Special-duty Switches: Timer, Programmable, Motion, More

Specialty Switches

A switch that controls a device by some means other than flipping a toggle can be a useful improvement. Installing one usually is no more complicated than installing a standard switch.

Examine a switch carefully before buying it. Some special-duty switches are three-way switches and can be installed only if you have two cables entering the switch box.

Installing a special switch is similar to installing a dimmer. Shut off power to the circuit before removing the switch. Connect the switch's ground wire to the house ground. To be sure that wires don't break after being rebent, cut and restrip all wire ends before you connect them to the new switch.


About 25 minutes to remove an existing switch and install a specialty switch

Screwdriver, side cutters, strippers, lineman's pliers

Stripping and splicing wire

Lay a towel or small drop cloth on the surface below the switch.

Special-duty switch, wire nuts (they may come with the switch), electrician's tape

Timer switch

A timer switch turns lights on and off once a day and is most commonly used for outdoor lights. Connect the grounds and splice the neutral (white) wires to the white lead. Splice each black lead to a black wire.

Programmable Switch

Use a programmable switch to turn lights on and off more than once a day. It can fool a potential robber into thinking people are at home even though the house is empty. Wire this switch just as you would a dimmer switch.

Time-Delay Switch

With a time-delay switch, crank the dial to turn the fixture on and set it to turn off after a specified time. This is useful for fixtures that are risky or expensive to run -- a bathroom vent fan or a space heater, for instance. Wire it as you would a dimmer switch.

Motion-sensor switch

A motion-sensor switch turns a light on when it senses movement in the area, then turns the light off after a set time. (Some models allow you to determine how long the light stays on.) Wire it as you would a dimmer switch.

Pilot-light switch

A pilot-light switch has a small bulb that glows when the device, such as a fan, is turned on. Connect the white wires to the silver terminal (you may need a pigtail) and connect the grounds. Attach the feed wire to the brass terminal without a connecting tab and connect the other black wire to the other brass terminal.

Remote-control switches

If you have a fixture controlled by a pull-chain switch and would rather have a wall switch, consider a remote-control device you can install without having to run cable through walls. To install one, open the fixture and wire the receiving unit, following the manufacturer's instructions. Place a battery in the remote wall switch, which contains the transmitter. Mount it anywhere on the wall. You can also control the fixture with a key-chain remote switch.

Other Switches

Browse the electrical department of a home center to find even more special-duty switches. A plug-in timer turns a floor or table lamp on and off at set times. A 20-amp hour timer switch lets you run an attic fan or pool filter motor for 2, 4, 8, or 12 hours. A touch-control dimmer turns the light up, down, on, or off with the tap of a finger.

Comments (2)
henryzg8tgmail wrote:

Please give steps for wiring end circuit motion sensor switch

11/19/2016 11:02:53 AM Report Abuse
antoniomatias wrote:

is there a way to control an outdoor light with photocell/timer and motion sensor switch

3/7/2010 11:30:58 PM Report Abuse
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