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Change old GE low voltage light switches to new "regular" switches

Change old GE low voltage light switches to new "regular" switches

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  #1  
Old 08-11-12, 07:40 PM
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Change old GE low voltage light switches to new "regular" switches

I should start with: We already started this project, not realizing that our funny looking light switches were the 1950s GE low-voltage light switches (with 3 wires, none a "ground", coming out of the switch). Not genius, I realize.

We have a light in the house that I wanted to put on a dimmer switch. It was on what I thought was a 3-way switch. So, we bought a 3-way dimmer switch to install. We cut out the wall to fit the newer, bigger switch and different-shaped switch plate. Shockingly, the new switch didn't work.

My first question is: Can a GE low-voltage switch be replaced by a "regular" light switch? More generally, what can it be replaced with, if anything? Second: Can a dimmer switch be put on in place of a GE low-voltage switch? Can the low-voltage system work with a dimmer?

I'm sure I'll have follow-up questions, and this is actually just a brief portion of the story (oh the light switch woes we've had today!). Any info would be greatly appreciated.

Lastly, I've attached some pictures, so you get a sense of what we're dealing with. Please assume that we're completely ignorant when it comes to this - we are! We're first time home buyers, and anything but electricians, who apparently shouldn't have taken this on ourselves.

Thanks,
Rebecca
 
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  #2  
Old 08-11-12, 08:01 PM
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You would need new cabling to use line voltage switches.
 
  #3  
Old 08-11-12, 08:02 PM
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The simple answer to all your questions is no. The low-voltage system uses relays located either in a central location or at the light fixtures themselves and the relays are switched by the low voltage momentary signal from the switch. One huge advantage to the low-voltage switching system (in my opinion) is that you can fairly easily set up macros with various switches to turn on or off several lights at one location. I had my previous house set up so that I could turn off all the lights from either the front door or the bedroom and also turn the furnace temperature down.

To do what you want will require finding the relay(s) for the particular light(s) you want to dim and then pulling regular type NM cable from the relay to the switch location. OR you may need to pull the new cable from the light fixture itself. This could be anywhere from fairly easy to almost impossible. More information would help me to help you.
 
  #4  
Old 08-11-12, 08:35 PM
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Can a GE low-voltage switch be replaced by a "regular" light switch?
Only if you remove the GE low-voltage system and replace it with standard wiring.

More generally, what can it be replaced with, if anything?
A different GE remote lighting control. See Remote Control Low Voltage Switching.
 
  #5  
Old 08-11-12, 08:56 PM
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Just to clarify, I could NOT use any switch I could buy at Home Depot, for example, (such as a 3-way or single pole) with the wiring as it is now?

Rebecca
 
  #6  
Old 08-11-12, 09:18 PM
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No, two different switching methods. The low voltage is indirect controlling a relay that controls the light. The switches you mentioned control the lights directly plus the wiring system used for your switches can't handle line voltage (120 volts) The low voltage system is only rated for about 24 volts.
 
  #7  
Old 08-12-12, 07:18 AM
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I could NOT use any switch I could buy at Home Depot, for example, (such as a 3-way or single pole) with the wiring as it is now?
That's right, Rebecca. The switches used with your GE low-voltage remote relay lighting control system are manual override switches. That means that they are momentary, single-pole, double-throw devices which are wired to the relay using standard Class 2 control wiring.

What does that mean in English? Manual override means that they are used to tell the relay to change its state, or status. Momentary means that they return to a non-signalling state when they are not being touched. Single-pole, double-throw means that they can be used, at any time, to tell the relay to increase (one throw) or decrease (the other throw) the power to the light. Override also means that they are used to tell the relay to change what it is presently doing, which can mean to shift out of or into a pre-programmed macro.

In short, these switches are signal transmitters. They do not change the status of the 120V wiring from open to closed, or the other way, and then maintain that position until touched again. That's what standard snap switches do, and installing one of those on a remote control system would likely just burn out one or more relays.

On the plus side, this sophisticated system will allow you to control any light or set of lights, or other functions, from anywhere. It should also allow you to pre-program favorite settings, and to choose the level of light you want. All of that can be cumbersome, at best, with standard controls.

You might want to re-read post #3, and possibly to open a conversation with Furd.
 
