DIY Rocket Mass Heater Build Log For Commercial Greenhouse

[Bigelow Brook Farm] has a cool geodesic dome greenhouse that needs to stay warm in the winter. There are a lot of commercial solutions for greenhouse heating, but if you’re the kind of person who research and develops solutions for aquaponics, a greener solution may have more appeal.

A rocket mass heater is a combination of a rocket stove and underfloor heating. A rocket stove works by having such a strong draft created by the heat rising up the chimney that the flames can’t crawl up the fuel and burn in the open air, creating a controlled burn zone. Unfortunately, with just a plain rocket stove a lot of heat is lost to the atmosphere needlessly. You only need enough to create the draft.

The mass part solves this. It runs the exhaust under the floor and through radiators. This passively retains a lot of heat inside the space to be heated. It’s a bit of a trick to balance the system so it puts as much heat into the space as possible without stalling, which can be dangerous due to carbon monoxide, among other things. Once the balance is achieved the user gets a stove that can burn fuel very effectively and best of all passively.

[Bigelow Brook Farms] have been working on their heater for quite some time. We really enjoy their test driven development and iteration. They have really interesting autopsies when a component of the heater fails and needs replacing. Right now they have a commercial sized operation heated by their latest iteration and it’s completely passive, being gravity fed. Video after the break.

Continue reading “DIY Rocket Mass Heater Build Log For Commercial Greenhouse”

Stairwell Lights Keep Toddler with Night-Blindness Safe

A devastating diagnosis for a young child is every parent’s worst nightmare. All too often there’s nothing that can be done, but occasionally there’s a window of opportunity to make things better for the child, even if we can’t offer a cure. In that case even a simple hack, like a rapid response stairwell light to help deal with night-blindness, can make a real difference.

[Becca] isn’t yet a year old, but she and her parents carry a heavy burden. She was born with Usher Syndrome, an extremely rare genetic disease that affects hearing and vision to different degrees. In [Becca]’s case, she was born profoundly deaf and will likely lose her sight by the time she’s 10 or so. Her dad [Jake] realized that the soon-to-be-toddler was at risk due to a dark stairwell and the night-blindness that accompanies Usher, so he came up with a simple tech solution to the problem.

He chose Philips Hue LED light strips to run up the stringer of the stairs controlled by a Raspberry Pi. Originally he planned to use IFTTT for but the latency resulted in the light not switching on fast enough. He ended up using a simple PIR motion sensor which the Pi monitors and then uses the Hue API to control the light. This will no doubt give him a platform for future capabilities to help [Becca].

We’ve covered a few builds where parents have hacked solutions for their kids, like this custom media center for the builder’s autistic son. We suspect [Jake] has a few more tricks up his sleeve to help [Becca], and we’re looking forward to seeing how she does.

Waiting For A Letter? This IoT Mailbox Will Tell You Exactly When It Arrives.

If you’re waiting for a much sought-after letter, checking your mailbox every five minutes can be a roller-coaster of emotion — not to mention time-consuming. If you fall into this trap, Hackaday.io user [CuriosityGym] as whipped up a mailbox that will send off an email once the snail-mail arrives.

The project uses an Arduino Uno, an ESP 8266 wifi module, and an idIoTware shield board — making specific use of its RGB LED and light dependent resistor(LDR). Configuring the RGB LED on the idIoTware board to a steady white light sets the baseline for the LDR, and when a letter is dropped in the box, the change in brightness is registered by the LDR, triggering the Arduino to send off the email.

Continue reading “Waiting For A Letter? This IoT Mailbox Will Tell You Exactly When It Arrives.”

Put an Honest Face On Alexa With This HAL 9000 Build

Amazon put out a version of Alexa’s software that  could run on Raspberry Pi. Adafruit sold a big scary red button. For, [Keith Elliott] the project ahead was an obvious conclusion.

The Raspberry Pi version of Alexa’s software was lagging behind the release version. You had to press a button to input a command, which really steals a lot of the joy out of a creepy voice controlled robot listening to you putz around the house. Now, it can wake on command.

Since this sold him on finally adding Amazon’s ever watching witch eye to his home, he decided he would give it appropriately sinister clothes. These were 3D printed from files based on Adafruit’s guide. He ended up with a fairly convincing facade.

