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Published Sep. 21, 2021

Outlet timers are an affordable way to add controls to a standard light outlet that enable one to schedule when a light or electrical appliance turns on and off. Outlet timers come in basic dial models that turn lights off and on to save electricity or serve as an affordable home security option while a home’s residents are away on vacation. 

Higher end smart outlet timers integrate with home smart hubs and digital assistants, allowing the user to program detailed schedules to turn lights on and off on individual or multiple timers. Most smart timers also support voice control through a digital assistant such as Alexa or Google Assistant, allowing you to control the lights without leaving the comfort of the sofa. 

There are certain crucial features to consider when shopping for an outlet timer. We’ll review some of the best basic outlet timers on the market as well as a few of the top models you can add to your home’s smart hub.

How We Chose the Best Outlet Timers

Methodology

Although all outlet timers perform the basic job of turning an electric lamp or appliance on or off at a preset time, there are numerous factors that determine how well they accomplish this task, including:

  • Ease of use: Setting a light timer shouldn’t be a complicated task, so I chose timers with controls that are intuitive, making them easy to program. If setting the timer was too complicated, it did not make the list.
  • Programmability: Outlet timers range from those that can set on/off times on a daily basis to those that can be set to turn on or off based on the day of the week. Those that offered a greater level of programming options ranked higher on my list.
  • Construction: An outlet timer’s design is crucial to how well it holds up and works in its environment. I only chose indoor outlet timers that were compact enough that they did not sacrifice both sockets in an outlet. Outdoor outlet timers must be able to endure harsh weather, so only timers with at least an IP44 rating made the list.
  • Value: Since a smart outlet timer might cost three or four times a standard analog timer, I considered the programmability, number of outlets, and other features the outlet timer offered in relation to its price to determine overall value.

Best Outlet Timers: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: Nearpow Dual Digital Light Timer

User-Friendly All-Arounder

Versatile and easy to use, the Nearpow Dual Digital Light Timer offers plenty of preset and programmability options. NEARPOW

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Why It Made The Cut: Its 10 control buttons and large display make this model from Nearpow one of the easiest digital models to set. We also liked its 15 preset options, ability to program up to a week out, and affordable price. 

Specs:

  • Controls: Digital
  • Number of outlets: 2
  • Indoor/Outdoor: Indoor

Pros:

  • Controls and large display make it easy to program 
  • Two outlets 
  • Reasonably priced

Cons

  • Bulky at 4 inches high, 2.5 inches wide, and nearly 2 inches deep

The number of programming options this digital outlet timer from Nearpow offers coupled with the fact that it can manage two three-prong outlets simultaneously are the main reasons this model tops our list. 

Yes, the 10 buttons that comprise the control panel can make this outlet timer a little intimidating at first glance. But it’s all those buttons that makes it surprisingly easy to control. There’s no need to scroll through a display to set the week, hour, minute, and second. Each setting gets its own button. An LED screen that’s large enough to view without squinting also contributes to its ease of use. 

Programmability is comprehensive with the Nearpow. The timer allows for up to 15 preset options and can be programmed as far as a week out. A button that allows you to set the timer to turn the outlets on randomly, throwing off any would-be burglars while you’re away, is also a nice feature. 

Best Outdoor: BN-LINK Smart WiFi Heavy Duty Outdoor Outlet

Durable Convenience

Control your outdoor lights from the comfort of your couch with BN-LINK’s Smart WiFi Heavy Duty Outdoor Outlet. BN-LINK

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Why It Made The Cut: The smart compatibility, multiple outlets, and weather-resistant build of this outlet timer make it an ideal choice for outdoor use. 

Specs:

  • Controls: Smart
  • Number of outlets: 3
  • Indoor/Outdoor: Outdoor

Pros: 

  • Three outlets
  • Compatible with smartphones and digital assistants
  • Sturdy weather-resistant construction

Cons:  

  • Outlets cannot be controlled independently

No one wants to venture out into the cold to plug and unplug their outdoor Christmas lights or program a manual timer, which is why we like the smart WiFi outdoor outlet from BN-LINK so much. You can operate this model from the comfort of your own living room via smartphone or by voice command when linked to Alexa or Google digital assistants. And, with its three three-prong outlets and IP44 weather rating, it’s well equipped to face the elements. 