  #8  
Old 08-12-12, 07:44 AM
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Okay, I'm learning a lot and thanks so much everyone!

While the macro feature does sound interesting, I think I'll hold off on learning more about that for now.

Here's my current problem: The switch I wanted changed to a dimmer (which I realize is no longer possible) was in a switch plate with a second switch that controls another light in the house. We "replaced" both with standard switches (obviously the wrong move). We've since hooked the wiring back to the old switches (GE low voltage) and only one of the switches is working (the one that controlled the light we wanted to dim). The other one is not functioning (will not turn the light on or off). Both worked fine before we took on the ill-fated dimmer project.

Any guesses as to what's wrong with the previously functioning switch? We did have it hooked up to a standard light switch at one point. Is it likely we did damage to a relay, or to the switch itself? FYI, all the other lights and switches in the house seem to be working fine.

Two last questions: A product like this Amazon.com: Lutron DVELV-300P-WH 300-Watt Diva Electronic Low Voltage Single Pole Dimmer, White: Home Improvement, which calls itself "low voltage" would not be compatible with our system, since it seems to operate like a single pole switch, right?
What about these: Low Voltage Switches > Architectural Controls > Lighting Controls > Products from Leviton Electrical and Electronic Products

Thanks again,
Rebecca

Update: We just swapped the two switches and the "dimmer" light still works and the other still doesn't, so it doesn't seem to be a problem with the switch itself. Did we likely do damage to a relay box that only affects one light in the house? If so, where might we find the relay box (e.g., in a wall)?
 
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Old 08-12-12, 08:27 AM
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We did have it hooked up to a standard light switch at one point. Is it likely we did damage to a relay
Maybe depending on how the relays are configured a constant power source may have burned out a coil. You need to find the relay box and check it out.

Amazon.com: Lutron DVELV-300P-WH 300-Watt Diva Electronic Low Voltage Single Pole Dimmer, White: Home Improvement, which calls itself "low voltage" would not be compatible with our system, since it seems to operate like a single pole switch, right?
That is for low voltage lighting. You do not have low voltage lighting.

As to the second link: If the relay system they are designed for works in the same way as the relay system yours use then probably.
 
  #10  
Old 08-12-12, 08:33 AM
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It is likely your relay has been damaged. The relay is either attached to the box used for the light fixture or in a central panel with a nice chunk of other relays, either in a basement or attic space.

You may want to check out the GE LV group on yahoo: gelv : GE Low Voltage Switching
 
  #11  
Old 08-12-12, 09:16 AM
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Wow, who knew there was a yahoo group! Thanks so much.

One more question for now: When we moved in, we replaced a light fixture with a ceiling fan and removed the relay that was in the ceiling attached to the light fixture (not knowing what it was - smart, I know). We hard wired the fan to a remote control, so that's the only thing we use to control it.

We now have that working relay and, because we found it attached to the fixture, I presume we're likely to find the same thing (i.e., the blown relay) underneath the non-functioning light fixture. Does that make sense to you too?

Assuming so, we'll replace that with the one we have lying around, and I guess presume each relay, in our future, will need to be accessed individually, as opposed to having a panel with many somewhere around the house (which we have not seen in the basement or attic - not that we were looking last time we crawled around the attic).

Rebecca
 
  #12  
Old 08-12-12, 09:43 AM
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Yes, if one relay was in a box not a central location they all probably are in the individual boxes and, yes, the relays should all be the same.

Good news for you because assuming enough room in the ceiling box for the receiver you can use a universal wireless remote dimmer to control that light. The relay would be disconnected and the rest connected like you did with the fan except in this case just a light.
 
  #13  
Old 08-12-12, 01:29 PM
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Okay, a couple more questions before we go searching for the relay:

1) I've attached a couple pictures of the light fixture. It's actually two fluorescent lights side-by-side behind a decorative piece of wood (which is in picture 1). This is our only light like this in the house, and I imagine the fixture was put up sometime after the others throughout the house, as it's quite a bit more "modern".

We opened the casings of the light fixtures themselves (have not gotten into the wall behind the lights) and we see wiring, but no relay. We assume the relay is behind the light fixtures in the wall.

