Hydropower from a Washing Mashine

Hydropower Washing Machine

Living off the grid is an appealing goal for many in the hacker community, perhaps because it can fulfill the need to create, to establish independence, to prepare for the apocalypse, or some combination of all those things. [Buddhanz1] has been living off the grid for awhile now by harnessing power from a nearby stream with an old washing-machine-turned-generator.

He started with a Fisher & Paykel smart drive, which he stripped down to the middle housing, retaining the plastic tub, the stator, the rotor, the shaft, and the bearings. After a quick spot check to ensure the relative quality of the stator and the rotor, [Buddhanz1] removed the stator and rewired it. Unchanged, the stator would output 0-400V unloaded at 3-4 amps max, which isn’t a particularly useful range for charging batteries. By rewiring the stator (demonstration video here) he lowered the voltage while increasing the current.

The key to this build is the inclusion of a pelton wheel—which we’ve seen before in a similar build. [Buddhanz1] channeled the water flow directly into the pelton wheel to spin the shaft inside the tub. After adding some silicon sealant and an access/repair hatch, [Buddhanz1] painted the outside to protect the assembly from the sun, and fitted a DC rectifier that converts the electricity for the batteries. With the water pressure at about 45psi, the generator is capable of ~29V/21A: just over 600W. With a larger water jet, the rig can reach 900W. Stick around for the video after the break.

[Read more...]

Adding Features to the DoorBot

network sniffing doorbell

There’s an interesting network-enabled doorbell on the market from Edison Junior called the DoorBot that boasts some useful features, notably that it can make calls to a phone when someone pushes the button for the doorbell. However, [MadBeggar] saw the potential in this device and couldn’t wait to get some more functionality out of it, so he has reverse engineered the communications protocol for the doorbell.

His goals for the project were to implement third-party notifications such as text messaging, VoIP/SIP integration, and maybe even a desktop client. So far he has only been able to analyze the communications protocol but he hopes that others will be able to build upon his work or even add features he hasn’t thought of yet. The makers of the device promise to eventually deliver on some of these features but so far haven’t delivered.

There are some other projects out there that integrate wireless connectivity with a doorbell. However, [MadBeggar] notes that the DoorBot really stands out among all of the internet-enabled doorbell, mostly because nothing else around is as clean or is as easy to install as the DoorBot. He just wishes that the software wasn’t so clunky and that it had its full potential unlocked with these extra features. We’d say he’s on the right track!

ATtiny Watering Timer Turns off the Water When You Forget

ATtiny Water Timer

A pal of [Kyle's] was regularly leaving his sprinkler on for too long. He also had forgotten to turn the water off while topping off his pool a couple of times, an embarrassing and wasteful situation. Being such a good friend, [Kyle] offered to make him a water timer. This isn’t a regular water timer that turns the water on and off at the same time every day. This device allows the user to push a button to have the unit switch on a solenoid valve, permitting water flow. After a predetermined amount of time the unit removes power to the solenoid valve which stops the water flow, successfully preventing pool overflows and excessive watering.

[Kyle] started off his design using a 555 chip to do the counting. He quickly became worried that timer lengths over 10 minutes would cause inconsistent functionality due to the leakage current of the capacitor and the charge current of the resistor. There are ways around this, but rather than complicate the design he switched to an ATtiny microcontroller. The added benefit of the ATtiny is that he could connect up a potentiometer to adjust the on-time without replacing parts or making a new unit. When the potentiometer is turned, the on-board LED will flash a number of times which corresponds with the delay in minutes. Ten flashes means a 10 minute delay. It’s a simple and clear interface.

As if the home etched PCB wasn’t cool enough, [Kyle] 3D printed up a case for the unit. The case permits access to the screw terminals and has provisions for the indicator LEDs. Check out the integrated flap in the top of the case. When this portion of the case is pushed in, it presses the PCB-mounted on/off switch.

If you are interested in making one, all of the files and code are available on [Kyle's] site.

via [dangerous prototypes]

Arduino Gives Your Toilet Options

toilet water saver

With the severe drought going on in California with no end in sight, [TVMiller] decided he could put an Arduino and a toilet together to try and save at least a few gallons of water per day. The invention fills a toilet to the minimum level, saving around two gallons per day for the average “user”.

