Digital Timer: Review & Recommendations

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Not every device has to be connected to the power supply continuously, not every device has to run all day. Unplugging such devices when you don’t need them is quite tedious. Especially digital time switches offer a remedy here, as they can be used for the individual control of several devices.

With our large Digital Timer Test 2020 we would like to help you to distinguish the digital timers on the market by means of numerous information, advantages and disadvantages. We want to make your purchase decision as easy as possible and make sure that you can find the right model of digital timer for you.

The most important facts in brief

  • Digital timers can help you reduce your power consumption by limiting power to unused devices for periods of time that you can program.
  • You can identify three types of digital timers, named after how and where they need to be mounted. There are digital surface-mounted timers, digital flush-mounted timers and digital timers for the wall socket.
  • Numerous functions and features ensure that you can buy a digital timer that is perfectly tailored to your needs.

Digital timer test: Favourites of the editorial staff

  • The best digital surface-mounted timer
  • The best digital in-wall timer
  • The best digital timer for the socket
  • The best digital timer for outdoor use

The best digital surface-mounted timer

This model of a digital timer is placed on the plaster of a wall and convinces by its handy size of about 4 x 7 cm and therefore inconspicuousness. It has a backlit LCD display and a built-in battery, so that even after a power failure you can still access the 28 stored programs that last up to a week.

Are you looking for a simple and unobtrusive digital surface-mounted timer that allows you to coordinate the use of a device? You won’t go wrong with this device.

The best digital in-wall timer

The GAO EFP700ET is a digital timer for flush mounting in plain white. You can plan up to 140 weekly programs with it, it has a random mode and a countdown function. It also has an on/off switch that allows you to manually switch a device on or off. The time can be displayed in twelve or 24 hours.

This timer is suitable for the comfortable control of one of your devices. With the hidden control buttons, you can be sure that the settings are only made by you.

The best digital timer for the socket

Random mode, 12/24 hour display, summer time and winter time, up to ten programs. These are the most important functions of this digital timer from the RATEL company, which is simply plugged into the socket to activate it. A device or a multiple plug can be plugged into the socket of this timer, which allows several devices to be controlled.

If you would like to control your devices without complicated installation on or in the plaster, this timer is a good option. Its LCD display is illuminated and a built-in battery ensures that your stored programs are retained even in the event of a power failure.

The best digital timer for outdoor use

Splash guard, waterproof. These are the characteristics of this outdoor timer from Rev. Up to 20 switching times can be programmed, these can be aligned to days, weekends, weeks or months. A countdown function is included.

This digital timer for outdoors has another advantage: it is kept in plain camouflage colours so that it should not be visible to thieves. If you want to light up something outside your home, this model is perfect!

Guide: Questions to consider before buying a digital timer

What is a digital time switch and what is it used for?

With a digital timer – also known as a “power timer” – you can control the operation of a device by turning on the power at certain programmable times and turning it off at other times.

If, for example, you want the lamp at your house entrance to burn only at night, you can program the timer to run from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. and thus establish a complete circuit only during this period.

During our research we could find the following typical target devices for digital timers: Lighting, pool pump, circulation pump, distributor installation, circulation pump, heating and fuse box.

When is a digital time switch useful?

A digital timer makes sense if you want to limit the power flow of a device, i.e. if there are devices that should not be in continuous operation.
An intermediate timer can, for example, ensure that the floor heating in the living room does not run unnecessarily at night.

What does a digital time switch cost?

The price of digital timers varies depending on what they are to be used for.
To find the one that suits you best, you can roughly use the following subdivision:

Where can I buy a digital timer?

Your first port of call for digital time switches are DIY stores and specialist retailers for electronics.
The following sites are among the most popular online shops for digital time switches:

www.aldi.de
www.amazon.de
www.bauhaus.de
www.conrad.de
www.hagebaumarkt.de
www.hellweg.de
www.hornbach.de
www.saturn.de

Well-known manufacturers for time switches are Brennenstuhl, Chilitec, Globus, Grundig, Hellweg, Intertek, Jerrybox, Lumatek, Jumbo, Novkit, Quigg, Rev, Revolt, Siemens, Theben and Unitec.

What are the alternatives to a digital time switch?

With the mechanical analog timers you can also look for the forerunner of the digital timer. Unlike digital timers, you have to wind up analog timers for their usability, similar to an egg timer or an old pocket watch without battery.
In the following Instagrampost you can see such an analog timer:

You might also consider purchasing devices that can be controlled via Smart Home or a special app for that device to limit the time they are used. This requires that you can connect the devices to the wireless network or the LAN network.