Given all of this info, does that seem like a reasonable assumption? Just wanted to get some input before we go removing all of this to get into the wall behind the lights (haven't quite figured out how to get the aforementioned "decorative piece of wood" down - the light fixtures seem easy enough).

2) Ray, this is actually not the light that we care to dim (that one was a chandelier-type fixture over the dining table - this is a second light in the dining room). But, I do like the idea of being able to control this light remotely, as we do our bedroom fan/light. However, when we were just at Home Depot and Lowes, they didn't have any remotes like you mention (except for ceiling fans, which I suppose we could use and just not hook up the fan portions). We even looked for a "Clapper", only to find that they plug in, not hard wire, to the light. Any suggestions for where we might find the kind of remote you're thinking of?

Rebecca
 
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Old 08-12-12, 02:13 PM
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they didn't have any remotes like you mention (except for ceiling fans, which I suppose we could use and just not hook up the fan portions)
Which is exactly what I meant. But there may be light only remotes too.
 
  #15  
Old 08-12-12, 02:45 PM
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The relay is likely mounted in the steel shell of the lamp fixture. You will need to remove the tube and then remove the sheet metal cover. You will probably need a "stubby" screwdriver.
 
  #16  
Old 08-12-12, 03:46 PM
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Or the covers may just snap on and off. If you don't see screws holding them, try squeezing the sides of the fixture in enough - gently - to release the cover.
 
  #17  
Old 08-13-12, 05:40 AM
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Okay, we rechecked inside the steel shelves of the lamp fixtures, and it really doesn't seem to be in there. I've attached a few pictures.

The first two pictures are of what's inside of each light fixture. The third picture is a closer up view of one thing inside one of the fixtures that looks the most like it could be a relay, though we're pretty sure it's part of the light fixture. The last picture is of the relay we got from another part of our house (that is a relay, - i.e., what we're looking for inside this fixture - right?).

Does anyone see the relay in either fixture? If not, any guesses about where we else we might find it? Might it be in the wall behind the fixtures? And, one fixture seems a reasonable amount older than the other one. Would you start looking behind the older or newer fixture, if either?

Thanks for your continued help!
Rebecca
 
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  #18  
Old 08-13-12, 01:11 PM
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That second picture is of the lampholder (tombstone) and a "starter". Starters are only used on really old fluorescent fixtures. Obviously the relay is NOT in the lamp enclosure. Next most likely location is a junction box somewhere that has a blank cover or else a central location enclosure that has several relays.

Check out this thread.

http://www.doityourself.com/forum/el...or-lights.html There is a picture of a typical relay cabinet.
 
  #19  
Old 08-13-12, 01:25 PM
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We have not found a relay cabinet anywhere in our house.

If this helps at all, when we hit our switches in the house, we hear the "buzz" coming from the related light fixture, not all buzzing from one place in the house no matter what light was being turned on/off. Is that an indicator that the relays are not in a central location and, instead, at the individual fixtures (i.e., is it the relays that do the buzzing)? Of course, I can't recall where this particular light's buzz came from....

Where might a "junction box" be found? Is that different from a relay cabinet? Does it hold just one relay, or many?

Given that the last relay we ran into was in the electrical box in the ceiling above the light fixture, what are the odds the bad relay is in the wall behind one of the light fixtures?

Rebecca
 
  #20  
Old 08-13-12, 01:28 PM
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Yes, it is the relay that buzzes. A junction box could be located almost anywhere but looking behind the enclosure of the fluorescent fixture is probably the first place to look. If you have an attic it could be located in a junction box up there.
 
  #21  
Old 08-13-12, 01:39 PM
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Okay, we'll start by taking down the fixtures. Any guesses about whether the relay is behind the older or newer of the two fluorescent fixtures?
 
  #22  
Old 08-13-12, 01:43 PM
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Where the power wires go into the wall is the best bet.
 
  #23  
Old 08-13-12, 01:46 PM
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Duh - shoulda thought of that. Thanks!
 
  #24  
Old 08-16-12, 10:08 AM
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Well, no luck in the walls behind the fixtures. The only thing back there are cords going from the fluorescent lights back through small holes in studs in the wall. Our next step is to check in the attic to see if those cords connect to the relay up there somewhere.

Gosh I wish we'd tracked down the relay before it lost its buzzing capability

We'll be sure to do that for the other relays in the house!
 
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