The inside is kind of melancholy. A lone Raspberry Pi 3 is held company by a microphone and audio amplifier. These are pretty much all that’s needed to make you home automated shopping experience dreams come true. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Put an Honest Face On Alexa With This HAL 9000 Build”

Super-Sizing Leaf Collection; Hackers Doing Yardwork

For many parts of the world, the great raking has begun as deciduous trees in temperate zones drop their leaves. Of course not everyone can abide the simple yet laborious process of manual raking and so they look to technology. You can buy a handheld leaf vacuum, a pull-behind leaf sweeper, or a mower attachment that lifts leaves into hoppers. [Lou] has the latter, but it’s way too small for his taste so he super-sized his leaf collecting hardware.

The hard part of leaf collection has already been solved for [Lou]. The riding lawnmower lifts the leaves and propels them through an angled pipe into three hopper bags which we think total 9 bushels (roughly 80 gallons or 300 liters). That sounds like a lot, but anyone who has recently cleared leaves will attest that they will fill up in no time.

[Lou] builds a light-weigh 4-foot cube covered in deer netting to super-size his hopper to a whopping 51 bushels (475 gallons or 1800 liters)! His first attempt uses a pipe that falls too short to fill leaves to the top, but his final product adds longer ductwork and hits the mark perfectly.

Gardeners everywhere should be salivating right now. Leaf mulch is one of the best things you can put on your garden in the spring. Although [Lou] designed his hopper to be emptied by leaf-blower, adapting this to set the full hopper in an out-of-the-way space would help them breakdown over the winter — turning them into planter’s gold by springtime.

Continue reading “Super-Sizing Leaf Collection; Hackers Doing Yardwork”

PLC and Linear Actuators Automate Double-Hung Windows

Very few residential architectural elements lend themselves to automation, with doors and windows being particularly thorny problems. You can buy powered doors and windows, true, but you’ll pay a pretty penny and have to go through an expensive remodeling project to install them. Solving this problem is why this double-hung window automation project caught our eye.

Another reason we took an interest in this project is that [deeewhite] chose to use a PLC to control his windows. We don’t see much love for industrial automation controllers around here, what with the space awash in cheap and easy to use microcontrollers. They have their place, though, and a project like this is a good application for a PLC. But the controller doesn’t matter at all if you can’t move the window, for which task [deeewhite] chose 12V linear actuators. The fact that the actuators are mounted in the center of the window is probably necessary given the tendency of sashes to rack in their frames and jam; unfortunately, this makes for a somewhat unsightly presentation. [deeewhite] also provides the ladder logic for his PLC and discusses how he interfaces his system with Alexa, a WeMo and IFTT.

We’d love to see this project carried forward a bit with actuators hidden under the window trim, or a rack and pinion system built into the window tracks themselves. This is a pretty good start and should inspire work on other styles of windows. While you’re at it, don’t forget to automate the window blinds.

[via r/DIY]

Raspberry Pi Spies On… Err… Monitors Baby

“Quick! We’re having a baby and we need a baby monitor!” Rather than run to the local big box and plunk down cash for an off-the-shelf solution, any self-respecting hacker would rise to the challenge and hit the shop to build something like this live streaming eye-in-the-sky baby camera. Right?

baby-monitor-raspberry-pi-cameraAt least that’s how [Antibore] handled the situation, and the results are pretty good. He designed his build around an old Raspberry Pi 2 that was hanging around. That required a WiFi adapter, and since he wanted video and audio he needed a camera and mic. The first USB mic had a nice compact design but didn’t perform well, so a gutted gooseneck mic soldered right to the USB connector joined the design spec. A camera module, cell-phone quick charge battery bank, and a 3D printed case round out the BOM. A knitted cozy to keep it looking warm and fuzzy was provided by the mother-to-be — although we think it looks a little like [Mike Wazowski].

This self-contained unit will work anywhere it has access to a WiFi network. Mounted on the baby carrier, it’ll provide a live stream to any browser and provide the new parents with a little peace of mind.

There are a lot of baby monitors on the market, some of them terrible and in need of a rebuild. Kudos to [Antibore] for deciding to roll his own custom solution and for getting it done before the blessed event. Now how about painting that nursery?