Saving money sometimes means coming up with an unconventional idea to make your life more efficient. As such, one of the ways the best Baltimore electrician can help you make your electrical system more efficient is also one of the more overlooked ways: installing timers to control your lighting. Timers are great tools. They can be used to turn your lights on and off at any time, whether you’re home or not and much more. Besides keeping your house lit when you’re on vacation or controlling your Christmas lights or other holiday displays, there are plenty of other applications for timers too. For instance, why not set a timer to control all the lights in your house? By setting the lights to turn off after you’re normally in bed, lights that you might have mistakenly left on will turn off, saving you money. You can also set your lights to come on when you wake up in the morning, making it easier for you to wake up! (This makes a great backup alarm clock, by the way.) You can turn your lights off when you’re gone at work, or turn them on during the day to give your pets light. There are two kinds of timers commonly used in home systems: mechanical and digital timers.
Digital timers are a great tool for the modern home. They fit elegantly into your wall and are automated in a lot of ways; some even adjust themselves for daylight savings time automatically! Even better, digital timer installation is pretty straightforward even for the do-it-yourself electrician. However, remember that a digital timer is not a switch; because of the sensitive electronics inside, digital timers require a neutral wire that switches do not. When I get called to deal with digital timer issues, they’re largely caused by the homeowner neglecting this fact or not considering it. Some do-it-yourself electricians think they can just wire the neutral on the timer into the ground wire. Let me be clear here, folks: a ground wire is NOT a neutral, and wiring it into the timer that way will create an electrical shock hazard potential and damage the timer.
The other concern with digital timers is more of a design issue than a wiring issue, thankfully. Before you go through with the timer installation, consider where it will be located and what kind of switches you have at the site. This is important when the time comes to finish the work; most switch assemblies (and the switch plates that cover them) are rectangular. But digital timers are pretty uniformly square objects, and they don’t always play nice with your existing switch plates. If you don’t plan ahead, you might wind up having to make multiple trips to your hardware store or home improvement warehouse of choice to get the plates you need to make everything fit together. This is actually one of those times where a professional installation can make your life easier: the best Maryland electrician will carry multiple types of plates in his service truck, which saves you the time and effort of going back to the store over and over. Even though a professional installation may be more expensive than doing it yourself, the time and effort you save may well more than cover the difference in price.
Mechanical timers are also really useful tools, although they’re a bit less common than the digital timers. Mechanical timer installation generally occurs in one of several places. Mechanical timers are most often found controlling swimming pool equipment to ensure it only runs for a given amount of time. Make sure the timer is set to allow the equipment to run more often in summer than winter; this will help reduce the amount of algae in your pool. Electrical timers are also pretty common for outdoor lighting; since they can be set to only turn lights off, you can make sure your outdoor lighting is off before sunrise to conserve power. One of the best and most overlooked uses for mechanical timers has nothing to do with lights, though. Attaching a timer to your water heater means you can keep the heater from running when you’re not home and don’t need hot water; this can be a HUGE saving (though don’t forget to override the timer if you’re home from work for the day!).
What’s the difference between the timers? Not as much as you might think, actually; they both work the same way, and can perform the same functions. Mechanical timers tend to be larger, last longer, and can handle more electrical load than a digital timer. However, electrical timers tend to be designed as large, grey, metal boxes, which may stick out quite a bit in your home decor. Digital timers can be built right into the wall, and their smaller size and more aesthetic designs may make them a better fit for your home. Either way, timers are a great asset, and one you should consider installing in your home electrical system.
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