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Automatic Chicken Coop Door – Solar Time Table Switch

Honeywell makes a programmable digital “solar time table” switch that adjusts events automatically throughout the year based on daylight hours.

It’s far more reliable than a photocell, but one caveat — it runs on AC power. If you only have 12V DC power at the coop, use one of the other automatic chicken coop door methods I’ve written about: 12V timers or photocell. For those of you with AC power available at your chicken coop, read on!

On the Honeywell switch you’ll set the current date, your latitude & longitude & your event times, & the switch does the rest. The switch also has an override button that cycles the switch on & off manually.

The other component that makes the whole setup work is the relay. You’ll need a DPDT relay with a coil rated for 120VAC, but with 12VDC contacts. See the full product lists with links below for each relay type.

Option 1: Heavy Duty Functional Devices Relay

Heavy duty 120VAC/12VDC DPDT relay from Functional Devices.
Assembled: compact & dust proof.

The heavy-duty Functional Devices relay costs a little more (~$12) mostly because it’s rated for continuous duty at 10 million cycles. It will be on for hours at a time with this timer setup, so continuous duty is a good thing.

Also if you mount the Honeywell Solar Timer switch into an outdoor-rated junction box, the Functional Devices relay screws into the top of the box & you end up with a nice compact dustproof timer setup that will last a long time, even in a chicken coop.

Here’s the equipment list:

If the linear actuator runs backwards from how you’d like it to work, reverse the 2 actuator leads where they connect to the relay’s yellow & purple wires.

If YouTube is your thing, here’s the how-to video.

For setup tips & troubleshooting, scroll down below the “standard-duty relay” section below.


Option 2: Standard-duty relay

A standard-duty relay works fine but the relay coil may fail over time, since these relays typically are made with pretty cheap components. However if it fails, you can just unplug the bad relay & plug in a new one.

Here’s the full product list:

The blue & white wires run to pins (screw terminals) 7 & 8. The actuator connects to pins 5 & 6. Connect 12V power to pins 1/2 & 3/4 with each pair having opposite polarity from each other — so if the bottom pins have red/black connected, the top pins have black/red.

DO NOT GUESS WHICH PINS THE AC POWER (BLUE & WHITE WIRES) RUN TO ON THE RELAY BASE! If you can’t determine which pins 7 & 8 are from the tiny writing on the base, they are the outer/lower set of pins on the end of the relay base that has the “nub” that sticks out. Don’t confuse pins 7/8 with pins 1/2 on the opposite end or very bad things will happen.

If the linear actuator runs backwards from how you’d like it to operate, reverse the actuator leads where they connect to the relay base (pins 5/6).

Make sure you wrap the exposed screw terminals with electrical tape where the white & blue wires from the timer connect to the relay base (pins 7 & 8). Remember, those carry AC power.


Setup Tips & Troubleshooting (both relay types)

Safety first: Always work on the wiring with the AC power cord unplugged.

I recommend putting a fuse on the positive 12V lead. The appropriate fuse size is typically 7.5 amps for most linear actuators.

For 12V power supply ideas, see this post & scroll down to the “power supply options” section.

In a power outage, the Honeywell switch retains the programmed events. When the power comes back on, the door will catch up on whatever state it’s supposed to be in. One downside to this setup is there’s no easy battery backup to make this system work during a power outage, like there is for the other all-12VDC automatic chicken coop door methods.

I recommend placing everything in a weatherproof junction box & cover since the Honeywell switch isn’t really meant for a chicken coop environment.

Timer setup: use Automatic mode, & make sure for the event times you pick either the sunrise or sunset option. The timer lets you adjust the event time up to 70 minutes before or after sunrise/sunset.

If you don’t know your latitude & longitude, go to Google Maps, right-click near where you live, click “What’s here?” from the menu & use the numbers in light grey text (round to the nearest whole number).

Disclaimer: I’ve only used this system for a short time so far, & I’m using the heavy duty Functional Devices relay. If you went with the standard-duty relay, I don’t know how long it will last.

Any questions or comments, leave ’em below!

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Heavy Duty Automatic Chicken Coop Door – Photocell

7 Comments

  1. Tom

    Hi Wick,

    I have the solar switch, the 8″ actuator and the relay, but it’s the SCHNEIDER ELCTRIC/MAGNECRAFT 92S11A22D-120 POWER RELAY, DPDT, 120VAC, 30A, DIN RAIL, which I believe was either in one of your previous writeups or another Youtube video I watched.

