Outlet timer for oven?
February 11, 2023 4:16 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for an easy, inexpensive way to be able to, say, turn on the stove/oven for only 30 minutes, then have it automatically turn off. I have some electronic timers for electrical outlets that make this happen for smaller appliances (e.g. an electric teapot - I only need it to have power for 30 minutes.) Does this exist for my oven (50 amps, special outlet shape)?

There are automatic shut-off stove devices for seniors, but it looks like a) they are non-trivial to install, and b) they cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.

A simple timer that goes between the stove plug and the wall outlet -- extremely heavy duty, of course -- seems like a great solution. Push a a button, the stove is active for 10 minutes or 20 minutes or 40 minutes, maybe it chimes before shutting down (so you could re-start it if there were a long-duration bake in action).

Thoughts? I would like to have this thing!
posted by amtho to Grab Bag (47 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not an answer to your question, but the reason the stove has a different plug is it uses a 250 volt circuit.

Many, possibly even most, stoves have a built in timer for the oven. Check your manual if you can find it. If you can't find a printed copy, you might be able to find it on the internet.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:27 PM on February 11

I can't remember the last time I saw an oven without a timer. If it has a clock it likely has one.
If not, I don't know of anything you can buy off the shelf that will control the amount of power a stove uses. A competent electrician could build one with a switch, a relay and a timer, and it wouldn't be too difficult. I assume you don't want to go to this amount of trouble or expense.
At this point I start to wonder if I should do some research. Type 40A Time5r into google. They're like cockroaches. They're everywhere. You can get one at home depot, Amazon, ZLowes. They're from $50 to $200. You'll need a cord and a plug on each end, which will drive the cost up, and - importantly - it's a code violation in a lot of places to plug a stove into something other than the wall socket.
So this can be done, but I suspect it will be around $125, and you'll have to be comfortable setting the time and plugging your stove into it, and with doing something that's not really legal, even though I can't see how it poses a risk.
I can't find a dedicated device or one that's a pushbutton solution. You don't say if this is to limit the damage someone can do, or to make cookies without paying attention. In either case I think the best course is to see if there's a timer on the stove, and then to decide how much time and trouble this is worth to you, and how much trouble you're willing to go to whenever you want to use it.
It would be easy to get a 15A timer and plug a hotplate into it. If you want an oven to do this, that may be too expensive and difficult.
posted by AugustusCrunch at 5:06 PM on February 11

Aside from the code violation, a component robust enough for the sustained amperage draw of an oven is likely expensive and bulky.

A workaround is to get a countertop oven like the Breville Smart oven. You just might find it such a joy to use that the oven becomes assorted pots and pans storage.
posted by dum spiro spero at 5:53 PM on February 11 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Hey guys, yes, my oven has a built-in timer. It buzzes. Nobody ever hears it, especially if they forget about it and leave the house. I'm looking for a timer with the following function:

- Turns off the power to the oven and all burners after a set amount of time.

- Amount of time selectable by user, who can easily choose a different duration for each use

- Expensive and bulky is fine, as long as it costs less than $150 or so.

- Also, counter space is at a premium, so anything that takes up more of that is a no-go.

- Over $150 but less than $600 is still interesting, especially if it doesn't require an expert to hand-wire it into the oven or the purchase of a new oven.

- Older appliances last longer.
posted by amtho at 6:43 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]

My toaster oven works by literally setting a timer and it turns off when the switch gets back to zero (one of the cheapest models, bought in the last few years).

I seem to recall that I used to have a hot plate with a similar timer/off function, though my memory is a bit hazy on that one
posted by raccoon409 at 6:45 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]

Apologies as I just saw the counter space addition!
posted by raccoon409 at 6:45 PM on February 11

Is the outlet in an accessible location (human height, unobstructed), or smushed behind the unit? If it's low and behind the oven, it would have to have two parts: the substitute plug and a remote "control panel."

The thing is, to place something between the oven and the outlet, it has to withstand high heat and high amperage. But, thinking out loud here, if you love this oven, you could find an electronics person to rig up a timer in the built-in buzzer circuit. That would be a much lower voltage/amperage control circuit.
posted by dum spiro spero at 6:49 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]

50A is big; I'd suggest contacting an electrician as there are a couple of ways to do this, but they're not off-the-shelf at 50A (the ones I'm aware of top out at 40A). Some "sabbath mode" options might work, but that depends on the specific oven involved.
posted by aramaic at 7:07 PM on February 11 [2 favorites]

I would be less worried about code violations and more about voiding my insurance if things went pear shaped. Just a thought.
posted by kate4914 at 7:17 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]

There are water heater timers and I believe water heaters and stoves generally have similar power demands — in fact, I’m not 100% sure of this, but I’d think water heaters generally draw more amps because they’re all or nothing, and you will very rarely be turning on every burner and your oven when using a timer.

