49 PM
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4 of the relays are 120VAC; one says 115 VAC/DC; and one says 104-250V~
 
  #26  
Old 01-04-09, 07:58 PM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
Probably but with a system this complex you can't be sure. There are multiple ways to troubleshoot. Me I like to work backwards.

My method for this once I've eliminated the obvious like external breaker and internal fuses.

Does the motor work? (Done by directly applying power.)

If yes: Trace motor leads back to where they are connected. If a relay is there power to the line in side of the relay?

When activation button is pressed does the relay close?

If no apply power directly from the secondary side of the auxiliary transformer (probably 24 volts) to the coil. Does it work?

If not do you get voltage (!20V) at the aux, transformer primary? If so do you get voltage (probably 24V) at the secondary.

That should get you started but as I said that is just my way. Others might have a better way.
Thank you Ray.

Just a few questions and claifications:

1) when you say to apply voltage to the motor, do you mean to just tap the motor wires with a live cord and see if there's a reaction?

2) by activation button, what are you referring to .. the wall switch or the 2 contact switches at the top of the opening or something else?

3) again, I can't see any transformer anywhere, and yes the buzzer says 120V on it.
 
  #27  
Old 01-04-09, 09:39 PM
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You will need to look at the motor name plate diagram to be sure where to apply voltage but yes. Temporarily attach a line cord and plug in for a few seconds.

Activation button is the switch you flip to make it move. Disregard my mention of 24 volts since you have line voltage coils on the relays.

Warning I can't guarantee no smoke if you apply voltage to the motor wrong. Very short application of power is best the first time.
 
  #28  
Old 01-04-09, 09:54 PM
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Actually the motor is so old that I see any diagram on the name plate, which is illegible. I won't hold you responsible if there's some smoke

The activation switch is basically dead. There's no voltage when I check the three wires with the multitester.

I wonder why there's so many relays and things for just making a motor turn a winch forward and backwards.
 
  #29  
Old 01-04-09, 11:02 PM
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I wonder why there's so many relays and things for just making a motor turn a winch forward and backwards.
It does seem overly complicated. Presumably you need a reversing relay but what else I'm not sure. If you can find a name and model number on the winch maybe we can find something on the net.

This is to the point where I know what I would do but would never advise anyone else to do it.
 
  #30  
Old 01-05-09, 08:58 AM
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Then if there is no 24V necessary, assume that the panel is not marked correctly.

I would start troubleshooting be following the power in from the source and using a multi-meter set to AC.

And I would trace wires and begin to identify what each relay is for / goes to.

And I would test each relay to be sure it and its associated device (switch/motor) was working properly.

There should be some clicking of relays when various switches are activated. If no relays are clicking at all, then the problem is probably early in the power supply.

If you want us to help troubleshoot this, identify where 120V power enters the relay panel and mark arrows on the terminals (on picture with photo editing) where these two connections are. Indicate if you measure 120V at these points with your multi-meter.
 
  #31  
Old 01-05-09, 11:54 AM
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I wonder if this is "salvaged equipment" and they just used the parts they needed and left the rest. The 24v markers seem to indicate that since you say there are no 24v parts. If you can find a name on the winch and a wiring diagram on the internet that would be a good place to start.
 
  #32  
Old 11-27-12, 11:22 AM
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Stanfromvan
have you been able to solve the wiring issue?
do you have a schematic you can post?
 
  #33  
Old 11-27-12, 11:50 AM
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Welcome to the forums. Stan has not been on line since December of 2009. If your having a problem please start a new thread.
 
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