Residential - Tips & tricks - Lights ont timers

Leaving your home over the holidays doesn’t mean it has to have that vacant look. A few well-placed timers can fool burglars into thinking it’s business as usual.

Are you one of those people who leave the lights on all the time while away, in the hopes of fooling burglars into believing there’s someone home? Big mistake! By doing so, you are clearly saying just the opposite. A better way to fool would-be thieves is to have lamps that light up by themselves every evening and at different times. If you want to give the impression that someone’s home even though you’re not, get yourself a few timers. They can be programmed to turn lights and a radio on and off when you want. So little money for a such effective protection (from $12 to $50)!

Choosing the kind that’s right for you
There are two basic types of timers. A mechanical timer plugs into a wall outlet, and you simply plug your lamp into it. They usually have dials on them that you use for setting the times. An electronic timer is installed in the wall, where a wall switch normally goes. One problem with these is that some types of light bulbs are not recommended to be used with them. Check before buying to make sure that the bulbs in your home are compatible.

Mechanical or electronic, these two kinds of timers do get the job done. It’s important to choose a timer with multiple programs so that you can have lights turn on and off at different times of day to give the impression that people are coming and going from the house. If you’re away for a long period of time, choose a timer that has different settings for each day of the week. As a rule of thumb, program your timers to switch lights and the radio on and off at the times you would normally do it if you were there yourself.

Also on the market are photoelectric lighting controllers that turn lights on and off according to the brightness of the ambient light: the lights come on at sunset and go off at sunrise. While these are simple in that you never have to program them, they’re not too highly recommended because they’re predictable.

Whichever kind you choose, make sure you have a manual override so that you can switch lights on and off yourself without affecting the programs. Where possible, use timers that are unaffected in the event of a power failure.

And don’t wait till the last moment to program them: try them over a 24-hour period well ahead of time to make sure they’re working the way you expect – the electronic ones in particular can be tricky. Then you can take off with peace of mind.

Thanks to Daniel Martin of Tandem Montréal and Maurice Cohen of the Union Luminaires et Décor for their invaluable cooperation.

By Jacqueline Simoneau

Translated by John Woolfrey