Author Topic: "smart home/tech" project ideas for a beginner  (Read 683 times)

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Offline Youthe

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"smart home/tech" project ideas for a beginner
« on: April 09, 2021, 01:05:23 pm »
Hey all, so i've found myself on this forum as a newbie. I have some basic electronics experience and can get my way round with some wiring but really getting into the smart/automation tech - whatever you want to call it  :D

I've picked up some parts over the few months with various other projects including some sonoff controllers, an echo dot, some lights and some smart plugs which the girlfriend insisted would be worth it lol - still waiting to see my ROI from that one :D

Anyway, I digress. If anyone has any cool projects for beginners and have any ideas they could send over that would be much appreciated.

I'm always interested in finding out how its made your daily life easier too (if it has)!

Thanks in advance, and apologies if this is posted in the wrong area - please let me know as i'm new and still trying to get to grips with it :P
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Offline camila

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Re: "smart home/tech" project ideas for a beginner
« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2021, 01:29:00 pm »
Hey, there are many DIY projects that are posted in the forum. Explore all of them and show your interests in them. My self I have done many, if you are interested let me know I will send you the link.
 
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Offline wizard69

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Re: "smart home/tech" project ideas for a beginner
« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2021, 02:26:57 pm »
I'm not a big fan of home automation, in fact I can't see the value in a lot of the features offered up.   So my perspective may be a bit biased.

Hey all, so i've found myself on this forum as a newbie. I have some basic electronics experience and can get my way round with some wiring but really getting into the smart/automation tech - whatever you want to call it  :D

I've picked up some parts over the few months with various other projects including some sonoff controllers, an echo dot, some lights and some smart plugs which the girlfriend insisted would be worth it lol - still waiting to see my ROI from that one :D
Anything your install into your homes electrical system should be UL rated/stamped.   To do otherwise puts your home owners insurance at risk if there is an electrical fire.   The hardware needs to be installed properly too.

For installation make sure you have enough knowledge to do a safe installation.   It isn't that hard to learn the basics of home AC wiring, but you want to be sure you got the basics right.   As such I often suggest that people take an electrical course offered by the local tech school.   I really don't see the web as the best place to learn about electrical safety and proper technique.
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Anyway, I digress. If anyone has any cool projects for beginners and have any ideas they could send over that would be much appreciated.
Sadly I see some of the best opportunities in home automation to be in software.   This mostly because you really want to have UL rated/stamped hardware installed in your homes electrical systems.   Well it is only sad in the sense if you are hardware oriented.

The best opportunities for hardware include controller systems and sensors.   As for controller hardware there high integration hardware has lead to much smaller and lower power controllers.   There is still a lot of opportunity here.
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I'm always interested in finding out how its made your daily life easier too (if it has)!
I once had a setback thermostat installed for home heating.   It became more problematic than it is worth, that largely due to scheduling and leaking alkaline batteries.  So that was replaced with the very reliable, battery free, round thermostat.   Frankly I'm happier with something that works and is battery free.
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Thanks in advance, and apologies if this is posted in the wrong area - please let me know as i'm new and still trying to get to grips with it :P

I can't say if this is the wrong place, obviously you are new so it seems right to me.   I still think the best opportunities here are in software and controllers.   
 

Offline Terry Bites

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Re: "smart home/tech" project ideas for a beginner
« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2021, 05:29:19 pm »
Home automation is yet another set of gadgets that you have to look after. In the long run they just waste your time and make you look like a jerk. Who needs it except the vendors of smart home junk?
Get an instructional book and learn how to keep your GF really, really happy. This will impress her far more than your hot PCB.
 

Offline Renate

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Re: "smart home/tech" project ideas for a beginner
« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2021, 10:45:37 pm »
Well, I wouldn't get that down on home automation.
Sure, you have to figure out something that will make your life easier, not more complicated.
For some, automated lights might be useful or just a pain in the butt.

I lived in a (rented) apartment with a Google Nest.
I wasn't going to touch the thing.
I just set the temperature control to off.
Then I paralleled my own controller to the HVAC wires.
The main benefit is that I left work at variable times.
I could turn on the heat before I left the office.

Now I live in an RV.
I have a whole system monitoring solar/battery/HVAC/tanks/GPS/tilt/motion etc.
I don't have any control on the light because they are right to hand anyway.
The only actual control that I do is turning on the heat from bed in the morning.

Me, I would never touch anything that uses the cloud or somebody's server.
Nah, I'm not paranoid or secretive; I just don't see why they should get a pound of flesh for doing something trivial.
 

Offline Capernicus

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Re: "smart home/tech" project ideas for a beginner
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2021, 11:23:33 pm »
Building your house, doing the plumbing and electrics yourself is very rewarding.   It may be dangerous,  but the more ppl we have that know what they are doing the more safe the country becomes.
 

Offline Kerlin

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Re: "smart home/tech" project ideas for a beginner
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2021, 12:10:12 am »
When a poster posts in the beginners section, states they are a beginner and asks an innocent question I wouldn't jump on them.

