Understanding Our Photo Cell Sensor

Click here to see location of the Photo Cell Sensor.


The photo cell sensor is used to measure the light intensity level to determine dusk to dawn and trigger operation of the opener. The built-in photo cell sensor is mounted at the bottom of the control box which is mounted within 1-2 feet of the actuator/door. Since the sensor installed location can be in different places with varying exposure to sunlight, the Coop Controls control board has settings and adjustments to help optimize the performance. Environmental structures such as: sheds, garages, trees and fences can reduce sensor exposure to sun light. In addition, artificial lighting such as: flashlights, headlights, and heat lamps can cause a false positive reading by the sensor. This article will describe and explain how our system detects, analyzes and interprets the light source as detected by our sensor so that you can customize the setting for your environmental conditions. We will cover controls and settings to optimize the performance and provide guidance, precautions and limitations of the system.

Coop Control System with Photo Sensor Enabled: (DIP switch #1 = ON)

The photo sensors set points for: sunset/sunrise is fixed and is not adjustable by the end user. These set points are selected assuming the control box is installed where it is exposed to natural sunlight with minimal blockage. These points are referred to as reference set points.

The ‘sunrise’ set point is set to detect light intensity level of early morning as the sun is about to rise and the ‘sunset’ set point is set to detect when the sun just sets in a typical outdoor location. If the light level is brighter than the ‘sunrise’ set point for more than 2 minutes, the unit considers it as valid reading for sunrise open. Inversely, if the light level is darker than the ‘sunset’ point for more than 2 minutes, the unit considers it as valid reading for the sunset close. As you can see, depending on your location, your set points may be slightly lower/higher than the reference set points.

Let’s look at how you can adjust open and close timing to get the consistent desired operation of Coop Controls. In the evening, you want to close the door at ‘night’ after your chickens have returned to the coop. However, you don’t want to close ‘too early’ and leave some chickens out and you don’t want to close it ‘too late’ after dark so that predators can be a threat. The ‘sunset’ set point is used to automatically close the door and it is preset with the assumption that there is plenty of exposure to sunlight. If the unit is installed with minimal or no blockage the unit will close just after sunset (Note: Sunset means, it’s still light out for several minutes). If the unit is installed in a shaded area (less exposure to sunlight compared to an unblocked or shaded area), use the DELAY CLOSE potentiometer on the board to extend the open time, hence, DELAY CLOSE time can be adjusted up to 1 hour from the time the unit detects a valid “sunset”. As you can see, you can move the closing time to a later time, but you cannot make it close sooner than the factory set point for sunset. You want to observe the automatic closure of the system for the first few days after installation and make the proper adjustment for the delay time, if necessary. Keep in mind that the light intensity changes from day to day due to environmental conditions such as cloudy skies or rain so you want of observe the light level when the door automatically closes and not so much at what time it closes.

In the morning, you would like to let the chickens out when there is enough light for nocturnal animals to bed down (predators). The reference set point for ‘sun rise’ is set to ensure that there is plenty of light to make sure the sun is out before the door is open. However, if you need to delay the open even further, you can use the DELAY OPEN setting to delay it up to 1 hour. You can move the open time to a later time, but you cannot make it open sooner than the factory set point for sunrise.

Other manual operation scenarios with CYCLE or Doorbell inputs:

Whenever the door position ‘matches’ the photo sensor’s condition, i.e. closes at night time and opens at day time, the unit will return to its automatic operation.

Cycle and Doorbell Style Pushbutton

The on-board ‘CYCLE’ button and the included doorbell pushbutton can be used to manually control the door at any time causing a temporary system override of the photo sensor. Examples: the pushbutton closes the door during the day or opens the door at night. This section will explain the restrictions and limitations of the manual operations while in automatic sensing mode.

What does the on board CYCLE button or the doorbell button (when installed into the CYCLE input) do?

The on board CYCLE button and the doorbell button are functionally identical. Each time you momentary press and release the button the following will occur:



Scenario 1: Close the door using the CYCLE or doorbell button during day time

The door will remain in the closed position even though the sensor is sensing day time. Once night time (dark) is detected by the sensor at a later time and the door is still at the closed position the unit will return to automatic sensing mode. Therefore, at night time the door will remain closed. This means that the following morning the door will automatically open as it has returned to its automatic sensing mode.

Scenario 2: Open the door using the CYCLE or pushbutton during night time

The door will open and remain open for ONLY 2 MINUTES. The door will automatically close after 5 minutes with each subsequent attempt to open the door. This is to ensure door is closed at dark even with manual operations to protect the chickens from predators, we refer to this as “fail safe”