Programmable light switch versus photocell

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Old 10-17-16, 07:52 PM
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Programmable light switch versus photocell

I want my front porch light to go on around dusk and off around dawn. But my front door light is under porch roof and faces east. I don't think a dusk to dawn photocell will work because location shaded most of the day and worse on overcast days. So considering a programmable switch for porch light. Just program time for light to come on and off. Would have to change programming periodically as time of sunrise and sunset changes by season. But thinking this is a better solution than a photocell that might keep light on most of the time.

This is the type of switch I am considering on Amazon.

Honeywell RPLS730B1000/U 7-Day Programmable Light Switch Timer
 
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Old 10-17-16, 08:19 PM
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You may want to look at timers that have dusk to dawn capability. You enter your time zone and they adjust automatically for dusk/dawn time as the year goes on. You can also enter an offset if you want it to go on a little before dusk or stay on after dawn. Here is an example:

GE 3-Way Sunsmart In-Wall Digital Timer-15312 - The Home Depot

They are flexible...you can set them to go on at dusk and off at a specific time, etc.

Just keep in mind that most of these type of timers require a neutral wire in the box; some homes may not have this, so you may want to look in your switch box to see if you have a neutral wire available.
 
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Old 10-17-16, 08:23 PM
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Here's another example...this one requires you to enter latitude and longitude rather than time zone:

https://www.amazon.com/Honeywell-Eco...Q0V6D5ND5&th=1
 
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Old 10-17-16, 08:29 PM
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A neutral wire is white? Then two wires, one for hot (red?) and one for ground?
 
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Old 10-17-16, 08:37 PM
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Neutral is almost always white. But....not every white wire is a neutral. If you open the switch box (shut off the power to that circuit first), and find only one romex cable with a white and a black wire (and bare ground), with both white and black going to switch, then the white wire is not a neutral.

If you find two cables with the whites tied together and the black from both cables going to the switch, then white is neutral.

You may also find a single cable with white, red, and black, with red and black going to switch and white going nowhere. Then white is neutral.

There are other possibilities, but those are the most common. If you have any doubt, post a picture or two showing the switch and wiring and we can help you tell if you have a neutral.

http://www.doityourself.com/forum/el...-pictures.html
 
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Old 10-17-16, 10:56 PM
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I highly recommend the GE sunsmart timer that Paul recommended in post 2.
I have installed many and all my customers are happy with the performance.
 
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Old 10-17-16, 11:05 PM
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I didn't realize there were switch timers with automatic time adjustments. Thanks for the suggestion. I will have to check my wiring tomorrow to see if I have a neutral wire at the switch box. If so, I will definitely buy that one. If I do not have a neutral wire at the switch, any suggestions of a switch timer that doesn't require neutral wire.
 
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Old 11-03-16, 10:22 AM
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Is this switch hot or not???

I want to work on this light switch that controls porch light. Need to find out if I have a neutral wire so I can installed a switch timer.

I turned off circuit breaker that controls all living room receptacle, ceiling light and fan, and porch light. My cable box and TV won't turn on, the lights and fan don't go on when switched and porch light doesn't go on when switched. But to be sure, I tried a noncontact AC/DC detector. Most places gave green light indicating no power. But put in one specific place (hard to find) and I get red light and beep indicating HOT wire.

The receptacles all show green.

So what is going on? Is it safe for me to work on this switch? See pics.
 
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Old 11-03-16, 10:59 AM
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That type of tester is not really all that reliable or useful as they can trip positive on all sorts of stray signals and voltages. Some people can make them ring just by holding them up to the large veins in their neck. A neon-bulb or solenoid tester will give you a much better result.

Given that you turned off the breaker it is probably OK to work in that box. The best test to do next is to carefully pull out the switches and do a follow-up test with a contact tester between the screw terminals and the metal box.
 
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Old 11-03-16, 11:04 AM
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Is this switch safe or still hot?

Ok. Finally figured out which circuit breaker to turn off so I can work on front porch light switch. All lights (including porch light), TV, cable box, and receptacles have no power. To be sure, I used a noncontact AC/DC detector for the light switch. It shows green meaning in most places, "no AC detected". But one specific place turns red and beeps meaning I have a hot wire. So what is going on?

Can I safely work on this switch?

As soon as I am able to pull out switch and see wires I can take photo to determine if a neutral wire is present or not. Need neutral wire to install timed switch.
 
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Old 11-03-16, 11:04 AM
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With multiple switches in a box, you are almost guaranteed to have a neutral bundle.
I recommend you shut off all electric to the house until repairs are made, it's easy and there are many reasons why one wire might be hot. Don't take chances.
 
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Old 11-03-16, 11:10 AM
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Then I should return dumb noncontact detector to big box store and buy contact version. Nobody told me the noncontact detectors would give false positives.

I guess I can turn off all power to house to be sure. Won't take too long and stuff in freezer won't melt.
 
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Old 11-03-16, 11:12 AM
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To be sure, I used a noncontact AC/DC detector for the light switch.
Non contact testers are little more then a toy. They will only confuse a novice. Use a multimeter or neon test light or a solenoid voltage tester.
 
