When getting back into the aquarium hobby last year, I quickly realized the advantage to automating the lighting in some way so that the light duration for our plants was consistent every day. I know that there are aquarium controllers available that incorporate lighting and other timers, but the cost and size of such systems was not for us. The simplest solution seemed to be a plug in timer. A plug-in timer is simply an on/off device that goes between your power outlet and the device(s) you wish to control.
My search quickly led me to the Leviton series of plug-in timers. They are electronic and highly programmable. They all have a male plug of some sort to receive power, and a single receptacle to relay power to the device(s) you want to control. If you are controlling more than one item, you simply use a power strip or other cord to split the power to various devices. The model LT113-10W had many features that made it a very nice looking unit, including one extra that would lend itself well to our aquarium setup. Here are some of the features of the LT113-10W:
- Up to 50 ‘Events’ can be programmed per day, where an ‘Event’ is when your devices will be powered ‘on’.
- Digital display and programming.
- You can program on any day or combination of days you want. You can program events to occur every day of the week, only on weekdays, only on weekend days, or any single or combination of days of the week.
- After the clock is set, the unit can automatically compensates for daylight savings time change, so you don’t have to worry about setting this clock back or forward as the seasons change.
- Random Setting – lets the timer randomize the timing for an event from 1 to 20 minutes. This feature originates in people’s desire to keep vacation light timers from being predictable down to the minute.
- Sunup / Sundown Timer – you enter your location latitude/longitude and it knows your sunup and sundown time. You then incorporate this into a timing event. It lets you enter an offset time (up to 3 hours and 39 minutes) either before or after actual sunup / sundown.
- Battery backup by way of a CR2016 coin type battery. This means that if there is a power outage or you unplug the timer, all settings will remain when the timer receives power again.
- Model LT113-10W has a grounded (three prong) receptacle and plug. It is rated for a maximum load of 1,000 watts.
- Override button: you can press this to change the current sate from ‘off’ to ‘on’ and vice versa. The change will apply until the next scheduled event takes over.
- Model LT113-10W comes with a 6 foot cord and external ‘override’ button. This allows you to control the timer on/off remotely from the location of the Leviton plug-in timer.
Operaing the Leviton Plug-in Timer:
Setting the time and date is simple. When you enter the year, month, and day of the month, it automatically sets the day of the week.
Programming the timer can be a bit complex, but it isn’t too bad. The instruction pdf for the Leviton plug-in timers can be found here. I would suggest writing down the times that your devices need to be ‘on’ and then working through the programming from that.
The unit has worked flawlessly day in and day out. I don’t have a very extravagant setup for programming; just a few events per day and the same schedule every day.
Likes and Dislikes for the Leviton Plug-in Timers:
I like the reliability of the Leviton plug-in timers – no problems with consistency. I very much like the added benefits of the model LT113-10W with the external cord and override button. Never having to worry with changing the clock for daylight savings time is very nice and worth the slight cost increase over other lesser models.
On the negative side, it is a universal complaint among reviews at Amazon that the units come with a weak CR2016 battery, so it will not be long after purchase that the unit will not have reliable backup power. I would suggest immediately replacing the battery when you fist get the plug-in timer and do any programming. If the timer is of a critical nature, check the battery annually and consider changing the battery out for a fresh one.
Another negative is the operation of the remote override button. While convenient, it is sometime sluggish to respond. I have to press and hold, or it takes several tries for this button to respond. If it had a more positive feel that would make it much more enjoyable to use.
Other Plug-in Timer Models by Leviton:
Leviton currently has 4 different plug-in timers. I will present them in order of greatest feature set to least:
- LT113-10W: This is the timer of this review. See above for a description of all features.
- LT112-10W: All the same features as the LT113-10W, but it does not come with the external 6 foot cord with override button.
- LT114-10W: Many of the same features as the previous two models, except: Only 3 event settings per day (down from 50), you can program by every day of the week/weekend/weekday, but not any combination of days, the power capacity is reduced to 300 Watts, and the receptacle and plug are non-grounded (two prong). This model also does not include the random setting and sunup / sundown timer. The LT114-10W comes with a configuration different from the other three models in that the plug is on the end of a 6 foot cord instead of the back of the unit. In this way, the timer can be hidden from view instead of having to be at the outlet.
- LT111-10W: All the same features of the LT114-10W except that the plug is on the back of the unit.
Use for Aquariums:
I use the Leviton LT-113-10W model timer to control lighting on our Fluval Spec V aquarium. I have the lighting scheduled for a low-light setup with two main lighting times per day, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon/evening. I was worried that our children may want to look at the fish in the afternoon sometimes and would want access to turn the light on. This is where I really like the separate override button on this particular model.
I have the button mounted outside the storage box for our aquarium. The storage box hold the electronics of our setup including the temperature controller and the timers. I don’t necessarily want the kids to get inside the box just to turn the lights on, so the external button is mounted right outside where they can get to it.
I just setup an Eheim Automatic feeder for when we go on vacation. It is a very nice unit and has worked great. I usually unplug the pump when I feed the fish, so I wanted a similar setup while we are gone. I bought the Leviton model LT111-10W for this purpose. It is setup to control the pump and temperature controller. I have it programmed to turn off for a 25 minute span every day when we are out of town. This shuts off the pump, heater and cooling fan and the Eheim feeder dumps food during this time. This makes for still water when the food is dispensed and the fish have no problems eating without having to chase food all over the aquarium with the pump on.
Any number of uses can be imagined for aquarium uses. As a budget light controller is an obvious and very good application. Pump control as in the scenario described here is another good use. For tanks that have CO2 injection, a plug-in timer can be used to control the solenoid. One disadvantage to utilizing plug-in timers are the space they take up. While the units are small, if you have to use three or four of them, things can get crowded in a hurry. Also, after you add up the cost of three or four of these Leviton models, you are approaching the cost of a legitimate aquarium controller that can accomplish all your needs and more.
Between the four specific models of plug-in timers that Leviton offers, I would suggest getting the upper tier LT112 or LT113. I purchased the LT111 for pump control to save money, but I wish it had a three prong outlet.