Once the entire display is set up, there can always be the frustrating moment when you realize the work of turning everything on and off all season. Some frustrated decorators have even taken to leaving their lights on permanently until they burnout, rather than going out in snow and blistering cold winds. Do not fret, our commitment to helping you make the fastest, easiest, eye-catching display is unwavering. It will have to be noted at the outset that the faster and easier something becomes, the more the cost increases but we will endeavor to help you make the most economical choices in this area.
Note that, in my blogs, there are affiliate links to versions of the items I discuss. If you do purchase these products, I may get a commission to continue the work of inspiring people to light up the world.
Exterior Light Timer Types
The original kitchen timer was invented in 1926, and the subsequent ‘time switch’ that would allow things to turn off automatically after a set period of time was invented in 1945. Its application to holiday displays has been immeasurable as the ability to avoid going out in the elements can mean the difference in some deciding that perhaps, just that once, it might be ok to leave the lights off, and then the next night too, etc.
Pros of 2nd Generation Timers
These trailblazers in the technology have well earned the respect they are given, filling an important need, being able to slowly adapt to the times, and they are certainly the most economical. The most up to date versions in this area have made it so that you can customize the on and off times to 15-minute increments. I found this useful as I like to have my lights turn on at sundown, turn off around midnight when it would be extremely rare for anyone to see them, then turn on around 0530AM so that those getting up early for work can enjoy the brightness in the world, then shut off at sunup.
Cons Of 2nd Generation Exterior Light Timer
One of the issues with standard timers that I have found is the regular need to recalibrate them. Just as clocks need to be regularly wound back up and reset, you will have to fix the time on these regularly to ensure the lights and decorations come on at their assigned times. This may be due to them losing time naturally, due to defects in their mechanism, or due to the elements creating friction in the system. Note, this should not be an issue initially but do not expect to get more than a year in before it goes downhill. Furthermore, if the fuse is tripped, the timer’s internal mechanism will stop altogether which means the timer will have to be fully reset.
Another issue is that as the daylight hours change, the preset times do not make sense anymore. As sundown gets earlier, the preset time will have to be adjusted every single day to ensure my lights are on at dark and the morning turn off will have to be reset or I might be lighting up the already sunny day. These issues may not sound difficult and, if you’re able to manage keeping up with this, then this option may be ideal for you to save money, but I found the annoyance of having to consistently recalibrate a bit too much.
As illustrated in the photo, timers evolved to have both solar activation and remotes to help override. This past winter was the first time I upgraded from the standard exterior light timer to a solar one. The easy way that it fixed the problem of adjusting to sunup and sundown was quite lovely, but the problem is that I was unable to keep my routine of shutting it off for a portion of the night. The only choices were to have on all the time, only when it is dark, or turn on at dark and keep on for a preset time to a maximum of 8 hours.
My particular timer did not include the remote so I cannot speak to the ease there, but it does have the same settings on the remote as I referenced having on my timer. Overall, if you find the standard timer tolerable, this one should be delightful, and I did find you could slightly tweak things by placing it either closest to where the sun is going down or else putting it behind a garbage bin. Turning it on overnight automatically is simply not an option but this is the next most economical choice.
Closer to Christmas, last year, I decided to use up the rest of my decorations out on my back deck which meant I needed a second exterior light timer and decided to try out smart technologies, especially as my wife needed help having lights on for our chickens in their coop. Globe Suite was my case study as I have already had experience with them and have been happy with their products and App so far.
Negatives of Smart Timers
To start with the downsides, if you like hardware that you can manually affect, this will upset you as there is nothing to do outside of using the app which many would not like using an app, they need to load up on their phone each time they want to tweak things. Furthermore, I have noted in negative reviews of the product that customers develop lost hope that they can use the product for off label uses, i.e., making a light show by getting the app to start and stop the lights in a rhythm. The app is not capable of this as it has a delayed response of a couple of seconds which makes any sort of rhythm impossible.
Pros of Smart Timers
In response to the annoyances with using the App, it should be noted that the plus side of smart technologies is that, once programmed, you should not have to adjust the settings. Once I complete the video of how to use this, you can see if is for you as I will post here. Also, a technology only being usable for things it is made for is not a great argument.
On the plus side, if you have an Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri, they all easily link into Globe Suite’s app and will then make the entire thing voice operated. Note: the enunciation required by Alexa et. al, that experienced users of these products have come to be enraged by, will continue to be a problem. A big plus with this particular company, the app is highly programmable. I programmed it to turn on at dusk, off at midnight, on at 0500, and off at sunrise. It was able to respond easily, and also has a second plug which can be independently controlled as the aforementioned chickens needed a separate light schedule.
Are Smart Timers the Best Exterior Light Timers?
In comparison with the other ones, I found there were no issues with recalibration, tripped fuses did not affect it and the extreme level of customization was helpful for my neediness with the complicated schedule. Smart timers fit the ‘easy’ criteria of our mission, but the setup is not always fast as you work through the settings. It is the least economical of the choices above but still not terribly expensive. You can compare prices by looking at my links in each title. During storms, if you don’t want your inflatables buried (see my blog post), this may be the timer for you.