A new display wedged into a car-based fridge

New Brains Save 12 V Fridge From The Scrap Heap

Recently [nibbler]’s Evakool 55L vehicle fridge started to act strangely, reporting crazy temperature errors and had no chance of regulating. The determination was that the NTC thermistor was toast, and rather than trying to extricate and replace this part, it was a lot easier to add a new one at a suitable location

Bog-standard fridge internals

A straight swap would have been boring, so this was a perfect excuse for an overboard hack. Reverse engineering the controller wouldn’t be easy, as the data wasn’t available, as is often the case for many products of this nature.

While doing a brain transplant, the hacker way, we can go overboard and add the basics of an IoT control and monitoring system. To that end, [nibbler] learned as much as possible about the off-the-shelf ZH25G compressor and the associated compressor control board. The aim was to junk the original user interface/control board and replace that with a Raspberry Pi Pico W running CircuitPython.

For the display, they used one of the ubiquitous SH1106 monochrome OLED units that can be had for less than the cost of a McDonald’s cheeseburger at the usual purveyors of cheap Chinese electronics.  A brief distraction was trying to use a DS18B20 waterproof thermometer probe, which they discovered didn’t function, so they reverted to tried and trusted tech — a simple NTC thermistor.

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NTC Thermistor To ThingSpeak Meter Makes A Great IoT Starter Project

There are a lot of IoT solutions and frameworks out there, and [Davide] demonstrates how to make a simple data logging and tracking application with his ESP8266-to-ThingSpeak project, which reads up to four NTC (negative temperature coefficient) thermistors and sends the data to ThinkSpeak over WiFi.

IoT can be a pretty deep rabbit hole, so if you’re looking for a simple project to demonstrate the working parts and provide a starting point, the project’s GitHub repository might help you get started. We’ve also seen ThingSpeak used to track toilet paper sheet usage, which is a nice demonstration of how to interface to a physical object with moving parts.

On the other hand, if you find reading NTC thermistors to be the more interesting part, you’re in luck because [Davide] has more information about that along with a modified ESP8266 Arduino library. Watch a tour of his temperature logging hardware in action in the video, embedded below.

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USB Temperature Logger With Some Extra Tricks

Many of us electronics hacker types tend to have at least the same common equipment on our benches, namely a multimeter, an oscilloscope, some sort of adjustable power supply, and maybe a logic analyzer. These are great tools covering many bases, but dealing with temperature measurements is often neglected. A sudden need for such often results in just buying a either dedicated measurement unit, or some cheap eBay thermocouple board and just rolling with a few hacks. [Jana Marie Hemsing] had a need for measuring the thermal side of things, and got fed up with hacking with piles of boards, and designed herself a proper instrument for the task.

The result is a very tidy four-channel thermocouple frontend, feeding the data into the host computer via USB. Each of the four channels can either be a K-type input or a NTC thermistor input, decided at board assembly time, but you could just build two units with four channels of each and cover all bases. The K-type thermocouple input is based around the MAX31855 series device. While the ‘KASA’ suffixed device is probably most common, if you need to dedicate some channels to handling one of the other six or so other common thermocouple types, that just needs the appropriate MAX31855 variant dropping in, and you’re good to go.

For the controller, [Jana] has chosen the common STM32F0x microcontroller, which handles all the USB protocol side of things. The extra functionality added allows direct driving of a heater controller via the DRV8837 H-Bridge, with a extra few open collector outputs for other things you might want to drive. This allows the logger to function as a kind-of thermal IO device. Firmware is written in good old fashioned STM32 HAL, using the standard STM32CubeMX and the GCC toolchain. It looks like the Makefile came via the STM32 Project Generator route. The firmware has a neat trick up its sleeve too; with a flick of the switch on the back, the firmware can switch between outputting CSV data over a standard USB CDC link (a virtual serial port), or it can present a SCPI terminal interface, enabling integration into existing SCPI-based test flows. Nice work!

We’ve seen a few logging projects on these fair pages, like this battery powered ESP32 logger device. If IoT logging is more your thing, here you go.

Building A Better Baby Bottle Boiler

[Sebastian Foerster] hasn’t been at his blog in a while. He and his wife just had twins, so he’s been busy standing waiting for formula or milk to warm up. Being a technical kind of guy, he took a look at the tools currently on the market to do this, analyzed them, and decided instead to do it himself.

[Sebastian] looked to his Nespresso Aeroccino – a milk frother designed to give you hot or cold frothy milk for the top of whatever beverage you decide to put it on top of. It made the milk a bit too hot, 60°C, but once it got to the temperature, it would shut off, so if [Sebastian] could get it to shut off at a lower temperature, he had found the solution!

After taking the Aeroccino apart and going over the circuit, it seemed like a simple design relying on a resistor and NTC (negative temperature coefficient) thermistor connected to an ATTiny44 microcontroller. [Sebastian] didn’t want to have to reprogram the ATTiny, so he looked at the resistor and NTC. The resistor and thermistor create a voltage divider and that voltage is read in by the microcontroller through an analog pin. After looking up some info on the thermistor and replacing the resistor with a potentiometer, [Sebastian] could adjust the shut-off temperature while measuring with a thermometer. When he got the temperature he liked, he reads the value of the potentiometer and then replaces it with a couple of resistors in series.

Now [Sebastian] gets the babies’ bottles ready from fridge to temperature in about 25 seconds. He doesn’t have to worry about keeping an eye on the bottles as they heat up. We’re sure that getting two bottles ready in under a minute is much better on the nerves of new parents than waiting around for ten minutes. For more fun with thermistors, check out our article on resistors controlled by the environment or check out this bluetooth bbq thermometer!