Learn how to replace a regular light switch with a programmable timer switch so you can control your lights automatically! No special app, smart home device, or smartphone required!
If you hate fumbling for your keys in the dark when you’re trying to get into your home after work, try using a programmable timer switch so you can automatically control your lights! It is really simple to replace your regular light switch with a programmable switch so that you can schedule your lights to turn on and off automatically whenever you want, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And the best part is, you don’t need a separate app, a separate smart home device, or even a smartphone; you just need a few basic tools and a programmable timer switch!
(You can find a printable version of this tutorial at the bottom of this post.)
Before doing any electrical work, you ALWAYS need to shut off the electricity at the circuit breaker or fuse box! This is a very simple electrical project, but if you ever feel uncomfortable working near electrical wires, you can always call a professional and have them install it for you.
How To Install A Programmable Timer Switch
You can follow this tutorial to replace as many light switches as you want, even if there are multiple switches in the same electrical box! We replaced two out of three toggle switches in one box with these programmable switches, and they fit next to each other just fine in the electrical box.
However, you will need to purchase a combination decora wall plate. We used this 1 toggle/2 decora wall plate because that fit the configuration of our switches, but just search for “combination decora wall plate” and you’ll find tons of options for toggle switches, outlets, dimmer switches, etc. (NOTE: If you’re just switching one solitary toggle switch over to this programmable switch, it comes with a single decora wall plate in the box.)
- Time spent doing stuff: 35 minutes
- Time spent testing: 15 minutes
- Total project time: 50 minutes
NOTE: The switch linked above comes with everything you need to complete this project (except the screwdriver and voltage tester). If you decide to use a different switch, you may also need to purchase a decora wall plate, wire connectors, and mounting screws.
Start by turning off the electricity to the light switch you want to replace at your circuit breaker or fuse box.
Remove the screws holding the faceplate onto the wall. Set the screws aside so you can use them to install the new faceplate later, just in case.
Use a voltage tester to triple check that the electricity is off to the entire wall box and all wires inside of it. Once you’re 110% sure the electricity is off, unscrew the screws that attach the light switch to the box and set them aside.
Pull the switch and wiring out of the electrical box.
Pull the programmable timer switch out of its box, along with all the hardware and other pieces.
One at a time, disconnect the wires from the old switch and carefully reconnect them to the new switch using wire connectors. Be sure that the hot, load, neutral, and ground wires from the new switch match the hot, load, neutral, and ground wires coming out of the electrical box. (If there is no ground wire coming out of the electrical box, you can connect the green ground wire from the switch to the ground screw inside the electrical box.)
If you’re replacing more than one switch, do them one at a time so you don’t mix up which wire is which.
Once the new switches are attached to the wires, you can turn the electricity back on to test the switches before you fully install them back into the electrical box. If the new switches work, turn the electricity back off, then carefully push all of the wires into the electrical box behind the switch, and mount the switch to the electrical box using the mounting screws provided (or your original screws you set aside).
Install your new decora faceplate using the screws provided (or the original ones you set aside), and you’re done!
The last thing left to do is program your light switch timer to turn on and off whenever you want!
With these switches, if you ever want to turn the lights on and off outside of the scheduled times, just press the entire door/cover. The light will turn on or off without interfering with your pre-programmed schedule!
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How To Install A Wall Light Switch Timer
- [voltage tester]
- [programmable timer switch]
- Turn off the electricity to the light switch you want to replace at your circuit breaker or fuse box.
- Remove the faceplate from the electrical box and use your voltage tester to confirm the electricity is off before continuing.
- One wire at a time, disconnect the wires from the old switch and carefully reconnect them to the same spots on the new switch (i.e. hot wire to hot wire, load wire to load wire, etc.)
- Turn the electricity back on and carefully test your new switch to make sure no wires were crossed.
- If it works, turn the electricity off again, carefully push the wires inside the electrical box, then push the switch into the box.
- Mount the switch to the electrical box using the mounting screws.
- Install a new decora wall plate.
- Program your new wall light switch timer!
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