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Old 11-03-16, 11:18 AM
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Then I should return dumb noncontact detector to big box store and buy contact version.
Best would be a analog, not digital, multimeter. A cheap, $8-$15 analog multimeter is all you need. Cheap digital multimeters are not as good because they can sometimes confuse a novice. Example: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Power-Gea...0952/203735783
 
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Old 11-03-16, 11:33 AM
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This is my favorite type of tester
GE 90-300 Volt Circuit Tester-52060 - The Home Depot

[ATTACH=CONFIG]72751[/ATTACH]

Easy to use, 100% accurate, and cheap!
 
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Old 11-03-16, 11:42 AM
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They're [non-contact testers] OK as a screening tester; I have one and use it regularly. It's just not the only tester you need. A simple two lead neon bulb tester is definitive and very straightforward to use.
 
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Old 11-03-16, 12:09 PM
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I have analog multimeter

Used it to test D/C batteries and circuit boards but never used on home electrical circuits. Has needle that shows volts or amps. I guess my cognitive abilities are offline. LOL
 
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Old 11-06-16, 02:15 PM
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My light switch timer arrived from Amazon today and ready to install. Pulled off wall plate and unscrewed the switch controlling porch light. None of the 3 switches in the gangbox are grounded (no wires to green ground screw on left). I put a piece of blue painters tape on the top wire as it is the same color as bottom wire on the porch light switch. The bottom wire on my light porch switch is connected to bottom of the middle switch which controls the ceiling light. Should each switch have its own load wire?

There is a bundle white wires joined together with wire cap. Are these my neutral wires?

There is a 3-stranded twisted copper wire covered in white paint you can see just above the. cluster of white wires capped together. I assume these are supposed to be the ground wires for the 3 switches. So should I ground the other two switches by splitting the 3-stranded copper wire covered in paint before I install my light switch. I believe the white wires connected together with wire cap are my unused neutral wires.
 
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Old 11-06-16, 05:22 PM
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There is a bundle white wires joined together with wire cap. Are these my neutral wires?
Yes.
So should I ground the other two switches by splitting the 3-stranded copper wire covered in paint before I install my light switch. I believe the white wires connected together with wire cap are my unused neutral wires.
No if I understand you. All grounds are connected together and pigtails are added to go to the switches.
 
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Old 11-06-16, 05:39 PM
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So it is ok for the two switches to be directly connected instead of using pigtail? When I put in new switch, should I pigtail them instead of direct connect as it is now?
 
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Old 11-06-16, 06:54 PM
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When I put in new switch, should I pigtail them instead of direct connect as it is now?
If "them" means the hot wire <Opinion> pigtails are easier to work with when putting the switches into the box than a continuous wire. Using a single wire though is also correct.
 
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Old 11-07-16, 06:52 AM
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Non contact voltage testers can be useful in some situations. I would rather that it gives false positives then deadly false negatives.
 
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Old 11-07-16, 06:57 AM
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I would rather that it gives false positives then deadly false negatives.
That is your choice just don't expect to solve your problems using it.
 
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Old 11-07-16, 03:05 PM
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Neutral wire problem??? Switch doesn't work

There were FOUR neutral wires bundled together in that wire nut. Not sure which one I should use to new timer switch.

This is a 3-switch gang box. The middle switch controls living ceiling light. The rightmost controls the porch light. I found a wire with four white wires I assumed were neutrals.

There are four 3-wire bundles in back of box at top. And a big fat 4-wire Romex enters the bottom.

The bare copper ground wires from bundles 2-4 look like they are soldered together to big copper cable in back at bottom. The ground wire from first bundle is cut back to cable sheath.

I am drawing a diagram for you to better explain what I see. Not easy to describe and photo too hard to see everything.
 

Last edited by femaleDIY; 11-07-16 at 04:11 PM.
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Old 11-07-16, 04:32 PM
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In the picture below, wires A are your neutrals. Connect the timer neutral to this bundle directly.
Wire C is your line (source hot), hook that to line of timer.
Wire B is load, the hot wire that feeds the porch light.

Name:  light%20switch.jpg
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See if that works, the grounds can be addressed later.
 
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Old 11-07-16, 05:18 PM
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I attached the correct hot and load wires to new switch as you specified. But I only connected one of the neutrals to new switch. I will try your suggestion and just put neutral from new switch with the bundle of neutrals in wire nut. See if that solves it. thanks
 
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Old 11-07-16, 05:39 PM
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But I only connected one of the neutrals to new switch.
As you learn more about wiring, you will learn the neutral in a circuit must always remain connected.
The best way to ensure the neutral is never broken is using a bundle.
 
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Old 11-07-16, 06:44 PM
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SUCCESS. All installed and programmed

Thanks so much for all your help. Very pleased I didn't have to hire a PRO for this install. I ended up with the HONEYWELL Econ because both Amazon & Home Deport didn't have GE Sunsmart.

But after reading reviews, a lot of users like this one better. You can program your exact longitude and Latitude so much more accurate than choose time zone. And some users reported the GE one losing 30 minutes every couple months.
 
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Old 11-07-16, 06:56 PM
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Good job! Thanks for letting us know.
 
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