Autonomous Plant Watering Thingamajig

[Eitan] is one of those guys whose plants keep tottering between life and death. Can’t blame the plants, because he just keeps forgetting when to water them. But keeping them hydrated requires him to get off his butt and actually water them. Surely, there had to be an easier solution which needed him to do nothing and yet prevent his plants from dying. Being lazy has its benefits, so he built his own super simple Autonomous Plant Watering Thingamajig.

He needed a water pump, but all he had was an air pump. So he hooked it up to force air in to a sealed container and push the water out. To make the setup autonomous, he connected the pump to a WiFi-enabled wall socket and then programmed it to dispense water at regular intervals. It may take him some time to fine tune the right interval and duration for his setup over the next few weeks, but right now, it’s pumping water for a short duration once every week.

The important thing for a system like this to work is to ensure it is well sealed. Any air leakage will require an increasing amount of air to be pumped in to the container as the water level keeps reducing. Without knowing the actual level of water in the container, it isn’t easy to compensate for this via programming. And that’s the other problem. [Eitan] will still have to periodically check his mason jar for water, and top it up manually. Maybe his next hack will take care of that. We’re thinking a Rube Goldberg watering system would be awesome. It’s nice when people put on their thinking caps and say “Okay, here’s a problem, how do I solve it?” instead of going out and buying an off-the-shelf device.

Thanks, [Clay], for sending in this tip.

16 thoughts on “Autonomous Plant Watering Thingamajig

    1. I looked for an alternative to the airlift pump (didn’t know that’s what it was called), that is how I came up with this solution. The main issue with the airlift method is that it gets less efficient the shallower your reservoir gets. I highlight the pros and cons that I thought of in my original post.

      1. Just be sure not to locate the water reservoir such that the water level in it is physically higher than the end of the watering tube. Otherwise, as soon as the water begins to flow, the system will turn into a siphon. The water will continue to flow (quickly at first, due to the higher air pressure in the reservoir – then more slowly, since it will eventually create a slight vacuum in the reservoir and suck air through the air pump) until the water level drops down to a height equal to the end of the tube.

  1. Ok, how about a very slow/small Shishi Odoshi (Deer Chaser Fountain), use an arduino to count fountian pour cycles, when the cycles reach a set number (fountain pour volume compared to reservoir volume) have it send a notification to his phone to refill the reservoir. He can also have a notice sent if the pour cycle slows too much which could indicate an air link. Oh, this is a Shishi Odoshi…

    Gad YouTube is so handy!

  2. There’s a very simple system that’s already in wide use that does something like this without any air or water pump: an IV drip setup. All you have to do is check the bag occasionally, but I suppose you could also put a weight sensor on the hook the bag goes on, and WiFi connect that to send you an email when it gets low.

        1. Hey, mine used electronics, for notification of out-of-water condition. And no, I wasn’t just being funny. Why use a pump when gravity (or surface tension) does the work for you?

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