Simple Home automation using Arduino

I decided to upgrade the previous circuit with additional capabilities and intelligence. Using IR remote controller, relay and clock module it can be transformed into simple home automation system. Whereas the previous Arduino chip was lacking required ram space and I/O pins there was a need to add another one to the circuit board and to establish the serial link with the previous one that is managing the LCD display.

First thing needed was to figure out what HEX values the remote in use is producing to communicate with the device. I am using a remote that was bundled with USB TV-tuner, which is mainly used in another room. My remote has a total of 29 buttons however I am only interested in the fraction of them, here are the HEX values in use obtained for my remote.

  • A05F807F – Power
  • A05F906F – Num 1
  • A05F50AF – Num 2
  • A05FD02F – Num 3
  • A05FB24D – Display
  • A05FE817 – REC
  • A05F18E7 – Stop
  • A05FB847 – Fwd
  • A05F38C7 – Back
  • A05F6897 – Play/Pause
Test setup for testing IR receiver with remote.

The next thing to figure out was how to control the 8-relay module. Every relay in this module has 3 screw-type pins to control the high voltage AC current named NO(normally closed), NC(normally open) and COM(common connection). The 220/110V AC input must be connected to COM. The switch inside the relay is moved by the electromagnet that is indirectly connected to one of the Arduino ports. When the relay is turned off the COM is connected to NC and when turned on connected to NO. I am using the relay with revered logic which means that the relay is turned on when port is set to LOW. For every relay there is an on board LED that shows if it is active. The module has additional safety factor as all the relays are optically insulated, this means that all Arduino really does is turn on an LED inside an optocoupler, and that turns the relay on. So far I am using the relay module for switching the lights in my room, further applications are on the way.

8 – Relay switch module with two of them active. Top utp connector cable leading to Arduino, bottom high voltage cables leading to light bulbs.

Another novelties on the board are DS1307 RT Clock and piezo buzzer. Clock and buzzer together, combined with way to turn on/off the light bulbs in the room can be used for a brutal alarm clock.

Updated circuit board, clock module in the top-left, IR receiver in the bottom-left, UTP connector cable to relay module in top-right, piezo buzzer in bottom-right corner and additional Arduino UNO chip in the middle.
Wiring diagram – click on the image for full resolution.

Further things to add:

  • Sunrise alarm using light dimmer
  • Motion detection

Useful links:

Drying and storing Rose Hip

In the late September when the Rose Hips are fully red and ripe and before the first frost gather as many hips as you need for one year. The first step is to wash them them and remove any excessive stems from the bush and the part where the flower was attached. After washing, spread the whole hips on a paper and dry them in the sun or use food dehydrator if the weather is unfavourable.

The look of the rose hips after drying, they are wrinkled and hard.

When the drying is complete, put them into the food processor. Do not grind them too small, because the red parts could fall through metal sieve.

Grinded rose hips in a food processor.

Now put the grinded material into metal sieve and shake it to remove the fine white-yellow hairs. They can be easily separated if the hips are thoroughly dried. It is recommended to remove the hairs as they can be very irritating for your lungs and skin. 

Metal sieve for removing the hairs from the usable stuff.

As you can see my first sieve had too big holes therefore I had to use another one with smaller holes to separate all the hair from the dried red hips. There is no need to remove the seeds. The final step is to put the dried rose hips into a airtight glass jar.

Dried rose hips stored in a airtight glass jar.

To make a tea use a teaspoons of dried hips for every cup of boiling water and steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Sweeten with honey and enjoy.

La Palma, Canaries, Spain

In the middle of September a group of five amateur astronomers went on an 10 day trip to La Palma island in Spain. The first week was devoted to observing the night sky on the top of the caldera and sightseeing around the island. Last four days we attended the 31st International Meteor Conference. Here are some pictures of the massive telescopes and sights we were able to admire on the island.

One of the twin Magic gama-ray telescopes with a diameter of 17 meters.
World’s largest 10.4 meter segmented primary mirror inside Gran Telescope Canaries.
William Herschel telescope with 4.2 meter primary mirror.
William Herschel telescope, next to a small RoboDIMM automated seeing measurement telescope.
Inside the Isaac Newton observatory.

Every night we observed the sky at the top of the caldera near the Roque de Los Muchachos observatory.

Gran Telescope Canaries at the sunset.
Long exposure star trails over the GTC and Residencia.

Zodiacal light and bright planet Venus.

Summer time Milky Way towards the Constellation Sagittarius, including the Galactic Center.

As you can see from the pictures bellow even the sites with best atmospheric conditions are not free of the light pollution. Professional astronomers should take the matter into their hands if they hope to continue with the observations in the coming decades.

Photo of the clouds with light pollution (orange) bellow and airglow (green) above them.
A look at the cities bellow the mountain and their light copulas above the cities.

For the end several other photos from travels through the island.

View of a Tenerife Island rising above the clouds.
Colorfull cliffs, Roque de Santo Domingo.

Waterfall at the La Palma tropical rainforest.

Walking inside the Caldera de Taburiente where the only vegetation are pine trees.

Elder plant tea

The most tasty herbal teas for me come from Elder plant. When the shrub is in full bloom (May/June) and on a warm dry sunny day find an Elder plant away from polluting roads. Harvest only healthy looking flower heads without black plant lice. Pick them carefully as they are very easily damaged, I tend to collect them into a paper bag to avoid squashing them on the way home. Lay the flowers out on a paper to dry in a warm, well ventilated place. When thoroughly dry, store the flowers and pollen (the best part) in airtight glass jars in a dark place, for up to a year.

Fresh Elder flowers before drying.

Dried Elder flower stored in glass jars.

The next usable part of the plant are Elderberries. Harvest the berries when they are fully ripe (deep purple not red) in late August. They will be round and plump, and hanging off the branches in large, heavy clusters. Elderberries cannot be eaten raw, therefore they must be dried before consumption. The easiest method for drying them it to hang the berry clusters on a string in a warm, dry place. I usually dry them in the attic where the air is always warm in the middle of the summer. When dried remove the stems and store them in airtight glass jars in a dark place.

Drying Elderberries, suspended on a string.