Heat pumps are taking the world by storm, and for good reason. Not only are they many times more efficient than electric heaters, but they can also be used to provide cooling in the summer. Efficiency aside, though, they’re not perfectly designed devices, largely with respect to their climate control abilities especially for split-unit setups. Many of them don’t have remotely located thermostats to monitor temperature in an area, and rely on crude infrared remote controls as the only user interface. Looking to make some improvements to this setup, [Danilo] built a setup more reminiscent of a central HVAC system to control his.
Based on an ESP32 from Adafruit with an integrated TFT display, the device is placed away from the heat pump to more accurately measure room temperature. A humidity sensor is also included, as well as an ambient light sensor to automatically reduce the brightness of the display at night. A large wheel makes it quick and easy to adjust the temperature settings up or down. Armed with an infrared emitter, the device is capable of sending commands to the heat pump to more accurately control the climate of the room than the built-in controls are able to do. It’s also capable of logging data and integrating with various home automation systems.
While the device is optimized for the Mitsubishi heat pumps that [Danilo] has, only a few lines of code need to be changed to get this to work with other brands. This is a welcome improvement for those frustrated with the inaccurate climate controls of their heat pumps, and since it integrates seamlessly into home automation systems could also function in tandem with other backup heat sources, used in cold climates when it’s too cold outside to efficiently run the heat pump. And, if you don’t have a heat pump yet, you can always try and build your own.
As handy as having a smart doorbell is, with its ability to remotely see who’s at the front door from anywhere with an Internet connection, the off-the-shelf units are not typically known for keeping user privacy as a top priority. Even if their cloud storage systems were perfectly secure (which is not a wise assumption to make) they have been known to give governmental agencies and police free reign to view the videos whenever they like. Unfortunately if you take privacy seriously, you might need to implement your own smart doorbell yourself.
The project uses an ESP32-CAM board as the doorbell’s core, paired with a momentary push button and all housed inside a 3D-printed enclosure. [Tristam] provides a step-by-step guide, including printing the enclosure, configuring the ESP32-CAM to work with the popular open-source home automation system ESPHome, handling doorbell notifications automatically, and wiring the components. There are plenty of other optional components that can be added to this system as well, including things like LED lighting for better nighttime imaging.
[Tristam] isn’t much of a fan of having his home automation connected to the Internet, so the device eschews wireless connections and batteries in favor of a ten-meter USB cable connected to it from a remote machine. As far as privacy goes, this is probably the best of all worlds as long as your home network isn’t doing anything crazy like exposing ports to the broader Internet. It also doesn’t need to be set up to continuously stream video either; this implementation only takes a snapshot when the doorbell button is actually pressed. Of course, with a few upgrades to the ESP circuitry it is certainly possible to use these chips to capture video if you prefer.
Thanks to [JohnU] for the tip!
[Jon] wanted to keep track of his home power use, but didn’t want to have to push his data up to some cloud service that’s just going to leave him high and dry in the future. So he went completely DIY.
This simple and sweet build is now in its third revision, and the refinements show. A first prototype was nothing more than an ESP32 with a screen and some current transformer (CT) sensors to read the current flowing in the wires in his breaker box. The next version added a PCB and a color screen, and the most recent version swapped up to eInk and a nice local power supply, all sized to fit a nice clear power box.
What’s really cute about this design is the use of standard
phono headphone jacks to plug the CT sensors into, and the overall sweet combination of a local display and interactivity with [Jon]’s ESPHome-based home automation setup. This design isn’t super complicated, but it doesn’t need to be. It has one job, and it does it nicely. What more do you want?
If you’re interested in getting into ESPHome and/or home automation, check out this great ESPHome resource. It’s probably a lot easier than you think, and you can build your system out one module at a time. If you’re like us, once you get started, you’ll find it hard to stop until everything falls under your watchful eyes, if not your control.
[WJCarpenter] had a common HVAC problem; not all the rooms got to a comfortable temperature when the heater was working to warm up their home. As often happens with HVAC systems, the rooms farthest from the heat source and/or with less insulation needed a boost of heat in the winter and cooling in the summer too. While [WJCarpenter] is a self-reported software person, not a hardware person, you will enjoy going along on the journey to build some very capable vent boosters that require a mix of each.
