Wiring a Photocell for an Outdoor Light Fixture


By Dave Rongey - Summary:

How to Wire a Photocell Control to an Outside Light Fixture: Matching a Photocell to an Outdoor Light Fixture, Example of Wiring a 120Volt Photocell.


How to Wire a Photocell

Electrical Question: I would like control an outside light with a photo cell.

Wiring a 1000 Watt Outdoor Light

This electrical question came from: Joe, a Handyman from Branch, Michigan.

Dave’s Answer:

Thanks for your electrical wiring question Joe.

Photocell Control for Outside Lights

Application: Wiring a Photocell to control Outside Lights.
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced – Best installed by a Licensed Electrician.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools and Voltage Tester.
Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience and ability to work with tools.
Precaution: Identify the light circuit, turn it OFF and Tag it with a Note before working with the timer switch wiring.
Notice: Installing additional fixture wiring should be done according to local and national electrical codes with a permit and be inspected.
Materials: Make sure the timer switch has the same amperage and voltage rating as the original switch, and is fully compatible with the electrical circuit, the light fixture and the type of light bulbs being used.

Wiring a Photocell Control for an Outside Light Fixture

Matching a Photocell to an Outdoor Light Fixture

Photocell Basics: How a Photocell Operates
A photocell is basically an automatic switch that is controlled by sunlight during the daytime, and darkness during the night. The change from light to dark automatically activates the photocell to turn on the light fixtures that are wired to it.

Example of Wiring a 120Volt Photocell

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Be Careful and Be Safe - Never Work on Energized Circuits!
Consult your Local Building Department about Permits and Inspections for all projects.

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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

9 Responses to “Wiring a Photocell for an Outdoor Light Fixture”
  1. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Thomas,
    A three wire photocell cannot be used to replace of a two wire photocell. However I have seen the two wire photocells at several popular hardware stores so I know they are available as a direct replacement.
    Enjoy your light fixtures,
    Dave

  2. thomas maier says:

    I have two outdoor sconces that have individual photo cells that are small. Each photocell it has two wires. The fixtures are ten years old, and the photocells are hard to find. Could I use just a regular three wire photocell and not hook up the red wire? Thanks for your time.

  3. Lakhan says:

    I would like to learn more about photo cell wiring diagrams 120 and 240 volts. Your website is very helpful.

  4. Dave Rongey says:

    Great question Vickie,
    In a case like this the photocells in each light fixture could be disconnected, however there really should not be a problem, except for a slight delay of the lights coming on after the main photocell turns on the circuit to the outside lights. If there is a problem then you could wire past each photocell and connect directly to the wires of the light sockets. Use electrical tape or wire connectors to cap off the disconnected wires.

    I hope this helps you,
    Dave

  5. Vickie bourque says:

    We purchased two outside wall lanterns to replace our current light fixtures. The new lights have built in photo cells, and our current wiring has a built in photo cell as well. Do we need to tape a wire off?

  6. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Emmie,
    The voltage of the photocell as well as the make and model will need to be identified and the country where the photocell is to be installed for an accurate wiring diagram.

  7. emmie says:

    I bought a photocell for mounting outdoor. Could you please send me wringing diagram?

  8. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Isaac,
    A photo cell is wired just like a switch, only it needs a neutral. Photocells may also be used with a time clock if the lights should turn OFF at a special time, but accurately turn ON at dusk, very energy saving.
    Dave

  9. Isaac Howser says:

    I have a friend that wants to hook a photocell up in place of a time clock how is this done