Can the power supply for a device be regulated manually despite a digital timer?

Yes, manual current control is possible with most digital time switches.
For this purpose, many models have an “On/Off” switch that you can press while the timer is connected or plugged in to use (ON) or disconnect (OFF) your devices regardless of stored programs.
If you have the need to have such an “On/Off” switch, you should look for digital timers with this function before buying.

How high is the power consumption of a digital time switch?

Assuming that your digital timer is plugged in all day and all year round, you can expect to use between one and three watts of power per day, depending on the technology installed and how many times a day it is used to activate and deactivate devices.
The following overview shows you what this power consumption looks like calculated for one week, one month and one year:

If you would like to use a particularly energy-saving digital timer, it is worth taking a look at the energy efficiency class indicated.

Many manufacturers also give a value for how many watts their timer needs in standby mode during a certain period.

Decision: What types of digital timer are there and which one is right for you?

Digital timers can be distinguished according to their installation type, which results in three types:

  • Digital surface-mounted timers
  • Digital flush-mounted timers
  • Digital time switches for sockets

Each species has different advantages and disadvantages. These we would like to explain to you in more detail.

What distinguishes surface-mounted time switches and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

Surface-mounted timers can be set “on the wall”, hence their name. So after installation they are clearly visible raised from the wall.

Typical uses for surface-mounted timers are as controls for underfloor heating or for electric roller shutter lifters.

Advantages

easy installation without intervention in the wall
easy repair and replacement

Disadvantages

Visibility outside the wall
Space in the wall must be available

Surface-mounted timers are also required for distribution board installation; these are often mounted on a DIN rail. On the following instagram photo you can see a top hat rail in the background:

What distinguishes flush-mounted time switches and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

Flush-mounted timers are installed “under the plaster”, although you will also see them outside the wall. Unlike surface-mounted timers, however, they only stand out as high as a light switch.

Advantages

low profile
Manipulation by unauthorized persons difficult to impossible

Disadvantages

Assembly, repair and replacement costly
Space in the wall must be available

What makes socket outlet timers stand out and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

The name speaks volumes here, too: digital timers for the power outlet simply have to be plugged into them to make them work. You can use them for Christmas lights or an aquarium pump.

Advantages

no assembly necessary
simple usage

Disadvantages

jamming of an outlet
only units with mains plug adjustable

Purchase criteria: You can compare and evaluate digital timers based on these factors

Besides the question of what kind of digital timer you need, you should also consider some other criteria.

Not only to gain knowledge about how to use timers, you can precisely narrow down which timers you are looking for, making the purchase decision even easier.

We as editors consider the following criteria to be important:

  • Functions and features
  • Suitability for outdoor use
  • Type and number of programmes
  • number of channels

We will explain the details of our purchase criteria to you in the following.

Functions and features

Digital time switches are available in many types and variants. However, you can identify some functions and features that are often found. These functions will help you to decide which digital timer is suitable for your project.

The most important functions are:

  • Bluetooth: you can find Bluetooth enabled timers that can be programmed from an app via Bluetooth. Many timers can also be upgraded with a Bluetooth receiver.
  • Countdown timer: with a countdown function you can determine that a device should work after a certain time (e.g. in ten minutes).
  • Twilight switch: there are timers that can help you control the power supply to a device depending on a certain brightness level. This function is also called astro program (see programs).
  • Dimmer: a digital timer with dimmer allows you to control the brightness of lamps in steps. A prerequisite for this is that the bulbs and lamps are dimmable.
  • Remote control: there are timers that allow you to control them by remote control.
  • Radio controlled clock: if you want to make sure that the time of your timer is accurate to the second, make sure that it is a radio controlled clock.
  • Interval: if your timer has the option of interval switching, you can close the circuit for certain intervals, for example to start an aquarium pump every 20 minutes.
  • LCD display: most digital timers have an LCD display that allows you to view the times to be set and can also be backlit.
  • Network: If you want to connect your timer to a LAN network or WLAN, you should make sure that it is network-compatible. This is not the case with every digital timer.
  • Programs: with programs (or schedules) you can store in your timer when you want a device to operate for up to a year in advance.
  • Timer: you need a timer function to allow the power supply only during a certain period of time. The term “timer” usually refers to short periods of a few minutes or hours.
  • Waterproof: the fact that your timer is waterproof is especially important if you want to use it outdoors. However, this is not the only feature required for outdoor use. You can find more detailed information in the “Purchase criteria” section.
  • Random mode: with this mode – also called Random – the function of a device can be enabled at random intervals. You can use this, for example, if you are on holiday and need to have the lights on in your home from time to time to protect against burglars.

