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Old 03-11-2008, 03:00 AM   #11 (permalink)
 
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Question Re: Light timer

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Originally Posted by hoppycalif View Post
You can always use the cheap, mechanical Intermatic timer, the one that you push little plastic clips around the rim to control the on and off times with. Those will operate almost anything. But, ballasts for fluorescent lights will often destroy an electronic timer. Intermatic had to stop selling some of their electronic timers because they all would fail when used on fluorescent fixtures.
I use one of those exact same timers, and its on my 10G which has two 14W "daylight" CFL's, and I have never had any problem. Do you know what causes the timers to go bad when being used with Fluorescent bulbs, and... is this problem only with the specific fluorescent ballasts, and not with the screw in socket types that the curly CFL's will fit?

Thanks!
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Old 03-11-2008, 07:30 AM   #12 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Light timer

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Lowes used to carry them, but no longer does. I have a couple of those powerstrips for timers as well as the Brinks model and both work well.
You are right Aaron, Lowe's, Home Depot, Wal Mart, Target, all used to have them, but no more for some strange reason.

I actually got two of them at Target about a year ago on clearance for $5 each.

I went back to get more about 6 months ago, and Gone, vanished into thin air, not one place carries them anymore.

DaveS, thanks for the link, If I need more I know where to get them.

Price is kind of hard to swallow, compared to the $10 Target used to sell them for, but they are nice and handy to have.

You know for about the same price, Coralife makes one just like it, but two of the four timed outlets run on the off cycle, you know for moonlights. I have two of these also and they are really nice if you use moon lights.

HeyPK, for the price of the one DaveS showed, I wonder how much more for the Radio Shack system (If they still make/sell them). You got a link to it by any chance?
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Old 03-11-2008, 08:41 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: Light timer

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Originally Posted by D.C._United_Caps_Fan View Post
I use one of those exact same timers, and its on my 10G which has two 14W "daylight" CFL's, and I have never had any problem. Do you know what causes the timers to go bad when being used with Fluorescent bulbs, and... is this problem only with the specific fluorescent ballasts, and not with the screw in socket types that the curly CFL's will fit?

Thanks!
I don't know the exact reason, but it is probably related to the inductance of the load the timer has to control. Mechanical switches have no problem with that, unless the inductance is really very high, then arcing can occur when the load is shut off. But, electronic switches are different. It is possible that the problems with fluorescent lights is limited just to Intermatic digital models, since those are the only ones I have found in my hardware stores and the only ones I tried. The last time I looked for one, the store manager told me he had removed all of them from the shelves because of that problem.
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Old 03-11-2008, 12:56 PM   #14 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: Light timer

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Originally Posted by hoppycalif View Post
I don't know the exact reason, but it is probably related to the inductance of the load the timer has to control. Mechanical switches have no problem with that, unless the inductance is really very high, then arcing can occur when the load is shut off. But, electronic switches are different. It is possible that the problems with fluorescent lights is limited just to Intermatic digital models, since those are the only ones I have found in my hardware stores and the only ones I tried. The last time I looked for one, the store manager told me he had removed all of them from the shelves because of that problem.

Ahhh! They make "digital" ones with the little grey push down clips? Didnt know that. I use the old fasioned manual ones. ( at least I think it is.. its just the cheap 6-8 buck one you can get most anywhere, i got mine at petsmart) I guess that would explain why I never had a problem because it only affected the digital timers?
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Old 03-11-2008, 08:49 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: Light timer

I have several of the Coralife timers (the smaller less complicated one) and have had no problems, but the strongest lighting load is one with 2x65w CF. I only wish they had three "day" plugs and one "night" plug (for the air pump), instead of two and two. They also tend to drift... I set them all the same last weekend for the time change, and one is already about six minutes fast! The other two got about five minutes apart since last October.
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Old 03-12-2008, 02:57 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: Light timer

The discussion here seems to say that the electronic timer which had trouble with fluorescent lights was a two pronged timer. My guess is that the problem arises because the fluorescent fixture is not grounded properly and so transient currents and/or voltages show up on the other prongs, damaging the timer.

A simple solution would be to run the two prongs through the timer and run the ground prong directly to the ground hole in the outlet. I've run lights this way before. Takes a bit of creativity to get the ground prong over to the socket separate from the timer though.

I would like to see a seven outlet power strip where all the outlets are timer controlled. Furthermore, I'd like all the outlets to be settable with (almost) an unlimited number of on/off changes. With modern microcontrollers and cheap memory, there's just no reason you couldn't store a few hundred on and off times per socket in an electronic timer.

Of course, you'd probably never want to do that many cycles. But if you wanted to do a complex light cycling where two bulbs come on. Then later they go off as four bulbs come on. Then later the two bulbs come on again for the midday intensity. The off again. Then the four bulbs go off and the two come on again as it moves into evening. And finally off again. That's a bunch of cycles and a perfectly reasonable scheme.

Additionally, it should be fairly simple to give two or more sockets the same programs. And there should be daily, weekly and one time programs like on a VCR. Also a safety feature so that power cannot be cycled on any outlet faster than about once per minute. Is that fast enough for wave generators? Might have to shorten it, if not, but you don't want someone programming it to flash off and on once per second and start a fire or something.

Let's see, and a way to make programs active or inactive, so if there's a timer scheme you use a lot (during travel, e.g.) you don't always have to reenter it. You could just toggle it to active and then toggle to inactive on your return.

So I figure a modified power strip with relays controlling the outlet power. Control the relays from microcontroller pins power boosted with a transistor each. Then program in a clock timer, interrupt based countdowns, a small LCD display (like a pager) and some pushbuttons. The interface could be similar to a Casio digital watch.

Anyone have any other feature suggestions?
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Old 03-12-2008, 09:46 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: Light timer

Most of my problems with the Intermatic timers wasn't with aquarium lights. Those timers are made to be mounted in place of a wall switch, and they are grounded just as the wall switch would be. I was trying to control some outdoor "security" light fixtures with spiral CF screw-in bulbs. The best I was able to do was keep one of two timers in operation for about 3 days. All of the rest failed almost instantly, the first time they turned off the lights. Even though they are marked as being for fluorescent bulbs, they weren't designed well enough to handle that job.
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