Energy-Saving Fireplace Thermostat

[Andrian] has a boiler stove that heats water and sends it to a radiator. As the fireplace heats the water in a boiler a temperature sensor opens the a valve to send the warm water to the radiator. The radiator sends its cool water back to the boiler to be reheated. The valve is slow, so before the boiler can send all the water to the radiator, it’s getting cool water back causing the valve to close while the heat is built back up. To prevent the valve from working so hard and wasting energy, [Andrian] designed a better thermostat to control the valve operation.

The thermostat uses one LM85 temperature sensor to check the water in the boiler and another one for the ambient temperature. Once the boiler water reaches the desired temperature, the valve is opened via relay. The system waits for half an hour and then checks the boiler temperature again. The brains of this operation is an ATMega168 with a 32.768kHz crystal as the RTC. Code and PCB files are available in his repo.

We love to see these types of hacks that challenge the status quo and increase the efficiency of appliances. We applaud you, [Andrian], for turning your dissatisfaction into a positive plan of action and for sharing your experience with the rest of us!

If you want to up the eco-friendliness of heating water a bit, you could heat the water with a compost heap.

High Tech Convertible Desk Takes it Up a Notch

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Standing desks seem to be all the rage today — but do you really want to commit fully to always standing? [Jeff Minton] didn’t, and when he found out how much convertible standing desks cost… he decided to make his own.

While brainstorming ways of accomplishing this he started browsing around eBay and found 18″ linear actuators for sale. They were $45 each, ran at 24V and could lift 600lbs each. Bingo. Actually, that’s kinda overkill…

He picked up a 24V power supply, an Arduino, and a 8-channel relay board.  The actuators are attached to the desk’s original legs using U-bolts which keep the legs straight and take the load of the desk. The untreated wood supports are there to reinforce the original desk, because they weren’t that sturdy in the first place.

It takes about a minute to fully actuate the legs, so while it’s not the prettiest nor the quickest solution — it does the trick and allows you to easily switch between standing and sitting.

[Read more...]

Open Source SwitchMote Promises Easy Home Automation

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[Felix Rusu] is fast becoming a big name in home automation with his clever Moteino systems. His latest is called the SwitchMote which is a super easy way to upgrade your light switches for home automation, and he’s just released the source!

The SwitchMote is a drop in wireless light switch which lets you control a standard AC load, limited to 100W at this time. It uses a solid state relay (SSR) to perform the switching, but like any project involving mains electricity… MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING!

It makes use of a Moteino (duh) which is a wireless Arduino clone that operates over RF. We’ve seen it used before to control a Keurig coffee maker, operate a garage door over the internet, and even text you when your sump pump fails and your basement is about to flood!

Excited? Take a look at his GitHub repository, and check out how it works in the following video.

[Read more...]

We Asked For It — An Arduino Bowel Gauge

toilet

Well, we asked for it, and [TV Miller] delivered this hilarious and surprisingly accurate bowel gauge.

Between our recent Wiping Your Bum with an Arduino feature and how to Measure Poop for a Better Sanitation Service, we guess we should have seen this coming. And you know what? It’s pretty awesome.

He’s using an Arduino Uno with a home-made resistance sensor to “hack our bowels”. After all, how can you have a proper diet without knowing exactly what is coming out of you? Two copper or aluminum strips make up the resistance sensor with a few known resistors, a capacitor and a potentiometer for adjustment. He’s even included an LCD display as well so you can see the volume of your excrement in real-time! Classy.

To see it in action (don’t worry, not that kind of action) stick around for the following video:

[Read more...]

Clever Use of PVC to Make a Standing Desk at Work

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[Daniel] and his coworker [Chris] were interested in the concept of standing desks — unfortunately, the company wasn’t about to buy them a new desk to test it out — so they decided to modify the tables themselves!

The IKEA tables they are using have three adjustable legs — just not that adjustable for standing. The challenge was to modify these tables in such a way that it can easily be reversed — they didn’t want the facilities department to get mad at them! Originally they wanted to use steel legs for structural stability, but discovered they’d have to do quite a bit of modification to the steel tubing with tools they didn’t have. So they chose PVC instead.

[Chris] had remembered seeing a hack here on heating up PVC pipe to make it malleable — try as we might we weren’t able to find what he was referring to, but a quick search on YouTube brings up lots of tutorials on how to do it.

[Read more...]

Hacking Window Blinds to Interface with Home Automation System

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Home automation is great, but what happens when you start mixing different systems around the house together? Follow [Bithead's] journey of interfacing with his motorized blinds!

After having his original blinds fall apart many times, [Bithead] and his wife decided to invest in some new, motorized blinds — but [Bithead] wanted to add it to his home automation setup… Unfortunately, commercial offerings for that are very expensive, so [Bithead] knew he’d have to figure out how to interface with the system manually.

The problem is, companies don’t typically advertise the kind of in depth information us hackers would love to know about products, so [Bithead] started checking out store showrooms. Salespeople didn’t quite understand his focused attention on the control boxes!

[Read more...]

Hanging Table Makes Room for Activities

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[Matt Silver] usually enjoys a cup of tea in the evening. Unfortunately, this habit can be frustrating and dangerous while sitting in bed. He rectified the problem by building this awesome space-saving table, which can be stored on the ceiling of all places! Depending on the supplies you might already have, this could be a relatively cheap build of about $40 or less. [Matt's] using pine board for everything, but notes you could save time and money by re-purposing an existing coffee table. You will, however, need to make the ceiling frame to support it.

At the heart of this build is our favorite rope—Paracord 550. [Matt] used a single piece to tie the whole thing together, which can cause the table to lower crooked, but [Matt] found he can keep it level by putting a hand on it while it descends. You also get mechanical advantage from the pulleys this way! If you’re not crazy about the potential unevenness, you could redesign the pulley and eyelet layout to allow for four ropes to ensure a reliably horizontal surface.

Why not pair this idea with the portable electronics lab we shared a few days ago? You could have a full series of drop-down tool labs in your workshop. Think of all the space saving opportunities!

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