Posts with «home hacks» label

How an Engineer Designs a DIY Energy Recovery Ventilator

We have no idea whether [Nick Goodey] is a trained engineer or not. But given the detailed design of this DIY energy recovery ventilator for his home HVAC system, we’re going to go out on a limb and say he probably knows what he’s doing.

For those not in the know, an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) is an increasingly common piece of equipment in modern residential and commercial construction. As buildings have become progressively “tighter” to decrease heating and cooling energy losses to the environment, the air inside them has gotten increasingly stale. ERVs solve the problem by bringing fresh, unconditioned air in from the outside while venting stale but conditioned air to the outside. The two streams pass each other in a heat exchanger so that much of the energy put into the conditioned air is transferred to the incoming unconditioned air.

While ERV systems are readily available commercially, [Nick] decided to roll his own after a few experiments with Coroplast and some extensive calculations convinced him it would be a viable idea. One may scoff at the idea of corrugated plastic for the heat exchanger, but the smooth channels through the material make it a great choice. He built up a block of Coroplast squares with the channels in alternate layers oriented orthogonally, letting stale inside air pass very close to fresh outside air to exchange heat without every mixing directly. The entire system, including fans, an Arduino for control, sensors galore, and the Hubitat home automation hub, is powered by DC, so no electrician was needed. [Nick] has a ton of detail in his build log, including all the tools and calculators he used to design the system.

Given the expense of ERV systems, we’re surprised we haven’t seen more stories about DIY versions. We have talked about HVAC systems a lot, though — after all, HVAC techs are hackers who make housecalls.

Electric Window Mechanism Into A Electric Screen Door

In many parts of the world leaving open a door or window is a good way to get a house full of bugs. Remembering to close doors behind them can be surprisingly hard for members of the human race, so the [DuctTape Mechanic] used the components from a car’s electric window to automate his sliding screen door.

After the excess pieces were cut of the rail, the motor and rail were mounted on top of the door frame. A long bolt is attached to the moving plate on the rail, which pushes on the pack of the door to close it. After closing, the mechanism returns to its open position, allowing the door to be opened by hand. The motor is controlled by an Arduino running a very simple sketch, which senses if the door is closed with a microswitch and starts a 10 second countdown once opened. Two relays are used to create an H-bridge circuit to drive the motor in both directions.

It doesn’t look like there is any provision to detect if it is obstructed. A simple solution could be to make the push rod spring-loaded, so it can slide over the door if there is excessive resistance. This project is successful as a proof of concept, but making the wiring neater and covering everything would be a welcome upgrade.

If you only want to let certain creatures into your house, we have no shortage of automated pet door for your hacking pleasure.

433 On A Stick

Cheap 433 MHz wireless switches are a tempting way to enter the world of home automation, but without dedicated hardware, they can be less easy to control from a PC. That’s the position [TheStaticTurtle] was in, so the solution was obvious. Build a USB 433 MHz transceiver.

At the computer end is a CH340 USB-to-serial chip and the familiar ATmega328 making this a compact copy of the Arduino. At the RF end are a pair of modules for transmit and receive, unexpectedly with separate antennas. This device is a second revision, after initial experiments with a single antenna connector and an RF switch proved not to work. On the software side the Arduino uses the rc-switch library, while on the PC side there’s a Python library to make sense of it all. The code and hardware files are all on GitHub, should you wish to experiment.

The problem of making a single antenna transceiver is not for the faint-hearted RF engineer, as while diode switches seem on paper to deliver the goods, they can be extremely difficult to get right and preserve linearity. We’re curious that a transceiver module wasn’t used instead, but we’re guessing that cost played a significant part in the equation.

Over the years we’ve featured quite a few fascinating 433 MHz projects, like this TP-Link router conversion.

Hack a Day 28 Jun 03:00

LoRa Tutorials For The DIY Masses

LoRa is the go-to tech for low power, long range wireless sensor networks. Designing with off-the-shelf modules can be a boon or a bane depending on the documentation and support. Luckily, [Renzo] has prepared a set of tutorials to get you started.
In his seven part series of write-ups, [Renzo] starts by connecting the E32 module from AliExpress to an Arduino as well as an ESP8266 to demonstrate essential communications. Then he discusses the configuration options and the library he created to make like a bit easier. Following that is a series of posts discussing transmission types as well as power saving methods including sleep modes and wake-on-radio.
The information will be extremely handy for someone starting off with the SX1276/SX1278 Wireless Modules which are relatively inexpensive as opposed to more standardized development kits. We love the abundance of fritzing diagrams, arduino code and helper library and hope someone will build on it. You can get the library from Github for your tinkering pleasure.
If you are looking for ideas for this newly discovered skill, have a look at LoRa Enabled Mailbox as well as Electric Fence Monitoring with The Things Network for a bit of IoT action.

