Plants are a nice addition to most any habitat. Many of them bear flowers or attractive foliage, some of them help filter the air, and others, like aloe vera, have medicinal properties. While some plants require very little care, they all need a little moisture at some point. Overall, plant care is a bit fiddly: water them too much and you run the risk of root rot; water too little and risk death by dehydration. Hackaday alum [Kevin Darrah] would prefer not to gamble with either condition, and so in the course of a weekend’s time, he constructed a solar-powered automatic plant watering system from components he had on hand.
While he likely had a microcontroller or two lying around, he didn’t use one. His is a system of MOSFETs that trigger a motorized pump from one of those automatic bug spray bottles to draw from a reservoir and water the plant. The solar panel charges a bank of 6800µF capacitors that [Kevin] took out of an old receiver. When the desired charge is reached, the small soil sensor module is powered, assessing the moisture level. If the level is below the threshold determined by a trimmer pot, the power from the capacitor bank is dumped to the water pump and his plant gets a drink.
[Kevin]’s design deals nicely with the possible pitfalls of solar power. He’s included a 0.1µF cap to ensure latching through the system, and added a bleed resistor so that the pump is never powered unnecessarily. After running it for a couple of days, he’s already seeing moisture regulation in the soil. His complete demonstration and theory of operation is after the break. If you’re into solar power but aren’t quite ready to ditch the µC, check out this Arduino-controlled solution for thirsty tomatoes or this PIC-powered plant pacifier.
Continue reading “Automatic Plant Care Minus the Microcontroller”
[sudarshan] is a solar hobbyist and needed a way to cut solar cells for his projects. He had previously created a rotary tool saw but manually feeding them through was sketchy at best. With just a slight wrong movement of his hand or flex in the work surface would cause the cell to break. These cells are extremely brittle and break easily. He needed a method of cutting these cells that was free from jitters and would cut in a straight line. He looked around his junk bin and found an odd solution… a scanner. Yes, the type you would scan photos in your computer with. The scanner had two critically important features, a flat surface and a carriage mechanism that moves perfectly parallel with that flat surface.
[sudarshan] made a solar cell cutting mini table saw with that scanner and made the cutting happen automatically. He mounted a motor with a diamond saw disk to the carriage, that is responsible for the cutting. The blade was positioned just high enough to poke through the plexiglass that replaced the original glass bed. A power switch turns on the cutting disk motor and an Arduino was used to move the carriage, including the cutting blade, back and forth. Two of the stock scanner buttons were reused and wired to the Arduino to keep the saw looking good.
The first few passes of the saw were done to cut a slot in the plexiglass. In order to cut a solar cell, the cell is taped to the bed with the desired cut location aligned with the slot in the plexiglass bed. Once everything is set, hit the ‘go’ button and the saw blade is slowly pushed through the cell, leaving a straight, clean cut.
Continue reading “Automated Table Saw Cuts Photovoltaic Solar Cells”
Building a solar power installation isn’t as simple as buying a few panels, wiring them up to a battery, and putting an inverter in the mix. To get the most out of your pricey panels, you’ll want to look at something called Maximum Power Point tracking. Solar panels have an IV curve, and this changes with how much sunlight they’re getting. To get the most out of a set of cells, you need make sure you’re drawing the maximum amount of power out of your cells.
[Nathaniel]’s Solar Energy Generator does just that. It can handle up to 500 Watts, sucks power down from a bank of solar cells and spits that out to a battery. That’s not everything; the project also has a microcontroller for measuring and displaying all the pertinent info, and some terminals to plug in a few DC loads.
While the Solar Energy Generator is designed for off the grid applications, this could easily augment a home installation on the cheap. If you want more than 500 Watts or so, you’ll want to look at a larger controller, but for anything under that, [Nathan] has you covered.
The project featured in this post is a quarterfinalist in The Hackaday Prize.
Continue reading “THP Semifinalist: Solar Energy System”
When you venture out onto the beach for a day in the sun, you’re probably not preoccupied with remembering the specifics about your sunscreen’s SPF rating—if you even remembered to apply any. [starwisher] suffered a nasty sunburn after baking in the sunlight beyond her sunscreen’s limits. To prevent future suffering, she developed The Beach Buddy: a portable stereo and phone charger with a handy sunburn calculator to warn you the next time the sun is turning you into barbecue.
