Netscraps

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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. The photocell wiring is not what you’d expect. The black wire is positive, white is ground, & red is the switched output (+).

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!

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10 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.

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