Grow Light Timers: What Are They And How To Use Them?

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Added 13 January 2023

Waking up at 6 every morning to turn on the lights in your grow room sounds like a hassle. One extra pint of beer is all it would take for you to miss the time and stress out your cannabis plant. 

And we are not even talking about the time when you want to go out over the weekend. Do you really trust your neighbor with turning the grow lights on and off at the right time when you are away? 

This is why it is beneficial to automate your grow light’s timing. No more hassle, no more waking up at odd hours, no more worrying about the grow lights when you are out with your friends. 

And all of this can be accomplished with one small device — a grow light timer. They are nothing but glorified egg timers that act as a bridge between the power outlet and your grow lights. They allow you to schedule when the light turns on and when it stays off. 

Learn all about grow light timers and how to set them in this article below. 

Why Do You Need a Grow Light Timer?

Why Do You Need a Grow Light Timer?

When growing cannabis indoors, you need to be particular about the light system and schedule — when to turn the lights on or off can make a big difference, and if you make an error or forget to turn on the lights at the right time, your plant can suffer drastic consequences.

For example, if you switch the lights off at the wrong time, you can stress out the plant, depriving it of energy, and in severe cases, even causing it to turn hermaphrodite

But these problems can be easily mitigated by using grow light timers. What are they? Essentially, grow light timers control the light/darkness schedule for the grow lights, automating the entire process and taking the burden off your shoulders.

Thanks to grow light timers, you no longer have to worry about setting reminders and switching the lights on or off on time. Subsequently, grow light timers can help your plant grow in a controlled light environment without any risk of stress or hermaphroditism. 

Grow Light Timer for Cannabis Growth Stages

Grow Light Timer for Cannabis Growth Stages

If you’re growing photoperiod cannabis, a lighting schedule becomes even more essential for you. You have to set the schedule to mimic the natural light your plant would get if it was growing outdoors. 

Cannabis plants have two crucial stages of growth when the light schedule matters most — vegetative and flowering. During the vegetative phase, your plant needs at least 18 hours of light, hence most growers stick to an 18/6 light cycle.

On the other hand, flowering cannabis plants need 12 hours of light, hence the light cycle 12/12. Let’s take a look at both stages in detail.

Vegetative Stage

The vegetative stage is when the plant experiences the most growth, turning from a small seedling to an almost mature plant. Since the plant puts on a lot of mass during this period, it needs a lot of light to produce energy that can support its growth. This is possible as the light you provide indoors will mimic the natural daylight hours of the summer months. 

By using grow light timers, you can enable the lights to run for over 18 hours every day. If you grow cannabis with a 24/0 light cycle, a light timer is still crucial as it comes in handy during the blooming stage. 

Flowering Stage

Once your photoperiod plant is mature enough to grow buds, you need to manually switch the light cycle from 18/6 to 12/12, where it gets 12 hours of light and 12 hours of total darkness. 

This schedule mimics the oncoming winter, which activates the plant’s defense mechanisms and forces it to start developing buds

Again, using a grow light timer is beneficial in this stage because you can’t afford mistakes with the light schedule during this time. Switching on the light for even 2 minutes during the dark hours is enough to push your plant into hermaphroditism.

Timers can help you avoid such risks in the first place. 

What are the Types of Grow Light Timers?

Technology has come a long way, so whether you’re a new grower or a fairly experienced one, you can find a grow light timer that suits your preferences and budget. Here are the three most common types of grow light timers that you can choose from.

1. Analog Timers

Analog Timers

Analog timers are the most basic form of timers, which makes them easier to use and quite affordable even for new growers. These are the type of timers you should ideally choose if you are a hobby grower that only grows a couple of plants — it’s value for money.

However, there is a downside to analog timers. They must be manually set and some models can be too confusing for new users. Although it’s pretty easy to figure out how to make them work with some patience, you’ll find easier options in the market.

2. Digital Timers

Digital timers

Speaking of easier options, you can choose digital timers. Sure, they are a little more expensive than analog timers, but they are a lot better to use because they don’t have confusing dials and arrows. Instead, digital timers come with a small screen and a few buttons.

The best part about digital timers is that they offer a lot more flexibility and features compared to analog timers. This is an ideal choice for growers that are growing multiple plants in their grow room.

3. Grow Light Controllers

Grow light controller

Lastly, there are the grow light controllers — an advanced type of light timer that is best suited for commercial growers. They are reliable, flexible, and better than analog and digital timers in almost all regards, but these timers can also be very expensive. 