There’s a great build log on hackaday.io here, but for those who need more of a proper set of instructions, there’s a step-by-step guide that should allow even a beginner hardware hacker to complete the project over on Instructables. There you’ll find everything you need to build ESPHome controlled, 3D printed, PC fan powered vent boosters. While they can be integrated into Home Assistant, we were interested to learn that ESPHome allows these to run stand-alone too, each using its own temperature and pressure sensor.
The many iterations of hardware and software show, resulting in thoughtful touches like a startup sequence that checks for several compatible temperature sensors and a board layout that accommodates different capacitor lead spacings. Along the way, [WJCarpenter] also graphed the noise level of different fans running at multiple speeds and the pressure sensor readings against the temperatures to see if they could be used as more reliable triggers for the fans. (spoiler, they weren’t) There are a bunch of other tips to find along the way, so we highly recommend going through all that [WJCarpenter] has shared if you want to build your own or just want some tips on how to convert a one-off project to something that a wider audience can adapt to their own needs.
See a video after the break that doesn’t show the whole project but includes footage of the start-up sequence that tests each fan’s tachometer and the customizable ramp-up and ramp-down settings. Continue reading “Ventbots Are Fans Of HVAC And Home Automation”
It is always controversial to have home assistants like the ones from Google or Amazon. There are privacy concerns, of course. Plus they maddeningly don’t always do what you intend for them to do. However, if you do have one, you’ve probably thought about something you wanted to do that would require programming. Sure, you can usually do a simple list, but really writing code wasn’t on the menu. But now, Google Home will allow you to write code. Well, at least script using a YAML file.
The script language is available in the web app and if you opt in on the mobile app as well. There’s a variety of ways you can trigger scripts and many examples you can start with.
Continue reading “Google Home Scripting”
Here at Hackaday, we definitely love to celebrate the hard hacks: the insane feats of reverse engineering, the physics-defying flights of fancy, or the abuse of cutting edge technology. But today I’d like to raise a rhetorical glass in tribute of the simple hacks. Because, to be perfectly honest, the vast majority of my hacks are simple hacks, and it’s probably the same for you too. And these often go unsung because, well, they’re simple. But that doesn’t mean that something simple can’t be helpful.
Case in point: an ESP8266 press-buttons device that we featured this week. It doesn’t do much. It’s main feature is that it connects to a home automation network over WiFi and enables you to flip three relays. Wires coming off the board are to be soldered to the not-yet-smart device in question, simply connected to each side of the button you’d like to press. In the example, a coffee machine was turned on and the “go” button pressed, automating one of the most essential kitchen rituals. While recording the podcast, I realized that I’ve built essentially this device and have it controlling our house’s heating furnace.
For the experienced hacker, there’s not much here. It’s a simple board design, the software heavily leverages ESPHome, so there’s not much work on that front either. But imagine that you lacked any of the wide-ranging skills that it takes to make such a device: PCB layout, ESP8266 software wrangling, or the nuances of designing with relays. You could just as easily build this device wrong as right. The startup costs are non-trivial.
Making a simple design like this available to the public isn’t a technical flex, and it’s not contributing to the cutting edge. But it just might be giving someone their first taste of DIY home automation, and a sweet taste of success. There’s not much easier than finding a switch and soldering on two wires, but if that’s the spark that pushes them on their path to greater hacks, that’s awesome. And even if it doesn’t, at least it’s another appliance under user control, connected to a private WiFi network rather than spying you out and phoning home to Big Toaster.
So here’s to the simple hacks!
With all the hype about ChatGPT, it has to have crossed your mind: how can I make it control devices? On the utopia side, you could say, “Hey, ChatGPT, figure out what hours I’m usually home and set the thermostat higher when I am away.” On the dysfunctional side, the AI could lock you in your home and torment you like some horror movie. We aren’t to either extreme yet, but [Chris] couldn’t resist writing a ChatGPT plugin to control a Raspberry Pi. You can see a video of how it turned out below.
According to [Chris], writing a ChatGPT plugin is actually much simpler than you think. You can see in the video the AI can intuit what lights to turn on and off based on your activity, and, of course, many more things are possible. It can even detect snoring.
Continue reading “ChatGPT Rules The World… Or, At Least, The Home”