Programmable electrical timers (or simply electrical timers) can be used to switch Leopard gecko lighting on and off at desired times.
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Introduction to electrical timers for Leopard geckos
An electrical timer is a device that can switch electrical equipment on or off at desired times. In other words, it acts as a timed switch. They are plugged in between a power socket and the electrical device that needs to be controlled. The timer mechanism can either be manual or digital.
When used with a roster, it allows better control and a more natural recreation of day-night cycles — improving the overall experience of pet Leopard geckos.
Electrical timers are popularly used to control the lighting and heating equipment of Leopard geckos. They can be used to switch items on in the morning and off again at night. By using electrical timers, the photoperiod and heat supply can be controlled better without the need of being present all the time.
Electrical timers and other Leopard gecko accessories and care items are available online (e.g. Amazon.com), from specialised pet shops and general hardware stores.
Electrical timers for Leopard geckos
As mentioned earlier, an electrical timer is a device that is used as a timer switch for electrical equipment. Common electrical equipment used for Leopard geckos includes heat pads/mats/strips and heat lamps, and lighting lamps. Electrical items are typically plugged into the power socket of the timer and the timer itself is plugged into a power socket in the wall.
When choosing an electrical timer, the voltage rating (V) that should be selected will be determined by the standard voltage output of the country you live in — e.g. 220V or 110V. The default power plug should be suitable for your own country too.
Other than the power sockets, important properties of electrical timers include the timer mechanism, an on/off LED indicator and a manual switch. Timer mechanisms can either be manual or digital.
Manual timer mechanisms are cheaper and easier to use than digital ones (see below) but are less time-sensitive. They will either have a 12 or 24-hour clock wheel divided into 15-minute time intervals. Each time interval can be set to on or off by using its representing pull/push switch.
As the day progress, the clock will rotate to keep time. During the 15 minute time intervals where the representing switch has been set to be on, the LED indicator will be lit, indicating that the connected electrical device is switched on. The manual timer switch can be used to override the timer interval switches.
Electrical timers with digital timer mechanisms are a bit more tricky to set but, if done correctly, can be used to set daily, weekly, and sometimes even monthly and yearly routines. Instead of having a round clock mechanism, the on/off periods are set using program buttons and the LCD screen.
To set times correctly, the user manual should rather be consulted.
Controlling the photoperiod
Electrical timers are perfect for controlling the photoperiod of Leopard geckos. The photoperiod is the amount of time per day that visible light needs to be supplied on in order to simulate a more natural environment.
In the case where artificial lighting is used, it should either be switched on for about 12 hours per day(50), or about 13 hours per day during the summer and 11 hours per day during winter.
During the evenings, all visible light can either be completely dimmed or infrared (IR) lighting can be used. IR lighting is believed not to interfere with the natural light cycle of reptiles(52).
Both the lighting and heating can follow the same time patterns, but each should be connected to its own electrical timer.
By using electrical timers, electrical lighting and heating sources can be controlled more accurately without the need to be present all the times. They can be set to switch light sources on in the mornings and off at night.