Long-Range Thermocouple Sensor Sips Battery Power

Sometimes you need to know the temperature of something from a ways away. That might be a smoker, a barbecue, or even a rabbit hutch. This project from [Discreet Mayor] might just be what you’re looking for.

[Discreet Mayor] remotely keeps an eye on the meat, but doesn’t blab about it.
It consists of a MAX31855 thermocouple amplifier, designed for working with commonly-available K-type thermocouples. This is hooked up to a Texas Instruments CC1312 microcontroller, which sends the thermal measurements out over the 802.15.4 protocol, the same which underlies technologies like Zigbee and Thread. It’s able to send radio messages over long distances without using a lot of power, allowing the project to run off a CR2023 coin cell battery. Combined with firmware that sleeps the system when it’s not taking measurements, [Discreet Mayor] expects the project to run up to several years on a single battery.

The messages are picked up and logged in a Grafana setup, where they can readily be graphed. For extra utility, any temperatures outside a preset range will trigger a smartphone alert via IFTTT.

Keeping a close eye on temperatures is a key to making good food with a smoker, so this project should serve [Discreet Mayor] well. For anyone else looking to monitor temperatures remotely with a minimum of fuss, it should also do well!

Remote MQTT Temperature Sensor Shows How It’s Done

First of all, there are definitely simpler ways to monitor remote temperatures, but [Mike]’s remote MQTT temperature sensor and display project is useful in a few ways. Not only does it lay out how to roll such a system from scratch, but it also showcases system features like solar power.

After all, if one simply wants to monitor temperature that’s easily done, but once one wishes to log those temperatures and use them to trigger other things, then rolling one’s own solution starts to get more attractive. That’s where using someone else’s project as a design reference can come in handy.

[Mike’s] solution uses two Wemos D1 boards: one with a DS18B20 temperature sensor for outdoors, and one with a small OLED screen for an interior display. The external sensor relies on a rechargeable 18650 cell and a solar panel for a hassle-free power supply, and the internal sensor (of which there can be many) has a cute enclosure and is powered by USB. On the back end, a Raspberry Pi running an MQTT gateway and Node Red takes care of the operational side of things. The whole system has been happily running for over two years.

What is MQTT? It is essentially a messaging protocol, and takes care of the whole business of reliably communicating data back and forth between IoT devices. It scales very well and doesn’t need to be hard or intimidating; our own [Elliot Williams] can tell you all about implementing it.

Photo of an automated plant watering system attached to four potted plants.

Automation Allows You To Leaf Your Plants Alone

The greatest threat to a potted plant stems from its owner’s forgetfulness, but [Sasa Karanovic] has created an automation system that will keep his plants from getting too thirsty. Over the past year [Sasa] has been documenting an elegant system for monitoring and watering plants which has now blossomed into a fully automated solution.

If you haven’t seen the earlier stages of the project, they’re definitely worth checking out. The short version is that [Sasa] has developed a watering system that uses I2C to communicate with soil moisture, temperature, and light sensors as well as to control solenoids that allow for individual plants to be watered as needed. An ESP32 serves as a bridge, allowing for the sensors to be read and the water to be dispensed via an HTTP interface.

In this final part, [Sasa] integrates his watering system into a home automation system. He uses a MySQL database to store logs of sensor data and watering activity, and n8n to automate measurement and watering. If something isn’t quite right, the system will even send him a Telegram notification that something is amiss.

If you think automation might be the best way to save your plants from a slow death, [Sasa] has kindly shared his excellent work on GitHub. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, this is still a great example of how to develop a home automation solution from scratch. If you’re more interested in television than gardening, check out [Sasa]’s approach to replacing a remote control with a web interface!

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Vintage Gauges Turned Classy Weather Display

It’s always good to see old hardware saved from the junk pile, especially when the end result is as impressive as this analog gauge weather display put together by [Build Comics]. It ended up being a truly multidisciplinary project, combing not only restoration work and modern microcontroller trickery, but a dash of woodworking for good measure.

Naturally, the gauges themselves are the real stars of the show. They started out with rusted internals and broken glass, but parts from a sacrificial donor and some TLC from [Build Comics] got them back in working order. We especially like the effort that was put into making the scale markings look authentic, with scans of the originals modified in GIMP to indicate temperature and humidity while retaining the period appropriate details.

To drive the 1940s era indicators, [Build Comics] is using an Arduino Nano and a DHT22 sensor that can detect temperature and humidity. A couple of trimmer pots are included for fine tuning the gauges, and everything is mounted to a small scrap of perfboard hidden inside of the custom-made pine enclosure.