I’m not sure how precisely the average water heater timer measures time, but I have one I’ve never used (somewhere in the basement) and I remember being able to set it within at least five minutes.
posted by jamjam at 8:11 PM on February 11

Response by poster: jamjam - I've seen water heater timers - aren't they usually about scheduling active time rather than "start now and run for 30 minutes"?

Re: location - most ovens (and mine) have the outlet squished behind. The control would need to be on a tether of some kind (a smartphone app won't work for this use case).
posted by amtho at 8:53 PM on February 11

I have no direct experience with this but some of the other dorm apartments at my grad school had these installed (so added after the stove has already been in place a while) so I think they exist. I tried searching "automatic stove turnoff" and got back this list with a few devices that look promising. Some of the links are broken so you may have to search the products de novo but the couple I checked out were in your price range.

Apologies in advance if totally off track...
posted by Tandem Affinity at 10:46 PM on February 11

Apart from how it needs to be integrated into the power circuit for the oven (plugs/sockets? fixed wiring?) and have it conform to code, it's fairly straightforward. The actual power to the oven needs to be controlled by a relay that can handle the current in both legs, so DPST (double pole, single throw), at 50A. This relay gets activated using one of those teapot timers.
posted by Stoneshop at 2:36 AM on February 12

dum spiro spero: to rig up a timer in the built-in buzzer circuit. That would be a much lower voltage/amperage control circuit.

It's not clear to me how that would actually shut down the oven. The buzzer is there, but it just buzzes. And hooking a timer into it you would have to deal with the same problem of switching a large current if it needs to cut power to the heating elements.

The best one could do with the buzzer circuit is using it to activate an air raid siren or something like that.
posted by Stoneshop at 2:46 AM on February 12

Response by poster: Tandem Affinity - That's a nice list! Unfortunately, nothing fits the requirements 100% (a $169 smoke-detector shutoff unit only shuts off if there's an actual fire-like event and would be hard to reset; a smartphone-connected monitoring device; a simple outlet timer like the one I have that won't work with a full-sized oven, etc.). One specifically for a dorm use case would shut off if one left the room after 8 minutes (so, no baking a cake while programming in the next room), and it was quite expensive.

Googling "automatic stove turnoff" unfortunately gives approximately the same list...

This is a market niche that's just sitting there, world...
posted by amtho at 2:51 AM on February 12

Expensive and bulky is fine, as long as it costs less than $150 or so.

Can't see how it would. Contactors designed for stove-sized loads are just pricey things even before you incorporate the timer and control components.

Smaller, more specialized cooking appliances with inbuilt timers can quite often be had for less money than you'd pay for switchgear grunty enough to control your big stove. For example, I've been getting a lot of good use out of our recently acquired air fryer, which is nothing but a small, automated, easily-cleaned convection oven.
posted by flabdablet at 4:43 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]

This is a highly custom need; you can expect to pay highly custom prices. And may still find it difficult to find anyone who wants to take on the liability for improvising something like this, since you want it for safety purposes.

Maybe there's some way to do this at the circuit breaker, rather than getting into deviating from how kitchens are supposed to be wired, or modifying appliances from their certified configurations.

If you're looking for controls for improvisation (I really wouldn't) then I suppose sauna and spa controls handle similar loads intended for a heating element, and are typically analog dial timers.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:32 AM on February 12

(Something like this, in an enclosure. With the power to the oven's outlet fed through it.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:40 AM on February 12

^ I should note that one is 28 amps (and already more than you want to spend for the part alone).

The circuit breaker solutions do exist, but they are smart-home type things that you'd use an app to control.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:50 AM on February 12

This is an interesting question.

It's not a perfect answer, but looks like you can deal with this at the breaker level - Leviton has a smart breaker that you can control via an app. Looks like it'd be about $200 including their data hub.

It doesn't look like it's currently programmable (see forum), but you'd at least have a safe, UL-rated, easy way to turn off your oven remotely by flipping the breaker.
posted by many more sunsets at 8:56 AM on February 12

Oh, better idea:

Step 1) Get this, which you can 'sync' or 'train' to the sound of your fire alarm

Step 2) Get a LOUD kitchen timer that sounds like an alarm, and put it as near as possible to the device

Step 3) Train product 1 on product 2
posted by many more sunsets at 9:05 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]

This is a highly custom need

Not at all; I had the same request of the snazzy new digital stove in my last apartment, which had this "time" feature that would activate the oven at a pre-set time, but the end timer was just an alarm.