For most growers, these timers are nothing but overkill unless they are growing cannabis on a commercial scale. 

We won’t go into more detail about grow light controllers because if you’re looking for professional light timers, your skills are already beyond the scope of this article. 

How to Set Up an Analog Grow Light Timer for Cannabis?

How to Set Up an Analog Grow Light Timer for Cannabis?

So, you’ve got yourself an analog grow light timer. It’s now time to set it up. Follow these steps to set up your grow light timer in your grow room.

1. Gather Everything 

The first step is to ensure your entire light system is in place, your analog timer is unpacked and ready to go, and you have an extension cord handy just in case. Streamlining everything can work wonders here. Manage the wires properly so you don’t get lost in the wires.

2. Familiarize Yourself with the Timer

Now, fiddle around with the timer. Analog timers can be confusing for first-time users, so doing this will make it easier to set it up later. It is recommended that you read through the owner’s manual, too.

Most analog timers have a dial and two sets of numbers, usually in two primary colors like black and white. Here, one color, generally white, refers to the time between 12 PM to 11 PM, and the other color refers to the time between 12 AM to 11 AM. 

The dial would also have an arrow, which will move as the timer goes through the light cycles.

3. Set Up the Timer

When setting up the timer, the first step is to synchronize your analog timer with your local time, so you always know the status of your grow light without peeking into your grow room. You don’t want any light to leak into the grow room during the dark hours.

In addition, you will find black buttons just above the numbers on the dial. When the buttons are pressed, the timer will turn on during that time. So, if you want to set your lighting schedule to 18/6, you need to press all the black buttons from 12 PM to 4 AM — press down 17 buttons and leave the 18th button up. 

Always refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations nonetheless because the setup process can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. This article only gives you a general guideline and is not a one-size-fits-all guide. 

4. Test It Out

Once you’ve set up the timer, connect the lights to it and test it out. Ideally, avoid testing it in your grow room if there are plants already growing there so your plants don’t experience any shock or stress.

If everything is working fine, congratulations. You have completely automated your light schedule for your plant’s growth stage. Now, when your plant is ready for the flowering stage, use the above guide to switch the light cycle to 12/12.

How to Set Up a Digital Grow Light Timer for Cannabis?

How to Set Up a Digital Grow Light Timer for Cannabis?

Let’s take it one step ahead with a digital grow light timer for your cannabis grow room. Follow these steps to set up your digital grow light timer.

1. Get Everything Ready

Ensure your grow lights are ready, unpack your digital grow light timer, and also keep an extension cord nearby so you can use it if required. Again, ensure the wires are managed well and you can access all the points easily without confusing yourself or pulling the light panels down accidentally.

2. Familiarize Yourself with the Timer

Next, you need to understand how the timer works. The best way to do this is to go through the user manual and play around with the timer for half an hour. By exploring the timer, you will get a feel for it and it will no longer feel overwhelming for you.

Generally, a digital grow light timer will consist of a screen that shows the time and date and a few buttons. You need to understand what those buttons do.

3. Set the Timings

Once you have familiarized yourself with the time, you need to set the time and date on the timer. 

For instance, for the vegetative stage, set the schedule to 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness for an 18/6 light cycle. Depending on when you want the lights to run, you can need to set 18 continuous hours to light for this.

In some digital grow light timers, you also get an option to set the light cycle for each day of the week. Here, you need to select all the days of the week so your grow lights will run for the preset time for the entire week. 

And when the time comes to switch to a 12/12 light cycle for the flowering stage, follow the same process. 

4. Plug Everything In

After setting the timer, it’s time to connect everything and take it for a test ride. Ensure everything works, double-check the lighting schedule, and that’s it. You no longer have to worry about your light cycle until it’s time to switch from an 18/6 to a 12/12 light cycle.

What to Look for When Buying Grow Light Timers for Cannabis?

When purchasing a grow light timer for your grow room, avoid picking the first grow light timer you set your eyes on. Grow light timers come in a large variety even in the same category — some can be connected directly to the plugs and others work as extension cords. And there are many other variables you need to consider.

So, here are some factors that you should focus on when picking the right grow light timer for your grow room.

1. Wattage and Capacity 

One of the most important things you need to consider when purchasing a light timer is the wattage — it should handle the wattage your grow light pulls from the outlet. 

