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Author Topic: How to make a simple automatic pophole opener/closer  (Read 27131 times)

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hillfooter

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How to make a simple automatic pophole opener/closer
« on: September 28, 2010, 00:44 »
PART 1 Introduction
Winter is fast approaching and the nights are drawing in.  Arenít you just dreading those cold dark evenings when you have to drag yourself away from your warm fire in front of the tele and pull on your heavy wet weather gear and traipse out into the freezing nightto lock up the chicken house :(.  Donít you wish you had an automatic system to do the job for you and open it up in the morning too :wub:  Well you can buy a ready made one you can fit to your house but the snag is itís going to cost you around £195 per house (Forsham Cottage Arks price for the Gizmo with a timer).  However you can make your own for just a fraction of this cost and in this thread Iím going to show you how.

In this first post Iíll describe the design and what type of house and situation itís suitable for and the skills and tools youíll need to build it.

Because I want to make the implementation as simple as possible for the layman with no electronics knowledge or detailed understanding of electrics, Iím going for a design that can be made from pre-assembled parts you can easily buy online.  All you are going to need to do is connect them together and fit them to your house.   Because of these requirements the electrics are going to be powered by plug top DC power supplies (PSUs) which are going to require the availability of an indoor double mains socket as they arenít intended or safe to use outdoors.  A dry garage or outbuilding with an existing power socket for example is fine.  This needs to be within a reasonable distance (say no more than 30mtrs) away from your chicken house.  Since the only cables you will be running outside will be carrying a 12V Dc voltage thereís no electrical safety issue.  However if you have to install such a mains supply that is something only a professional electrician should do and  is beyond the scope of this thread.  

Your chicken house should have a traditional shutter style vertically dropping pophole door .  The design Iím going to describe will not work with a side sliding or hinged door in common with the commercial one and if you have such a house you will need to convert it to a vertical shutter pop hole to use any simple automatic controller.

The tools you are going to need are :- a tenon saw, electric drill and drill bits, a posidrive and flat screw driver for woodscrews an an electricians small flat screwdriver for wiring terminal blocks, wire cutters (snips) and pliers bull nose and small electrical pliers, tape measure.  A electrical multimeter  will be required to identify the +positive and Ėnegative voltage wire from the PSU.  If you donít have one, or canít borrow one,  you can take your PSU to any electrician who can easily do this for you and for such a trivial task shouldnít charge you.  More on this later.

The system consists of two parts which are physically separate as follows.

1   The electrical controller Ė this supplies the power for the opener and generates the signal to open or close the door.  This is mounted adjacent to the mains socket indoors and consists of two plug top power supplies, the sort which are commonly used to power small electronic devices  in place of batteries, and a mains programmable timer the sort sold in IKEA or Supermarkets for operating domestic lamps etc.

2   The door actuator which is mounted on the house and is based on an electric car aerial which when the antenna is raised closes the door and when retracted opens it.  A cord attached to the antenna runs over pulleys and attaches to the door providing the linkage.  The pulleys also lower the gearing and increases the pull force from the aerial so that it can lift even a relatively heavy door like my Forsham Lenhams.  The commercial one uses a small DC motor and would require such a door to be replaced by a lightweight aluminium one but my aerial design is capable of operating most doors without replacing them.  You will have to ensure they run freely though and fall without jamming.  A little sandpapering and rubbing with a wax candle usually does the trick if they donít.

 
One controller can power several actuators if you have more than one house.
Iíll describe the parts you need their approximate cost and where to get them in the next post.

Bye for now.
HF
Polly flying 2.jpg
« Last Edit: October 06, 2010, 00:42 by hillfooter »
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Bantymad

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Re: How to make a simple automatic pophole opener/closer
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2010, 07:35 »
This is great HF, am going to print off and file it. Many thanks.

joyfull

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Re: How to make a simple automatic pophole opener/closer
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2010, 07:39 »
thanks for doing that HF, I won't make one as I get up before my chickens but this will be handy for those who do like a lie in  :)
Staffies are softer than you think.

