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Dimmer #153147
05/06/06 08:37 PM
05/06/06 08:37 PM
Trumpy  Offline
Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8,260
SI,New Zealand
Photo's and info supplied by Alan Nadon:

This is a dimmer switch for four chandeliers in the dining room of my
favorite watering hole. I think it was installed at the end of prohibition or maybe before. It may have been used in a local research laboratory before it was pressed into service for lighting control. The
total load is about 2,000 watts maximum. I think it can handle the load.

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

Tools for Electricians:
Re: Dimmer #153148
05/06/06 11:44 PM
05/06/06 11:44 PM
Larry Fine  Offline
Joined: Feb 2005
Posts: 693
Richmond, VA
I'm guessing that's a variable auto-transformer (a.k.a. a Variac) and not a variable resistor. It's definitely not a "dimmer" in the triac-type sense of the word.

Larry Fine
Fine Electric Co.
Re: Dimmer #153149
05/07/06 07:50 AM
05/07/06 07:50 AM
iwire  Offline
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,391
North Attleboro, MA USA
Larry I do not understand.

It's definitely not a "dimmer" in the triac-type sense of the word.

It is certainly a dimmer, it is just not a solid state dimmer.

I would say the device in the picture has been called a 'dimmer' longer than solid state dimmers have been around.

IMO that is a 'dimmer' and a solid state device is more of a 'pulser'. [Linked Image]


Bob Badger
Construction & Maintenance Electrician
Re: Dimmer #153150
05/07/06 08:49 AM
05/07/06 08:49 AM
pauluk  Offline
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,520
Norfolk, England
It appears that Luxtrol variacs are still made in a very similar style:

Re: Dimmer #153151
05/07/06 10:26 AM
05/07/06 10:26 AM
Rewired  Offline
Joined: Jan 2006
Posts: 558
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
I actually have a few of those kicking around, but of a different style and operating mechanism, same manufacturer... The ones I have came out of my old highschool and were mounted on massive racks and used to control all the stage lighting.. They were operated with mechanical linkages that ran from the variac to the front of the rack where someone stood and operated the handles...
They also had motor driven variacs up in the loft that controlled the auditorium lights and were operated via a pair of pushbuttons in the projection room.
All that was ripped out in favour of 2
"black boxes" that did the job of that big rack, and was all controlled from a table -top control board that could be plugged in several locations in the autitoriom... Gotta love modern technology eh!!

Re: Dimmer #153152
05/07/06 05:35 PM
05/07/06 05:35 PM
mamills  Offline
Joined: Nov 2001
Posts: 745
Wharton, Texas, USA
This is indeed a variable autotransformer (a D-2000) manufactured by the Superior Electric Co. - in wiring, it's coil is connected between a hot leg and neutral, and a sliding contact taps off the desired load voltage. It can handle any load up to its maximum rating of about 2000 watts. I've also seen these in use in many locations - theater stage lighting switchboards with a rack and pinion gear operating mechanism, single dimmers such a this one with a large operating knob, and single and multiple (stacked) models operated with a gear-reduction electric motor from a remote location. Our community theater here uses two of these D-2000's to control the auditorium lights, operated by a pair of momentary contact SPDT switches backstage and in the lighting/sound control room.

Mike (mamills)

[This message has been edited by mamills (edited 05-07-2006).]

Re: Dimmer #153153
05/07/06 11:14 PM
05/07/06 11:14 PM
mxslick  Offline
Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 803
Atomic City, ID USA
Check out this thread:

..and the others of the same titles for more fun dimmer stuff!!

Stupid should be painful.
Re: Dimmer #153154
05/08/06 11:14 AM
05/08/06 11:14 AM
Gus99  Offline
Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 24
Los Angeles, CA
Yes, this is an autotransformer and does a true voltage reduction.

A solid state SCR dimmer does not really lower the voltage. It is a simple RC delay circuit that delays the SCR turn on somewhere into the sinewave cycle. This lowers the effective energy available to the lamp filament but doesn't lower the voltage per se. Of course turning the SCR on during the falling curve of the sine wave does in fact present an effectivily lower voltage.

The efficiency here is that the SCR is a switch and is either full on or off so no energy is wasted as would be in a resistive dimmer. There is a 0.7v drop across an SCR and that's why the need heatsinking. Do the math - 0.7v drop at several amps is still a bit of heat generated.

Autotransformers are somewhat less efficient buy very electrically quite. Solid state dimmers throw out both RFI and EMI. In recording studios, TV control rooms, etc you will often find Variacs on the lights. Solid state dimmers are still verboten wherever high quality audio is recorded.

*Note for purposes of this discussion an SCR and TRIAC are the same thing.

[This message has been edited by Gus99 (edited 05-08-2006).]

Re: Dimmer #153155
03/02/07 02:24 AM
03/02/07 02:24 AM
noderaser  Offline
Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 404
Portland, Oregon, United State...
You can still rent old Luxtrol units like this one (although probably "newer", from the 50s or 60s) from a lot of entertainment/stage lighting companies. We have two of them in the booth on our mainstage at Portland State.

I've also seen a few that allow you to adjust the output voltage, up to 150 volts or so. They are commonly used on followspots to give the spot an extra "kick", even though it results in significantly decreased lamp life.

I always understood that they were only to be used with the control knob in the "up" positon.

Re: Dimmer #153156
03/02/07 06:46 AM
03/02/07 06:46 AM
Texas_Ranger  Offline
Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 2,441
Vienna, Austria
We had things like that in our school labs.
The tables had a trunk with special plugs and you could plug in whatever box you wanted. Three boxes I particularly remember: 220V AC 50 Hz, 16A (i.e. 6 standard Schuko receptacles and a circuit breaker, and IIRC banana jacks), 0...220V DC 10A and the biggest one, 0...220/380V 3ph AC with a variable transformer. Once we used that beast to recreate the old 127/220V 3 phase system... well more or less accidentally. We got 3 capacitors and were told to adjust the voltage to get the nominal current of 1A... and they were built for 220V line voltage, so whe we just watched the amp meter we accidentally got the right voltage.

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