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Lights and Electrical Timers

One of the greatest uses for lights arrives every year around Christmas: decorative lights! But even Christmas lights shouldn’t be lit at all times. Constantly running your lights can become a huge drain on your utility bill during the already expensive winter months. At the same time, you should never leave your light display running when you aren’t actually at home. The possibility of a fire due to heating or damaged wires is something that should be kept in mind. So leaving your lights running while you’re absent or asleep can be dangerous.

Lighting Timers

So if you shouldn’t leave your lights running all the time and you don’t to worry about having to remember to turn them on or off every day, what should you do? An electrical timer is the answer you’re looking for.

Timers make regulating the on and off cycles of any electrical device or system extremely simple.
In fact, timers are an essential part of a fully automated smart home. They come in multiple types, styles, an functions. The classic types of timers are:

  • Mechanical
  • Electrical
  • Astronomic
  • Digital

Astronomic and digital timers are actually subsets of the first two and deal more with how the timer is programmed. The differences in mechanical and electric timers are simply in how they count the passage of time. The main thing to take away here is that you want to pick your timer based on functionality.

Mechanical and electric timers allow you to set a time duration. You set how long the timer
will run for before it disconnects. Often it requires that the timer be reset or reactivated after the time
has elapsed, though many of them can be set to a recurring “on for this amount of time, then off for a new duration.” Or you can take things a step further with programmable timers. Digital controls allow for more accurate control based on times and calendar dates. While an astronomic control timer allows you set things based on seasons or day and time cycles. Depending on the granularity of control you need, there’s a timer that fits.

Then again there’s a matter of scale. Many of these timers are great for outdoor lighting controls, since they can handle a great deal of power flowing through them, but you don’t need the same level of impact if you’re just lighting up an indoor Christmas tree. For small tasks, plugin wall-timers are a good choice. They’re simple to use and a great way to make sure that the lights are
off when you leave a room.


So why do you want to turn off lights when you aren’t there? For one thing, you can’t see them if you’re asleep or gone for the day. You may want to share your lights for the late night wanderers through the streets, but it’s not exactly worth leaving your lights on after 2 AM.

Long strings of incandescent lights can have a substantial impact on your utility bill. Individual
lights may not require much power, but a strand of 100 bulbs can be up to 40 or 50 Watts. Each additional strand will not only increase the total, but will also reduce the individual efficiency of
each light strand. LED lights are better, but the energy costs will still compound. Leaving those lights on all night for three months will get expensive.

Fire dangers are another issue with leaving lights unattended. Water damage, frayed cables,
stripped insulation, and loose connections are all possibilities as the winter season moves along. Anyone one of these can lead to overheating, especially if the cables become insulated behind a layer of snow. While fires shouldn’t be a problem, it’s better to be safe than sorry. An electrical
timer removes the need to remember to turn off your lights before bed (or to turn them on when the sun goes down).

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For more information on home and business electrical inspections, visit Mainstream Electric online.