Hacking a Heating Pad

HeatingPadBreadboardS

[Bob] and his wife use a bed heating pad. In the winter, they typically turn it on about an hour before bedtime so the bed is nice and warm. The problem is, if they accidentally leave it on, they’ll wake up a few hours later: overheated. What they needed was an advanced timer system.

A normal outlet timer wouldn’t fit his needs: most of the year the pad should shut off after a slight delay, but in the winter they prefer to leave the heating pad on at a much lower temperature. [Bob] decided to create a custom timer with a microcontroller to provide adjustable duration and heating levels.

The circuit is simple. It consists of a microcontroller, a 2-digit LED display, two buttons, and two wires that connect to the heating pad’s original controller. The final build allows you to set the time the pad turns on, turns off, and/or down a few levels. It’s a fantastic hack, and you can see how the interface works in the video following the break.

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Real Life Sonic Screwdriver for Home Automation

sonic

Any Doctor Who fans out there? [Pat] just sent us his project on home automation… using a Sonic Screwdriver!

Ever since he pre-ordered his Raspberry Pi at the beginning of February 2012, he knew he wanted to try his hand at home automation. The easy way was to use X10 outlets, but at $20+ an outlet, it’s not that affordable. Instead, he managed to find a rather cheap system on Amazon — RF controlled outlets. They only cost about $35 for a 5-pack!

It’s a very basic system: five outlets with five buttons on the remote. All he had to do was wire up the Raspberry Pi to simulate the button presses by setting the GPIO pins high, and presto, a simple but effective home automation setup.

This is where it starts to get fun. Unfortunately, unlike a real Time Lord, [Pat] didn’t build his sonic from scratch. Instead, he found a universal remote control — styled after [Smith]‘s sonic. Add another RF receiver to the Pi, a web-based interface to extend the range, and bam, you’ve got one geeky, but awesome, home automation setup.

Stick around after the break to see it in action!

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Internet-Enabling a Lamp with the Raspberry Pi

lampcontrol

[Jack] sent in his writeup for internet enabling a home lamp. While we will certainly have some comments saying this is too simple, it does a great job of breaking things down to the basics. For those that aren’t confident in their electronic skills, this is an easy hack to a commercial device that greatly expands it’s capabilities. [Jack] started with a cheap wireless outlet controller. By opening the remote and wiring each switch to a 2N222A transistor, you can very easily control the remote from the GPIO pins on the Raspberry Pi. In [Jack's] case, he set up a web page using Flask that allows quick on/off control.

Of course, this method can be used in any number of instances where you have a wireless controller, from small lamps to garage doors. Given it’s simplicity, anyone can do it with even basic skills. If you’re a beginner who’s been itching to do some home automation, follow [Jack's] writeup and check an item off your todo list!

Raspi AC and Blinds Controller

raspiBlindsACController

[Chris's] bedroom has a unique setup with an air conditioning unit perched on the wall next to the top of the blinds that cover his window. Normally, to open the blinds he had to tug on a cord and operating the AC meant fiddling with a remote control. Not anymore. Now [Chris] has an all-in-one Raspberry Pi-based solution to drive both.

The build uses a stepper motor salvaged from a printer to directly drive the blinds, with a familiar-looking Easy Driver connecting it to the Pi. The motor spins the blinds’ mechanism either open or closed, though at a modest pace that’s slow enough to provide the needed torque. [Chris] added an IR diode plugged into the Pi that imitates the air conditioning unit’s remote control, and simply pointed it directly at the unit’s receiver. An inexpensive WiFi dongle gets the Pi onto the network, allowing [Chris] to interact via a custom web interface. The interface itself not only provides a couple of clickable buttons, but a cleverly-designed status image indicating the position of the blinds.

Make sure you see the video below for a demonstration and for more details on the build. This is one of the better examples of home automation devices we’ve seen recently, especially considering it actually fits the “autonomous” implications discussed in our Ask Hackaday post from a few months back—although a relatively simple automation, [Chris's] interface does allow for operating both the blinds and the AC on a preselected schedule.

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Android and Arduino RF Outlet Selector

ardAndRFoutlets

Cyber Monday may be behind us, but there are always some hackable, inexpensive electronics to be had. [Stephen's] wireless Android/Arduino outlet hack may be the perfect holiday project on the cheap, especially considering you can once again snag the right remote controlled outlets from Home Depot. This project is similar to other remote control outlet builds we’ve seen here, but for around $6 per outlet: a tough price to beat.

[Stephen] Frankenstein’d an inexpensive RF device from Amazon into his build, hooking the Arduino up to the 4 pins on the transmitter. The first step was to reverse engineer the communication for the outlet, which was accomplished through some down and dirty Arduino logic analyzing. The final circuit included a standard Arduino Ethernet shield, which [Stephen] hooked up to his router and configured to run as a web server. Most of the code was borrowed from the RC-Switch outlet project, but the protocols from that build are based on US standards and did not quite fit [Stephen's] needs, so he turned to a similar Instructables project to work out the finer details.

Stick around after the break for a quick video demonstration, then check out another wireless outlet hack for inspiration.

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DIY Home Control Using a SSRelay

ssrelay

[Ben Jones] just started a new site called Maker-Guide, where he makes some very informative and well produced DIY videos on anything from homemade photography hacks, to controlling an outlet using a solid-state relay.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen a relay controlled outlet, or this one… but it’s certainly one of the cleanest jobs we’ve seen. In his video guide, [Ben] shows us exactly how to fit a standard solid state relay into a regular outlet box, and easily control it with an Arduino Uno.

It even looks like there might be enough space inside the box for a small wireless setup — maybe using a Trinket even? What about using Power-Line networking to control each box via LAN? Could be the easiest home automation implementation yet! Well, aside from certain NEC (national electrical code) concerns of running high and low voltage in the same box…

Anyway if that wet your whistle, check out the great video guides after the break!

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DIY Bluetooth Home Automation

blueboard

Interested in a bit of home automation? Don’t know where to start? We just found a great Instructable on making your own bluetooth controlled relay module!

[Kyle's] been working on this for a while, and finally at his 5th iteration he’s ready to share it with the public. It’s a project you can make from scratch, and each unit will cost approximately ~$25 in components — which can control up to two outputs. He’s included an inkscape PCB layout which you can easily etch on your own using the toner transfer method. The heart of the build is an Atmega328, which helps keep the costs down — after all, it is only controlling two outputs! Then it’s just a matter of adding the components, a bit of soldering, and uploading the firmware! 

The entire design is open source, and [Kyle] would love some feedback to continue improving upon it. The write-up is quite thorough, so if you’re interested, take a look and leave him a comment!

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