Honeywell 7 Day Programmable Switch... a Homeowner's Perspective

A Honeywell Programmable light switch. Capable of 7 different schedules!

Before starting, I am a first time homeowner, not a contractor. My electrical skills are skim to none. I only know the very basics involving electricity that include flipping the switch at the circuit breaker. But with the help of online resources, I found that installation of the Honeywell ECONO Switch (RPLS730B) 7 Day Programmable switch was very straightforward and met the requirements for my DIY home improvement project. 

The DIY Project
Having recently moved into my home, I found many quirks that are not easily identified during any inspection, but are instead discovered with time. The issue I am attempting to solve it to automate the two outdoor lights in front of the house on the driveway to the garage. The two lights are currently controlled by a light switch inside the house.

Possible Solutions
After evaluating the situation, I determined there are two situations. Two options involve photosensitive solutions while the final sensor is timer based. The photosensitive solutions both have the capabilities to automatically turn the lights on when it gets dark, and off after a predefined duration.

  1. The first solution that came to mind is to replace both outdoor lights fixtures completely so that each outdoor lamp has it's own sensors. This is the most obvious solution, but probably also the most expensive in terms of both cost of purchasing the new lights fixtures and contractor for installation (I don't feel comfortable replacing an outdoor light).
  2. The second situation is to install photosensitive sensors at each light outside as an adapter.  An adapter would screw into the light fixture, and the light bulb screws into the adapter. The main concerns is whether there is enough space for both the adapter and the light bulb and the performance of the photosensitive sensors from behind a layer of glass from the lamp. Installation of this option would be the simplest!
  3. The third solution is to use a timer (preferably a switch) that can control the light from inside the house. This method would not require changing any of the light fixtures, only the light switch with a built in timer.

Final Solution
I decided that I'd purchase a timer. Because this is the easiest method, fairly affordable option (~$25). Since it is still a switch, it is the most reliable option. Although it isn't the easiest installation, the process is fairly straightforward if you can handle the circuit breaker, a screw driver, and a pliers. I had all of these, and so it biased me towards the timer solution. I decided to go with the Honeywell 7 Day Programmable Light Switch, which I purchased online. It requires the neutral wire to operate.

The installation of the timer was fairly straight forward and I'll run through the steps I took. Many of the steps were my first time doing, but really wasn't that difficult.

  1. Locate the circuit breaker. From my experience, I find the circuit breaker box in the garage in a metal box.
  2. I turned on all the light switches at that portion of the house controlled by the switch.
  3. One by one, I flipped a circuit breaker switch (so that only one switch at a time is in the off position) and checked each time for the lights to be off. When the lights did turn off, I made a mental note of the circuit breaker switch number.
  4. Next, I remove the screws that secure the the light switch plate to expose the components behind it.
  5. Finally, unscrew the light switch that you want, then unscrewed each light switch from the switch box. Because the space inside is fairly cramped, I ended up remove all switches, but only removing the wires from the switch I am replacing with a timer.
  6. Next, I find the three wires. 2 black hot wires and 1 white neutral wire. The hot wires go to the black wire (on the switch), the line leading to the light goes to the blue wire (on the switch), and the white wire (inside box) goes to the white wire (on the switch). I use the pliers to help unscrew the wire guards. I then add in my wire to the wire gaurds and put the whole thing back together.
  7. Before I put all the screws back, I flip the switch at the circuit breaker box in the garage and test the lights to make sure they turn on. When I insure that the switch is operational, I flip the switch off at the circuit breaker (just in case), and screw everything back together.
  8. Finally, I flip the circuit breakers back on, and program the Honeywell 7 Day Programmable switch.

All in all, it took about an hour for me figure out how the whole installation. I'm confident that if I had to do this again, it would only take 30 minutes. So far, the timer has worked out very well and has been one less DIY project I've had to worry about. The main thing I don't like about the switch is the display is not backlit, but even that is minor as I don't need to program the swtich very often.