The outdoor outlet also impresses with the number of presets it offers. Users can program up to 30 on/off commands each day via the BN-LINK app. The countdown timer feature, also settable via the app, is a nice add-on that standard digital and analog timers don’t offer. 

One gripe about this timer is its lack of independent controls for each of the three outlets. They will only work as one group, which limits its versatility. But, given its low price when compared to similar models, this is one of the best options for an outdoor smart outlet timer.

Best Indoor Smart: Alexa Smart Plug 4 Pack Treatlife Programmable Timer

Whole-Home Control

Thanks to its four independently-controlled outlets (and the option to add more), users can set the lights in different rooms to their own schedules with the Alexa Smart Plug 4 Pack Treatlife Programmable Timer. TREATLIFE

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Why It Made The Cut: This set of four smart plugs can be used to control lighting throughout a home, making it ideal for automating a home’s lighting. 

Specs:

  • Controls: Smart
  • Number of outlets: 4
  • Indoor/Outdoor: Indoor

Pros: 

  • Each plug can be placed independently 
  • Controls allow for programming and grouping
  • Expandable by adding plugs

Cons:

  • Setup can be a little complicated

While timers with multiple outlets can be convenient, they’re still limited by the fact that each lamp or appliance must connect to it via a cord, which is why we like this smart timer from Treatlife. This set includes four outlets that are independent of each other. That means this outlet timer isn’t tied to a single outlet, allowing you to put them to work in rooms throughout the home.

This system is also expandable. If four outlets isn’t enough, simply add more to expand the number of lights or electrical appliances you can control. This makes Treatlife’s outlet timers capable of automating the lighting in significantly more territory than a standard outlet timer. 

Programming each outlet is done through the Treatlife app. Once inside the app, the controls are robust. Users have the ability to set timers, program on/off times, and create groups of outlets to simultaneously turn plugs on and off. The app also offers some nice extras not typically found on other outlet timers, including child locks and random mode. Though they have Alexa in their name, these outlet timers work with various digital assistants, including Echo and Google Assistant.

Best Outdoor Smart: Powrui Smart Power Strip with Outlet Extender

Rugged and Versatile

A hefty weatherproof rating and smart controls help the Powrui Smart Power Strip with Outlet Extender withstand the harshest of elements.
POWRUI

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Why It Made The Cut: We loved this outlet timer’s ability to control and program four separate sockets individually and its IP44 outdoor use rating. 

Specs:

  • Controls: Smart
  • Number of outlets: 4
  • Indoor/Outdoor: Outdoor

Pros:

  • Four individually controlled grounded sockets
  • Weather-resistant
  • Smart controls

Cons: 

  • Bulky design for indoor use

Four receptacles with the ability to program and control each individually via a smart device make this timer from Powrui our best pick for an outdoor smart outlet timer. While many outdoor outlet timers offer multiple outlets, Powrui allows users to program on/off times for each of the outlets individually, allowing for significantly more versatility in outdoor lighting design. 

Of course, an outdoor light timer must be rugged, and Powrui’s outlet timer is. Beefy construction that gives it an IP44 weatherproof rating inspires confidence that it can endure extreme weather. Since nearly all of its controls are accessed via a smart device, there are no cracks around buttons or dials in its construction where water can get potentially in and wreak havoc. 

While it may be a bit bulky for indoor use, it certainly is an option for rooms with multiple lamps in fairly close proximity to each other. Like other smart outlet timers, this model is controllable via a smartphone or with voice commands when paired with a digital assistant such as Google Assistant or Alexa. A full slate of programming is available through the Smart Life app. 

Best Value: BN-LINK 24 Hour Plug-in Mechanical Timer

Frugal and Functional

The practical, budget-friendly BN-LINK 24 Hour Plug-in Mechanical Timer is an excellent choice for those who don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to handle simple lighting functions. BN-LINK

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Why It Made The Cut: Though this is one of the least expensive outlet timers on the market, it supports three prong plugs and simple controls, making it our top choice for those on a budget.   