A Modern Solution To Tea Bag Inventory Management

Britain is famously known as a land of manners and hospitality. Few situations could make an Englishman’s stiff upper lip quiver, short of running out of tea bags while entertaining house guests. Thankfully, [The Gentleman Maker] is here and living up to his name – with a helpful tea monitor to ensure you’re never caught out again.

The Intelli-T, as it has been dubbed, monitors tea inventory by weight. An Arduino Uno combined with a HX711 IC monitors a load cell mounted under a canister, with a reed switch on the lid. Upon the canister being open and closed, the Arduino takes a measurement, determining whether tea stocks have dipped below critical levels. If the situation is dire, a Raspberry Pi connected over the serial port will sound an urgent warning to the occupants of the home. If there is adequate tea, the Raspberry Pi will instead provide a helpful tea fact to further educate the users about the hallowed beverage.

It’s a fun project, and one that has scope for further features, given the power of the Raspberry Pi. A little more work could arrange automatic ordering of more tea online, or send alerts through a service like IFTTT. We’ve seen [The Gentleman Maker]’s uniquely British hacks before, such as the umbrella that tells you the weather. Video after the break.

Hack a Day 21 Feb 06:00

Measuring Airflow in an HVAC System

[Nubmian] wrote in to share his experiments with measuring airflow in an HVAC system. His first video deals with using with ultrasonic sensors. He found an interesting white paper that described measuring airflow with a single-path acoustic transit time flow meter. The question was, could he get the same effects with off-the-shelf components?

[Nubmian] created a rig using a pair of typical ultrasonic distance sensors. He detached the two transducers from the front of the PCB. The transducers were then extended on wires, with the “send” capsules together pointing at the “receive” capsules. [Nubmian] set the transducers up in a PVC pipe and blew air into it with a fan.

In his second video, [Nubmian] sets up a test rig consisting of a multimeter connected to an airflow sensor. The multimeter is soon replaced by an Arduino with the help of an AD623ARZ amp. The wires for that setup needed some shielding. Aluminum foil connected to the ground did the trick.

For more HVAC projects check out this pinwheel flow meter and [Adam]’s piece on HVAC techs, hackers who make house calls.

 


Filed under: home hacks

Honey, When Did We Get an Indoor Pool?

Is it too much to ask for a home to have a little ‘smart’ built-in? If you’ve ever woken up (or come home) to your dwelling being flooded, you’ll know how terrible it feels, how long it can take to recover from, and how stressful it can be. Yeah, it’s happened to us before, so we really feel for [David Schneider]. He woke up one Sunday morning to a whole lot of water in his house. The inlet valve for his washing machine somehow got stuck in the open position after putting a load of laundry in the previous night.

[David] took progressively complex measures to prevent a broken water feed flood from happening in the future. First, he lined the entire floor of his laundry closet with a steel tray. OK, that’s a good start but won’t prevent another disaster unless it is caught very quickly. How about a simple audible water alarm? That’s good and all if you’re home, but what if you’re not?

Next, he installed a valve with a mechanical timer on the water line for the washing machine which closes automatically after 2 hours of being opened. Much better, but what about all the other thirsty appliances around the house? After searching online a little, he found plenty of whole house systems that would work for him, but there were 2 problems with these. First, most were network-based and he didn’t want to IoT-ify his house’s water system. Second, they were overpriced.

Of course the solution was to put together his own system! First, he purchased a few mostly inexpensive things — a wireless alarm, some water sensors, and a motorized ball valve. Then he collected the last few things he needed from what he had on hand around the house, and got to work connecting the 4 LEDs on the alarm to 4 analog input pins on his Arduino. Next, he added a relay between the Arduino and the motorized ball valve.