As for the UL rubbish - just build it in an earthed steel box with two types of mains cord anchorage, fuse all power inputs and outputs internally.
Use fuses that are around twice the required input/output.

A beginners project suggestion would be one that I built over five years ago that is still running.
It is what I call "The World's Most Complicated Light", it uses over thirty A4 pages of software (bare metal please) and is nothing more than automatic house lighting in two rooms.
The concept is simple and useful and was originally built for two reasons 1-I needed to learn AVR SAM uPs with Studio7 for my profession 2-The power in my area is unreliable due to no maintenance on the old power poles and overhead wires. When the power goes out it gives me some lighting.

I am known for finishing a project and then adding a gazillion of features to it. The worst case being when I worked in Asia for a major semi manufacturer and the project was the come up with a DSP based digital answering machine. It ended up being a complete voice mail system with individual mail boxes, remote fetching of voice mail, on screen caller ID and heaps more, they had to try very hard to stop me. They only used the answering machine software but the chip still has the complete voice mail system in it.
So being this kind of person and begin in a situation whereas this was a home project with no budget, time limit or supervision I went bit crazy with it.
Has these features has a battery supervisor that safely charges a built in Lion battery, monitors its current charge, supervises its temperature, uses PWM processor controlled charging.
If you are a beginner it probably would be generally safer to use a NiCad battery.
Stops charging when battery is full but monitors it and may put it back into charge if it drops.
Uses an LDR to detect sunset and dawn with some software to stop it flashing on and off during the twilight times.
Runs off an external 12V solar system which has a primary backup AGM 40AH 12 volt battery.
The lights can be dimmed using a potentiometer connected to and ADC in the micro that controls the PWM algorithm that runs the LEDs.
Has a two line I2C LCD that shows the current battery voltage, the current percentage of charge, the input voltage.
A red LED to show if the input voltage from the charging source (the solar system) has disappeared or dropped too low.
A yellow heart beat LED that flashes every two seconds to show the micro is up and running.
Flashes every two seconds while charging the internal battery and changes to every eight seconds when the battery is charged.
 
Simple but one thing that I did discover was that many other Engineers I worked with had a similar simple home hobby project that they keep up dating. They range from a pet feeder to a cat door opener (with a tag on the cat) fish finders and all sorts of thing. There was a thread on AVRfreaks about this.

I recommend this because it is a must to be able to use and program a micro. I see many using complicated analogue methods because they can’t. Its simple hardware wise there is only the micro a few resistors, capacitors and FETs.

Was originally done with a 328 so that I could see what Arduino was about, they are great for beginners, or use Arduino on Platformio.


« Last Edit: April 10, 2021, 12:27:28 am by Kerlin »
 
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Online ledtester

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Re: "smart home/tech" project ideas for a beginner
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2021, 12:12:05 am »
If you haven't already done so you might want to familiarize yourself with home automation frameworks such as Tasmota, ESPHome and HomeAssistant:

https://youtu.be/nHaFM0tKOvY
 
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Offline Kerlin

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Re: "smart home/tech" project ideas for a beginner
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2021, 12:32:39 am »
For a beginner there is nothing better than researching how to use a micro bare metal, you will end up being able to do much more than learning some supplied application package.
Start off with Arduino I think its brilliant for beginners, then progress.
I wish they had it back in my starting days.
A lot of work and research but when your done you're more at a far more professional level.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2021, 12:51:30 am by Kerlin »
 

Offline Capernicus

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Re: "smart home/tech" project ideas for a beginner
« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2021, 11:45:12 pm »
Arduino has enough power for most automation jobs,  even could run a minfactory or farm on one of those little things, if it was just timing relays, takes very little processing power.

If you ever need more logic juice, you use an fpga dev board, but you don't need one until you know what a huge amount of parallel gates is even for. =)

« Last Edit: April 10, 2021, 11:59:26 pm by Capernicus »
 

Offline richlooker

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Re: "smart home/tech" project ideas for a beginner
« Reply #10 on: April 12, 2021, 03:06:35 pm »
Hey, there are many DIY projects that are posted in the forum. Explore all of them and show your interests in them. My self I have done many, if you are interested let me know I will send you the link.

I am interested; will you send me the link?
 

Offline Youthe

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Re: "smart home/tech" project ideas for a beginner
« Reply #11 on: April 16, 2021, 01:28:31 pm »
Hey, there are many DIY projects that are posted in the forum. Explore all of them and show your interests in them. My self I have done many, if you are interested let me know I will send you the link.

Yes please do send the links. Are these DIY threads usually found in a particular sub?
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Offline Youthe

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Re: "smart home/tech" project ideas for a beginner
« Reply #12 on: April 16, 2021, 01:38:45 pm »
Quote
I once had a setback thermostat installed for home heating.   It became more problematic than it is worth, that largely due to scheduling and leaking alkaline batteries.  So that was replaced with the very reliable, battery free, round thermostat.   Frankly I'm happier with something that works and is battery free.

It never even occurred to me that those smart thermostats on the radiators need an electrical source. I guess I've not really paid that much attention to them either...

