written by: Brekke Bounds•edited by: BStone•updated: 6/17/2010
Using programmable timers in the home is a great way to save energy and money. Learn fundamental information about energy saving timers to get started with your own light timer.
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Light timers have several benefits when installed in a home or yard. First, they help to save energy by regulating the amount of time that the attached light is on. Because timers help to reduce the time that a light is in use they also can be great money savers. While the amount of money saved with a timer varies based on your use of the light and the wattage of the bulb, it is safe to say that most timers can pay for themselves with energy savings in one or two years. Having basic information about energy saving timers can help you make the right decision on how to set up your home system.
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Choosing the Right Timer
There are several types of light timers. Some timers are designed specifically for outdoor lighting, while others plug into an outlet inside your home. Still other options can actually be screwed into the wall and replace your standard light switch.
An outdoor timer will be clearly marked on the packaging to be for an outside light. The most important thing to look for in an outdoor switch is a watertight seal or other appropriate protection around the digital or mechanical display.
For indoor lights the considerations are primarily aesthetic. If you are planning to hide a timer behind a table or a couch, a large mechanical display may not be a problem. If you are going to have the timer be more visible or accessible a low-key digital display may be the way to go. Some of the nicest indoor timers are actually screwed directly into the light switch socket. Often they have more than one program option available and are equipped with a manual override switch so they can be used as a normal light switch if desired. The Aube by Honeywell is a great example of this type of timer.
Another concern when buying a light timer is that some timers are designed to work with many different lighting options while others are suited to only incandescent lights. If you are using compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs be sure to thoroughly read packaging before making your purchase.
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Installing and Using Your Timer
The more basic outdoor and indoor timer models are fairly easy to install as they just plug into existing electrical outlets in your home. More complicated versions may require the assistance of an electrician. If you do feel comfortable installing more complicated versions yourself please be sure to turn off the circuit breaker to that particular outlet before proceeding.
How you use the timer will depend on your particular needs. Read packaging for all instructional information on energy saving timers; decide what types of bulbs you want to use, and what options you will require — then go out and purchase what you need. Keep in mind that the simplest light timers will likely only have one or two settings that run every day. If you have more needs for your timer it might be best to invest in a digital timer with extensive setting options.