Suitability for outdoor use

In your search for suitable digital timers, you should be clear about where you want to use the timer. Because it applies:

You should not use digital timers, which are only intended for indoor use, outdoors, as they usually have no protection against cold and moisture and can cause short circuits and fire if exposed to cold and moisture.

It is also advisable to store the timers in the house when they are not needed.

Type and number of programmes

You can also distinguish the models of digital timers according to the type of programs they have. This is especially useful if you already know how precisely you want to plan the running time of your devices.

Here is a list of the common programs and short explanations:

To give you a feeling for how a digital timer is programmed, we have selected an exemplary video for you:

The number of programs should also play a role in your decision. There are timers where you can only store one program for all devices you may have connected to it. Other models offer the possibility to switch a separate program for each device.

number of channels

Channels related to a digital timer are the inputs and outputs that can be used to connect to a device that you want to control with the digital timer. So the more channels a timer has, the more devices you can control.

As a rule, the number of channels increases with the number of programs you can store in a digital timer – after all, you should be able to program special times for each device.

Channels are particularly important for surface-mounted and flush-mounted timers. Socket outlet timers usually have only one possibility (a socket) to control a device via it.

Trivia: Worth knowing facts about the digital time switch

Is there a power reserve with digital time switches?

Yes, digital time switches also usually have a power reserve, even if this differs in its meaning from the power reserve of an analogue time switch…

The power reserve for digital time switches is the time that a digital time switch continues to run even after the power supply has been cut off, for example due to a power failure.

There are digital timers that can continue to run for up to six hours after a power failure.

This is made possible by small batteries that are built in for emergencies. In this way, stored times are not deleted.

These emergency batteries are usually button cells with limited life. You should replace them from time to time to ensure that they will work in case of a power failure.

You should also keep in mind that if you deliberately disconnect your timer from the mains, it may run on its power reserve for some time, thereby draining the battery a little. If you want to prevent this, you can easily remove the button cell.

How do I connect a digital timer?

The connection of a digital timer is different depending on the type and model. Digital timers for power sockets are simply plugged into the socket and can then be programmed.

The steps are similar for surface-mounted and flush-mounted timers, so you can work out a rough flow chart.

Heads up! The connection of surface-mounted and flush-mounted time switches should always be carried out by electricians, as they have a high level of expertise and are better able to assess dangers and risks than laymen.

    Disconnect power: at the beginning of the installation it is important that the power supply is disconnected in the room or area where you want to install a timer. To do this, make sure that the appropriate fuses in your fuse box are set to “Off”.
    Socket and wiring: if you have not already done so, you will need to install a surface or base socket into which the base part (the rear part) of your timer can be inserted. This is followed by the cabling, which you should follow the operating instructions of your timer.
    Fasten the cover: once you have completed the wiring, you can attach the cover, i.e. the “top” of your digital timer. This is the part that you will see from the front later.
    Programming: if you have successfully completed the previous steps, the next step is to save the desired programs in the digital timer. You can find out exactly how this works in the operating instructions of your device.

How can I change the summer time and winter time of my digital timer?

The time after which your digital timer operates should of course correspond to the applicable summer or winter time, so that you can control devices as you wish.

For changing from daylight saving time to winter time and vice versa, many timer models have setting options that allow you to easily switch between daylight saving time and winter time.

If your digital timer is a radio-controlled clock, you don’t have to worry about changing the time – the radio-controlled clock will adjust to the current time all by itself and take over your saved times to the new time!

What are common causes for non-functioning digital time switches?

Surely it is quite annoying when your timer does not work. However, there are some things you can check out before you have to go the way of buying a new watch.

We have compiled a list of common problems and causes for a non-functioning digital timer for you:

  • Power supply interrupted: if the devices controlled by the timer also do not work, this may indicate a lack of power supply. Check that the wiring has been done correctly. If in doubt, you should consult an electrician.
  • Incorrect connection: another reason why your digital timer does not display anything could be that it was connected incorrectly. Check the manual to make sure that you have followed all the steps correctly.
  • Overvoltage after power failure: it can happen that your timer was under overvoltage for a short time when the power came back due to a power failure. If this happens, the timer is most likely broken.

You can see an example of a repair of a digital timer in the following video:

You should only carry out the repair if you have great expertise.

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