Curlytop

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Re: How to make a simple automatic pophole opener/closer
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2010, 08:52 »
Thanks HF that is great
I have printed it and will give it to my OH after his dinner tonight  ;)

girliesx4

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Re: How to make a simple automatic pophole opener/closer
« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2010, 13:27 »
 :D You are a star - have just been looking into the cost  :ohmy: as i leave home when still dark and return after dark - had resigned myself to chilly girls so thank you - cannot wait for the next installment

bantam novice

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Re: How to make a simple automatic pophole opener/closer
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2010, 13:32 »
Wow HF,  that's brilliant!  :)  cheers!
11 bantams (and counting!) 2 dogs 1 cat

henamoured

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Re: How to make a simple automatic pophole opener/closer
« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2010, 21:56 »
This is great - just written about it in the original topic!
Just one question please - what is an actuator? Is it the actual motor to lift the door? Will this be connected physically or is it operated wirelessly?
Thanks

hillfooter

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Re: How to make a simple automatic pophole opener/closer
« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2010, 22:54 »
This is great - just written about it in the original topic!
Just one question please - what is an actuator? Is it the actual motor to lift the door? Will this be connected physically or is it operated wirelessly?
Thanks

Sorry I used "actuator", a technical term for " a mechanical device for moving or controlling a mechanism" (Wikipedia).  It's the motor or electric aerial in this case.

HF

henamoured

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Re: How to make a simple automatic pophole opener/closer
« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2010, 23:46 »
Thanks :)

hillfooter

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Re: How to make a simple automatic pophole opener/closer
« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2010, 08:42 »
Part 2 - Pophole Controller Ė Parts list for part (a) - Electrical controller.

In this post Iím going to list the parts we will need to buy (not counting consumables) however Iíd just caution that you read through all these posts (and subsequent ones) before you go and spend your hard eared cash.  You need to be confident you can fit them to your house before you splash out.   Sorry this is going to be a large post so Iíll split it into two covering the two parts of the design.

1   Electrical Controller

2 off 12Vdc regulated plug top power supply.  Power rating 2 Amps (25Watts) minimum.

1 off digitally programmable mains timer. Ė for plugging into the  timer.  If it mechanically wonít fit (interferes with the programming buttons) you may need a short mains extender which will plug into the timer.

1 off 3pole screw terminal strip.  Ie a strip with at least 3 three screw terminals (poles)

Mains cable 1.5sqmm 5A twin & earth as used on lighting circuits is suitable.  The length will depend on how far your mains socket is away from the house.  Scrap `reclaimed mains cable is OK for this application as it will only be carrying 12V at about 500mA current.

Sourcing
12Vdc regulated power supply Ė many suitable units are available on ebay some which are advertised for CCTV applications however you donít want the dc adapter types with multiple output voltages and connectors or units intended for battery charger applications.  You can either use the plug top type units which are enclosed in a moulded box with the usual three mains pins for plugging directly into a mains socket or you can get a ďrat in a snakeĒ type PSU often used for pc laptops with a mains lead and dc lead.  Often the latter can be obtained used very cheaply as they are ex laptop units.  For example LINK which is an ideal high spec device with high output current and has fully protected outputs for £10 including postage.  It doesnít have an output connector but marked output wires which is ideal for this application as you donít need a connector because weíll be using the bare wires,  Also the wires are identified so avoiding the need to check them with a meter.  If you can get such a PSU like this cheaply go for it.  Although it should be 12V nominally any regulated supply from 11 to 14Volts at 2Amps will do.

Hereís another suitable ebay unit LINK but not so well specíd.
The above are circa £10 including postage
See pictures

Although Iíve said you need 2 of these 12V supplies in fact only 1 needs to be 2amps and the other could be a cheaper lower current unit, a minimum of 100ma is all that is required.  A typical lower current plug top unit would be circa £5

For the more technically minded the main 12V supply to the aerial could be provided by a car battery with an attached battery charger if you happen to have these available for free.

Digitally programmable mains timer Ė normal domestic types are suitable these are available on ebay, IKEA or from most supermarkets.  Prices range from circa £5 to £9 depending on source.  Most of these have far more features than we need such as random switching and different programmes each day but this doesnít effect price.  You need to only set up 1 programme with an ON period during the hours of darkness when you need the door shut.  Instructions on using these are included with them just remember to programme on at dusk and off at dawn EVERY DAY of the week.  Iíve said a digital timer but a 24hr mechanical one is also suitable though less accurate over time.  This is an example of a couple of suitable ones



LINK and another LINK

Terminal strip is available from any DIY store, www.screwfix.com or www.rapidonline.com.  5A small terminals are suitable electrically but iíd suggest you get the more chunky 10/13A ones which are easier mechanically to handle and terminate.

Large crocodile clip the type used on battery chargers available from Rapidonline .com (they do a cheap 80p ish one or you can use one sold as an electric fence accessory from farm shops or equine suppliers (£2 ish.)  Fully shrouded ones are best but more expensive.
 