I wanted to park the frozen croissants in there, have the oven come on a half-hour before I got home, and switch off when they're done cooking. What good is a timer alarm, in this scenario? If I get home late, I don't want to smell and then find burned croissants in the kitchen.
posted by Rash at 11:21 AM on February 12

As a built in feature, sure. 50 amp plugin outlet timers with a wired remote control, no.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:34 AM on February 12

uses a 250 volt circuit

220, 221, whatever it takes!
posted by soylent00FF00 at 4:01 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]

I found another old water heater timer upstairs that I’d forgotten about. Made by Sangamo, and rated at 45 amps and 240V; the dial is marked off in 15 min. intervals, but the ratchet is much finer than that. The on and off times are independent and can be as close together or far apart as one would like, and there’s a weird accessory dial with days of the week on it, but there aren't enough switches for every day to have its own on/off time, so I’m assuming it’s daily opt in or out.

It's a gray hammer finished metal box with a hinged front cover, and is designed to be mounted on a wall, but I’m sure you could get a pretty solid mount on the side of a steel walled stove with a couple of strong magnets.

I don’t know though, having your stove set up to do things while you’re asleep or out of the house seems like a recipe for serious trouble to me, and I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t be grounds for denial of any kind of insurance claim.
posted by jamjam at 4:59 PM on February 12

I'm not quite sure as I wasn't able to find a manual, but I have my doubts that the Levitron breaker is actually controllable via the app. If it is, they really bury that lede looking at the various feature lists.
posted by Aleyn at 5:16 PM on February 12

Response by poster: jamjam - I agree - I definitely am not interested in a "time of day" timer; more a "start now, stop in X minutes" timer.
posted by amtho at 5:17 PM on February 12

Response by poster: Also: the archetypical use case is a senior citizen, so controlling this by an app isn't great.

Another reason an app isn't good for this: Who wants to find, focus on, spend time navigating, and touch their (very germy already) phone when you're cooking?
posted by amtho at 5:19 PM on February 12

Response by poster: Also: Ideally the oven/stove _won't turn on_ without having the timer activated. You wouldn't be able to cook anything that way if your phone was misplaced, inaccessible, or chargeless, and you also wouldn't be able to cook anything if your network of choice (wifi or cellular) wasn't working perfectly.
posted by amtho at 5:20 PM on February 12

Consider the application and the lack of affordance for some cable the of the thickness required for this (twice over the load required for, once for each direction) to be snaking out from behind a framed-in oven to some improvised console-style remote from the 50s via semi-rigid conduit, taking up half the counter. (Let alone code requirements.)

Then imagine you're the electrician whose insurance policy the customer is going to shelter under.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:27 PM on February 12

Response by poster: Hey snuffleupagus - Those do sound like serious considerations, but I'm not 100% clear what you're trying to dissuade me from doing? Are you saying that asking this question or looking for solutions is somehow risky?
posted by amtho at 9:12 PM on February 12

I know I should probably be focusing on the question as written, but seriously what in the world? You need to have a Come to Jesus conversation with yourself or with whoever is putting something in the oven and then leaving the house after not hearing the timer and forgetting about it. Even worse is you’re talking about turning off the burners. This is a major fire hazard.

Get a separate timer which makes a huge noise, you could carry it with you. Or get in the habit of setting a timer on your phone instead. Put a note on the front door asking if the oven is on. Have the people who are cooking actually attending to their cooking in the kitchen. Make a giant bright yellow object; sign, brick, lanyard, whatever, that people need to take with them whenever they leave the kitchen and have the oven on. Never leave the kitchen if the burners are on.
posted by cali59 at 9:54 PM on February 12

Response by poster: Nobody _plans_ to forget that their oven or stove are on.

My grandfather (the most educated person in my family) forgot an aluminum pot on the stove when he was in his 60s. It melted and severely burned his foot.

Many of the questions people post about what to do about their elderly parents reflect a worry about older people cooking and forgetting to turn off hot appliances.

This kind of thing is a common issue and fear with many kinds of people, particularly seniors, but also others (people with ADD and ASC, for example, may have issues here). Even the sharpest, smartest, heartiest people get busy or distracted and sometimes forget things. Some of those things are dangerous enough that even one misstep per 25 years is worth managing.

Most clothes irons will automatically shut off after a set period -- for safety. All the microwave ovens I've seen only run with timed cycles. Curling irons shut themselves off.

