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For some reason unknown to me, my house that was built in the mid 1950s has "tungsten or ballasts" wired to each of the light fixtures on the main floor of the house. All of these light fixtures house incandescent bulbs, except for one track lighting fixture which contains 4 50 watt halogen reflector bulbs.

The corresponding light switches are a side-to-side soft toggle style that I haven't seen in any other homes. The switches float in a neutral position after being pressed. When pressing the switch to the on position, the ballast clicks and buzzes like a relay for an instant.

Does anyone have any ideas as to why things are wired this way? Can I simply remove the ballasts and wire in standard light switches?

Here is an image of one of the ballasts: enter image description here

Here is an image of one of the switches: enter image description here

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What geographic locale? –  bib Oct 27 '13 at 20:50
    
Twin Cities area - Minnesota, USA –  Daniel Auger Oct 27 '13 at 21:28

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

They look like a they are part of a Bryant low voltage relay system. There is a guide to low voltage systems describing them here.

bryant relay

If that is so, it is a 24 volt system. While it appears that you have 120 volt line at the fixture, it is quite possible that the wiring in your wall is not suitable for line voltage. You need at least 14 gauge wire with a grounding wire or equivalent in cable for the entire run, fully enclosed boxes, all of which are accessible and all connections in boxes.

If you are confident that is the case, then you could remove the relays and replace the switches with 120 volt switches. If not, you either need to have someone confirm the wiring meets minimum standards or you need to run a new cable for the replacement switch.

An alternative is to buy replacement parts to keep the Bryant system running.

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I believe we have a winner! Although none of the switches or relays have "bryant" on them, they definitely look to have the same style. I'm guessing they are some other aftermarket replacement. Also the ballast/relay has "Control - 24v" listed on it. I've confirmed that I still have 120v live at the fixture, so I'm thinking about moving to wireless switches as the relays die off. –  Daniel Auger Oct 27 '13 at 21:24
    
@DanielAuger The (latching) relay looks almost identical to the Sierra ones I have. I would like to point out that the white ring is to hold it in position when pushed through a knockout hole. Which would keep the low voltage wires and the line voltage wires away from each other. Also if you have problem with a switch, it is likely the switch that failed, not the relay. –  Brad Gilbert Oct 29 '13 at 16:31

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