Netscraps

A windsurfing, CSS-grudging, IE-hating, web-developing, gigantic-machine-puzzling blog

Heavy Duty Automatic Chicken Coop Door – Photocell

UPDATE: If you have AC power in your coop, a more reliable method uses a Solar Time Table Switch which adjusts automatically throughout the year for daylight hours based on your location.

A question that comes up a lot in my Automatic Chicken Coop Door posts is what’s the wiring diagram with a photocell? Ask & ye shall receive!

One thing I’ll say up front while I still have your attention — the wiring diagram above is NOT WRONG in terms of the photocell wire colors. It’s not what you’d expect. The black wire is positive, white is ground, & red is the switched output (+). Also, the pin wiring for the relay may change slightly depending on which relay you use. For instance, here’s the wiring diagram for the “heavy duty” relay option in the parts list below:

This is a “dusk till dawn” photocell which means the photocell switches on at night. It’s advertised as waterproof & the light sensitivity is adjustable. It also has fairly mediocre reviews on Amazon so if anyone has a better photocell to recommend, please do!

Here’s the parts list:

The DPDT relay is wired as an H-bridge. This means you make an “X” with power to the normally open (NO) & normally closed (NC) terminals so they have reverse polarity from each other. The “common” terminals connect to the linear actuator.

The photocell controls the coil, the coil switches the relay & that reverses the motor. The linear actuator’s built-in limit switches take care of the rest.

IF IT OPENS AT NIGHT & CLOSES IN DAYLIGHT: Flip the leads to the linear actuator where they plug into the relay.

POWER DRAIN: Although daytime power usage is minimal (0.004 amps) when the photocell is only monitoring the light level, the photocell & relay have a constant power drain at night of 0.12 amps when both the photocell & DPDT relay coils are energized. So I recommend only using this photocell system on dedicated power.

You can still use the photocell system with a solar panel/battery setup, but you would need enough capacity to handle the power drain (12 hours night @ 0.12 amps = ~1.5 amp-hours just for operating the photocell). If you need to conserve power, use this timer-driven system instead.

Here’s a video explaining the wiring:

OPTIONAL TIMER OVERRIDE: Don’t trust the photocell? Add a timer so that closing the door happens regardless of whether the photocell works. Here’s a wiring diagram for that:

Set up one timer event:

  • start time = forces the door to close
  • end time = door available for photocell to open

So for example, start time of 10pm & end time of 5am.

Keep in mind the timer only overrides closing — if you have a bad photocell that doesn’t recognize daylight, the timer won’t force the door to open.

I use a system of timers instead of this photocell system, because where I live has high winds & I’m concerned the photocell wouldn’t be reliable with blowing dust & snow. The timer system also has far less power drain which is useful if you have a solar-powered coop. I change the open & close times every few months to keep pace with daylight. But the photocell method is pretty slick & if it works for you, great.

Any questions, post in the comments below. Hope this helps!

Previous

Ruben Harris TrekkSoft Spam

Next

Automatic Chicken Coop Door – Solar Time Table Switch

23 Comments

  1. SCOTT M ANDERSEN

    I wish it worked. I ordered the 12 DPDT with Base from Amazon, and the photocell you recommended. Your instructions, drawing and video isn’t using the same relay. Not sure which 8 screws to use on the relay base that correspond to the Coil, Com, NC, and NO connectors. Can’t find a drawing anywhere. The drawing on the top of the coil is unreadable.

    Waste of $30 and a days monkeying around with it.

    • Wick

      My instructions are for any DPDT relay. Pull the relay out of the base & it will look identical to my drawing & video.

      The wiring diagram for that relay base is printed into the plastic, as explained in the Question/Answer section for that relay product on Amazon. If you can’t read it, sounds like you just got a bad one from Amazon. I’ll add a wiring diagram for the relay base for you.

  2. Tom

    Hi Wick,

    Could you please post a diagram that involves a Honeywell Econoswitch that was mentioned in your other post (and you referred to just replacing the photocell) It was a bit confusing, since it still uses the regular timer. I thought it’s doable without additional timers. I have 120V to the coop.

    Thanks!

  3. Tom

    Hello!

    Anybody here?
    Wondering if anyone made progress with Honeywell Econoswitch.

    Please let me know!

    • Wick

      Whoops sorry, I missed your first comment. I did set up the Honeywell switch a few months ago & it works great. I can do a writeup about it with photos & wiring diagram later this weekend, probably Sunday.

    • Wick

      Hi Tom, here you go: http://blog.netscraps.com/diy/automatic-chicken-coop-door-solar-time-table-switch.html

      I mention this briefly at the end of that writeup but I found what looks like a better heavy-duty relay that screws directly into a smaller weatherproof box. So if you’re considering ordering parts for this, maybe hold off for a few more days. I’ll update the writeup about how the new parts work (and an updated wiring diagram for them) by the end of next week.

  4. Nathan Farrington

    What are the measurements of the door

  5. Holland C

    Hello,
    I am ordering the parts on the list, I want the photo cell to open and close and use the timers as backup. With the recemendation to use 120v with the photo cell will Al the components work with 120v. Thanks

    • Wick

      Hi Holland. NONE of the components that I listed here will work with 120VAC. They are all 12VDC. Where’s the recommendation to “use 120VAC with the photocell”? I don’t think I said that anywhere. However you could use an AC to DC power adapter, potentially with battery backup — see the “power supply” options that are listed halfway through my earlier timer-based chicken coop door post for more help with that.

