Water Heater Controller Automates Garage Doors


The black box mounted between two garage doors is actually a water heater controller. The entire assembly is a conglomeration of hacks which [Simon] added to his garage over the last four years. We’ll give you a quick rundown, but the entire story is told in his blog post.

Back when the house was built [Simon] was approached by the contractor who offered to throw in remote control for the garage door rollers for just 1500 Australian Dollars (about $1350 with today’s rates). That sounded quite steep to him. He managed to add his own remote control for about a third of the price. But there were a few missing features. Notably, a lack of a light that comes on when the doors open. He also didn’t like that the button inside the garage was on the motor, which is mounted quite high.

Years later his water heater controller needed a firmware upgrade from the manufacturer. Check this out: they replaced the entire controller rather than flashing the PIC 18F2321 inside. What a waste! But in this case [Simon] snagged the old unit, which included several mains rated relays. He connected one up to a light socket seen above, and outfitted several illuminated buttons on its original enclosure. Now he has the satisfaction of a light that comes on with when the door opens,  and shuts itself off after a preset delay.

Now his daughter wants smartphone control. But that’s as easy as hacking a Bluetooth headset.

17 thoughts on “Water Heater Controller Automates Garage Doors

  1. I also thought Simon lost an opportunity to shop around for a better price. I’ve had the entire lead screw garage door opener system with remotes, safety beam and code keypad installed (materials+labor) for $400 a couple of years ago. I am not at all against a good hack but sometimes a factory-made unit can give you quite a few more functions (for example, that safety beam is nice, especially if you have kids) and then can be further hacked itself, for example by adding that Bluetooth control…

  2. Yeah that’s ridiculous! I mean, cool hack, but I bought my garage door opener, with the automated light, with two remotes, with a wall mounted opener (that reads the temp too and can program the door to auto shut after a certain time), a wireless keypad entry for outside the door AND smartphone access for $220. What’s the deal Australia?

  3. I like the “story” style of writeup used, describing the decisions and mistakes encountered along the way. Useful even if you have no interest in garage doors.

    I did learn something from it. Never knew that enclosure pass-through was called a “cable gland”. Heh.

      1. Did some looking and found you’re right, “gland” is more typically used outside the US. But that term just seems odd to me. Glands usually secrete something. (Then again, there’s “pipe nipples”, so…)

  4. Good hack, but honesty thought for a moment, this would be a modern version of a method Heron of Alexandria documented to use steam to open Temple doors back in the 1st Century AD Used rope, a bucket of water, a counterweight, and a boiler. To open the door a fire was started in the boiler- modern equivilent would be an electric boiler. The steam produced would then pushthe water out of the bucket and the counterweight would pull the door open. To shut the door, turn the boiler heat souce and the water will be sucked back into the bucket, and pull the door shut.

  5. I agree with Aaron, I personally have never seen a garage control go for that high before! I mean two garage control sets can cost anywhere from 100- 300 depending on the brand. Great hack, but not reasonable for US residents.

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