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Tap-Lite Switches and where to get them


Posted by Lee143E on August 29th, 2008 07:39 AM
In reply to Honeywell Tap-Lite by cshep975 on January 29th, 2007 06:28 PM [Go to top of thread]

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Moderator Post (s) for this thread:
> Push button switches by Billhart on 01/17/2007
> momentary by Billhart on 01/17/2007

Tap-Lite switches, originally made by Honeywell, were available from post-WWII through the end of the 1980s, after the company that by then made them went out of business. The wallplates were of clear plastic, available in single, 2, 3, and 4-gang models. Friction tabs on the switch hold the wallplates in place - they slide on and don't have any screws to slow down the job or to mar the appearance. Honeywell supplied a set of wallpaper-like pattern inserts, as well as solid colors like gold, with each switch. Or you could use a matching swab of wallpaper or paint of your own. The pushbutton is usually ivory/almond, but other colors were available - I have some gold ones, and I think they had pink, white, and light blue.

Switches are available in 2-way, 3-way, and 2-way with dimmer (800w capacity). The dimmer toggles between full on, half on, and off (not sure the order). Only one dimmed setting, but likely no buzzing noise either. Graphics on the button note operation. The wire connection is made via quick-connect - 12AWG for 2-way, 14AWG for 3-way; there is no ground/earth connection or alternate screw connectors.

Two types of wallplates were available. The older design was concave when viewed from the side, sunken in the middle, thicker at the top and bottom. The latter design changed to more conventional-looking convex plates, thicker in the middle and thinner towards the top and bottom.

I learned from a phone call to Honeywell circa 1995 that around 1965, Honeywell sold their light switch division, perhaps to Electricord, and perhaps later divested to a company called Tap-Lite, which continued to produce them through 1989 when they folded. Honeywell-built switches will be clearly labeled as so at the top of the switch; post-Honeywell switches say "Tap-Lite" in the same location. I haven't noticed a quality different between manufacturers.

Today, the Tap-Lite switches themselves are much easier to come by than the wallplates. There are new-old-stock parts for both, still with their original packaging and instructions, as well as used parts removed from service. The switches hold up remarkably well, the only failures I've had were from careless removal of cable from the quick-inserts. The clear plastic wallplates amazingly haven't yellowed in all that time, and are fairly sturdy, but they do sometimes crack around the hole or the edges. I sometimes paint those in a solid color to hide the crack.

The included inserts changed with time to reflect changing fashions, and several are charmingly retro by now. There's also a cute children's room switch with a clown on the switchplate with the round switch button for the nose - punch the clown's nose to turn on or off the light.

I have about 100 unused Tap-Lite switches, only 15 or so wallplates, and maybe 30 inserts; most are still in their original packaging. You'll see them on auction sites, online classifieds, and elsewhere.

There are still a few pushbutton switches available today, mostly expensive Lutron models with rectangular electronic "tap switches", and Pass & Seymour Legrand have a pushbutton switch series, but none of these have the subtle elegance of the Tap-Lites, or their punch-anywhere ease of use (much better than the common Decora paddle switches that must be carefully aimed to either the top or bottom half of switch).

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