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Electrical Wire and Cable

Wiring a Photocell for an Outdoor Light Fixture

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

How to Wire a Photocell
Electrical Question #1: 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.

Electrical Question #2:

This electrical wiring question came from in The Villages, Florida.

Dave’s Answer:

Thank you for your electrical wiring questions.

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 120 Volt Photocell

More about Electrical Wiring for Outside Lights

Light Switch Wiring

Wiring Diagrams

Electrical wire
Electrical Wire for the Home
Complete listing of electrical wire types and parts used for home projects with electrical code information serves as selection guidelines.

For more information about 220 Volt Wiring Diagram
220 Volt Wiring Diagram
220 Volt Wiring Diagram
Wiring 220 Volt Electrical Outlet
Home electrical wiring includes 110 volt outlets and 220 volt outlets and receptacles which are common place in every home. See how electrical outlets for the home are wired.

» You Can Avoid Costly Mistakes! «

Here's How to Do It:
Wire It Right with the help of my Illustrated Wiring Book

Great for any Home Wiring Project.

  electrical wiring  

Complete Guide to Home Electrical Wiring

Perfect for Homeowners, Students,
Handyman, Handywomen, and Electricians
Wiring GFCI Outlets
Wiring Home Electric Circuits
120 Volt and 240 Volt Outlet Circuits
Wiring Light Switches
Wiring 3-Wire and 4-Wire Electric Range
Wiring 3-Wire and 4-Wire Dryer Cord and Dryer Outlet
How to Troubleshoot and Repair Electrical Wiring
Wiring Methods for Upgrading Electrical Wiring
NEC Codes for Home Electrical Wiring
....and much more.

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

Electrical Tips to Help You Wire it Right

The Safest Way to Test Electrical Devices and Identify Electric Wires!

The Non-Contact Electrical Tester
This is a testing tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and is the first test tool I grab to help identify electrical wiring. It is a Non-contact tester that I use to easily Detect Voltage in Cables, Cords, Circuit Breakers, Lighting Fixtures, Switches, Outlets and Wires. Simply insert the end of the tester into an outlet, lamp socket, or hold the end of the tester against the wire you wish to test. Very handy and easy to use.

The Quickest Way to Check for Faulty Electrical Wiring!

The Plug-In Outlet Tester
This is the first tool I grab to troubleshoot a problem with outlet circuit wiring. This popular tester is also used by most inspectors to test for power and check the polarity of circuit wiring.
It detects probable improper wiring conditions in standard 110-125 VAC outlets Provides 6 probable wiring conditions that are quick and easy to read for ultimate efficiency Lights indicate if wiring is correct and indicator light chart is included Tests standard 3-wire outlets UL Listed Light indicates if wiring is incorrect Very handy and easy to use.

Strip Off Wire Insulation without Nicking and Damaging the Electric Wire!

The Wire Stripper and Wire Cutter
My absolute favorite wire stripping tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and this is the tool I use to safely strip electrical wires.
This handy tool has multiple uses:
The wire gauges are shown on the side of the tool so you know which slot to use for stripping insulation.
The end of the tool can be used to grip and bend wire which is handy for attaching wire onto the screw terminals of switches and outlets..

The wire stripper will work on both solid and stranded wire. This tool is Very Handy and Easy to Use.

« How to Install an Outdoor Electrical Outlet How to Fix a Tripping GFCI Outlet for a Freezer or Refrigerator »

FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

9 Responses to “Wiring a Photocell for an Outdoor Light Fixture”
  1. 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.

    • 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,

  2. Lakhan says:

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

  3. 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?

    • 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,

  4. emmie says:

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

    • 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.

  5. Isaac Howser says:

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

    • 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.


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