Mains cable If you need to buy mains cable any DIY store or on line from  www.screwfix.com  www.rapidonline.com  or ebay .  £16.50 + delivery from screwfix for 50mtrs

In the next post I'll cover the door actuator (aerial) parts.
Bye for now.
HF
12V dc PSU.jpg
Rat in a snake PSU.jpg
Timer 7 day programmable.jpg
« Last Edit: October 07, 2010, 05:12 by hillfooter »

hillfooter

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Re: How to make a simple automatic pophole opener/closer
« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2010, 08:54 »
Part 2   Parts list part (b) - The door actuator

1 off Electric car radio aerial

1 off domestic indoor drier pulley set.  We will need a double pulley at the top fixed to the house and a single pulley at the bottom fixed to the door for a three loop system as illustrated in the first post.  These are  available as a set .

Length of 1 ľ inch diameter waste pipe. The exact length will depend upon the physical size and arrangement of how you mount the aerial.  The antenna of the aerial runs in this and is used to protect the extended antenna.  In some implementations it may not be required.  Weíll cover these issues in the construction posts.

3 mm to5mm diameter cord.  This is for linking the antenna to the door and runs over the pulleys.  The exact length depends on the physical arrangement.  The cord must not be too elastic and can be lower dia but the closer to 5mm dia the less likely it will be to come off the pulley wheel and jam.

1 off 3pole screw terminal strip as above post.

Sourcing

Electric car radio aerial   -  This is the most tricky item to get as we  need to get one which meets the following specification.  Length of antenna extension needs to be 900mm to 1metre for a three loop pulley system as shown.  A shorter extending antenna 600mm to 900mm can be used with a two loop pulley system in which case only a single wheel pulley is needed for the top fixed pulley.  Iíll cover this point in the construction but Iíd encourage you to use a triple loop if possible.  
There are two types of aerial available the most common type used on modern cars has three electrical wires, two for the OV and 12V power and one for an up/ down signal.  Normally the radio operates the signal.  It is usually described as a universal replacement aerial.  This is the type we need.   The other type is sometimes referred to as a ďswitch operatedĒ or ďswitch typeĒ aerial and is sometimes fitted to older cars and is operated by an external switch on the dash board.  We donít want this type.  The aerial must have an inbuilt limit switch such that the motor is switched off when the antenna is fully extended or fully retracted.  Most quality aerials should have this feature though Iíve come across cheaper ones which donít.   If you buy on ebay look for a universal replacement type and note that not all sellers cover these points in their advert and simply state the car models they are suitable for.  

You may have to ask the seller a question covering the points we are uncertain about.  The question you need to ask is
 ďPlease confirm this aerial has a limit switch which automatically cuts off the power when it reaches the end of its travel or stalls due to a jam. Also does it operate off a 12v signal from the radio and doesn't need a switch or relay. This is not a automobile application.ThanksĒ.  

AUTOLEADS ELECTRIC CAR AERIAL RMA853 I am told by a supplier meets these requirements.  They are a little more expensive at £20 - £22 plus postage on ebay though there are other cheaper suppliers whose unit looks to be the same in the photo but you'd need to check as on ebay they tend to put any old photo on "for illustration purposes" and the actual one they supply is different.  

Also passion_automotive on ebay have one for circa £20 they say meets this spec. LINK

Connect2 CT27UV08 also is claimed to meet this spec. and is available for circa £20 from seysel2002 on ebay LINK

If you come across others let me know.

All aerials come with a number of fitting accessories and we arenít going to need these so donít worry about this aspect of the spec.  The original type of aerial I used was a Harada MZ-21 which has a 920 mm extension and all the features I needed but the buyer I got this from is now selling a cheaper unit which isnít suitable.(avoid the Radioworld one).  Expect to pay fom £20 to £25 for a reasonable one.  Second hand ones maybe ok but make sure they are the modern type and donít have a manual switch or relay. (there are ways to get round this but Iím not going to cover this fix to avoid confusion)

Pulley Set.   These are available on ebay from echoengineer see LINK
These cost £3.99 including postage.

Cord.  I used 3mm cord from

ebay surplussupplier LINK
he also supplies 5mm cord but 3mm works OK.£3.20 including postage.  There's black or green available.

Other consumables   We are going to need some screws and small pieces of wood which Iíll cover as we go through the construction and will depend on the physical arrangements of the house.

Total cost of parts should be around £40 to £55 depending on what you buy or can get for free.

Well thatís all for now in the next post we can talk about the construction aspects.
HF
Car aerial.jpg
Pullet set.jpg
autoleads aerial.jpg
« Last Edit: October 03, 2010, 12:20 by Aunt Sally »

Fisherman

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How to make a simple pophole opener / closer
« Reply #11 on: October 02, 2010, 11:16 »
For some reason I am unable to reply on Hillfooters thread on making a pophole opener.

Anyway Hillfooter if you happen to read this I have a question: -

I assume that the timmer is set to open at say 7.00AM and close at 7.00PM at this time of year. Does the timmer need to be adjusted as the length of daylight hours changes?

