Adding fireplace control to your home automation


[James] has an admirable home automation system which he’s been working on for years. It does things like monitor the state of the garage door, control the lights, and it even notifies him of a power failure. One thing that wasn’t on the system yet are the fireplaces he has in his home. The hardware you see above is how he patched into the fireplace remote control system in order to automate them.

The remote control uses RF to communicate with a base station. Unlike controlling home theater components which use IR, this makes it a bit more difficult to patch into. Sure, we’d love to see some reverse engineering of the protocol so that a simple radio module could be used, but [James] chose the route which would mean the least amount of hacking on his part. He soldered wires onto the PCB for the buttons and connected to them using reed relays. These let the Arduino simulate button presses.

With the rig connected to the home network he has a lot of options. The system can sense if the house is occupied. If it determines that no one is home it will switch off the fireplaces. [James] also mentions the ability to monitor for carbon monoxide or house fires, switching off the gas fireplaces in either case.

Mailbox notifier texts when the letter carrier arrives


[Felix Rusu's] mailbox is on the other side of the street and he’s got a pretty big front yard. This means checking for mail is not just a pop your head out of the door type of activity. This becomes especially noticeable during the winter months when he has to bundle up and trudge through the snow to see if his letter carrier has been there yet. But he’s made pointless trips a thing of the past by building a notifier that monitors the mailbox for him.

He’s using a Moteino, which is an Arduino clone of his own making. It’s tiny and features an RF module on the underside of the board which takes care of communicating with a base station inside the house. The module seen above rolls the microcontroller board up along with a 9V battery and a hall effect sensor which can tell if the mailbox door is open or closed. When the Arduino detects a change to that sensor it pushes some data back to the base station which then relays the info to a computer or Raspberry Pi in order to send him a text message. All of this is shown off in the video after the break.

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RF switching module can learn new remotes


This breadboarded circuit is [Sergio's] solution to controlling appliances wirelessly. Specifically he wanted a way to turn his pool pump on and off from inside the house. Since he had most of the parts on hand he decided to build a solution himself. What he ended up with is an RF base station that can learn to take commands from different remote devices.

The main components include the solid state relay at the bottom of the image. This lets the ATtiny13 switch mains voltage appliances. The microcontroller (on the copper clad square at the center of the breadboard) interfaces with the green radio frequency board to its left. On the right is a single leaf switch. This acts as the input. A quick click will toggle the relay, but a three-second press puts the device in learning mode. [Sergio] can then press a button on an RF remote and the device will store the received code in EEPROM. As you can see in the clip after the break, he even included a way to forget a remote code.

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Super Serious Garage Door Opener

Tired of cheap plastic garage door openers? [Yetifrisstlama]‘s is probably the most serious garage door opener that we’ve seen. The case is an old emergency stop switch, which has plenty of space for the circuitry and features a big red button.

This build log starts with details on reverse engineering the original door opener’s protocol. It’s an amplitude-shift keying (ASK) signal that sends a 10 bit code to authenticate. The main components inside are a PIC16LF819 microcontroller, a MAX7057 ASK/FSK transmitter, and some RF circuitry needed to filter the signal. There’s a mix of through hole and surface mount components mounted on a prototyping board, requiring some crafty soldering.

[Yetifrisstlama] says that the next step is to add a power amplifier to increase the range. The code and project files are also provided for anyone interested in working with ASK. While the hack looks awesome, it might make bystanders think you’re doing something more sinister than opening a garage door.

27 MHz transmitter/receiver pair made with 555 timers

Get your feet wet with radio frequency transmitters and receivers by working your way through this pair of tutorials. [Chris] built the hardware around a couple of 555 timers so you don’t need to worry about any microcontroller programming. He started by building the transmitter and finished by constructing a receiver.

Apparently the 27 MHz band is okay to work with in most countries as long as your hardware stays below a certain power threshold. The carrier frequency is generated by the transmitter with the help of a 27.145 MHz crystal. The signal is picked up by the receiver which uses a hand-wrapped inductor made using an AL=25 Toroid Core. We’d say these are the parts that will be the hardest to find without putting in an order from a distributor. But the rest of the build just uses a couple 555 timer chips and passive components, all of which will be easy to find. The video after the break shows the project used to receive a Morse-code-style message entered with a push button. It would be fun to interface this with your microcontroller of choice and implement your own one-way error correction scheme.

Garage door opener now a bedroom door closer

[Roy] had an extra garage door opener on hand and decided to put it to use as a remote control closing mechanism for his bedroom door. We gather he has some noisy housemates as the inspiration for the project came from not wanting to get out of bed to close the door when the ruckus interrupts his TV watching.

The image above shows the hinged system which translates the linear motion from the garage opener track to the rotational force necessary to swing the door closed. We’d say he really nailed it because the system matches the angle of the door jamb perfectly, and when the door is fully open the angle bracket is almost flat against the wall. We certainly don’t have the same need for closing doors, but the mechanism is something to keep in mind.

The motor for the opener is hidden beneath his desk. You won’t be able to see it in the video after the break because he built a matching enclosure around it. Now he just needs to add some WiFi connectivity and he can ditch the uni-tasking RF remote for a smart phone app.

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Decoding RF link using a PC soundcard

[Ray] wanted to use a microcontroller to send signals to some wireless power outlets. Instead of tapping into the buttons on the remote control he is using an RF board to mimic the signals. There are two hurdles to overcome with this method. The first is to make sure your RF module operates on the proper frequency. The second is to get your hands on the codes that are being sent from the remote control unit.

Now you could just hook your oscilloscope up to the transmitter and take a look at the timing of the signals. But most hobbyists don’t have that kind of high-end test equipment in their basement or garage shops. [Ray's] approach uses something we all have available to us: a sound card and some open source software. He connected the data pin from his RF receiver to an audio plug and inserted it in the line-in jack of his computer. Using Audacity he recorded the signal as he pressed buttons on the transmitter.  This method not only captures the data, but the time stamps native to the audio editing program let him easily work out the timing for each signal.

It’s kind of amazing what you can do with this audio analyation technique. Earlier this year we saw it used to measure response time for DSLR cameras.

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