Aquarium automation keeps the fish fed and the lights on


Anyone who owns a fish tank knows that a good amount of care is required to keep fish happy, healthy, and most of all – alive. [Vicente Jiménez] usually has no problem keeping up on the day to day maintenance such as feeding and switching the tank light, but he wanted to automate these processes for times when he can’t be home to take care of the fish (Translation).

His aquarium automation project is meant to cover three separate parts of the operation: light control, feeding, and pump regulation during feeding times. [Vincente] picked up an STM8L Discovery board to control his system, which enabled him to easily control the automation of all three.

He constructed the feeding mechanism using an old cassette player motor, which turns his food drum (an old film canister), twice a day at specified feeding times. Before the drum is turned to dispense food, the STM8L turns off the aquarium’s pump via a relay to ensure it doesn’t get clogged in the process. During the day he keeps the tank illuminated, but once night falls, the microcontroller shuts the lights off so the fish can get their rest.

There’s no video of the system in action, but [Vincente] has detailed its construction pretty thoroughly in his blog, so be sure to check it out if you are in need of something similar.

Rain barrel irrigation system keeps your plants fed when you’re too busy


[Kyle Gabriel] moved into a house with a nice tract of land behind it, but due to his busy schedule he had yet to plant the garden he so desperately wanted. He worried that his hectic life and busy hours would lead to accidentally neglecting his garden, so he built a water collection and automated irrigation system to ensure that his plants never went without fresh water.

The system is fed by two large 55 gallon barrels that collect rain from his gutters. A 1/2 HP well pump is used to pressurize the collected water, which is then dispensed throughout his garden by a sprinkler. [Kyle’s] system is run from a small control box where an Arduino is used to control the pump’s schedule. At a predefined time, the Arduino turns the pump on, while monitoring the system for potential problems.

If the system starts running low on water, the Arduino triggers the valve on his spigot to open, keeping the water level above the pump inlet pipe. He also keeps an eye on pump’s outlet pressure, indefinitely disabling it before a blockage causes the pump to cycle repeatedly.

He says that the sprinkler system works quite well, and with his modular design, he can add all sorts of additional functionality in the future.

Python powered sprinkler system wastes no water


One thing that annoyed [Jashua] to no end was hearing his automated sprinkler system kick on in the middle of the night, when it had rained earlier in the day. He wished that his sprinklers were a bit smarter, so he decided to give the system an upgrade.

Rather than pay hundreds of dollars for a more sophisticated automation system, he spent about $45 on supplies and scrounged together some items he had sitting around the house to make a rain-sensing module of his own.

The resulting project, Pysprinklers, uses Python along with a handful of components to better manage his water usage. He got his hands on a cheap rain gauge, and modified it with a game controller and a set of magnetic surface contacts. If there has been a significant amount of rain in the last 24 hours, his system will prevent the sprinklers from turning on. Additionally, if there is rain in the forecast, the sprinklers will be delayed a bit to see if rain makes its way into the area.

We’re all for saving money (and water), so we think [Jashua’s] system looks great, especially because he ended up using a handful of things he already had on hand.

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.

Continue reading “Automated water distiller gets an overhaul”

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.

Continue reading “Cheap voice-controlled lighting”

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.