Mains Power Detector For A Thing For Internet

inductor The Internet of Things is fast approaching, and although no one can tell us what that actually is, we do know it has something to do with being able to control appliances and lights or something. Being able to control something is nice, but being able to tell if a mains-connected appliance is on or not is just as valuable. [Shane] has a really simple circuit he’s been working on to do just that: tell if something connected to mains is on or not, and relay that information over a wireless link.

There are two basic parts of [Shane]‘s circuit – an RLC circuit that detects current flowing through a wire, This circuit is then fed into an instrumentation amplifier constructed from three op-amps. The output of this goes through a diode and straight to the ADC of a microcontroller, ready for transmission to whatever radio setup your local thingnet will have.

It’s an extremely simple circuit and something that could probably be made with less than a dollar’s worth of parts you could find in a component drawer. [Shane] has a great demo of this circuit connected to a microcontroller, you can check that out below.

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Guitar EQ levels trigger the stage lights

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Even if your band hasn’t made it big yet it’s still a lot of fun to put on a great show. This hack will help you add lighting effects to performances without having to shell out for a lighting technician. [Phil] put together a hack that lets you trigger the lights by setting a volume threshold with a pedal switch.

After reading about the hack that adds an EQ display for a pedal board he got the idea to convert the concept as control hardware instead of just for feedback. Just like the visualization project he uses an MSGEQ7 chip which takes care of the audio analysis. He’s using this for electric guitar so he only monitors three or four of the outputs using an Arduino. He built the hardware into a foot pedal by mounting a momentary push button on the lid of the enclosure. Stepping on the button causes the Arduino to save the the current audio level. Whenever it reaches that threshold again it will switch on a mains relay to drive an outlet. In this case a strobe light turns on when he starts to rock out, which explains the bizarre image above. You can get a better feel for the theatrics by watching the clip after the break.

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Hacking grandfather clock accuracy while it’s still ticking

grandfather-clock-tweaking

[Keith] got his hands on a few grandfather clocks. Apparently the price tag is greatly reduced if you are able to get them second-hand. The mechanical timepieces require weekly winding, which is a good thing since you’ll also need to correct the time at least that often. But this drift got [Keith] thinking about improving the accuracy of these clocks. He figured out a high-tech way to adjust the timepiece while it’s ticking.

The first thing he needed was a source of super-accurate time. He could have used a temperature compensated RTC chip, but instead went the more traditional route of using the frequency of mains power as a reference. The next part of the puzzle is to figure out how to both monitor the grandfather clock and make small tweaks to its pendulum.

The answer is magnets. By adding a magnet to the bottom of the pendulum, and adjusting the proximity of a metal plate positioned below it, he can speed up or slow down the ticking. The addition of a hall effect sensor lets the Arduino measure the rate of each swing and calculate the accuracy compared to the high voltage frequency reference.

Mains rated solid state relay test box

building-a-mains-solid-state-relay-test-box

We like our nice, safe, 5V prototyping projects where the only thing that might get fried is a chip. But there are times when you want to switch appliances for one reason or another and then you’re going to want a mains rated relay. [Viktor] got tired of having exposed high voltage on the bench during the prototyping stage of these projects so he recently built a solid state relay test box.

The only thing he bought for the project was the SSR itself. To act as an enclosure he used the brick from an old laptop power supply. This is perfect for a couple of reasons. First off, it’s designed to contain high voltage if there is ever a short or other problem. Second, it’s already setup for incoming and outgoing power. He just needed to remove the guts and mount the relay. Notice that it comes with a clear plastic shield that physically separates the high voltage side from the low voltage control end. This, along with the cable routing, keeps the dangerous stuff on one side to ensure you won’t get an arc to the low voltage portion of the project.

Dimming the living room lights using your TV remote

As part of a complete home theater setup [Andy] wanted to be able to control the lights from his couch. He started thinking about the best way to do this when he realized that his TV remote has buttons on it which he never uses. Those controls are meant for other components made by the same manufacturer as the TV. Since he doesn’t have that equipment on hand, he built his own IR receiver to switch the lights with those unused buttons.

He monitors and IR receiver using an AVR microcontroller. It is powered from mains via the guts from a wall wart included in the build. Also rolled into the project is a solid state relay capable of switching the mains feed to the light circuit. [Andy] mentions that going with a solid state part mean you don’t get that clicking associated with a mechanical relay. An electrical box extension was used to give him more room for mounting the IR receiver and housing his DIY circuit board.

Bluetooth control in a power strip

[Mansour] had a ceramic space heater mounted near the ceiling of his room. Since heat rises this is not the best design. He upgraded to an infrared heater which works a lot better, but lacks the timer function he used on the old unit. His solution wasn’t just to add a timer. He ended up building a Bluetooth module into a power strip in order to control the device wirelessly. He ends up losing all but two outlets on the strip, but everything fits inside the original case so we think it’s a reasonable trade-off.

He uses relays on both the live and neutral wires to switch the two outlets. These are driven via MOSFETs to protect the ATmega168 which controls the board. The microcontroller and Bluetooth module both need a regulated DC power source, so he included a transformer and regulator in the mix. After the break you can see him demonstrating the system using two lamps. There’s even a terminal interface which lets you select different control commands by sending the appropriate character. This interface makes script a breeze.

At least this power strip doesn’t spy on you.

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How’s the 60Hz coming from your wall?

If you’ve ever wondered why NTSC video is 30 frames and 60 fields a second, it’s because the earliest televisions didn’t have fancy crystal oscillators. The refresh rate of these TVs was controlled by the frequency of the power coming out of the wall. This is the same reason the PAL video standard exists for countries with 50Hz mains power, and considering how inexpensive this method of controlling circuits was the trend continued and was used in clocks as late as the 1980s. [Ch00f] wondered how accurate this 60Hz AC was, so he designed a little test.

Earlier this summer, [Ch00f] bought a 194 discrete transistor clock kit and did an amazing job tearing apart the circuit figuring out how the clock keeps time. Needing a way to graph the frequency of his mains power, [Ch00f] took a small transformer and an LM311 comparator. to out put a 60Hz signal a microcontroller can read.

This circuit was attached to a breadboard containing two microcontrollers, one to keep time with a crystal oscillator, the other to send frequency data over a serial connection to a computer. After a day of collecting data, [Ch00f] had an awesome graph (seen above) documenting how fast or slow the mains frequency was over the course of 24 hours.

The results show the 60Hz coming out of your wall isn’t extremely accurate; if you’re using mains power to calibrate a clock it may lose or gain a few seconds every day. This has to do with the load the power companies see explaining why changes in frequency are much more rapid during the day when load is high.

In the end, all these changes in the frequency of your wall power cancel out. The power companies do the same thing [Ch00f] did and make sure mains power is 60Hz over the long-term, allowing mains-controlled clocks to keep accurate time.

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