    • Steve Smith

      First of your post is very informative and has inspired me to build my own photo cell operated door closer for my chicken coop. Looking over your wiring plan I got confused about the “red” wire coming from what I presume to be the power supply along side the “black” hot wire and the “white” common wire. I get the “red” switch wire coming from the timer and the photo cell to the actuator. My question is, is the red wire originally leading to the DPDT switch and the timer a common wire also, or I missing something in my understanding of your schematics.
      Again thanks for the diagram, I’d be lost without it and walking out to the coop every morning and evening.

      • Wick

        Ah I can see how that could be confusing. This is 12VDC power, so the black wire from the power supply is ground (-), & the red wire from the power supply is positive (+). You’ll see that standard DC power wire color scheme matches the wiring that runs to the relay & actuator (and timer too, for that option).

        The photocell is where the wire colors get confusing — although it is a 12VDC photocell, it oddly follows the typical 120/240VAC wire color convention as you described. That is why I have the text notes on those photocell wires. Other than the photocell, the rest of the wiring follows the standard 12VDC wire color convention of red (+) / black (-).

  6. Mathias

    Hi wick I’m not sure if you’ve covered this before but I would like to add in a manual switch to a photocell setup. Would I just wire it to bypass the automation …grab power before it and jump back in after it? Would wiring it in as the optional timer in the photocell work? If so, would I use a polarity switching three pole switch 12v dc? Also would like to thank you for posting these diagrams have been very helpful.

    • Wick

      Hi Mathias, yes you could replace the timer with a manual switch but I don’t think the polarity reversing switch would help, since you already have polarity switching with the relay.

      An easy way for a manual override would be to use an SPDT switch. Wire (+) power to the common terminal on the switch, run the (+) lead from the photocell to one side of the switch, & the (+) timer override wire to the other side. That way the settings on the override switch are AUTO / OPEN / CLOSED. I’ll make another wiring diagram for that.

  7. Mathias

    Thank u much could you do one that doesn’t involve a time as I’m not planning one. And I want to thank u every much for your time and help this is awesome !!

  8. Ben

    Hey Wick! I greatly appreciate you posting these coop door setups. I was able to get the photocell with timer backup to work with the basic DPDT relay, but it stopped opening the door in the morning after a week or two. I can reset the whole thing in the morning by disconnecting the power and reconnecting, and the door opens…then closes when it is supposed to. I assumed this behavior was a bad relay, so I opted for the heavy duty DPDT relay. Unfortunately, the heavy duty relay connections don’t seem to be exactly the same as the smaller cheaper relay, although they look very much the same (just bigger). Do you happen to have a wiring diagram for the heavy duty relay? I’m guessing I have it wired wrong, but I’m having trouble understanding how it should be connected, since I’m not so good at wiring.

    • Wick

      Ah good point, the wiring for the heavy duty relay is different. The coil is still the same: the pair of terminals on one end that are turned 90 degrees from the other 6 terminals. However the wiring “X” goes between the top pair & bottom pair of the 6 terminals. The “common” terminals that run to the linear actuator are the middle pair of the 6 pins. I can do a wiring diagram if that doesn’t make sense.

      • Ben

        I think I got that, but if a diagram is possible, I would be hugely appreciative. 🙂

        • Wick

          Hi Ben, I added a 2nd wiring diagram to the post above for the heavy duty relay. Hope that helps!

  9. Charlie Gordon

    Completely new to electronics but ordered all the stuff and got the actuator working directly from the DC power supply so I’m pretty chuffed.

    Just a quick question regarding the power supply, do I only need one power supply to run both the light sensor, the actuator and the relay? If so, how does that work exactly? Thanks.

    • Wick

      Hi Charlie, yep with this system all the components are 12VDC so you only need one power supply for everything. For the power supply, you can use a DC power adapter, solar panel & 12V battery, etc. Whatever you use just needs to be able to power the actuator which usually draws about 5 amps max, so for instance if you use a 12V power adapter it has to be rated to produce at least 5 amps. All power adapters have the rating info printed on them, for instance “OUTPUT: 12VDC — 1.5A” which means 1.5 amps so not enough power in that example.

      For power supply ideas, see this post & scroll down to the “Power Supply Options” section.

      • Charlie Gordon

        Thanks for the help, appreciate it! I’ve got this relay, should this work ok? It’s not the same as the one you’ve got so I’m finding where to hook each thing up a little confusing. Thanks again.

        https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00LWX9PPA

        • Wick

          Hi Charlie, that relay is the right type (DPDT) but looks like it’s not rated for enough amps. On the side of that relay I see “1A @ 24V”. I think for DC power the amp rating stays the same for lower voltage so it would also be 1 amp at 12V, & that’s probably not enough — most linear actuators are rated for ~5 amps, so you really should get a heavier-duty relay rated for at least 5 amps.

          That said, here’s the wiring: the “common” terminals (COM1/COM2) connect to the linear actuator motor. Then make an “X” between the NC & NO terminals — so in other words you connect NO1 to NC2, & NO2 to NC1. Then run power to those two “X” legs (one leg becomes +, one leg becomes -). If it runs backwards from how you want it to, swap the COM1/COM2 leads. With that relay, you also run (+) to VCC, (-) to both GND terminals, & INPUT connects to the photocell.

          Hope that helps, any other questions ask away.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén