Introduction: How to Use an Automatic Outlet Timer (Great for Hydroponics)
Forewarning: this is my first Instructable, so I'm just getting the hang of it. Any tips to make it better would be appreciated.
An automatic outlet timer is a great thing to have if you have any setup for plants. Whether your timer is digital or mechanical, like the one in this Instructable, it does the same thing - turn on/off a light at designated times. I personally have a bonsai tree that I've grown (pun intended) to love. I currently use this light for my bonsai because I live in Texas, where it is easily 100 degrees in the afternoons. This scorching temperature would be harmful for my bonsai, as well as the cold in the winter. I don't have a window to place it in where it would get adequate sunlight either, so I've opted for an LED light. Previously I would turn it on when I woke up and turn it off when I went to sleep but after forgetting a few too many times I decided to get an outlet timer. Note - I have been using this LED light for several months now and my bonsai tree has been doing just fine.
Step 1: Setting the Current Time
Bust out the flamethrower, bolt cutters, or whatever you use to open these annoying plastic packages.
Now that you have the timer out of the plastic, it's time to set the current time. First, you see that little triangle at about halfway between 14 and 13? That's where you'll set the current time. The dial on the outside rotates so that you can align the current time to the triangle. Unfortunately the dial's time is on a 24 hour system, so you'll have to think a little bit. There's three places between the hours which increase by 15, so you can only set the time to 6:00, 6:15, 6:30, 6:45. 7:00, 7:15, etc. For example. if it's 4:10 PM, add 12 hours. 4+12 =16, so you'll rotate the dial to 16 and then add 15 minutes to round for those 5 minutes.
Once you have the time set, you're on to the next step.
Step 2: Programming the Timer
Now, if you're not a coding wizard (like myself) don't freak out. This isn't a timer that requires computer coding. In fact, it's actually quite simple.
You'll see the black ring on the timer; if you don't know how this black ring works, you'll be wanting to pull your hair out. Again, don't freak out. The black ring is divided into 15 minute sections, so there's 4*24= 96 little parts that make up that black ring. All you have to do is depress one of the 15 minute sections if you want the timer to power whatever device you're using (in this case, a light). So, if you want the light to be on from 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM, just depress all of the 15 minute sections from those two times. You might want to use a screwdriver or something if you don't have long fingernails. I found that my timer kind of hung up when I tried to depress multiple sections at a time, so you might just have to depress every one of them individually. IMPORTANT NOTE: the timer will not reset every day, so when you "program" the timer, it will stay that way until you change it, whether that be 5 days from setting it or 50 days. Also an important note, the timer does not make any clicking noises or anything, as you might suspect by the word that is often times used to describe this type of timer - mechanical.
So, to make it simple, depress the 15 minute sections if you want the light on for that time. If you want the light to be off, leave the sections up.
Now that you have the timer "programmed," you'll want to focus on the switch that is found on the side of the timer. ON means that the timer will function as a timer, whereas OFF means that the timer will not function as a timer and will simply bypass the timer and power the device 24 hours a day. Are you getting tired of reading the word timer?
Step 3: "Time" to Put It to Good Use
Now that you've "programmed" it, you're ready to start using it. Just plug the timer into the desired outlet and then plug your device (in my case a light) into the timer. In the first photo, you can see that the timer was set to be off at that time, while in the second it was set to be on. Now you no longer have to turn it on and off when needed and risk forgetting about it. This timer was only about $8 on eBay and will save me a lot of hassle.
I hope this Instructable helps you. Like I said, feel free to give me any tips to improve this Instructrable and my future ones. I have entered this 'able into the Automation contest because I feel that this timer automates an indoor growth setup for plants as far as lighting is concerned. I have also entered it into the Beyond the Comfort Zone contest because I'm normally not the type of person to automate things, but I'm glad that I purchased the timer after all. Though this is a very small automation project, I enjoyed doing it and now I am more interested in automation and understand all the rave of automating things. I've used the timer for about a week now and it has been very beneficial.