How to control a switched electical outlet


This is new construction so wires are not yet run. We will have some soffet plugs outside for christmas lights on one circuit . Also on another circuit, we will have some outdoor plugs we would like to use for lights in the bushes. Another plug in the family room will be used for the tree.

Old school would be to have these circuits connected to switches for manual control. Another step in automation would be to wire these to a timer that would let us have them turn on at approx dusk and off at midnight.

We have a centralite system and will have an automation panel (Omni or ELK). We will also have a PC based master automation system. So I am wondering what would be the best way to tie these plugs in so they can be automated at the right season and have the ability to turn on/off like a switch at other times. We had thought to make them loads on the centralite system, but the electrician says the plugs could carry more current (15A or 20A) than the panel is rated for (8A each, 72A total). I am not really sure that the load from christmas lights would be that high, but I guess something that draws higher current could be plugged in those outlets eventually. I am guessing a relay of some sort would be required.

The LiteJet can take an accessory relay panel but it is low voltage, so I guess this won't work. The Elk expansion module appears to be limited to 10A. Surly this is a fairly standard task to automate, but haven't found anything specifically addressing this.

Any suggestions?
Hi, Kayemsi:

Your electrician is correct, but I would ignore him unless your local code has a problem with limiting an outlet to 8 amps.

Eight amps is a fair amount for lighting. You just want to be careful not to plug your air-compressor or space heater into one of the switched outlets. My solution is to have only one of the two outlets switched, and that the switched one would be OFF by default. That way, when you find that the hand-drill does not work when plugged into one, you simply move to the other one. Of course, this means two romex lines into the box.

The CentraLite is a good choice for control of outdoor lights, because of the astronomical clock.
kayemsi said:
The Elk expansion module appears to be limited to 10A.
That may be true, depending upon which expansion unit you are talking about. But there is no problem having the Elk drive multiple relays, each controlling jigawatts (assuming you had a jiggawatt relay). So one Elk output could drive a medium relay that drives 100 heavy duty relays (also called contactors), each controlling 20A.
Could you not just use the centralite to trip a relay? Rather then having the actual load go through it. I'm somewhat surprised the electrician didn't offer that up or a simular solution.

You could then also go with the lightorama too if you like.

(I have jack for centralite experience, not much in lighting controls either... So educate me somebody. :()
If the panel is only rated for 8A and the outlet is rated for 15A, you should be able to do it by putting in a protection device (circuit breaker) that is rated at 8A. That would mean that if someone plugged in a 15A device, the breaker would trip and protect the panel. A label or a outlet of a different colour would also help in identifying it a special

All subject to local codes obviously