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Timers are built into different devices that serve a variety of purposes.  You'd think that they would all have one thing in common, right?  Keeping accurate time.  After all, it's right there in the name!

But, while this may be true for many devices, it doesn't seem so in our house.

Four Timers, Three Fails

While we have many things that keep time, we have four timers in our house where keeping accurate time is pretty important.

  • Lamp Timers (x2) – We have one each in our living room and our family room, which of course turn lights on and off at designated times.  They're two completely different brands of timer.
  • Thermostat – Our programmable thermostat adjusts the temperature at various points of the day, keeping us comfortable and saving us money.
  • Lawn Sprinklers – They're currently turned off until spring, but our sprinklers water the grass overnight to keep the yard looking good throughout summer.

Out of these, three of these consistently keep bad time! Only the lawn sprinkler timer, once set, actually keeps proper time for as long as it's plugged in.

The other timers all start keeping improper time at the rate of about 1-2 minutes per month.

The lamp timers get reset every few weeks as the amount of daylight changes, and every single time I notice that they're at least one minute off, sometimes two.

The thermostat makes its poor timekeeping known when I get up in the morning and notice that the heat hasn't kicked on like it ought to have.  We have a pretty specific schedule, and even a few minutes difference is noticeable after awhile on arctic nights.  If I wake up shivering, then sure enough, the time is inevitably a few minutes off.

Why Do Timers Lose Time?

So what gives?  Why aren't timers keeping accurate time.


This thing could very well be more accurate than some fancy digital timers!

I honestly have no idea, as I'm not an engineer.  I know that all of them contain circuit boards and that there's programming built in to cover the tracking of time.  Now, my own simple mind tells me that keeping time should be about one of the most basic functions of modern circuitry, but my 25% success rate clearly tells me that my assumptions are wildly incorrect.

The only two possibilities that I can think of are:

  • The devices are old and going bad – Do these things have a shelf life?  I would think that with all of the devices they would either work or not work, but maybe there's a ‘middle ground'.
  • It's a battery thing – All of the devices that lose time have one thing in common, in that they have batteries.  The thermostat runs fully on batteries, and the lamp devices have batteries so that they can be taken out of the wall for reprogramming and so that they don't lose their settings if the power goes out.  Maybe the battery power has something to do with it?

It Can't Be Just Me

Am I the only person that has noticed that devices designed to keep time simply don't work as you'd expect they should?  I took a couple of statistics classes back in school, so I know that my sample of four isn't meaningful enough to actually draw a theory, but it's just….weird.

Readers, what do you think?  Do your timer-based devices keep time or do you find that they'll eventually deviate?  Can any engineers out there that can explain why this happens?  Tell me if I'm crazy for expecting that timers keep time?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.