This is hardly the first time we’ve seen analog gauges hooked up to modern electronics, but most of the projects are just that: modern. While the end look might be somewhat polarizing, we think maintaining the hardware’s classic style was the right call.

MenoPlay Through The Pain Of Menopause

Menopause, that fireworks finale of fertility, is like a second puberty that works in reverse. At least, that’s what we hear. Along with mood swings and acne, there are new joys like hot flashes that make you want to jump naked into the nearest snowdrift, or at least put your head in the freezer for a while. Sounds great; can’t wait.

The biggest problem with menopause is that it gives suffers pause when it comes to getting help. This is natural, they think. There’s nothing I can do but ride it out. Those who do seek relief are likely to find expensive products that only treat single symptoms. This dearth of solutions inspired [Moinak Ghosh] to create one system to rule them all, a wearable with a suite of sensors that’s designed to take the pause out of menopause.

MenoPlay will take temperature readings at the neck and pelvis and switch on a Peltier module worn on the back of the neck when it senses a hot flash in progress. Exercise is a natural defense against hormonal imbalance, but step counters are too easy to cheat or ignore. The MenoPlay system will model the user’s movements using 9DoF accelerometers and suggest exercises that fill in the gaps.

We particularly like the automation aspect of this wearable. After decades of manually tracking menstrual cycles and everything that implies, the idea of so much useful biological data being collected automatically and fed over BLE to a NodeRed application sounds wonderful.

Hot flashes may not feel useful internally, but would do a fine job of powering the right kind of flashlight.

Smoking Meat With A Commodore 64

When [Deadline] couldn’t find a replacement control module for his Masterbuilt electric smoker, he could have just tossed the thing in the trash. Instead, he decided to come up with his own system to take over for the smoker’s original brain. Basing it around the nearly 40 year old Commodore 64 probably wouldn’t have been our first choice, but it’s hard to argue with the end result.

Connectors to control the smoker’s hardware.

At the most basic level, controlling an electric smoker like this only requires a temperature sensor, a relay to control the heating element, and something to get those two devices talking to each other. But for the best results you’ll also want some kind of a timer, and an easy way to change the target temperature on the fly. Connecting the relay and temperature sensor up to the back of the C64 was easy enough, all he had to do was write the BASIC code to glue it all together.

This hack was made considerably easier thanks to the fact that the Masterbuilt’s original controller interfaced with the smoker by way of a couple relatively well documented connectors. So instead of having to mess with any of the mains voltage electronics, he simply had to bring a wire in the connector high to fire up the smoker’s heating element. This bodes well for anyone looking to replace the controller in a similar smoker, with a C64 or otherwise.

In the past we’ve seen some very impressive custom smoker controllers that look as though they could easily be adapted for use with these commercial units. Though the true smoke aficionados might prefer building the entire thing to their exacting specifications.

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An ESP8266 Environmental Monitor In Your USB Port

At this point, we’ve all seen enough ESP8266 “weather stations” to know the drill: you just put the ESP and a temperature sensor inside a 3D printed case, and let all those glorious Internet Points™ flow right on in. It’s a simple, and perhaps more importantly practical, project that seems to never get old. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for innovation.

Annoyed by the unnecessary bulk of existing solutions, [cperiod] has come up with an ESP8266 temperature and humidity sensor that can plug directly into a standard USB port. Slotted into a USB wall charger or power bank, this diminutive board can provide inconspicuous remote environmental monitoring wherever you need it. For extra hacker points, the board was even produced at home on a PCB mill.

In addition to the ESP-7 or 12 module (which plugs in via a header, should you need to swap it out), the board features a CH330N USB to UART chip and HT7233 voltage regulator. For the sensor itself, [cperiod] has bucked convention a bit and went with the I2C-connected AHT10 over something more common like a member of the BME family.

Unfortunately, this design suffers from the same issue we’ve seen in other compact environmental monitoring solutions; namely, that the heat generated by the chip itself skews the temperature readings. To combat this, aggressive power saving functions are baked into the firmware to make sure the ESP is in a deep sleep as much as possible. While not a perfect solution, it does prevent the ESP from warming the PCB up so much that it invalidades the reported data.

By now, the particularly astute reader may have realized that all the additional components used for the USB side of this board aren’t strictly necessary. After all, if you can pull the ESP module out of the header and program it separately, then you don’t actually need to include that capability in each sensor node. While true, we’re hardly the ones to complain when a hacker showboats a bit on their designs.