Advice Needed - House with old school low voltage GE system

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by jonathan4465, May 1, 2012.

  1. jonathan4465

    jonathan4465 New Member

    New York
    Hey all! I'm 4 months into a complete renovation of my mid-70's colonial. It has one of those old GE low voltage lighting systems with the relay box, as I'm sure some of you have come across before.

    I've finished remodeling the upstairs, and finished the basement. As we have been moving along we have been removing as much of the low voltage system as possible. I guess back in the 70's it was state of the art, but now it's just a pain. After doing some research I discovered parts are becoming harder to come by, and replacement relays are in the area of $40. Not interested, so I have been pulling it out and replacing it with standard wiring.

    Upstairs we ran dedicated circuits from the basement to the attic, then down to the bedrooms. Now all lights, fans etc use standard wiring and switches. I'm a stickler for having a variable fan control on the wall, as I have never been a fan of pull chains.

    Now to the point of the post. I am on the final stage of the renovation, which is the main floor. (living room, kitchen etc.) The living room, family room, and kitchen all have fans and lights. I'm nearing the end of the renovation and really trying to stay within budget, and still get the kitchen I want. I'd like to avoid tearing down any more sheetrock and running any more wires\electrical work. My question is, what solutions, if any, are available to separately control a fans lighting and fan speed without changing the wiring. For example, I know there are such things as digital fan lighting controls whereby you connect a small box just above the fan in the ceiling, so all you need is a single power line. However, I still don't think that will work with the relay system. Anyone have any experience with fans\lights that use remotes?

    Maybe I'm just trying to avoid more work or getting burned out, but I really want to avoid any further electrical work. Any ideas are welcome. : )
  2. drick

    drick In the Trades

    I'm not familiar with the system you speak of, however if the switching is all low voltage your options are very limited if you do not want to run new wiring. Ceiling fan remotes usually include a cradle for the remote that can be wall mounted next to or in some cases over the switch. In this case you could hard wire the fan to 120V and just use the battery powered remote for the fan/light.

    Personally I would not consider this a workable solution do to the lack of true wall controls, but worth mentioning just the same. I would recommend you at least rewire the switch, feed it with 120V and connect it back to the home run from the fan to the old relay box. Then I would use the wall switch/ ceiling remote unit that allows you to control the fan/light separately.

    Alternatively you can rewire the first floor fan/light ceiling box. Yes it involves more work but you should not have to remove any more sheet rock than one 4 inch round hole near the top of each wall per ceiling light - assuming you have basement access to feed the switch. To do this, figure out which way your ceiling joists run, use a hole saw to cut a 4 inch hole near the top of the wall that lines up with the light fixture and the ceiling joist spacing, inside the 4 inch hole drill a 1 inch hole through the top plate. You can now fish the wire up the wall from the basement (or switch if you get lucky with your alignment) and across to your light fan/light. You can even put back the 4 inch plug you cut out when your through using a few screws and a small piece of wood behind it. More work, but if you are redoing everything anyway its easy enough to patch up a few 4 inch holes and you will have all new wiring and no remote BS to deal with. Its worth it IMO.

  3. ActionDave

    ActionDave Electrician

    I must confess I hate that you are abandoning the old GE system. It is a versatile, rugged and reliable system. The relays are $40 as you say, but they last.

    As far a ceiling fan remotes- I consider them a band-aid, but they are a workable solution in some cases.
  4. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    New England
    Don't know if Cassablanca still makes them, but the two I have feed power up to the fan/light assembly on just black/white/ground and then it uses their fancy wall switch to control everything: light on/off/dimming, fan direction/speed/on/off are all done from the switch via signaling over the line voltage feed.
  5. ActionDave

    ActionDave Electrician

    Casablanca is the exception. Their stuff is rock solid, but for the price of their fans I can fish a wire.
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