Rare single-button light switch

Discussion in 'Electrical and Wiring' started by cshep975, Jan 17, 2007.

  1. Jan 17, 2007 #1

    cshep975

    cshep975

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    My wife and I have just bought our first home, but have not closed on it yet. The home was built in 1961, and we purchased it from the original owner. There are some rather unique features, including some light switches I have never seen before. I would call them push-button, but that typically describes 2 small round butoons, one on top of the other. These have just one round button, about 1" in diameter. They have older switch plates, which we were looking to replace, but cannot find anything like them anywhere. Is anyone familiar with this type of light switch, and if so, do you have any idea where we might be able to get replacement covers? If not, I imagine we will have to consider replacing all of the switched with regular toggle-type switches, which we feel would deter from the "retro" look of the home. Any suggestions?
     
  2. Jan 18, 2007 #2

    Snoonyb

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    I would guess that you have a low voltage relay lighting system and there are those whom are still familiar with them.
    When they work, they work well. When they don't, they are a challenge.
    Basically, usually in the attic in the general area of the access, will be a larger then normal junction box with several regular high voltage cables ending at it, as well as several low voltage cables.
    Inside this box will be several relays and a transformer.
    There will be a hot pair with one leg connected to the high side of the transformer and pigtailed to one terminal of each relay. The other Leeds of the hot pair will be connected to the other transformer primary lead and the white conductors from the other household cables. The black lead from the household cables will connect to switched lead of the relay.
    The secondary of the transformer will have a specific voltage output and this voltage will determine the voltage of any replacement switches. The alternative is to change the transformer.
    The transformer, generally, will have a secondary output of 12 or 24V, which is the switching voltage and control the operation of the relays.
     
  3. Jan 18, 2007 #3

    petey_racer

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    The low voltage relay system snoony describes typically has two buttons and are smaller. But the date is accurate.

    I know exactly the switches you describe. And your 1961 build date places them perfectly in your house. I think that is the early days of them being used.

    You will NOT find replacements or plates for these. If you really like them clean them up and deal with the plates. IMO, replacing them will give you a more sound electrical system, and not detract from the "retro" look.

    I remember a few relatives who had those switches as a kid. You could put wallpaper behind the switch plates.
    I never liked them much myself.
     
  4. Jan 19, 2007 #4

    Snoonyb

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    The difference between the two systems, 1&2 button, is the type of relay, and always up for a challenge, I've enjoyed working on both.

    You'll probably have more success in finding equip. by finding an electrician with a "bone yard".
     
  5. Jan 29, 2007 #5

    cshep975

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    After some pretty thorough investigating, I found these switches were made by Honeywell, and called "Tap-Lite." Apparently everything in the early 60's had to be operated at the push of a button :) Anyway, I have looked and looked, and have not found anyone that still has some of these available. Ebay will ocassionally have one or two pop up, but typically the seller does not know what it is they are listing, so the description makes them almost impossible to search for. What we will probably end up doing is replacing them in a number of rooms with standard toggle switches, then use the older ones for replacement parts. It is too bad, because I really like the Tap-Lites.
     
  6. Jan 30, 2007 #6

    Snoonyb

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    DO NOT use a single throw switch of any kind, or you will be replacing relays as well.
    You need a momentary on switch.
     
  7. Jul 8, 2007 #7

    firelily301

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    Hi all,

    My DH and I just bought a 1950 cape cod home and we also have many single-button light switches. They are different than what cshep has described. Ours are a single rectagular button that you tap. They have only two cords connecting them and the button and the switch plate are actually one fixed unit that comes off the wall all together.

    We'd like to replace these, any idea of how hard of a job that would be?

    Thanks.
     
  8. Jul 10, 2007 #8

    firelily301

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  9. Jul 10, 2007 #9

    speedy petey

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    True, your system is completely different from the OP's.
    The OP had regular "on/off" line voltage switches with no relays. You have an elaborate systems of switches and relays. Your best bet would be to find a dealer of your systems and find out what you can from them.
     
  10. Dec 15, 2007 #10

    jkirby65

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    Wow, thank goodness I found this thread. I have a house built in 1960 with the same lights--- single button Honeywell tap lites. Since I couldn't find replacement switches or switch plates, I thoughlessly replaced several switches with cheapo switches from Home Depot :eek: . Am I in trouble? Is my house going to burn down? What should I do????

    THANKS SO MUCH FOR YOU HELP!!!

