Automatic Night Light Circuit

The circuit shown below has to be one of the simplest ever. It senses when it's dark and turns a light on. A MOSFET is used as an electronic switch which is off when its gate is held low by an LDR (Light Dependant Resistor) which has a very low resistance when light shines on it. When darkness falls, the resistance of the LDR goes high and the MOSFET is turned on by a 47K resistor. And that's it!
With such a simple circuit, results may vary due to component tolerances. Particularly, LDRs have different resistance ranges depending on their type (and even production run), but in practice, I found that just choosing one with the lowest 'light' resistance and the highest 'dark' resistance did the trick!

The advantage of using a MOSFET over a normal bipolar transistor is that in its 'ON' state a MOSFET is pretty much a short circuit, and so the lamp will get the full supply voltage across it. A MOSFET also runs cooler as the power dissipation in a near short circuit is minimal. During the switch on period the transistor isn't quite a short circuit yet and so may, depending on the load, get a bit warm and require a small heatsink. When the circuit is off, the only current drawn is through the 47K resistor in series with the LDR, which is less than 0.5mA

The circuit is built on a standard 9 x 25 hole veroboard mounted onto the lid of a waterproof enclosure. I decided to mount the LDR 'off board' as it was easier to 'retro wire' after fixing into place. It is simply pushed into a hole matching its size and then sealed with epoxy resin on the inside. The two mounting screws are also sealed with epoxy both inside and out

The veroboard mounted on the lid of the enclosure. The two black wires are soldered onto the LDR

The finished unit. Entry and exit glands are used to ensure that the whole thing is completely water tight

Maplin part numbers are shown below:

M47K - 47K Resistor

The following from Spiratronics also work:

KV1-398 - STP14NF10 MOSFET
XC2-014 - Silonex NORPS-12 LDR
RC3-703 - 47K Resistor