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An Online Tutorial

Bits and pieces of hacks and projects.

Here we have a collection of pictures and comments about a variety of projects that just haven't made it into complete tutorials.

Some of these are very brief, but they should stimulate you to think about some of the odd things that you can do with your home system.

Irrigation system

Simply turning your sprinklers on and off by schedule is just a beginning. There are many things to consider, and many little things that can make it a real joy.

I use a combination of 'hard' PVC piping which maintains pressure to junctions from which I run the 'soft' tubing into which you can punch the dribblers and spray heads.

Irrigation valves

There are many solutions here too. You can power all of the valves with a single 24vac transformer, which is controlled by a single 'appliance module', and you can control each of the valves individually with a 'universal module'.

Just a simple diagram of an irrigation system.
simple system

These valves are commonly available, and are very rugged.
simple valves

Moisture/Rain sensors

This is a common moisture/rain sensor that you connect to a PowerFlash module and use to determine whether you need to water today.
moisture/rain sensor

Water pump monitor

If you have your own water well and pump, you'll be able to monitor its behavior and operation with this simple 'hack'.

You might also want to look at the
water pump article.
This is nothing more than a simple 'plunger type' switch which is pushed and released by the action of the pressure switch on this common installation. I used just an old switch taken from a computer keyboard.

All you do is connect wires from the keyboard switch to a PowerFlash module.
pump monitor

Bird bath and video camera

This is a little project that puts several things together.

The water for the bird bath is fed from a small tube off the irrigation system, which is controlled by a daily schedule. The pump for the fountain is controlled by an appliance module, as is a light for night viewing.

The camera is mounted in a simple housing made from a section of 4" PVC pipe, and a few scraps of wood.

Heating and Air Conditioners

Monitor that air flow.

There are all sorts of smart devices which you can buy to control and monitor your HVAC system, but here's one that is so very simple and effective.

This is a common 'sail switch'. Connect some wires between it and a PowerFlash module and you can monitor the on/off cycle of the air in the duct.

Water overflow damage !

You might use this in your basement, or perhaps use just a simple moisture sensor to detect the first signs of a leak.

This example shows a 'float switch' and a water pump.
In my case, I've got a large pan under the A/C unit just where it tends to leak when the humidity is high.

Of course as soon as the float switch detects the water level, I turn on the little water pump.
HVAC water detector

Electrical Grounding

What if you live where the 'ground' is bad?

If you live where the electrical 'ground' is poor, you may want to consider surrounding each of your buildings with a lace-work of ground cables, and tie them all to a single good ground.

A common ground rod with a cable which runs to all of the other ground rods.

In the picture below you can see where all these come together.
ground rod

All of the ground wires come together at the well-pump house where they are first connected to a big copper bar called a 'mecca plate', which is then strapped to the well-head.

Note the bright yellow connectors which allow me to quickly disconnect the pump from the powerlines and connect it to the gas-powered generator just out of sight on the bottom-left.
mecca plate

Motion Sensor hacks

Make better use of those 'dusk' sensors !

Most of the X-10 motion sensors include a 'dusk' sensor, and although some of these are useful or necessary, all to often they are redundant and useless.

Why not take advantage of the opportunity and make them useful?

By simply cutting off the dusk sensor and installing a
switch of some kind, you can gain another wireless sensor such as a door-open detector.

Instead of just covering the sensor with tape, you want to go ahead and clip the sensor out and solder a pair of wires which lead to the external switch.

The pictures below show how I've attached a 'magnetic reed switch' to the door frame.

Obviously you'll want to hide them better...
hack the ms13

a door open/closed detector a door open/closed detector

You can also hack the DM10 in the same way... hack the dm10

Detecting 'Strong Direct Sunlight'

If you have a greenhouse, or perhaps live in a northern clime and would like to detect 'strong sunlight' as opposed to just 'daylight', you might want to consider this cute little trick:

Here we use a very old toy called a 'drinking bird' or DoDo. When exposed to strong sunlight, it will tip forward and rock for a bit, and will continue as long as the sunlight does.

By placing a MS13 or a 'hacked' MS12 next to the dodo, it will signal to your system that the sunlight is strong and hot.
a door open/closed detector

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Last modified: April 28, 2002
Michael Ferguson, webmaster@shed.com