This Remcon low voltage lighting troubleshooting guide will help you determine which parts of your Remcon wiring system need replacing. Info found here also pertains to Pyramid low voltage systems. Before you start to troubleshoot your system, make sure all light bulbs are working in any fixtures (ceiling lights, table lamps, etc.) on the circuit you are testing.
Master Selector Panel
How It Works: Remcon systems have an unusual remote control master panel that allows you to turn on and off all lights from a single oversized rocker in the middle of a 9-switch panel. These convenient pilot lighted controllers were often installed by the front door, back door, and/or in the master bedroom of a home. Pilot lighted switches illuminate when the load (light, pump, etc.) is on so you can tell if lights are left on in a far section of your home. This central override control was also a safety feature that would allow you to instantly illuminate any area of the house, for example, after hearing a window break at the far end of your home.
Central Control: Each of the four switches on either side of the central master selector switch is typically connected to one or more lights in a section of your home. They provide master override control of lighting in eight areas such as hallways, bedrooms, and outdoors. The central switch is connected to a copper bar that runs the length of the panel. When the master switch is pushed, a copper bar makes momentary contact with all the switches at once thereby turning all lights on (up position) or off (down position). There are no switches directly wired to the master switch, and any master functionality would be lost once updating to new switches. Note that this master control panel fit a 4-gang box. Note that if you want the same type of functionality as a master switch in an updated system, you would need to upgrade to a Touch-Plate panel with grouping capability that could control multiple lights at one time. (This is only possible if the current Remcon relays are arranged in a panel layout in one location, rather than installed remotely in each room near the light fixture.)
Test Independently: If lights in a whole section of your home are not working, the switches in one of these controllers may have started to fail. You will want to independently check all the switches and relays to ensure that none is responsible for the lighting problem you are experiencing. To accurately test your switches and relays in other areas of your home, you must disconnect each switch from the master controller panel and test just a single switch and relay attached to a light.
Transformer and Relay All in One
Remcon Difference: Remcon relays are unique in that each unit is actually a transformer with a built-in relay, unlike other low volt systems where the transformer and the relay are separate components. Vintage Remcon relays were a mechanical latching type with a solenoid inside a cylinder on top of a square base. (Righthand relay in photo.) In contrast, the new relays are solid state units that are flat on the front and back with stepped sides and a locknut on top for mounting into a metal electrical box. (Lefthand relay in photo.) Remcon relays were typically installed near the light fixture.
Pilot Light Functionality: Note that even though these old curved rocker switches were lighted when on, that pilot light functionality came from the advanced engineering of the specialized switches used in conjunction with the combination relay/transformers. Unfortunately, replacement LED lighted switches from other brands won't illuminate because the interaction of the newer switches and relays do not function in the same way.
Important: Only Remcon relays should be used with Remcon switches. All Remcon relays on a circuit/phase must be the same type: either old mechanical latching or new solid state; they cannot be mixed on either side because of the difference in the control circuit. Note that any switches connected to each other or to the relays (any parts connected in any way) must all be on the same circuit/phase. Remcon made two types of relays: Remcon light relays (typically mounted in the ceiling near the light fixture and Remcon closet relays that that control a closet light by opening and closing the door. If you want to upgrade you may choose to replace the complete system with new electrical panels, relays and switches from Touch-plate Lighting Controls.
Finding The Defective Parts
Bad Relay: Once you have a single switch connected to a relay, use an ohmmeter to check for continuity through the relay. If the lights are supposed to be off (meaning that the relay switch is supposed to be open), but there is still continuity through the relay, then the relay probably has burned out from a stuck switch or simply worn out from years of use.
If you don't have a meter, then you could also test your relay by removing the switch that is currently connected to it and putting in a working switch from another location. (Just be sure you are wiring it correctly.) If the new working switch doesn't function in the problem location, the relay likely is broken; if the lights do come on then the old switch was broken. (Be sure you are not mixing mechanical and solid state relays on the same circuit.)
Buzzing Relay: If a loud buzzing noise can be heard coming from your relay, this usually indicates either a malfunctioning relay or switch. You can quickly figure out which component is damaged by unwiring a working switch from another room and connecting it to the noisy relay to see if the buzz stops. (Just be sure that only one switch is connected to the relay and that it is not connected to the master control panel because you might have two bad switches connected to it.) If the relay stops buzzing, then the switch you replaced was defective. If the relay still makes that buzzing sound after testing all of the switches that were connected to it, then it is your relay that is defective. Shop replacement Remcon relays.