Yes, it is a major fire hazard. It's commonly held in many fields of study that scolding and reminder notes aren't sufficient safety measures.
posted by amtho at 1:57 AM on February 13

I have ADD and have ruined pots on burners I have left on (scaring myself). I understand the need.

Here's what a 50 amp extension cord looks like. (Also, note that it's $90, discounted.)

Now consider how a simple plug timer with a remote switch would work—the power would go from the plug to the timer and then back to the plug (like a plugin dimmer—otherwise you're talking about some more complicated control with a remotely operated relay).

So twice the thickness of that cord, plus more insulation. Now you're talking about the kinds of cords seen in industrial settings or tech-theater, and running the range on a double-length of extension cord, with all the current passing through the control, which is....sitting on a counter? Near things that might be full of water?

Not that I think such a thing really exists.

What you'd realistically need to do is interrupt the wiring to the existing range outlet using something like jamjam linked, mounted on the on the wall, with a wiring box behind it, which is an improvised use of the control and non-standard kitchen wiring to say the least. And not a cheap project.

I don't think an electrician is likely to agree to do it, and take on the liability if it fails in either way: the non-standard wiring or adapted controls not meant for the purpose starting a fire, or the timer failing to prevent one.
posted by snuffleupagus at 2:10 AM on February 13

Sorry, make that 'like the water heater timer jamjam mentioned, or the more generic heater control I linked.' Or maybe the kind often seen controlling fans or spa pumps (conveniently sized to a standard wall-plate) if they can handle the load.
posted by snuffleupagus at 2:25 AM on February 13

Personally? Get one of those Air Fryer Ovens. It saves electricity compared to big ovens, it cooks faster, and it ONLY runs on timer (time runs out, over turns off). You probably don't even need to have it remote controlled.
posted by kschang at 2:29 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]

What you'd realistically need to do is interrupt the wiring to the existing range outlet using something like jamjam linked, mounted on the on the wall, with a wiring box behind it

If I were to take on this project for myself (which I wouldn't, because my microwave oven and air fryer between them adequately cover my automated cookery needs) I'd be more inclined to try to find a way to mount the required contactor and its controlling mechanical countdown timer inside the stove housing, preferably with the countdown timer replacing the existing bell timer.

My rationale for preferring that route are that the wiring inside the stove will already be heavy individual wires rather than something like romex cable, which would offer me much more flexibility in rerouting that wiring to incorporate the contactor; that the stove housing would probably have more than enough space inside it to find a safe spot an adequate distance from heating elements to mount the contactor; that a shutoff timer that doesn't leverage existing muscle memory trained on the bell timer is more likely to be left unused right when it's most needed; and that I am justifiably confident that I know enough about how electricity works and what safe internal appliance wiring looks like to be able to make a tidy job of it.

I think any such timer mounted outside the stove would likely end up an ergonomic nightmare even if actually built safely.

I also think that the path of least resistance is certainly small countertop cooking appliances with their own inbuilt timers.
posted by flabdablet at 7:29 AM on February 13

I'm a fan of Tuya smart plugs for basic 10A 120V circuits. I can swear there's something similar for 50A 240V: plug the oven into it and the thing into the wall. But I can't find it. FWIW Tuya is the generic name for these things, the company that runs the servers for them. They are actually manufactured by a bunch of generic-sounding companies, mostly in China.

What I did find is Tuya-compatible breakers, see also here. That would give you a way to control the breaker with software. I don't know for sure there's a simple UI for "turn on for 30 minutes" but I bet it's doable. I have no experience with this product and would be cautious. Ideally finding an electrician who's worked with them. The breakers themselves are cheap ($30 to $50) but I would not cut corners on code compliance.

The Leviton suggestion above would be a more mainstream US way to do this. I'm genuinely surprised there's a $200 standalone breaker from them, I would have expected only full panel replacements.
posted by Nelson at 7:34 AM on February 13

Another design possibility I'd be looking into: controlling the contactor with a microswitch mounted in such a way as to be activated off the same mechanical parts of the existing bell timer that activate the bell. From an operational safety point of view it's pretty hard to beat no change to the stove's existing timer UI.
posted by flabdablet at 7:38 AM on February 13

A DIY way, then (only if you know what you're doing):

Use a 3-pole normally open contactor rated at 240v/50amps, with a 120v coil, so that it switches the three contacts on/off. Splice this contactor inline to a range extension cord.

Create a second 120v circuit using a countdown mechanical timer, a standard light bulb w/socket (to prevent creating an electrical short), and the coil of the contactor.

Encase this all in two separate secure, safe enclosures, with proper wiring practices.