    Jim K
     
  11. Feb 8, 2008 #11

    keithk

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    It is great that you have bought such nice homes with some invaluable wiring in them. Touchplate is the place to go to find answers to your issues. Touchplate has switches which would replace your old switches, but because of asthetics you may have to replace them all so they all look the same.
    The guy with the touchplate system who was looking for dimming, touchplate has several different options for this purpose. Some with more features than others. You will have to replace the relay cabinet wherever it may be, but the switches and wiring will still work with the new system. This upgrade will save you in the future with trouble shooting problems though, because the technology you probably have is from the 1940's. Give them a call at 260-426-1565 or check out the website. www.Touchplate.com
     
  12. Mar 7, 2008 #12

    PKErickson

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    Did you ever find a source for replacement parts? I have a great need for the single and double button face plates.
     
  13. Mar 19, 2008 #13

    wolfenstien

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    I have not came across any single button, but I have the 2 buttons, and with the buttons being round, I have replaced several covers by buying blanks, measuring out the holes and using my drill press to drill new holes, and lightly sand around the holes to smooth. The work and look great.
     
  14. Jun 3, 2008 #14

    Casey666

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    My wife and I just bought a 1960 ranch house with Honeywell Tap-lite switches. I spoke with Honeywell but they sold the product line to a company called "Tap-Lite, Inc." who went bankrupt. It also appears that Honeywell bought the switches originally from a company called "Micro Switch" in the late 1950's. We're in the same boat as everyone else in that we would like some new plates: singles, doubles, triples, and quads. What I may do is pool the good plates in one or two of the public rooms in the house and replace the other switches, and receptacles, with Leviton's Decora rocker switches...not retro but very classy switches.

    If anyone finds a supply of the push button switches I would be interested in buying some
     
  15. Feb 25, 2009 #15

    JJHuggins

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    I have a 1965 house with some original Honeywell Tap-Lite switches. The switches I have are line voltage (120 v), not low-voltage relays as others describe in this thread.

    In my home the Tap-Lite switches were used only in bathrooms that were originally wallpapered. The switch plates I have are clear, and designed to hold a pattern-matched swatch of wallpaper so that the switchplate blends into the wall.

    If anyone has any unused clear plastic switchplates (single or double gang) for these Tap-Lite switches, or is interested in sharing the cost of having a batch manufactured, please reply to this post.
     
  16. Nov 1, 2009 #16

    Jager1007

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    I found this thread looking for replacement covers and tap-lite switches for the unique 1950's ranch style home light switches. I would be interested in making a " group " purchase for these items if anyone else is interested. If enough interest is known to a company, in these times you would think they would put their best man on it and manufacturer them. So far I have combed the universe and these seem to be unobtainable. My search continues for a company willing to remanufacturer them. If I suceed, I'll post.
     
  17. Nov 2, 2009 #17

    locknut

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    jkirby65: If your switches are the old type with two PBs that I'm familiar with, you may find them at a flea market or ask some electrical dealers if they have any old (archaic) stock. They'd love to get rid of them. On this sort, when you push one button, the other pops back out. More years ago than I care to count, I replaced these. They were going out of style then. Most people did not care for them.
     
  18. Dec 2, 2009 #18

    pdale

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    I would be interested in purchasing some if you find a way to manufacture them. I have several of the Tap-Lites in our home however a couple of the covers are cracked. Are you looking to manufacture the entire switch or just the covers?
     
  19. May 3, 2010 #19

    jaxcris

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    I would love to get ahold of some of the switch plates for the Honeywell Tap Lights. I have a 50's house in Florida and I love them, but my switch plate covers are all breaking. I need single and double, but have 1 triple as well. If anyone has any extra "guts" (pushbutton part), I wouldn't mind having a few spares. Will go in to have some manufactured as well... A house we had in Portland, Oregon had the low voltage rocker relay switches, which we found out the hard way can't be replaced with standard switches - the light went on but never off! We got spare switches and relay box from an old electrician but I haven't had any luck with the Tap-lights...
     
  20. Jun 7, 2010 #20

    70chevelless

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    This is great I have a house built in 58 & have the Honeywell Tap Lite the only way I knew what it was is by taking the covers off to paint & the original decorating instructions were on the back. I have them in all the rooms from one, two, & three, buttons plus extras in the basement. Only trouble is I can not find covers for them & the two & three covers are cracked but all work great (and they are not low voltage as many are saying) Anyway I would be very intrested in going in on the cost of having some manufactured I think they are better looking than anything that is out on the market today. I have gone to every electrical store & nobody has any but all are amazed by them. So if this is not to late please count me in.
     

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