A typical toilet functions by using gravity and moving water to create a vacuum, sucking the waste down and out of the toilet. As long as there is nothing, uh, solid in the bowl, the toilet will be able to function on the reduced amount of water. The Arduino cuts the flow of water off before the toilet fills up the entire way.

In the event that anyone -ahem- needs the toilet’s full capacity, there is a button connected to the Arduino that fills the reservoir to capacity. [TVMiller] notes that if 1,825 hackers installed this device on their toilets, we could save a million gallons of water per year and be well on our way to saving the planet.

The project site is full of more information and puns for your viewing pleasure. We might suggest that the “2” button would be very easy to integrate with the toilet terror level indicator as well.


Electricity Monitoring with a Light-to-Voltage Sensor, MQTT and some Duct Tape


When it comes down to energy management, having real-time data is key. But rarely is up-to-the-minute kilowatt hour information given out freely by a Utility company, which makes it extremely hard to adjust spending habits during the billing cycle. So when we heard about [Jon]‘s project to translate light signals radiating out of his meter, we had to check it out.

From the looks of it, his hardware configuration is relatively simple. All it uses is a TSL261 Light-to-Voltage sensor connected to an Arduino with an Ethernet shield attached. The sensor is then taped above the meter’s flashing LED, which flickers whenever a pulse is sent out indicating every time a watt of electricity is used. His configuration is specific to the type of meter that was installed by his Utility, and there is no guarantee that all the meters deployed by that company are the same. But it is a good start towards a better energy monitoring solution.

And the entire process is documented on [Jon]’s website, allowing for more energy-curious people to see what it took to get it all hooked up. In it, he describes how to get started with MQTT, which is a machine-to-machine (M2M)/”Internet of Things” connectivity protocol, to produce a real-time graph, streaming data in from a live feed.

[Read more...]

A Cheap DIY Smoke Detector that Can Save Lives

2014-07-19-16.33.53 A faulty wire, a discarded burning cigarette, or a left-on curling iron can trigger sparks of fire to engulf everything nearby until all that’s left is brittle mounds of smoldering ash. Which is why smoke detectors are so important. They are life saving devices that can wake people up sleeping inside, well before the silent, but deadly carbon monoxide starts to kick in. But what happens if no one is home, and the alarm begins to blare? The place burns down into the ground without the owners knowing.

So when [Martin] purchased a battery-powered smoke detector and rigged it up to notify him exactly when the piezo siren is activated, the evolution of the automatic fire alarm continued into the realm of wireless internet-connected things.

His home automation system (a Raspberry Pi running Node-Red) links to a Funky ATTiny84-based sensor and transmits the data wirelessly, redirecting the information to his phone. SMS messages can be sent, as well as emails and pushbullet notifications. Once the piezo siren starts to sing, the system alerts him that smoke has been detected and that he should check on it as soon as possible.

The electronics fit perfectly inside the case waiting for any smoky disturbance in the room to light up. And what makes this project even better, besides the life saving capabilities and the instant push notifications, is that it was hooked up for the cheap. No need to buy a brand-new, expensive Nest protect, when all it takes it a sensor or two and a Raspberry Pi to hack the fire alarm that already sits in the house.

This video coming up after the break shows how simple it is to make. [Read more...]

Zero-Dollar AC System Looks Funny But Works Well

Basement-cooled AC

Summer is here and with summer comes hot days. You probably know that us humans get uncomfortable if the temperature rises too much. Sure, we could turn on the loud and inefficient window AC unit and try to stay mildly comfortable while the electric company pick-pockets pennies from our change purse, but what is the fun in that? [Fran] had a better idea.

He noticed that his basement was always in the upper 50°F range regardless of how hot it was outside. He wanted the cool basement air to reside upstairs in the living area. After thinking long and hard about it he decided that a box fan and two long, skinny cardboard boxes assembled together would be enough to move the required amount of air. Both the fan and boxes were kicking around the house so was no cost and no risk to try this out. [Read more...]


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