Share your favorites on Show & Tell

old GENERAL ELECTRIC 'low-voltage' home lighting control parts

In Electronics > Show & Tell.
electrissical oddities20 of 35old 'pocket' voltmeter electrical tester by STERLING(Sears) SILVERTONE blue ceramic lightning arrester
Love it
Like it

SEAN68SEAN68 loves this.
Add to collection

    Please create an account, or Log in here

    If you don't have an account, create one here.

    Create a Show & TellReport as inappropriate

    Posted 3 years ago

    (720 items)

    Well, here's the first thing I've posted recently that *didn't* follow me home from Mom and Dad's 'big downsizing'. (back to all that shortly...)

    This little pile of grungy electrissical gizmos are *gems* to me -- they're actually parts of an original ca. 1950's "low voltage home lighting control system" as made by GE. For awhile back then, these systems were touted to be 'the latest coming thing' in safe technology (at least, I think?) but didn't turn out to really ever catch on in the homebuilding market. Essentially, the system replaced normal 'toggle' type on/off light switches (hooked up with full 120VAC current on heavy gauge wire, as has continued to be mostly typical to this day) with springloaded 'rocker' type pushbutton switches which were connected to the ceiling lights with light gauge wiring (more like the stuff typically used to connect doorbells or stereo speakers) running on only 24VAC.

    Twas true that there's no way one can electrocute themselves by breaking or messing with the insides of one of those wall switches -- but tis also true that the "hazard" of doing so was basically non-existent already (even before they came up with "earth grounds" for everything) and the modern potential for use of such devices in 'home automation systems' hadn't *even* been thought of yet. A 'solution in search of a problem', in the early 1950's. <giggle>

    OR, in a way maybe, these systems WERE the genesis of modern-day 'home automation'...?? <hmmm...?>

    The half-dozen sorta cylindrical things (RH side of first pic) are individual control relays. These were mounted in the ceiling (or wall) electrical boxes immediately behind each light fixture (etc) to be operated, then the light gauge wiring went from each one of these down to a wall switch(es) panel someplace. (another neglected benefit of these systems was that multiple control switches could be hooked to the same light relay much more easily than conventional 120VAC wiring allows)

    On the upper LH side (first pic) is the actual transformer that powered the system, it too would be mounted someplace in the attic out of sight/mind...other light gauge wires would have to go from it to every 'control relay' wherever they were. More elaborate systems would have used more than one of these. It simply provides the "non-hazardous" 24V current which is used to trigger the control relays via the light gauge wiring/rocker switches.

    And lower LH side is the one (mostly) intact (though muchly painted) single actual rocker switch/wall plate recovered with the rest of the lot. They all came from a house a few doors down from me (which has been unoccupied with roof damage) since before I moved here, but is in recent months being gutted and renovated. [HOORAY, my property value going up!] :-) Last nite after the workers left, I wandered down to check out the latest pile of demolition debris, after it finally occurred to me that, in fact, *most* of the houses in my (1953-4) subdivision were originally equipped with such mebbe there might be some fun surviving 'bits' in that trash pile...??? And whadda 'ya know -- there WERE!! :-) :-) :-)

    My own home was apparently unusual for the neighborhood that it *didn't* come with the system. In fact, I didn't realize the systems even existed myself until encountering them (for the first time) in every *other* house I looked at in this neighborhood before I bought mine. Since then, of course, I've *wished* my house woulda had one, even with the full realization that they're probably a huge PITA to keep correctly operable now, 60+yrs after the fact...? <headdesk><LOL>

    For the record, its likely that much of this stuff might not really be any good anymore, esp. considering the source. Still, its fun for me to have these bits...not likely that I'll 'retro-quip' (is that a real term?) my house, but I'm looking fwd to playing with/learning more about 'em anyway...?

    ;-) :-)

    See all
    Vintage Bose 800 802 901 Equalizer Repair & Upgrade Service
    Vintage Bose 800 802 901 Equalizer ...
    Vintage RCA 12AU7A PLATINUM GRADE Clear Top Preamp Tubes Matched Pair =6189 5814
    Vintage RCA 12AU7A PLATINUM GRADE C...
    Bluetooth Vintage Vinyl Record Player Belt-Driven 3-Speed Turntable  Aux Input
    Bluetooth Vintage Vinyl Record Play...
    Vintage Bose 800 802 901 Equalizer Repair & Upgrade Service
    Vintage Bose 800 802 901 Equalizer ...
    See all


    1. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 3 years ago
      28V in the old telephones was considered lethal if you were well grounded. Of course the average Joe wouldn't hold the hot wire between his lips while a foot was in a bucket of salt water hanging from a galvanized water pipe. That now, brings up Murphy's law axiom # 3: Nothing is fool-proof, as fools are so ingenious.
    2. AnythingObscure AnythingObscure, 3 years ago
      Thanks for the love SEAN68, and for your comment blunderbuss2! Nice to know that at least one or two other folks are as weird (or should that be 'wired'?) as I am, in order to be able to appreciate a granted *not* very picturesque little 'pile of parts'...?? <LOL>

      BB, the crucial difference between the 24V of these things and the 28V of old telephones is one of *amperage*, not voltage. Its probably debatable whether even the higher generally available (static) amperage of old landline phone systems could be truly "lethal" or not (even if you dropped the whole phone into your bathtubful of salt water while reclining in it holding onto the water pipes) but the phone would definitely get at 'ya if it'd happen to try to *ring* during its swim -- ringer voltage jumps to ~90V or so...definitely enough to feel, at least. <eeek>

      In any case, phone systems generally have more amps of current available (at whatever voltage) than these light control systems are possibly capable of supplying. Phone systems are probably worth an amp or three (?), typical household lighting circuits run in the 15-25 amp range, car batteries can do several hundred amps, (briefly, anyway) power lines could be several thousand or more. (*all* irrespective of the voltage, that is, which also has to factor into each situation, but...) The transformers that power these lighting control systems, OTOH, run in the range of "milliamps" (thousandths of an amp) so truly aren't really even the slightest bit hazardous.

      THAT part of the (presumed) sales-pitch was absolutely true -- you could probably safely install lo-volt light switches in your SHOWER if you really wanted to...??? <LOLOL>

    3. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 3 years ago
      I refrain from using my old wooden (cell) phone while in a bathtub & expecting a call. LOL ! Amp is of course the key word. Actually this sounds like a good sys., but by French & most EU countries, there can be no elec. power outlets within 2 meters of a water source. That should shock many Amer.'s. (pun intended) as they use their hairdryers etc.. I'm shocked (pun intended) at these revelations. How do I prove that my new torch with "stun-gun"capabilities works? Oh yeah! There's Jacky ! LMAO !!

    Want to post a comment?

    Create an account or login in order to post a comment.