How to set light timer switches

Updated July 20, 2017

Light timer switches are an excellent way to automatically turn on and off lights, appliances and other electronic devices. Not only are they handy and simple to use, but they also save electricity. There are many different types of timer switches on the market, but they all function in much the same way. Although they are relatively straightforward to operate, they may include some functions that are difficult to understand at first glance.

Plug your manual timer directly into a wall outlet. If the outlet is operated by a switch, make sure it is on.

Set the current time. Non-digital timers feature a large dial to denote the time of day. Spin the dial until the current time is approximated in the designated box. This process may differ depending on the brand of timer you have.

Set the desired time for the light to turn on. This area is sometimes designated with a coloured plastic key that fits in a slot. Place the key as close as possible to the time that you want your light to turn on.

Set the time for the light to turn off. Similar to the "on" time, this function generally uses a coloured plastic key. Set this key to the desired time. If there are more than two keys, you can set them to multiple on and off times within the same day.

Plug in the light to the timer, then switch the light on. If the light doesn't turn on, it's OK; the timer controls the electrical current and the light will come on when the timer allows.

Read the digital timer manual regarding how to access the functions menu. Digital timers offer greater flexibility and are more simple to use than traditional timers. Some even feature programmable schedules depending on the day of the week.

Enter the menu and set the "on" time. Unlike a manual timer, a digital model allows you to enter an exact time.

Set the "off" time. Again, access the menu to set this value to the desired time.

Set a schedule if desired. If your unit has this feature, it is usually located in the same menu where you set the on and off times.

Plug in the lamp, turn it on, and let the timer control the on and off function.


Not only are light timers a great way to save energy, they can also deter burglars while you're away. Use multiple digital timers and their scheduling features when you leave for a long trip, in order to change the on and off times slightly in different rooms.


If you're using a powerful light that draws a lot of power, the additional current can overload the timer and cause it to malfunction. To avoid this, buy a timer with a three-prong outlet. These timers are more heavy-duty and can handle larger lights and appliances.

Things You'll Need

  • Light timer
  • Wall outlet
  • Light or other electronic device
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About the Author

Aaron Wardell is a freelance writer, professional musician, audiophile, cell phone nut and computer geek. He holds a master's degree in vocal music performance from the University of Cincinnati. His true passions include anything related to classical vocal music and it's performance, including opera, oratorio and choral music.