Could the system be improved by including a light sensor so the pophole opened when the light sensor sensed daylight but not before a set time say 7.00AM? The pophole could also close when the light sensor sensed it going dark in the evening? A sensor could be used to both open and close the pophole but opening too early in summer would be a problem due to early morning predators hence the reason for the using a timmer as well as a sensor.

Just a thought.

joyfull

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Re: How to make a simple automatic pophole opener/closer
« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2010, 15:41 »
not sure why you couldn't reply on this thread, but I have merged your thread into it so that HF may see it  :)

hillfooter

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Re: How to make a simple pophole opener / closer
« Reply #13 on: October 03, 2010, 05:50 »
For some reason I am unable to reply on Hillfooters thread on making a pophole opener.

Anyway Hillfooter if you happen to read this I have a question: -

I assume that the timmer is set to open at say 7.00AM and close at 7.00PM at this time of year. Does the timmer need to be adjusted as the length of daylight hours changes?

Could the system be improved by including a light sensor so the pophole opened when the light sensor sensed daylight but not before a set time say 7.00AM? The pophole could also close when the light sensor sensed it going dark in the evening? A sensor could be used to both open and close the pophole but opening too early in summer would be a problem due to early morning predators hence the reason for the using a timmer as well as a sensor.

Just a thought.

Yes you are absolutely right Fisherman and in fact my own system I use combines a light sensor with a time switch and is powered off a 12V leisure battery.  This is why it has the sophistication of turning the electric fence off when the pophole is shut to save battery power as mentioned by Joy.  However it's my own custom design using properly spec'd and quality electronic components and doesn use domestic sub assemblies.

However my background is in electronics and I've practiced as a professional engineer and designer in the computer industry for all my working life.  Not that you need that level of experience to design and build a light switch and electronically controlled unit.  My aim here was to describe a simple to put together unit which anyone could make from bought in subassemblies without requiring any electrical knowledge.  For a light operated system the actuator design would be identical but the controller would need to be more sophisticated.  

I've also used this simple system though which in fact I lashed together in 30 mins or so once when we were about to leave on holiday and as luck would have it the electronic one developed a fault which I didn't have time to fix.  With the purely timer based unit you would need to adjust the on off times through the year to allow for daylight hours.  In fact a timer is still useful with a light sensor system as has many people have found out their birds often don't roost until it gets quite dark and a system which locks them out at night is worst than useless so building in a delay at night fall is essentialand my own design OR's together a light based system with a timer such that in the morning the light sensor determines the opening time conditional on the timer being on too (AND logic function) and in the evening the timer determines the closing time conditional on the light system also saying it's dark.  If you also use a timer to delay opening in the morning then you end up with a purely timer controlled system so it reverts to a system with exactly the same function as the one I describe which is why actually a simple timer works well and the task of adjustment isn't too onerous.

With an electronic system used outdoors there's a lot of environmental issues to consider as well as electronic logic design issues.  You need to design for the temperature and humidity conditions you will encounter.  Weatherproof enclosures are required and the components you use need to be spec'd for the temperature range you will encounter.  A normal domestic digital programmable timer even if in a weatherproof enclosure will not work outdoors reliably in the extremes we see in the UK and I wouldn't trust a cheap outside light sensor as sold for security lights either for this application.  To design an electronic system which works well and reliably is a job for a much more knowledgable person than my target audience here and in any case unless you are forced to use battery power (as my field system) and therefore an electronics solution I'm not sure it's worth the effort.  If you have the skills and the inclination I'll leave it to you to work out how to design and include a light switch.

HF
« Last Edit: October 03, 2010, 06:11 by hillfooter »

Fisherman

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Re: How to make a simple automatic pophole opener/closer
« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2010, 22:13 »
Hillfooter, I apologise in advance but I asked the question tongue in cheek re light sensor. I made an automatic pophole opener last winter and used a light sensor in the control circuit powered by 12 volt car batteries. Although expensive I used a small PLC to control the system including the control of the the coop lighting. As you probably know PLC's can be programmed using 7 day 24 hour time controls but with the added advantage of all the other logic functions. As the light sensors operate a bit erratic its better to programme the pophole to close say 30 minutes after the sensor detects the light level diminishing so as to ensure it only closes when fully dark.

PLC's are so much cheaper these days and will become a viable option in the near future although some knowledge of programming is required.

For anyone else reading this post a PLC is an abbreviation for Programmable Logic Controller which are used in industrial control system applications.

Not sure what the neighbours think though when they see me connecting a laptop up to the chicken coop :lol:

By the way Hillfooter your automatic pophole opener is a great innovative design.


  
« Last Edit: October 03, 2010, 22:16 by Fisherman »



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