If a sensor detects water, it tells the alarm about it (wirelessly), which triggers the Arduino to energize a relay that is connected to the motorized ball valve, causing it to shut off the main water line for the entire house. Disaster averted! Sure, it’s a fairly simple hack, but it works, meets his requirements, and now he sleeps better at night knowing he won’t wake up (or come home) to an indoor swimming pool.

It’s surprising that we haven’t seen more hacks like this given it’s such a common problem. The closest thing we can remember is an overflow sensor for an aquarium. If homes came standard with a water main shutoff system, it would remove a stressful event from our lives and maybe even lower our insurance premium.


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, home hacks

Zero-Intrusion Wireless Light Switch

What do you do if your light switch is too far from your desk, and you’re in a rental property so you can’t put in extra wiring to install an electronic control for it? Get up and turn it on or off by hand? Of course not!

If you are [Guyfromhe], you solve this problem with a servo attached to a screw-on light switch faceplate, and you control it with a pair of Arduino/nRF24L01 combos. It’s a pretty simple arrangement, the wireless link simply takes the place of a serial cable that instructs the Arduino on the light switch to operate the servo that in turn moves the switch. The whole thing is triggered through his home automation system, which in turn responds to an Amazon Dash button on his desk. Yes, it’s complex. But turning on the light has been automated without intrusion into his landlord’s domain, and that’s all that matters.

On a more serious note, he’s put some Arduino code up on his write-up, as well as a YouTube video we’ve put below the break.

This is by no means the first such switch we’ve seen, after all we featured a nicer 3D printed servo light switch the other month, and one with a breadboarded Arduino in 2015. While we’re at it though, it would be nice to see a few designed for European switches too.


Filed under: home hacks

Heat Pump Gets Brain Transplant; Such is Life in Latvia

If you buy a used heat pump that was made in China and try to use it in Northern Europe, there are bound to be issues. If your heat pump ends up encased in a block of ice that renders it ineffective, you’ve got two choices: give up and pump a proper heater, or hack a new ice-busting brain board into the heat pump and get back to life.

A little too icy.

[Evalds] chose the latter course, obviously, and in the process he gives us a pretty good look at how heat pumps work and how to overcome their deficiencies. In [Evalds]’ Latvia, winters can be both cold and humid, which can worsen an inherent problem with air-coupled heat pumps: they tend to ice up. As the outside coil is cooled to pick up as much heat as possible from the outside air, water vapor condenses out on the coils and freezes. Most heat pumps account for this by occasionally running in reverse, heating the outdoor coils to clear the ice buildup. [Evalds]’  had nothing more than a simple timer to kick off the defrost cycle, and it wasn’t keeping up with the Latvian winter. An Arduino replaced the OEM controller, and wired up to temperature sensors and an IR sensor that watches for ice buildup on the lower part of the coil, the heat pump is now much better behaved.

Of course it wasn’t as smooth as all that — [Evalds] has some hoops to jump through, including EMI problems and a dodgy Arduino clone. But he stuck with it and brought the heat pump back online, likely at far less expense than HVAC techs would charge for a service call.


Filed under: home hacks
Hack a Day 28 Feb 18:00

Monitor All the Laundry Things with this Sleek IoT System

If like us you live in mortal fear of someone breaking into your house when you’re on vacation and starting a dryer fire while doing laundry, this full-featured IoT laundry room monitor is for you. And there’s a school bus. But don’t ask about the school bus.

In what [seasider1960] describes as “a classic case of scope creep,” there’s very little about laundry room goings on that escapes the notice of this nicely executed project. It started as a water sensor to prevent a repeat of a leak that resulted in some downstairs damage. But once you get going, why not go too far? [seasider1960] added current sensing to know when the washer and dryer are operating, as well as to tote up power usage. A temperature sensor watches the dryer vent and warns against the potential for the aforementioned tragedy by sounding an obnoxious local alarm — that’s where the school bus comes in. The whole system is also linked into Blynk for IoT monitoring, with an equally obnoxious alarm you can hear in the video below. Oh, and there are buttons for testing each alarm and for making an Internet note to reorder laundry supplies.

We’ve seen a spate of laundry monitoring projects lately, all of which have their relative merits. But you’ve got to like the fit and finish of [seasider1960]’s build. The stainless face plate and in-wall mount makes for a sleek, professional appearance which is fitting with the scope-creepy nature of the build.


Filed under: home hacks