Bad Switch: If multiple light switches (for ex., several on one switch plate or those installed on two sides of a room) are connected to a one particular Remcon relay and at least one of those switches on that circuit still allows you to turn lights on and off, then any switch that cannot control the lights is broken. In other words, if the same relay can be controlled from one switch location but not another, then switch is the problem, not the relay. (Remember, there could be more than one switch on the circuit or the switch also may be connected to a master controller so be sure to check all connections.)
Remcon switches were often permanently mounted in a bracket unfortunately making it harder to swap individual working switches into locations that potentially defective switches. These switches are no longer manufactured so we recommend Touchplate switches as replacements which have been tested for safety and longterm reliability with vintage Remcon systems.
3-Way Switches: Remcon switches may have been wired in parallel to create 3-way low voltage switches. Three-way switching allows you to control one light from two locations in a room, or to control the lights from one switch (or more) within the room as well as from the master controller in another part of the house.
Remcon Light Switches
Remcon switches came in two varieties: the earlier bowtie or wing-shaped illuminated switches and later, the small black switches which were not pilot lighted. Both of these switches were discontinued.
To check the wiring on your Remcon switches, override the switch at the wall for testing. To do this, simply remove and unhook the switch, then tap the common wire (usually white) to one of the low voltage button control wires. If doing this direct testing of each of the wires works (lights come on or turn off), the switch is defective.
Take a meter and confirm continuity for each button press (meaning that the expected action - either ON or OFF - occurs if the button is pushed). With the switch removed there should be continuity from common through each button once the button is pushed.
Touchplate switches have been tested to be safe and compatible with vintage Remcon systems. If you need to update your wall plates or switches, we recommend units from Touch-Plate Lighting Controls.
Replacing Your Remcon Switches
Double Your Light Switches: In both examples above you are changing from a 3-wire system to a two-wire system where each end of the switch is now a separate button. As a result you must double the number of buttons on your light switches. The old rocker switches are now split into two with the UP/ON direction and DOWN/OFF direction becoming two separate buttons.
In other words, for one old Remcon or Pyramid switch, select Touch-Plate units with two buttons (one button become the ON switch, the other becomes the OFF). So One becomes Two, Two becomes Four, Three becomes Six, Four becomes Eight, etc.
Tip: If one switch is defective, try to consolidate all good switches onto a single bracket. This may or may not be possible depending upon the specific Remcon switches your have. Save any old working switches for swapping into brackets for two, three, four switches to minimize the number of new control units you need to purchase.
Replacing Your Remcon Relays
Keep all your working Remcon relays in place.
Replace broken relays with Remcon relays only (not Touch Plate ones, even if you are updating any/all switches to Touch Plate).
If you have the old cylinder type mechanical latching relays and are updating to these new solid state relays, you will need to replace any that are on the same circuit/phase to the new versions. (Save any working ones to replace any that fail on circuits where you are keeping the old relays.)
There are 2 Remcon Relays - be sure to order the correct one:
The R-115S is for the lights throughout your home. These basic relays have three low voltage leads on top that connect to normally-open momentary contact light switches.
The RC-120S is for closet lighting - if your closet lights come on automatically when you open the door, you'll need this relay. These closet relays have two low voltage leads on top that connect to normally-closed closet contact switches. Opening the closet door opens the contact and changes the state of the lights to ON. Closing the door closes the contact and turns them off.
Visual Damage: Check for any blackening on the parts or if they smell like they have burned. This simple check may reveal which component has been damaged and needs replacing.
Safety First: Use caution when testing electrical devices to avoid the risk of shock and consult an electrician.
Which System? Not sure which low voltage system you actually have? Review how to Identify A Low Voltage Lighting System. The photos will help you figure which low voltage brand you have and what your replacement options are. Kyle Switch Plates provides replacement parts for Remcon, GE, Bryant, Sierra, Pyramid, Touch Plate and other low voltage systems.
Questions & Answers
Q. When I push the button the light stays on, but as soon as I release it, the light fixture goes off. Why?
A. That is probably a relay issue because it sounds like the relay isn't latching into the new position (changing either to ON or to OFF). A new relay should fix that. If you aren't sure, you can swap a working relay from another location into that spot to see if that fixes your issue.
Q. How do I connect all the common wires to fit into the Switch Common (SC) terminal slot when I have one than one?
A. If you have two, three, four or more common wires, you would connect all them together along with another wire (pigtail) using a wire nut cap, then just insert the one pigtail wire into the SC terminal.