Air conditioner regulation using a hobby servo


For anyone that works in a large office building, odds are you know the pains of dealing with a poorly regulated HVAC system. [Robovergne] and his co-workers recently moved to a new location, and found that the air conditioning control was less than effective, leaving the office as hot as a sauna or as cold as a meat locker.

While they manually triggered the A/C on and off every half hour for a while, that grew tiring, so [Robovergne] decided to take things into his own hands. He had never used an Arduino before, and figured that regulating the air would be a great first project. He mounted a small hobby servo onto the front of the A/C remote, and wired a DS18B21 temperature probe to the Arduino. A small pot is used to adjust the temperature setpoints, which are displayed on the attached LCD screen. Now, when the temperature starts to rise, the Arduino triggers the servo to turn the air conditioning on without human interaction.

[Robovergne] says that while his solution is ugly, it works quite well. It definitely gets the job done, we can’t argue with that!

Continue reading to see a video of his automatic A/C controller in action.

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Automated water distiller gets an overhaul


One thing we love about the hacking community is the drive that most people have to revamp and rework their “finished” projects. A few weeks ago, we wrote about a water distilling rig that [Kyle] hacked together, which allowed him to automate his distillation process. He took his project back into the workshop and tweaked a few things, giving us the heads up when he was finished.

He got his hands on a new distillation unit and decided that he wanted to transfer over his automation setup. He cleaned things up by ditching most of the components from his first distiller, including the toy clock tower dial (which we happened to think was pretty fun). The same relays and Arduino were used in the second version of the still, but he reworked all of his code to make use of his new control interface.

The new model sports an LCD panel that allows the user to interact with the machine via a push button rotary encoder. Now he can easily navigate through a series of menus that enable him to set the distillation quantity and start time, leaving the distiller to do the hard work. The still also does a quick safety check each time it starts up, to ensure that things are in good working order before firing up the heating element.

[Kyle] says he will continue to tweak the distiller, though we think it looks great already.

Continue reading to see a quick video of his Stillduino v2 in action.

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Cheap voice-controlled lighting


Voice-controlled home automation doesn’t have to be wildly expensive if you have a little bit of time and some know-how to do the job yourself. [jjshortcut] wanted to control the lighting in his room without using physical switches. On his blog, he describes how he did it without spending a ton of money.

He picked up a VRBot speech recognition module on eBay, which is an easy way to get your feet wet with voice control. The device has a bunch of built-in speaker independent commands, as well as the ability to record up to 32 custom triggers. Rather than mess with mains voltage and build his own light relays, he purchased a simple set of wireless light switches and began hacking.

He spent some time sniffing the wireless communications protocol to figure out how the lights were triggered, then he replicated that functionality using an AVR and a cheap 433 MHz module.

The system seems to work quite well despite how cheaply he was able to put it together. Stick around to see a quick video of his voice recognition system in action.

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Arduino Home Statistics

[Mike] is doing a little series that is about DIY smart homes. While these wont turn your house into a Hal 9000 (and hopefully wont try and kill you), they are fun and fairly easy to carry out. Parts 1 and 2 focus on the bathroom, part 3+ is in the works. Lets go ahead and look at what is done already.

DIY smart home part 1 covers the kings throne. Through the use of an Arduino, ultrasonic rangefinder, Ethernet shield, and twitter account, whenever the toilet is used a counter goes up. Calculate that against your gallons per flush and you now have reasonable water tracker.

Diy smart home part 2 hits the shower with much of the same hardware and goals. Adding on to the Arduino software there is now a PIR sensor and another twitter account. Basing knowledge from a Lady Ada tutorial on PIR sensors, the additional Arduino code slides into place and some loose ends from part one are cleaned up.

We cant wait to see what is in store for the future and wish [Mike] the best of luck.

NESBot video game automation


If you happen to enjoy video games, but don’t actually like playing them, boy do we have the hack for you! [pjgat09] shows us how, armed with an Arduino, you can force a Nintendo to play games by itself, not unlike an old-time player piano. The hack involves programming an Arduino to accept commands mapped out in “movies”, which are actually scripted sets of button presses that one would perform while playing a game. These sorts of scripts are available from TASVideo, a community specializing in “tool assisted” speed runs of video games. These movies are typically used with emulators, so there are some adjustments that need to be made in order to make them work with a console, since the button presses are mapped to each frame that is drawn on the screen. While we are not sure quite how useful this hack is, it is a pretty novel concept. You can see video of the 5-minute SMB speed run after the jump.

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Low-power wireless home automation sensors

The line between serious research and well-executed hacks has been getting pretty blurry lately. The device above could have been designed in your basement but it actually comes from researchers at the University of Washington. They are working on low-power home automation sensors for monitoring things like humidity, temperature, air quality, and light. The key point in their research has been the use of a home’s electrical system for wireless communication. Operating at 27 MHz has proven quite efficient to the point that one of these modules placed within 10-15 feet of an electrical run can communicate with the rest of the home, powered only by a watch battery projected to last ten years.

That’s kind of exciting, it’s a heck of a lot easier to produce and distribute a set of small boards like this than to run communication wiring throughout the house. Now we just need to pair this with the Air Force’s parasitic power work and there’ll be no need for a battery at all.

[Thanks Sidhant]

Grow box controls heater, fans, and water


The Cheap Vegetable Gardner wanted more automation than their previous PS2 controller based grow system. This time they set out to design a full featured, compact grow controller that can measure temperature and humidity as well as control a heat lamp, fan, and water pump. An Arduino provides USB connectivity and interfaces the solid state relays and sensors. The assembled project all fits in a box but we are left wondering how much heat the four SSRs generate and will it be a problem?

[Thanks shawn]