Strange light switches


Old 05-27-15, 09:40 PM
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Strange light switches

I'm moving into a house that has these (and only these) light switches...

Has anyone seen them before? What are they?

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Old 05-27-15, 10:37 PM
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My guess would be low voltage control switches. Pull the cover plate so we can see whats inside.
Old 05-27-15, 11:29 PM
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That looks like a maintained contact switch. Does it stay in either the left or right position after being moved? The design is an old one from a company called Despard. They made many different styles of switches as well as receptacles and indicator lights that fit into similar wall plates. They had different wall plates that would one, two or three devices in the space of a regular toggle switch or duplex receptacle.

Despard also offered what Ray mentioned, low voltage switching for line voltage loads. There were a fad in the early ti mid fifties in higher ended housing and are still used today in many commercial and industrial settings. They are easily recognized by having momentary contact switches that have a spring return to the center position. I do not think yours are low voltage. Low voltage switching had several advantages in that multiple switches could be used to control a single or a group of lights from many or a central location, each switch being independent from the others. They also have switching modules that could sequentially turn on or off a group of lights with one motion. Low voltage switching was not inexpensive when installed (other than the low voltage wiring itself) and it is not inexpensive to repair today.

Do as Ray asked and remove the plate and the "yoke" holding the switch and gently pull it out of the wall. Take a couple of pictures and post them for more answers. If I am correct in my assumption you should be able to replace them with conventional switches.
Old 05-28-15, 11:34 AM
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Light switches

I know that they are light switches because they control literally every fan and overhead light in my house. Yes, once they are turned, they stay there.

My girlfriend is interested in changing them, but I'm kind of in favor of keeping them. Initially I thought that I would try to sell them to someone looking for authentic mid-century decor (nearly everything in the house is still original mid-century), but I don't even know what name to search for them under.

I will try to get pictures of the inside later tonight.

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