Garage Door Automation With No Extra Hardware

Home automation projects have been popular as long as microcontrollers have been available to the general public. Building computers to handle minutiae so we don’t have to is one of life’s great joys. Among the more popular is adding some sort of system to a garage door. Besides adding Internet-connected remote control to the action of opening and closing, it’s also helpful to have an indicator of the garage door state for peace-of-mind. Most add some sensors and other hardware to accomplish this task but this project doesn’t use any extra sensors or wiring at all.

In fact, the only thing added to the garage door for this build besides some wiring is the microcontroller itself. After getting the cover of the opener off, which took some effort, a Shelly Uni was added and powered by the 12V supply from the opener itself. The garage door opener, perhaps unsurprisingly, has its own way of detecting when the door is fully open or closed, so some additional wire was added to these sensors to let the microcontroller know the current state. Shelly Uni platforms have a WiFi module included as well, so nothing else was needed for this to function as a complete garage door automation platform.

[Stephen] uses Home Assistant as the basis for his home automation, and he includes all of the code for getting this platform up and running there. It wouldn’t be too hard to get it running on other openers or even on other microcontroller platforms; the real key to this build is to recognize that sometimes it’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel with extra sensors, limit switches, or even power supplies when it’s possible to find those already in the hardware you’re modifying. This isn’t always possible, though, especially with more modern devices that might already be Internet-connected but probably don’t have great security.

Does Getting Into Your Garage Really Need To Be Difficult?

Probably the last thing anyone wants when coming home from a long day at work or a trip is to be hassled at the last possible moment — gaining entrance to your house. But for some home automation enthusiasts, that’s just what happened when they suddenly learned that their own garage doors had betrayed them.

The story basically boils down to this: Chamberlain, a US company that commands 60% of the garage door market, recently decided to prevent “unauthorized usage” of their MyQ ecosystem through third-party apps. Once Chamberlain rolled out the change, users of Home Assistant and other unauthorized apps found themselves unable to open or close their doors with the apps they were accustomed to.

Those of us with custom smart home setups can relate to how frustrating it is when something disturbs the systems you’ve spent a lot of time tweaking and optimizing. It’s especially upsetting for users who both Chamberlain hardware specifically because it was supported by Home Assistant, only to have the company decide to drop support. This feels like false advertising, but we strongly suspect that buried in the EULA users must have agreed to at some point is a clause that essentially says, “We can do anything we want and tough noogies to you.” And if you read through the article linked above, you’ll get an idea why Chamberlain did this — they probably didn’t like the idea that users were avoiding their ad-spangled MyQ app for third-party interfaces, depriving them of ad revenue and the opportunity for up-selling.

We feel the frustration of these users, but rather than curse the darkness, perhaps this will light a candle of righteous rage that leads to a clever workaround. The Home Assistant blog article mentions a dongle called ratgdo, which should allow any door with plain old dry contacts to work via MQTT or ESPHome. It’s extra work that users shouldn’t have to put in, but maybe getting one over on The Man would be worth the effort.

Thanks to [KC] for the tip; please keep us posted on your workaround.

RFID Sticker On Bike Helmet Grants Garage Access

[Glen] might describe his project of opening his garage door by way of an RFID sticker on his bike helmet as simple, but some of the interfacing he needed to do was quite complex. He walks through the project from beginning to end, and there’s plenty to learn from.

When designing an RFID access control system, one has to decide what kind of reader and what kind of tags one wishes to use. They all function more or less the same way, but there are a lot of practical considerations to take into account such as cost, range, ease of use, and security options. After a lot of research, [Glen] decided on inexpensive sticker-style tags and a compatible reader supporting credentials with an ISO14443 UID that could be suitably mounted on a building’s exterior.

The actual opening of the door was the simple part, done by interfacing to a spare remote.

Breakout boards with ready-to-use code libraries exist for some RFID readers, but that wasn’t the case for the reader [Glen] had. He ended up rolling his own code to handle communication with the reader, with a Microchip PIC18F45K50 doing all the work of reading tags and performing access control. His code is on the project’s GitHub repository, and if you also find yourself needing to interface to a reader that uses the Wiegand protocol, you might want to give it a look.

Controlling the actual garage door was the easy part. All that took was soldering two wires across the switch contacts of a spare garage door opener remote, and using a relay to close the contacts. Simple and effective. You can see it in action in the short video, embedded below the break.

Overhead door access control might be a simple concept, but it comes in all shapes and sizes when enterprising hackers start looking for solutions. We’ve seen garage doors given the DIY IoT treatment, and even seen access controlled by a car’s headlamp flashes, which actually turned out to be more secure than it sounds.