If you are using CMH, HPS, or CFL lights, refer to the packaging to know the wattage rating. If you are using LED grow lights, they will likely feature two wattage ratings — LED chip wattage and power consumption wattage — you need to look at the power consumption wattage, i.e., how much power the light consumes. 

The grow light timer should always have more wattage capacity than your grow lights combined, and it is wise to leave some more room in case you need to upgrade your light panels in the future. You won’t have to purchase a new timer the next time you upgrade your light system.

2. Your Preferences and Use Case

Next, you need to consider why you’re using grow light timer in your grow room. For instance, if you want to set two different light schedules — one for vegetative plants and the other for flowering plants — you need to choose a timer that allows you to set multiple light schedules. 

If you can’t find the right one, you can always buy multiple cheap grow light timers and set them accordingly, although it will require a little more effort from your side. 

On the other hand, if you want something basic, you can get a timer that can be scheduled for a week. Most of the basic grow light timers come with a 7-day program, so you can choose those and keep setting the timer every week. 

If you want to schedule other systems in your grow room, like the fan or the humidifier, you can choose a timer that comes with various sockets, too.

3. User Interface and Accessibility

Most grow light timers are more or less the same in terms of appearance and structure, but most differ in terms of their display and interface. Find one that works for you.

For example, some timers come with a tiny display that shows a bunch of symbols or numbers without clear indicators — such a timer can be overwhelming for a newbie. On the other hand, some timers come with small fonts, which can make reading them difficult for those who use reading glasses. 

Choose a grow light timer that is easy for you to use. It is wise to look up some reviews on YouTube to get a clear understanding of the timer’s interface. 

4. Cost 

Lastly, consider the cost of the timer. Basic, analog grow light timers are the cheapest and they can be purchased from your local gardening store or online stores. Digital grow light timers tend to be slightly more expensive and the cost rises with the number of features.

As with anything else, you get what you pay for. So don’t expect 24/7 customer support and long life from a cheap grow light timer. In fact, the bottom-of-the-line grow light timers generally don’t come with any warranty!

So, when finalizing your budget, understand the use case and how long the timer should last and set the budget accordingly. But if you are on a seriously tight budget, consider looking into smart plugs — more on this in the next section. 

Can You Use Smart Plugs as Grow Light Timers?

Smart plugs are one of the newer inventions towards making homes smarter — essentially, these plugs can connect to your phone — Siri, Alexa, or Google — and you can configure them the way you like.

For example, you can configure the smart plug to turn off your phone’s charger after two hours or turn off the fairy lights in your bedroom after sundown. 

And this can benefit a cannabis grower, too. By simply connecting your grow lights to smart plugs, you can use them as grow light timers. Simply configure them to turn on the lights for a specific period of time at regular intervals and you have a smart plug working as a grow light timer. 

Smart plugs are especially great for growers who are on a tight budget or only growing a plant or two since they are quite cheap even when compared to analog grow light timers. 

The only downside is that some smart plugs require a WiFi connection at all times. So if your WiFi stops working, they may fail to control the grow lights. So, if you want to use a smart plug as a light timer, choose one that does not become dysfunctional when it’s not connected to the internet. 

Additionally, we recommend you not connect your smart plugs to AI assistants like Siri and Alexa. All it would take is you saying “hey Alexa, turn off the lights in the bedroom” to turn the lights in your grow room off. The AI is not yet polished and can result in various errors.

And setting up a smart plug is also easy. Plug it in and download the companion app on your phone — the app will walk you through the entire setup process. Once done, just plug your grow lights into the smart plug and let it take care of the rest. 

Summary: Grow Light Timers: What Are They And How To Use Them?

Grow light timers are always worth your money if you are serious about growing a healthy cannabis plant with negligible risk of hermaphroditism or light stress. They can make your life easier as you no longer have to manually control the lights every day.

Depending on your budget and use case, you can choose between analog and digital grow light timers. Of course, digital ones are better, but they can be expensive. For a novice grower or someone who only grows a couple of plants, an analog timer works just as well.

And setting it up is also straightforward — just remember to familiarize yourself with the device first and read through the user manual. After that, all it takes is a couple of minutes to set up the timer. Once it is set up, plug it in and turn it on. 

But remember, when choosing a cannabis grow light timer, always factor in its wattage capacity, your use case, budget, and interface — this will help you choose the right grow light timer that will make your life easier. And that’s all you need to know about purchasing and setting up your grow light timers. 

Grow light timers are only one aspect of improving your cannabis growing experience. To learn more, stay tuned to our blog. 



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