Hot dirt keeps your plants happy in the winter months

[Craig] tried heating his greenhouse last winter, but really only managed to push the limits of his utility bills. This time around he took a different approach by building a system to warm the soil in which his vegetation is planted.

The core of the system is this box which houses the plants. It is lined with heating tape along the bottom which warms a layer of dirt. The plants are in pots, but since those are surrounded by the dirt it doesn’t really inhibit the warming properties of the soil. The controller takes into account the temperature inside the box, as well as ambient temperature in the greenhouse. When it’s a bit too cold the controller will close the lid, which is covered with translucent plastic. This makes sure the temperature around the plants won’t fall below about 41.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

This really takes the work out of caring for you plants in the winter. What would have been a multiple-times-per-day visit can be limited to every day or two. Now he just needs to expand this to regulate temperature and humidity in the greenhouse itself, kind of like this other hack.

Wireless solar water heater controller ensures hot water every time

water-heater-controller

[Peter Sobey] had a solar hot water heater installed in his home, which worked great until he relocated his kitchen to a neighboring room. Now a good bit further from the tank, the hot water reaching his sink was tepid at best due to the increased distance and temperature limiting mixer valve in the new heater.

He installed a salvaged solar panel and water tank solely for use in his kitchen, but as the panel was located above the tank, he had to find a way to actively monitor and control the water temperature. His pump and valve system was originally driven with an off the shelf PICAXE-based controller, but he eventually got the urge to add a wireless display and control panel to the mix.

A pair of Arduino Nanos run the show now, one of which resides in the pump controller box, while the other is used in the temperature display box in his kitchen. He uses a set of Bluetooth modules to link the Arduinos together, relaying temperature data and allowing him to send the pump controller manual commands if needed.

He says the system works a treat, and he’s much happier with his homebrew controller than the one he used originally.

Sensor array tries to outdo the other guys

The team over at the Louisville Hackerspace LVL1 is not going to be outdone when it comes to collecting environmental data. They put together this Frankenstein of sensor boards that lets you collect a heap of data showing what is going on around it.

At the center-left a small Arduino clone is responsible for collecting the data. Data storage is not talked about on their write-up, but if that’s an ATmega328 chip you should be able to work out an easy way to store data on the 1k of internal EEPROM. If that’s not enough, there is an I2C bus included on the board making it easy to add a compatible EEPROM.

The sensor on the bottom left should look familiar. It’s a DHT11 temperature and humidity sensor we’ve seen popping up in projects lately. But wait, there’s also a TMP102 temperature sensor; but that’s not the end of it. A BMP085 pressure sensor also includes a third temperature sensing option. Want to see when the lights go on in the room? There’s a CdS sensor and a TSL230R Lux sensor for that. An op-amp circuit can measure the sound level in the room via one of the Arduino’s ADC pins. And finally, an RTC board is used for time stamping the data.

Obviously this is overkill, and we’re sure it’s meant as a test platform for various sensors. All of them have been mounted on the protoboard and wired up using the point-to-point soldering method.

DHT11 humidity and temperature sensor package

Temperature and humidity measurements are a nice addition to many hobby projects. But [Rajendra Bhatt] makes the point that many of these sensors have a price tag that is well above what most hobbiests are willing to spend. He decided to take an in-depth look at the DHT11 sensor; which you can get your hands on for under $3 if you know where to look.

The four-pin device uses a 1-wire protocol. [Rajendra] discusses the ins and outs of the communications, demonstrating the part using a PIC 16F628. It’s a snap to connect to your project, requiring VCC, GND, and a pull-up resistor on the single data line. We’ve already seen it used on at least one project, and hope to see more of this little guy in your own hacks.

Now we found this part listed on eBay for less than $3 (buy it now price including shipping… how can they do that?). But Octopart didn’t come up with any options. If you know how to get this through traditional parts suppliers let us know in the comments.

Over-engineering a two-zone thermometer

We love the extra touches that [Andrianakis Haris] added to his two-zone electronic thermometer. It includes features that you just wouldn’t find on a mass-market commercial product because of issues like added cost. For example, you can see that the PCB juts up above the LCD display, allowing the module to be mounted on a pair of screws thanks to the keyhole shape that was drilled in the substrate. I increases the board size greatly, but on a small hobby run this won’t usually affect the price of the board depending on the fab house pricing model.

The design uses an ATmega8 microcontroller to monitor sensors in two different places. There is an onboard LM35 temperature sensor for monitoring the space where the unit resides. A remote sensor module uses a DHT-11 chip to gather data about temperature and humidity. That sensor is wired, but there is one wireless option for the device. Data can be pulled down from it via an optional Bluetooth module which can be soldered to a footprint on the back of the board.

Check out the video after the break to see temperature readings pulled down wirelessly. [Read more...]

ChipKIT temperature shield supports a dozen sensors

chipkit_temp_board

[Will] wrote in to share a useful add-on he designed for the ChipKIT UNO 32, a 12-port temperature sensor board.

Constructed for one of his customers, the shield accepts any 2-wire 10k thermistor sensors, outputting the readings to a small LCD screen. The screen is supported by some code put together by his associate [crenn], but you are not limited to solely displaying the temperatures there. Since this module piggybacks on top of the ChipKIT the same fashion as any standard shield, you clearly have the ability to use and manipulate the data at will. With 12 ports on board this would work well for a house-wide temperature monitoring system, or perhaps in a complex brewing setup.

Both the temperature shield and LCD boards have been released under the Open Source Hardware License, so you can easily build your own if you have the means, though [Will] has a few extras he’s willing to sell if you need one quickly.

Throw together a temperature logger in minutes

[Rajendra] found an easy way to make a USB temperature logger. He already had a USB to UART adapter that takes care of the heavy lifting. On one end it’s got the USB plug, on the other a set of pins provide a ground connection, 3.3V and 5V feed, as well as RX/TX lines.

To get the hardware up and running all he needed was something to read a temperature sensor and push that data over the serial connection. An 8-pin microcontroller in the form of a PIC 12F1822 does the trick. It runs off of the 5V pin on the USB-UART, and uses the ADC to get temperature data from an MCP9701A sensor.

The sample rate is hard-coded into to the PIC’s firmware, but adding a button, or coding some serial monitoring could easily make that configurable. [Rajendra] used Processing to write an app which displays the incoming temperature info and uses the computer to time-stamp and log the inputs. We could see this as a quick solution to tracking wort temperature during fermentation to make sure your beer comes out just right.

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