    Since it came with no instructions, do you think I should just get the same relay you used? Otherwise, any advise on how to wire the Schneider relay?

    I am just presuming that the 2 large pins are 120V, but not sure about the remaining ones. H-bridge still applies?

    Thanks!

    • Wick

      That relay should work just fine, it’s a nice heavy duty relay. The two pins that are different orientation from the other 6 pins are the coil, & you run the 120VAC output from the timer & 120VAC neutral to those 2 coil pins — doesn’t matter which side gets neutral/switch output.

      According to the wiring diagram I found for that relay, the middle pair out of those 6 remaining pins are the “common” pins that go to the linear actuator (swap these if the actuator runs backwards from how you want), & the other 4 pins get the 12V H-bridge. Good luck, hope that helps!

  2. Tom

    Thanks for reply. Not sure if there is an issue with commenting section or not, but my original post hasn’t showed for a long time. Maybe you have it on manual approval?
    (I also tried to comment on one of other articles here a while ago)

    I couldn’t find a spec confirming that the Schneider relay is continuous duty plus the screw in relay looked to be rated for better longevity, so I ordered it and will return the Schneider relay. Love the idea of pigtail too. The override button would be great (for other applications), but the solar switch already has the functionality, so no big deal.

    Thanks for digging out the diagram. Might use it some day!

  3. Wian

    Hi Wick,
    Would you see any problems adding additional actuators for ex. an additional pop hole or actuator to open nest boxes? What ga. wire would you recommend for this setup for running 2 actuators about 30-40ft away from relay/timer?

    W.

    • Wick

      Hi Wian, that should work fine — the 10-amp rating on these relays is enough to handle 2 actuators running simultaneously. I’d definitely recommend the Functional Devices relay though. If the 7.5amp fuse that I recommend blows, go up to a 10-amp fuse, or fuse each actuator separately with 7.5amp fuses. Also the 6-amp DC power adapter I mention as a dedicated power supply might not be enough to run 2 actuators simultaneously especially if your doors take some effort to open/close — consider getting a larger 10-amp DC power adapter.

      In terms of wiring size, see this 12V wire gauge/length chart. Looks like 14-gauge wire is appropriate for 30-40′ especially since a little voltage drop won’t matter to the actuators. Realistically I think even 16-gauge would probably be fine because of the actuators have such a short run time. Also in my experience, the actuators only draw ~1 amp (each) for most of the time they run. Each actuator only hits 4-5 amps when it encounters resistance, which for my coop door is just the last half-second as the door presses closed tightly.

  4. Jeff Huber

    I’m a bit confused on what is needed for the 12V power supply. If I have AC power to the coop, do I need two outlets available? 1 runs power to the timer, 1 converts to DC, powers the actuator?

    Doing a quick search… I suppose this is simply because the timers tend to run on AC power, but I can’t find any linear actuators that run on AC power…?

    Is it possible to go off one power source with a programmable DC powered timer? Doesn’t need to adjust based on daylight, I can do that manually a few times a year, and set it conservatively to go an hour or two after sunset.

    Would these plans change using an old car antenna rather than the linear actuators? I find the linear actuator options available to be over-powered from a weight capacity perspective, and shorter than desired for the price…. Would rather have 25 inches of range and a few pounds capacity vs 200 lbs capacity and 6-8 inches range.

    Thanks!!!

    • Wick

      Hi Jeff, that’s right — for this design you would need a single-gang (2-outlet) 120VAC receptable. One for the solar timer, one for the DC adapter to power the 12V items.

      If you ditch the solar timer & go with the simple 12V programmable timer you mentioned, you just need 1 outlet. See links for the simple 12V timer design in the first paragraph. To use an old car antenna, no changes needed — you’d just wire the car antenna in place of the actuator.

      I prefer the actuator because in the winter my coop door needs to close regardless of snow & ice, & the power of the linear actuator is perfect for that. Also in terms of short travel, depending on where you attach the actuator to on a hinged door, you don’t need the actuator to have the full travel distance that the door will open. For instance to swing open the door 16″ wide, if you attach the actuator farther back toward the hinge point, you might only need 6″ of travel. However if you are using a guillotine-style door, then yes you’ll need the actuator/antenna to go the same distance you want the door open & the car antenna would be a good choice for that. Hope that helps, good luck!

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