A Cheap DIY Smoke Detector that Can Save Lives

2014-07-19-16.33.53 A faulty wire, a discarded burning cigarette, or a left-on curling iron can trigger sparks of fire to engulf everything nearby until all that’s left is brittle mounds of smoldering ash. Which is why smoke detectors are so important. They are life saving devices that can wake people up sleeping inside, well before the silent, but deadly carbon monoxide starts to kick in. But what happens if no one is home, and the alarm begins to blare? The place burns down into the ground without the owners knowing.

So when [Martin] purchased a battery-powered smoke detector and rigged it up to notify him exactly when the piezo siren is activated, the evolution of the automatic fire alarm continued into the realm of wireless internet-connected things.

His home automation system (a Raspberry Pi running Node-Red) links to a Funky ATTiny84-based sensor and transmits the data wirelessly, redirecting the information to his phone. SMS messages can be sent, as well as emails and pushbullet notifications. Once the piezo siren starts to sing, the system alerts him that smoke has been detected and that he should check on it as soon as possible.

The electronics fit perfectly inside the case waiting for any smoky disturbance in the room to light up. And what makes this project even better, besides the life saving capabilities and the instant push notifications, is that it was hooked up for the cheap. No need to buy a brand-new, expensive Nest protect, when all it takes it a sensor or two and a Raspberry Pi to hack the fire alarm that already sits in the house.

This video coming up after the break shows how simple it is to make. [Read more...]

Leaking water detector from an old smoke alarm

[Thomas Clauser] had his basement flood last year when a hurricane swept over New England. The problem with flooding or leaking water is that chances are you won’t notice until it’s too late. He decided to protect against this in the future by building his own leaking water detector. It’s a simple device that sits on the floor of his basement and triggers an audio alarm if water begins to cover the floor.

He used an old smoke detector for the build; a nice choice since it’s loud, and designed for long-term battery operation. It also has a button for testing if the detector is working. [Thomas] removed the PCB from the smoke detector case and soldered wires onto the test button contacts. He cut a sponge to squeeze it inside of a PVC pipe connector housing. That sits against the floor, with the wires for the test button contacts placed through the sponge. If water is soaked up by the sponge it completes the circuit and triggers the alarm.

A few other design features really make this a nice setup. He notched out the bottom of the PVC connector so that water can flow freely, and added a switch to one of the probe wires lets him kill the alarm when inspecting the damage.

Thwart robbers with an old smoke alarm.

[Anders] tipped us off about his hack that re-purposes a smoke alarm as a burglar alarm. Unfortunately, he came home in the middle of a burglary but wanted to be ready the next time someone tries to break in. By cleverly patching into the test button on an old smoke detector he created a circuit-trip alarm. One side of each piece of wire is secured to the frame and jam of a window. A paper clip completes the circuit by pinching the two bare conductors. If the window is opened the connection is lost and the alarm sounds.

We see a few problems with this system. First off, never hack your ONLY smoke detector, you are putting lives at risk by doing so. But [Anders] says he’ll have a replacement detector and since these things need to be replace every ten years or so, chances are you can find an old one kicking around. We’d recommend disguising the case so that people aren’t confused about it being a smoke detector. Secondly, he’s mounted the alarm right in the window frame so most likely an invader will just smash the thing to bits.

Anyway, it’s still an interesting reuse of these ubiquitous, and life-saving, devices.

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