Industrial-style dimmer switch

I have no personal experience, so take this as a lead not an endorsement; but Enocean has some neat technology(some combination of piezos and suitably designed electromagnetic generator) that allows the energy of pressing a button to be harvested into enough electricity to send a wireless signal to another device. We aren’t talking massive energy savings; but it does mean that you can put the switch more or less wherever you want without needing mains power, an AC adapter, or teeny little batteries that get replaced from time to time.

If you are feeling hackerly, you can buy modules that speak their RF protocol from digikey and friends. If not, they provide the guts for a variety of retail products(listed in the first link, ‘enocean’ might also appear on the box somewhere).

Aside from them, Insteon seems to be the big name. Proprietary; but they have a fairly robust ecosystem of compatible vendors; and, alas, the various ‘open’ home automation options are a bloody mess. You’ve got some little hobbyist knock-togethers, you’ve got some ‘ooh, IEEE 802.15.4 based; but no, doesn’t actually talk to anything except the other item in the package it was sold in…’ crap, an abortive alphabet soup of ‘’ stuff, various Wifi-based things that are brutally overpowered(and power hungry) for the purpose of low-speed signalling; but which use Wifi anyway because all the purpose built RF standards are proprietary, insane, or both. Not pretty at all.


Sometimes Big Serious Switches For Serious Science Here show up on ebay as well. Dangerous industrial hardware tends to need rugged, durable, and visible ‘press to shut down if Bob falls into the grinder’ buttons, so used and new old stock for that purpose show up at times. They can be a bit pricey, though, because these are modestly formidable chunks of metal even aside from the electronics.

That said, having a button that looks like it turns off the lights by deploying a failsafe explosive bolt to sever the AC input lines is its own reward…

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I think it’s pretty clear what’s industrial about it is the aesthetic. As in ‘industrial-style’ in the title. No?

Good point.

I haven’t measured it. It isn’t warm. Googling indicates that similar products are a pretty minor draw. All it does is run the receiver, a bit of logic, and the ability to flip a switch (probably a magnetic switch of some kind, it makes a soft clunk sound). Small enough that it is reasonable to use them to reduce standby power use from other appliances. Lamps, however, are 100% off when off so there is no such win there. I probably ought to plug my television into it. I’m sure that would come out ahead.

I was originally looking for a physical switch that could reach up to a more convenient location, but couldn’t find anything.

That’s a pretty safe bet, I think. You could check with a Kill-a-watt widget.

I make remote power switches out of regular wall switches, regular duplex outlets, service wire and a couple of handi-boxes. They look like hell, unless you like the industrial grunge aesthetic, because the boxes and wire are usually recycled crap with rust and paint on 'em. The machine I’m typing this on is hooked up to one - the line from the outlet box is only a foot long, the line to the switch is about six feet.

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Seems like choice of appliance might greatly reduce this:

Certainly, but it’s a tragedy of the commons thing, I’m afraid.

Your annual power bill is less than 5% phantom loads, if you’re a typical consumer, but it’s closer to 5% than it is to 1%. So when you work out the math for the whole human population… well, people are literally dying because it’s inconvenient for us privileged folks to get up and flip a switch.

I’m a categorical imperative type guy, I don’t like to do anything that it would be wrong for everyone else to do. So I try to kill off all the phantom loads in my house. Everyone has to make their own choices, though - I run my refrigerator and server 365x24 and I use HVAC, and that power use certainly contributes to global suffering too. My hands aren’t clean enough to criticize anyone else just because I got rid of my phantom loads.

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Prob best to avoid anything too obviously bloodstained, then…

This was a thing for awhile in the late '70s and on into the '80s, but people interested in it back then didn’t have access to all of the easy-to-find online resources we do today.

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So pretty. I’d want them in my house too.

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Don’t forget panic buttons! I love me some panic buttons. We have two gorgeous ones mounted on our front door as door bells. You can often find beautiful ones on eBay for cheapish. Ours are made by Allen Bradley, which made some gorgeous buttons and levers throughout the years. You’d need a bit of circuitry to make them light switches, but nothing an Arduino and a relay couldn’t easily accomplish.

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One can often find rugged/industrial-style switches by just searching for vandal-proof or tamper-proof switches at an electronics supply site.

The really insulting devices are the ones where ‘power’ turns out to mean ‘green LED turns amber’ rather than involving any change in power draw. Cable boxes are historically terrible at this for some reason.


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