Red Seal Wiring and the Electric Service League 

Reprinted with permission from Toronto Hydro – March 1955

Ontario Hydro, 1953 - the signing of the Red Seal License

Sometimes a Hydro employee is asked about Red Seal wiring or The Electric Service League, and as the System has long been associated with this activity, it is desirable that all employees should know something about it.

Group promotion of better wiring in Toronto can be traced back to November 2, 1921, when the Toronto Hydro-Electric System wrote to The Society for Electrical Development, in New York, of which the System was a member, suggesting that they have their Canadian representative co-operate with electrical interests here in promoting what was referred to as the electric home idea. Their newly appointed Canadian representative was K. A. McIntyre, who had just left Toronto, where he had been in the electrical contracting business as a member of the firm of Beattie-McIntyre, Limited.

Many of the older employees will remember the Electric Home on Regal Road, the showing of which resulted from this start. It was sponsored by the electrical industry to call attention to the importance of good wiring. At the opening of the house Mr. P. W. Ellis, Chairman, Toronto Electric Commissioners, acted as a master of ceremonies. Mrs. John Bruce, President of the Women’s Canadian Club opened the door with a golden key presented to her by Mayor C. A. Maguire. In the period of 13 days, the home was visited by approximately 20,000 people. The visitors were conducted through the house in small groups, and, in each room were given a brief explanation of the wiring features.

The electrical appliances were supplied by the various sponsors and the house was completely furnished by the T. Eaton Company. Dealers, wiring contractors and the department stores reported many enquiries and sales as a result of the visits to the Electric Home.

Due to the success of this venture it was decided in 1923 to make the promotion of better wiring a continuing activity and the name of the sponsoring organization was changed from Electric Home League to Electric Service League. Under this set-up the System continued to give a generous measure of support financially, and in personnel. In 1946, the League has operated as the Electric Service League of Ontario.

George W. Austen was the first League Manager. He retired December 31, 1948, and was succeeded by John F. Mowat.

At first there was a good deal of difference of opinion as to the desirable size of service, and the number of receptacles and other outlets. This led to a certain amount of confusion and it was to overcome this difficulty that Mr. Austen originated the Red Seal plan. In brief, this plan called for the establishing of a definite minimum standard of wiring, determined by the Board of the League and based on carefully considered recommendations of the electrical industry, including provincial and all local Hydro’s, electrical manufacturers, distributors, contractors and dealers. Any house in which the wiring was up to the standard was classed as a Red Seal house and was certified as such by having a decalcomania Red Seal placed on the switch box.

It might be pointed out here that the Red Seal has nothing to do with inspection for safety by the Ontario Hydro. The interest of the League is to help in getting efficient use of electricity at each outlet, and to encourage the installation of a sufficient number of switches and receptacles so that electric lamps and appliances can be used more conveniently. The inspection by Ontario Hydro is to see that proper attention has been paid to the Code as set up for the protection of life and property.

The Red Seal idea was hailed as an important promotional plan and Mr. Austen received a good deal of very favourable publicity for having introduced it. The Society for Electrical Development was so interested that they introduced the plan in the United States, and under a license from the Toronto League they were permitted to authorize better wiring groups in that country to use the Red Seal emblem if they would undertake to use it only where the wiring was up to the approved standard.

Some changes have been made from time to time in the standards as new appliances and wiring devices have become available. There have also been some changes made in the wording on the seal but all through the years of its use the shape of the seal has not changed. The rights to the seal are owned by the League, which has legal protection for the words “Red Seal” and the ten-point red start [sic] seal design.

The Red Seal “standard” is regularly referred to by the League as a minimum requirement, and efforts are made to show builders and others the desirability of getting added convenience by wiring beyond the required minimum. The Red Seal plan, however, assures the purchaser of a “Red Seal” house that reasonable attention has been paid to the importance of the wiring layout.

The minimum requirements for Red Seal approval and a number of recommendations for greater convenience and efficiency in the use of electrical equipment are set out in pamphlet available from the League Office. In this pamphlet the League offers to provide:

  • Free home wiring and lighting information. 
  • Assistance in planning the location of outlets and wall switches on your blueprints.
  • A check on the adequacy of the wiring in any home you build or buy. 
  • Certification with a Red Seal on the main service box if the wiring meets the Red Seal Standard.

Employees who have taken advantage of the services offered by the League have ben very appreciative of the suggestions made, covering points which might otherwise have been overlooked. Your friends or relatives who look to Hydro employees for all kinds of electrical information would undoubtedly appreciate being advised of this service which the League gladly offers without any charge or obligation.

This article appeared in the June 2017 edition of Dialogue. Click here to view the magazine now.