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.
[TheStaticTurtle] built a custom controller for automating his garage doors. He wanted to retain the original physical button and RF remote control interfaces while adding a more modern wireless control accessible from his internet connected devices. Upgrading an old system is often a convoluted process of trial and error, and he had to discard a couple of prototype versions which didn’t pan out as planned. But luckily, the third time was the charm.
The original door-closer logic was pretty straightforward. Press a button and the door moves. If it’s not going in the desired direction, press the button once again to stop the motor, and then press it a third time to reverse direction. With help from the user manual diagrams and a bit of reverse-engineering, he was able to get a handle on how to plan out his add-on controller to interface with the old system.
There are many micro-controller options available these days when you want to add IoT to a project, but [TheStaticTurtle] decided to use the old faithful ESP8266 as the brains of his new controller. For his add-on board to work, he needed to detect the direction in which the motor was turning, and detect the limit switches when the door reached end of travel in either direction. Finally, he needed a relay contact in parallel with the activation button to send commands remotely.
To sense if the motor was moving in the “open” or “close” direction, he used a pair of back-to-back opto-couplers in parallel with the motor terminals. He connected another pair of opto-couplers across the two end-limit switches which indicated when the door was fully open or closed, and shut off the motor supply. Finally, a GPIO from the ESP8266 actuates a relay to send the door open and close commands. The boards were designed in EasyEDA and with a quick turnaround from China, he was able to assemble, test and debug his boards pretty quickly.
The code was written using the Arduino IDE and connects the ESP8266 to the MQTT server running on his home automation computer. The end result is a nice dashboard with three icons for open, close and stop, accessible from all the devices connected to his home network. A 3D printed enclosure attaches outside the original control box to keep things tidy. Using hot melt glue as light pipes for the status LED’s is a pretty nifty hack. If you are interested in taking a deeper look at the project, [TheStaticTurtle] has posted all resources on his Github repository.
There are a lot of things in our everyday life that are holdovers from an earlier time that we continue to use simply because of inertia even if they don’t make a lot of sense in modern times. Examples include a 60 Hz power grid, the spacing between railroad tracks, and of course the self-contained attic ladder which is made to fit in between standard spaced ceiling joists. It’s not wide enough to get big or heavy stuff into an attic, and building standards won’t change just for this one inconvenience, so if you want to turn that space into something more usable you’re going to need to build a custom elevator.
This attic elevator comes to us from [Brian] who recently moved into a home with about half the square footage as his previous home, but still needed to hold all of his stuff. That means clever ways of using the available space. For the elevator he constructed a platform out of 2x lumber held together with bolts and steel supports. The carriage runs up and down on a track made out 1 5/8″ super strut and is hoisted by a winch motor rated for 550 pounds, which is more than enough to hoist up most household items including a large toolbox.
Vertical storage is often underused in the garage or workshop as it can be tricky to get bulky objects off the floor safely. So we stick a few shelves on the wall, put boxes of screws and components on them, and call it a day. Meanwhile, you end up playing a game of horizontal Tetris with all the big stuff on the ground.
Before he started the actual build, [Chris] knocked together a rough facsimile of his garage in SolidWorks and started experimenting with the layout and mechanism that the hoist would ultimately use. While we’ve all felt the desire to run into a project full-speed, this more methodical approach can definitely save you time and money when working on a complex project. Redesigning a component in CAD to try it a different way will always be faster and easier than having to do it for real.
We’ve become accustomed to seeing projects include sensors, microcontrollers, and 3D printed components as a matter of course, but [Chris] kept this build relatively low-tech. Not that we blame him when heavy overhead loads are involved. Even still, he did have to make a few tweaks in the name of safety: his original ratcheting winch could freewheel under load, so he swapped it out for a worm gear version that he operates with an electric drill.
Sure, [Ty Palowski] could have just hung a tennis ball from the ceiling, but that would mean getting on a ladder, testing the studfinder on himself before locating a ceiling joist, and so on. Bo-ring. Now that he finally has a garage, he’s not going to fill it with junk, no! He’s going to park a big ol’ Jeep in it. Backwards.
Inside the light is an Arduino Nano, which reads from the ultrasonic sensor mounted underneath the enclosure and lights up the appropriate LED depending on the car’s distance. All [Ty] has to do is set the distance that makes the red light come on, which he can do with the rotary encoder on the side and confirm on the OLED. The distance for yellow and green are automatically set from red — the yellow range begins 24″ past red, and green is another 48″ past yellow. Floor it past the break to watch the build video.
Those with small garages might be familiar with the method of hanging a tennis ball from a ceiling to make sure they don’t hit the back wall with their car. If the car isn’t in the garage, though, the tennis ball dangling from a string tends to get in the way. To alleviate this problem, [asaucet] created a distance sensor that can tell him when his car is the perfect distance from the garage wall.
At the heart of the distance sensor is an HC-SR04 ultrasonic rangefinder and a PIC16F88 microcontroller. [asaucet] uses a set of four LEDs to alert the driver how close they are to the garage wall. [asaucet] also goes into great detail about how to use an LCD with this microcontroller for setting up the project, and the amount of detail should be enough to get anyone started on a similar project.
While this isn’t a new idea, the details that [asaucet] goes into in setting up the microcontroller, using the distance sensor, and using an LCD are definitely worth looking into. Even without this exact application in mind, you’re sure to find some helpful information on the project page.
Car lifts used to be a tool reserved for professional mechanics. Times are a-changing though. With the advent of reasonably priced four-post hydraulic lifts, more and more shade tree mechanics are joining the five-foot high club. Installing a lift in a home garage creates a few hazards, though. What happens when a family remotely opens the garage door while there is a car up on the lift? Garage door and lifted vehicle will meet – with expensive and/or dangerous results. [Joe Auman] saw this problem coming a mile away. He built the LiftLocker to make sure it never happens to him.
At its core, LiftLocker is a set of switched extension cords. Two cast-aluminum boxes hide the electronics. One box plugs in-line with the lift. The other box plugs in-line with the garage door opener. Each box includes a Sparkfun Redboard Arduino compatible, an RFM22 433 MHz Radio, and a relay. Input comes from a security system magnetic reed-switch. Both boxes are identical in hardware and code.
Operation is simple. One box and reed switch goes on the lift, the other on the garage door. If the lift is going up, its reed switch will open. The lift’s Arduino detects this and commands its RFM22 to send a signal to the other box on the garage door. Upon receiving this signal, the garage door controller will open its relay, disconnecting power to the garage door opener. Communication is two-way, so if the Lift controller doesn’t hear an ACK message from the garage door controller, everything will shut down. Click past the break to see the system in action.