Outdoor Holiday Light Timers: How Do They Work?

After installing holiday lights, one of the most difficult tasks can be remembering to turn them on and off each day. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution.

Holiday light timers automate the process and allow you to turn your lights on/off, based on the time of day or at set intervals. When installing holiday lights, our light timers are a standard tool we utilize as they have numerous benefits for homeowners.

Types of Outdoor Light Timers

All timers work in the same way: You implement different time inputs and the timer automatically turns your holiday lights on or off. The three most common types of light timers used in holiday displays are:

Photocell Light Timers – Photocell timers have a light-sensing element that can tell the difference between light and dark. These timers will activate lights at dusk and allow you to choose an interval for how long they will stay on.

Time-Based Light Timers – These timers operate using an internal clock. Modern systems are typically digital timers. However, there are also mechanical timers, which use a rotary dial that’s similar to a kitchen timer clock. You are able to save programming settings and they’re one of the most reliable systems.

Astronomical Light Timers – This type of system is programmed to tell you when the sun will rise or set, and they operate similar to photocell timers. You can set them to turn your lights on at dusk, and then turn them off later in the evening or at dawn.

How do timers work? The majority of timers are plugged into the outlet that the lights will feed from and they include one or more input slots for different strands of lights. The holiday lights plug into the input slot on the timer or an extension cord connected to the timer. The timer will then trigger the lights on/off depending on the determined interval.

Benefits of Automatic Light Timers

The biggest benefits of mechanical holiday light timers are their user-friendliness. Once the timer is programmed, you can set-and-forget about your lights for the remainder of the season.

Other key benefits include:

Lower energy costs – For large-scale holiday lighting displays (business parks or extravagantly-decorated homes) a lighting timer will be more precise, and will reduce energy costs throughout the season.

Reducing hazards – Without a timer, lights can be left on and forgotten about. Leaving lights on for an extended period (longer than 24 hours) can reduce the life of the strand and could result in potential electrical misfires or hazards.

Easier management – For commercial displays, lighting timers can greatly reduce the need to manage the on/off schedule, making the holiday lights an effortless luxury.

Pro Tip. Although mechanical timers can save you time and provide peace of mind, they can become unsafe, if you’ve overloaded the timer. It’s common to connect too many strands, overloading the system. To ensure you don’t overload the system, don’t exceed the maximum rating for the unit.

Clean and Clear provides holiday lighting installation throughout the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Need help hanging lights on your home or business? Contact us today to learn more about our options!

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