Honey, When Did We Get an Indoor Pool?

Is it too much to ask for a home to have a little ‘smart’ built-in? If you’ve ever woken up (or come home) to your dwelling being flooded, you’ll know how terrible it feels, how long it can take to recover from, and how stressful it can be. Yeah, it’s happened to us before, so we really feel for [David Schneider]. He woke up one Sunday morning to a whole lot of water in his house. The inlet valve for his washing machine somehow got stuck in the open position after putting a load of laundry in the previous night.

[David] took progressively complex measures to prevent a broken water feed flood from happening in the future. First, he lined the entire floor of his laundry closet with a steel tray. OK, that’s a good start but won’t prevent another disaster unless it is caught very quickly. How about a simple audible water alarm? That’s good and all if you’re home, but what if you’re not?

Next, he installed a valve with a mechanical timer on the water line for the washing machine which closes automatically after 2 hours of being opened. Much better, but what about all the other thirsty appliances around the house? After searching online a little, he found plenty of whole house systems that would work for him, but there were 2 problems with these. First, most were network-based and he didn’t want to IoT-ify his house’s water system. Second, they were overpriced.

Of course the solution was to put together his own system! First, he purchased a few mostly inexpensive things — a wireless alarm, some water sensors, and a motorized ball valve. Then he collected the last few things he needed from what he had on hand around the house, and got to work connecting the 4 LEDs on the alarm to 4 analog input pins on his Arduino. Next, he added a relay between the Arduino and the motorized ball valve.

If a sensor detects water, it tells the alarm about it (wirelessly), which triggers the Arduino to energize a relay that is connected to the motorized ball valve, causing it to shut off the main water line for the entire house. Disaster averted! Sure, it’s a fairly simple hack, but it works, meets his requirements, and now he sleeps better at night knowing he won’t wake up (or come home) to an indoor swimming pool.

It’s surprising that we haven’t seen more hacks like this given it’s such a common problem. The closest thing we can remember is an overflow sensor for an aquarium. If homes came standard with a water main shutoff system, it would remove a stressful event from our lives and maybe even lower our insurance premium.

Simple Devices Protecting Our Water System

We are all used to turning on the faucet and having clean, drinkable water on demand. But think about what happens afterwards in your home: that water is used to wash dishes or water lawns and many other uses that render it undrinkable. What stops this nasty water from flowing back into your pipes and out of your kitchen faucet? A backflow preventer. This simple, but vital, part of your plumbing turns your water pipes into one-way systems that give out clean, drinkable water. This isn’t just about making your water taste nice: backflow preventers protect your water supply from things like brain-eating amoeba and E Coli that could kill.

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Wet spill vacuum cleaner attachment

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You’ve got to hand it to [Lou], not only does he know how to build simple items, he also knows how to sell their worth. Here’s a wet spill vacuum cleaner attachment which you can build on the cheap. A picture of the final product fails to have the same impact as his video showing its use in cleaning up a simulated cat disgorging from the carpet.

From the picture we’re sure you’ve already figured out how it work. The air and damp matter come in one side and are dropped into the jar as the air is sucked out the other. [Lou] suggests raiding your recycling bin for the jar. The intake and outflow are both pieces from a PVC P-trap intended for a sink drain. They have a threaded flange which keeps the part from pulling all the way through the 1.5″ holes drilled in the lid.

This is going to work best with a high-flow shop vacuum. So while you’ve got the tools out, why not build a dust separator as well?

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Keurig hack runs a water supply line to your coffee maker

We were skeptical about Keurig machines when we first heard about them. Although we still scoff at the added waste of throwing away a plastic container of used grounds for each cup of coffee made, we tried one at the in-laws and it does brew a great cup of Joe. One of the draws of the machine is that it does it pretty much automatically as long as you fill it with water first. [Joseph Collins] is even taking the work out of that by adding a water supply line to his Keurig.

His coffee maker sits right next to the fridge, which has its own water supply. So one day he thought, why not run a line to the coffee maker as well? As far as plumbing projects go it’s very simple. He pulled out the refrigerator and added a T-fitting to split the water supply line. From there he ran an extension next to the coffee maker that terminates with a valve being pointed to by the arrow in the lower left. The plastic supply line leaving the valve passes through a rubber grommet in the lid of the water reservoir pointed to by the other arrow.

[Joseph] figures the whole project came in at under $30 and shows how he did it in the clip after the break.

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Forget that boring old fire pit, build a Flame Tree instead!

maker_faire_bay_area_2011_fire_tree

Maker Faire is a great event to attend not only because you get to see all sorts of cool designs and machinations, but because you can participate as well. At Maker Faire Bay Area 2011, maker [Brett Levine] put together a fun and interactive display he likes to call the DIY Flame Tree.

The concept is pretty simple, and he says everyone who participated got a pretty good kick out of lending a hand. Each participant was given a piece of copper tubing and allowed to bend, twist, and sculpt it to their liking before using a drill to add holes wherever they pleased. They were then allowed to choose where their portion of the project would be mounted on the existing tree.

With everyone standing a safe distance away from the display, [Brett] pumped it full of propane and lit the various sections on fire. In the video below, you can see that the display was blown around a bit by the wind, but we imagine it would look pretty awesome on a still summer evening.

Even if you’re not into this sort of art, you have to admit that it certainly beats a boring old fire pit!

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Plumb in your espresso machine (cheap)


A while back, I wrote up a how-to on some mods I made to my ECM Giotto espresso machine. After giving it some break-in time, I finally wrote up my cheap plumbed in espresso trick. Plumbing kits use a $50 solenoid that requires special plumbing. My version uses a $12 fridge solenoid, easily adds on to my previous mods, and only requires some tubing size adaptation.