Specs:

  • Controls: Digital/Analog
  • Number of outlets: 1
  • Indoor/Outdoor: Indoor

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Supports 3-prong plugs
  • Affordable

 Cons 

  • Limited programming options
  • Susceptible to power outages

It may not have a digital display or all the bells and whistles of smart outlet timers, but this bare-bones model from BN-LINK will get the job done. It uses simple analog controls. Turn the dial to set the current time then push segments down that represent 15-minute increments to indicate the “on” times for the receptacle. And, if you want to override the timer, simply flip the large red slider switch on the side to bypass it.  

Though these controls are decades-old technology, this timer is easier to set than many digital models that force you to push multiple buttons and scroll through a display. Those higher-end plug timers may offer more options when it comes to programming, but it’s tough to beat this timer for ease of use if all you need is to turn a lamp, grow light, or aquarium pump on and off at the same times every day. 

Despite its low price, this model is a step up from other analog timers. While many only support two-prong plugs, this model works with plugs that have a third grounding wire prong. 

Things to Consider Before Buying an Outlet Timer

When choosing the best outlet timer, you’ll want to keep the following considerations in mind.

Number of Outlets

Outlet timers come in standard single socket models or larger versions that feature two, four, or even a whole power strip. While timers with multiple outlets are more versatile and convenient than those with just one, keep in mind that they are bulkier. A larger multi-receptacle outlet timer may prevent other electrical appliances from being plugged into the same outlet or may simply be more conspicuous than other outlet timers. 

If you plan on purchasing an outlet timer with multiple outlets, keep in mind that some will allow you to control each of the outlet’s plugs independently while others can only control all of the outlet timer’s plugs simultaneously.

Programmable Presets

Outlet timers come with a broad range of features. While the most affordable timers have a single function that allows you to turn on and off the lights each day at specified times, others allow you to program when the lights turn on and off based on the day of the week. 

Precision also varies. Analog timers allow you to set off and on times in 15-minute increments while digital models allow you to make settings down to the second. 

Many timers also have additional features such as a timer that will turn the lights off after a set number of minutes, random modes that will turn the lights on and off randomly to throw off prowlers, and child locks that prevent kids from messing with the timer’s settings. 

If you’re interested in adding an outlet timer that can work with your smart home setup, you’ll need to purchase compatible models as not all outlet timers come with smart technology.

FAQs

Q: Do outlet timers save electricity?

That depends on how you use it. If you’re someone who is notorious for leaving lights on after exiting a room, outlet timers can help you save electricity by automatically turning the lights off at a set time. For example, setting an outlet timer to shut off a living room or bedroom light five minutes after you leave for work each day will help save electricity by preventing that light from remaining on all day long. Of course, the outlet timer will only help you save electricity if you set it properly.

Q: What is the best outlet timer?

If you’re on a budget and in search of a good basic outlet timer, then it’s tough to beat Nearpow’s Dual Digital Light Timer. Its easy-to-use controls, large LED display, and 15 preset options make it a worthy choice. It also happens to be one of the more affordable models on the market. If you’re looking to add an outlet timer to your home’s smart hub, then consider the Alexa Smart Plug 4 Pack from Treatlife. This setup lets users place four separate outlet timers in outlets throughout the home, then control them individually via a smart device or digital assistant. 

Q: Why is my outlet timer not working?

The reason your outlet timer isn’t working may be more obvious than you think. First, check the lightbulb in the lamp or fixture that is connected to it. First, flip the switch on the outlet timer to turn the receptacle on. If the bulb is burnt out, you’ll need to replace it. Often, outlet timers are used on outlets that are controlled by the light switch. If the light switch is turned off, then no power is running to the outlet and the timer won’t work. It’s also important to note that turning a light switch off will also cut power to the timer itself, causing it to potentially lose its settings.

Final Thoughts

Given the range of functionality available in outlet timers—from analog dial timers to voice-controlled smart outlet timers—determining which one is right for you depends on how you plan to use it. While the most affordable analog models are ideal for cycling an aquarium water pump or providing low-cost security while you’re away, more expensive smart models can serve as the primary controls for a home’s collection of lamps, allowing you to turn lights on and off throughout the house with simple voice commands. Choose an outlet timer that fits your needs as well as your budget.

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