Arduino has enough power for most automation jobs,  even could run a minfactory or farm on one of those little things, if it was just timing relays, takes very little processing power.

If you ever need more logic juice, you use an fpga dev board, but you don't need one until you know what a huge amount of parallel gates is even for. =)

The arduinos have seemed tempting to me, but i'm still not sure what i could make that would be useful at the same time. I have seen loads of their small PCB controller boards which do all sorts. Very interesting and something i really need to learn/look into more.

If you haven't already done so you might want to familiarize yourself with home automation frameworks such as Tasmota, ESPHome and HomeAssistant:

https://youtu.be/nHaFM0tKOvY

Thank you, i will check this out.


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Offline Youthe

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Re: "smart home/tech" project ideas for a beginner
« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2021, 02:14:22 pm »
Thanks for the replies all, i thought i would give you a quick update.

So over the past week i've been elbow deep and geeking out at both the Arduino and Raspberry pi's. I couldn't decide which to go with, and they're both reasonably priced imo and i'm sure will get used - so I bought both  :-DD Maybe i've lost my mind! :D

Anyway, I am keen on learning both, and especially learning python on the Pi. My plans are to Learn Python on the Pi and use this for bits around the house. I'm hoping to get it set up do do things such as turn the lights on when i get home, control heating depending on which room i'm in, and all sorts of other cool stuff, but my brain is just in excitement overload right now i can't even think. BLEURGH   :o

The Arduino, I was really impressed with their smart agricultural segment, and so have decided to get to grips with a basic model first, using some cheap soil hygrometers to automate my small indoor veggie garden. I'm hoping to automate the conditions within my garden and set up an auto-watering system for when i'm away.

Originally i was hoping to set up the Sonoff controllers and what not with a cheap ZigBee controller, but honestly I wasn't convinced that this would be the best option, and went for the Pi instead. I feel like i'll learn more, and it will be a funner process than using a cheap Chinese hub that'll most likely break, or never work to start off with.

I will report back in the future with my ongoing projects with both the Pi & Arduino.
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Offline wizard69

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Re: "smart home/tech" project ideas for a beginner
« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2021, 09:58:24 pm »
Well, I wouldn't get that down on home automation.
It might work for some people and I can even see positive aspects but honestly I got frustrated with a set back thermostat.   Why?   Well alkaline batteries leaking even after an attempt to swap all batteries in my house every year on my birthday was a real driver.   But there where other problems in that the automation didn’t fit my work life.   
Quote
Sure, you have to figure out something that will make your life easier, not more complicated.
For some, automated lights might be useful or just a pain in the butt.

I lived in a (rented) apartment with a Google Nest.
I wasn't going to touch the thing.
I just set the temperature control to off.
Then I paralleled my own controller to the HVAC wires.
The main benefit is that I left work at variable times.
I could turn on the heat before I left the office.

Now I live in an RV.
I have a whole system monitoring solar/battery/HVAC/tanks/GPS/tilt/motion etc.
While this might pull the thread off topic a subsection on solar and low energy technologies would be nice on the Eevblog.    This especially if off grid was an acceptable discussion point. 
Quote
I don't have any control on the light because they are right to hand anyway.
The only actual control that I do is turning on the heat from bed in the morning.

Me, I would never touch anything that uses the cloud or somebody's server.
Nah, I'm not paranoid or secretive; I just don't see why they should get a pound of flesh for doing something trivial.
Maybe you are not secretive but if you are mobile the web isn’t always there.   Some of the most interesting places on the planet don’t have web access.   Now SpaceX is hell bent on changing that but I would want to rely upon the internet for critical home functions anyways. 
 

Offline Renate

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Re: "smart home/tech" project ideas for a beginner
« Reply #15 on: April 26, 2021, 12:05:33 am »
While this might pull the thread off topic a subsection on solar and low energy technologies would be nice on the Eevblog.
This especially if off grid was an acceptable discussion point.
There is a section! https://www.eevblog.com/forum/renewable-energy/
Just start your own thread with your particular interest.
 

Offline DasDingleberg

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Re: "smart home/tech" project ideas for a beginner
« Reply #16 on: April 27, 2021, 01:04:16 pm »
Hands-free bidet
 

Offline Bud

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Re: "smart home/tech" project ideas for a beginner
« Reply #17 on: April 27, 2021, 01:08:09 pm »
Yes, perfect application for Arduino.
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Offline mindcrime

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Re: "smart home/tech" project ideas for a beginner
« Reply #18 on: April 27, 2021, 02:03:47 pm »
Agreed that stuff you use (at mains level in particular) should be UL rated. But let's not act like you need to be a licensed electrician or anything to do simple home automation. You don't need to be inside the breaker panel doing wiring or anything for a lot of this stuff. You can buy wifi enabled "smart bulbs" that just screw in like any ordinary lightbulb, but let you control them remotely. And the various "smart plugs" out there just plug into an existing mains plug and add wifi/bluetooth/whatever. Although if you look at it from this perspective, it's (as somebody else already said) almost more of a software project than an electronics project.... but that may be fine, depending on your goals.


 


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