How to Set a Light Timer

One example of a timer switch for lights, sitting on its side.
  • 1 hours
  • Beginner
  • 15
What You'll Need
Manual or digital timer
What You'll Need
Manual or digital timer

Conserving energy is good for the environment and easy on your wallet, so when you have problems with high electric bills, consider putting in timer switches to be sure you’re never wasting electricity. If you’ve installed a light timer, yet setting it still seems to be a confusing task, this article can help you out.

Step 1 - Plug the Timer In

Make sure the timer is plugged in and that the light or appliance attached to it is working; replace any blown bulbs.

Step 2 - Check for the Correct Mode

There are two modes to a manual timer: on and “T” (for timer). In the "on" position, the power will bypass the timer, leaving the lights on like an ordinary switch. Obviously this is intended for cases in which your normal routine is disrupted and your usual settings no longer apply, such as when you're entertaining company. However, in order for the timer settings to be changed, it needs to be in "T" mode.

Step 3 - Set the Timer

For a manual timer equipped with push-in tabs, there's a dial as the main body of the switch and a pointer on the dial. Rotate the dial so that the pointer’s direction corresponds to the current time. So if your current time is 5 p.m., for example, then match 5 p.m. on the dial to the pointer. Some timer dials will show 24-hour time as opposed to a.m. and p.m., times, so adjust accordingly if yours is one like this. Then, push down the tabs for the hours during which you want the power to be active.

The other tabs should remain up, so the light will remain off at these times. For example, if you want the lights to be turned off from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., then depress all tabs between these two values and leave the rest alone. This way the lights will automatically turn on at 7 p.m. and turn off at 7 a.m.

There are also digital timer switches that will require you to program them in much the same fashion. Use the labeled buttons to change your days and times and set the hours you want the lights to be on. Since there are many manufacturers for these kinds of switches, you should consult the instructions included with the device if you're having trouble programming your switch.

Step 4 - Test the Settings

In order to confirm that the manual timer is set correctly, turn the dial to see if the lights flip on and off as they’re supposed to, and at the right times. If not, return all the tabs to their original position and start the previous step over. Do this as many times as necessary, until you can get your settings exactly how you want them.

When your test is successful, don’t forget to reset the dial pointer back at the current time so that the timer can begin operating normally.

For a digital timer switch, you can conduct your test similarly, by reprogramming the current time to the intervals at which you've set your lights to turn on or off. Then, reset the clock back to its correct time if your test is met with success.