Enclosure A: contains the contactor circuit. The enclosure is placed in the middle of the range extension cord, and has a 120v male plug coming out of its side, like a heavy-duty version of this, the Powerswitch Tail. The male plug, when it is plugged into an outlet, closes the contactor. (The advantage of having Enclosure A in a separate system is that, if you don't want to use this system anymore, you can just leave the 120v plugged into the wall and the oven always on.)

Enclosure B: is plugged into a 120v socket, and exposes the mechanical timer and the light bulb in plain sight. It also has a 120v female socket that supplies power when the mechanical timer is on.

How to use:
1. You turn the mechanical timer clockwise to 60 minutes. It gradually ticks down and rotates, so that there's a clear and easy interface and you know how much time you have left.
2. The light bulb immediately turns on, which gives you visual confirmation that the stove is on.
3. The contactor connects, sending power to the oven.
4. You program/use the oven as normal.
5. When the timer runs out, power stops flowing, the bulb turns off, and the oven turns off.

I'm not an electrician, and you should run this by one!
posted by many more sunsets at 9:19 AM on February 13

Actually, instead of the whole enclosure 2, just buy this countdown mechanical outlet timer, or something like it.
posted by many more sunsets at 9:20 AM on February 13

Response by poster: Ah, many more sunsets, I was so excited about the outlet timer link, but alas it only handles 10A.
posted by amtho at 10:34 AM on February 13

There are big heavy-duty outlet timers, but they require professional installation, but can supposedly handle 40A "general use" for pools and spas and such, with mechanical timer.
posted by kschang at 10:40 AM on February 13

Response by poster: Alas, kschang, 40A is a bit under-powered, and also that timer just turns on and off at different times of day -- the use case here is 'push button to start any time, then stop after a set duration'.

Note to whoever is in charge of the English language: we need two separate words to describe the two separate kinds of timers. :)
posted by amtho at 12:24 PM on February 13

Ah amtho - yes, the outlet timer would work in conjunction with enclosure 1 in my answer, which is doing the switching.

This is the kind of work that HVAC contractors do, too (to switch outlets off/on, and I bet if you go to them with a plan, they'd be happy to construct the enclosure for you for a few hundred $).
posted by many more sunsets at 1:57 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]

I'd agree that an HVAC contractor is more likely to be willing to take this on.

I also think they (or a residential electrician) are much more likely to modify the in-wall wiring and install a dial timer somewhere reachable than be willing to engage in DIYer/hobbyist style modification of the appliance itself, despite that it might be a better design. They're licensed (and insured) for the former, not the latter.

It will also at least 10x the budget.

I found this product, the iGuardStove, which I would strongly consider instead. It's a "power box" and a control panel (connected with a ethernet cable) that allows both manual timing and shutoff for lack of motion detection over time. Here's a diagram of the application, which is more or less the precise thing you started looking for.

It's $500 on amazon, which is probably going to be at or around the cost of the parts alone for a DIY solution. And that's within your 'no labor, easy to install' budget, so I'd go with this over trying to convince someone qualified to work with you to invent a similar solution (and which will be less safe if all the power is running through the control).
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:27 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]

This was a pretty good thought experiment. As an electrician here's what I'd do:

Your range receptacle is currently mounted in a 4 11/16ths box (might be plastic). I'd replace that box in the wall with a 6x6x4 screw cover metal box (minimizes the disturbance to the cable feeding the receptacle). I'd then put a metal 4 11/16ths box 1" to one side and connect the two with nipple (short piece of conduit). I would mount a 5" piece of DIN rail in the 6x6 and would mount on it a 50a 2 pole 120v coil definite purpose contactor and a few terminal blocks to pass thru the neutral and bond conductors. I'd wire the hot conductors thru the contactor and pass the load conductors into the 4 11/16ths and then install the range receptacle.

I'd control the contactor with a 120v timer (electronic or mechanical) mounted in an old work box installed in the wall above the top of the range backsplash inline with the 6x6. Power for the timer would be tapped from the range circuit (legal in Canada, not sure for the USA).

Unfortunately it is going to blow your budget: $200 for the contactor, $100-150 for the rest of the hardware and incidentals. Two hours time if there aren't any surprises at whatever the going rate in your area is and cost of a permit in many areas.

It would be bullet proof and buck simple to operate requiring a simple button press or turn of a knob. The Eaton switch I linked has an indicator light built-in and the mechanical switch has visual and audio indications it is on.

If I was wearing my major appliance technician hat I could probably do it cheaper and contain it wholely within the range using panel mount relays and a simple push button switch but installation would be would be heavily dependent on the physical properties and layout of the particular range.
posted by Mitheral at 8:28 PM on February 15 [4 favorites]

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