After telling the Beach Buddy your skin type and your sunscreen’s SPF rating, a UV sensor takes a reading and an Arduino does a quick calculation that determines how long until you should reapply your sunscreen. Who wants to lug around a boring warning box, though?
[starwisher] went to the trouble of crafting a truly useful all-in-one device by modifying this stereo and this charger to fit together in a sleek custom acrylic enclosure. There’s a switch to activate each function—timer, charger, stereo—a slot on the side to house your phone, and an LCD with some accompanying buttons for setting up the UV timer. You can check out a demo of all the Beach Buddy’s features in a video below.
Continue reading “Beach Buddy is a Boombox, Phone Charger, and Sunburn Warner”
For those cool summer days it’s sometimes nice to have a heated pool — but usually pretty expensive too. Looking for a simpler solution [Martin] came up with his own solar pool heater for under $100!
He’s copied the basic design of a solar pool heater but managed to do it using fairly cheap parts from the hardware store. It consists of three 100′ lengths of 1/2″ drip irrigation hose, and the way he’s connected them is rather ingenious. Using a half inch piece of copper pipe and a blow torch, he was able to squeeze the pipe into one hose end and then the other for a permanent seamless connection. He then coiled the resulting hose into a large circle by interweaving string back and forth to keep its shape.
A 12V utility pump coupled with a timer allows water to sit in the hose under the sun for one hour, at which point it cycles the system for 10 minutes, pumping the warm water into the pool, and refilling itself with cool water from the bottom of the pool. This one is only made for a small above ground pool, but the design could easily be doubled or even tripled for larger pools. You could also throw in a PID temperature controller or even an Arduino to make it even better… but it sounds like it works quite well by itself with a timer.
Combine this with a compost-based hot water system for indoors and you’ll really be cutting the expense associated with your hot water needs!
Hurricane season in the US Atlantic region officially began on June 1st. While [mikesoniat] is hoping for a mild one in his Gulf Coast town, he’d like to be as prepared as possible in the event of a power outage. He’s been experimenting with solar power lately, and while he’d love to go all out with some hefty system that could keep all his appliances running, he’s not quite ready for that kind of investment. While thinking about this dream system, he noticed all the phone jacks around his house that he hasn’t used for several years. After consulting the phone company and researching the capabilities of 22-26AWG POTS copper lines, he devised a solar-powered system to provide enough power to run lights, fans, and a couple of phone chargers.
At the heart of this hack are two 12V solar panels, two 12V batteries in a weatherproof junction box, and a 100W solar charge controller. He started by re-wiring Ma Bell’s junction box up to the panels with thermostat wire. After prying out the RJ11 jack panels all over his house, he wired in regular outlets and marked them as 12V solar to avoid confusing his house guests. He was able to find 12V LED bulbs with standard bases, so all he has to do is screw in these bulbs and plug the lamps into his solar outlets. He also installed a floodlight outside and ran all of the wiring through the floodlight box.
To soak up more sun for this or any other solar hack, try a 2-axis solar tracker.
Mosquitoes really suck. Joking aside, they spread dangerous and deadly diseases like Malaria, Dengue and West Nile. They like to breed in pools of stagnant water which can be difficult to keep up with. From egg-laying to larval development, still water is vital for breeding mosquitoes. Instructables user [Gallactronics] hypothesized that disrupting the surface tension of potential nurseries was the key to discouraging breeding, and he built a solar-powered device for under $10 that proves his theory.
There are a few standard ways of dealing with standing water. Someone can keep it drained or it can be sprayed with pesticides. By aerating the water, mosquito mothers are far less likely to successfully arrange their eggs on the surface. Even if the eggs take, the turbulent water surface will suffocate the larvae.
This bubbler ticks all the boxes. It starts as soon as it comes in contact with water and sounds a piezo alarm when the pool has dried or when someone removes it. It runs for 10 minutes at 10-minute intervals using a 555 timer and some transistors. The water probes are stainless steel bolts, and it runs on a 6V 450mA solar cell. Be sure to watch the demonstration below.
We love to see this kind of ingenuity and elegance in problem solving. Then again, we also like the idea of killing them with lasers.
Continue reading “Solar-Powered Mosquito Birth Control Is Making Waves”