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USB Power Bank’s Auto-Off Becomes Useful Feature In Garage Door Remote

For devices that are destined for momentary and infrequent use as well as battery power, some kind of power saving is pretty much a required feature. For example, when [PJ Allen] turned two ESP8266-based NodeMCU development boards into a replacement wireless remote garage door opener, a handy USB power bank ended up serving as a bit of a cheat when migrating the remote away from the workbench. Instead of moving the board from USB to battery power and implementing some kind of sleep mode or auto-off, [PJ Allen] simply plugged in a USB power bank and let it do all the work.

This is how the feature works: some USB power banks turn themselves off unless they detect a meaningful current draw. That means that if the power bank is charging a phone, it stays on, but if it’s only lighting up a few LEDs, it’ll turn itself off. This feature can be a frustrating one, but [PJ Allen] realized that it could actually be useful for a device like his garage door remote. Turning on the power bank delivers 5 V to the NodeMCU board and allows it to work, but after about fifteen seconds, the power bank turns itself off. Sure, strapping a power bank to the remote makes the whole thing bigger than it needs to be, but it’s a pretty clever use of the minimum load as an effortless auto-off feature.

The NodeMCU boards in [PJ Allen]’s DIY remote use ESP-NOW for their wireless communications, a nifty connectionless protocol from Espressif that we’ve seen used in other projects as well, such as this ESP32-based walkie-talkie.

Hacked AC Window Unit Split In Half To Cool The Garage

It’s getting into the hot summer months for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, and for many Hackaday readers, that means its time to get the old window air conditioner out of storage and lug it back into position. But what if you’re trying to cool a space that doesn’t have a convenient window? In that case, this clever conversion that [Infrared] came up with to keep his garage cool¬†might be of interest.

Basically, he’s taken the classic window AC and turned it into an impromptu ductless unit. By rotating the evaporator coils into a vertical position and lengthening the compressor wires, he was able to make the center of the AC thin enough that he could close his garage door over it. The back of the unit looks largely untouched, but the front side has a real Mad Max vibe going on; with sheet metal, exposed wiring, and a couple of fans thrown in for good measure. Fine for the garage or workspace, but probably not a great choice for the kid’s room.

[Infrared] says the hacked up AC can get his garage 18 degrees cooler than the outside air temperature in its current form, but he hopes the addition of some high CFM computer fans will not only improve performance, but let him make the new front panel look a bit neater. Though even in its current form, this is far from the most ridiculous DIY AC project we’ve seen in recent memory.

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Four Years Of Learning ESP8266 Development Went Into This Guide

The ESP8266 is a great processor for a lot of projects needing a small microcontroller and Wi-Fi, all for a reasonable price and in some pretty small form factors. [Simon] used one to build a garage door opener. This project isn’t really about his garage door opener based on a cheap WiFi-enabled chip, though. It’s about the four year process he went through to learn how to develop on these chips, and luckily he wrote a guide that anyone can use so that we don’t make the same mistakes he did.

The guide starts by suggesting which specific products are the easiest to use, and then moves on to some “best practices” for using these devices (with which we can’t argue much), before going through some example code. The most valuable parts of this guide especially for anyone starting out with these chips are the section which details how to get the web server up and running, and the best practices for developing HTML code for the tiny device (hint: develop somewhere else).

[Simon] also makes extensive use of the Chrome developers tools when building the HTML for the ESP. This is a handy trick even outside of ESP8266 development which might be useful for other tasks as well. Even though most of the guide won’t be new to anyone with experience with these boards, there are a few gems within it like this one that might help in other unrelated projects. It’s a good read and goes into a lot of detail about more than just the ESP chips. If you just want to open your garage door, though, you have lots of options.

The Trials And Tribulations Of Building An IOT Garage Door Opener

Garage doors can be frustrating things, being a chore to open manually and all. Many people opt to install a motorized opener, but for some, even this isn’t enough. Hooking up a garage door to the Internet of Things has long been a popular project, and [Simon Ludborzs] decided to give it a shot. Naturally, there were some obstacles to be overcome along the way.

[Simon]’s build is relatively straight down the lines, using an ESP-12 as the brains of the operation, which connects to the internet over WiFi. However, robustness was a major goal of the project, and being reliant on shaky cloud-based services wouldn’t do. This opener is set up to work independently of an internet connection, too. There’s a nifty control panel with glowing buttons to operate the opener, in addition to the webpage served up on the network.

During the development, [Simon] ran into several roadblocks. A set of roller door motors were inadvertently killed, and there were issues in getting the web interface working as expected. None of these were showstoppers, though, and with a little work and some new parts, everything came together in the end. The project was then given a proper commercial-grade case, sourced from AliBaba. This is a great step to take for a project expected to hold up to daily use for years on end. He also took the time to document his tips for easier ESP8266 development, which may prove useful to those just getting started with the platform.

Garage door openers remain a common theme around here, but every project has its own story to tell. If you’ve developed a particularly unique solution to your garage access problems, you know who to call.