So…I am wanting to make changes to my environment in a way that saves in energy, time and money (in the longer run) AND improves that environment for my family. Usage data is not enough to understand the issues, I needed basic environmental data to help clarify this usage data.
I have found that you can spend an awful lot of money on environmental monitoring….if you wanted to.
I did not.
A detour….I have always been interested in electronics and as a younger person it was one of a myriad of hobbies. Still as life moved on, this hobby took a back seat. Until about 18 months ago that is.
I was researching off the shelf environmental monitoring systems that could report temperature etc, I had the idea that it would be nice to integrate them into my Google spreadsheet.
It was at this point that I came across the guys at the Home Automation Hub. I think I got there after following a link about temperature sensors.
The result was due to my interest in their RoomNode, which had a cheap Dallas DS18B20 one-wire temperature sensor on board. The kits were cheap and had a little microprocessor at their heart, an ATMEGA328p. The kit used a repurposed Orange Livebox router as its central hub. Well, I managed to get an old Orange Livebox for £7.99 including P&P from ebay and purchased some sensor kits. My interest in Electronics had started again, but this time with a specific goal in mind. Efficient environmental monitoring.
I did a little more reading about HAH etc, the HAH RoomNode, was actually an offshoot from Jeelabs.org, but the original Jeelabs version was a little more ‘polished’ and ran at a lower voltage (3.3v vs 4.5v). Whilst reading about all the Jeestuff, I started to build a picture of the environmental monitoring system I wanted to deploy. I had spent about £55 ukp at this point on this RoomNode / Livebox kit. I needed to keep an eye on these costs!.
The Livebox was a good idea for a re-purposed bit of old hardware you may have had lying around, I purchased mine for next to nothing and it was great during my initial 2 weeks of ‘introduction’ into the world of modern day hobby electronics.
I used the LiveBox and some scripts I wrote, some roomNodes and some other bits I made, to start a sensor network within my house.
The Livebox was difficult to extend directly, but was flexible due to its xAP protocol usage, and I could actually use a PC to gather data it reported and push them to my good old Google spreadsheets. I was now recording some temperatures and light levels. I got some basic PIR motion detection in there also (unused at this point).
My £55 was well spent and the data I was capturing was proving valuable, but could I do better?.
The PC I was using to gather data was a core duo PC that was always on, to collect/process the data up to Google. It used a lot of energy itself with its disks / screen etc, rather wasteful but the only solution I could muster at that time. I worked out a cost at that time of about £37/year.
At about this time, what is now the ubiquitous Raspberry PI was announced. It used a meagre few watts power, was very small and could seemingly manage all the tasks the core duo mentioned above could do, also did I mention it was very quiet because it has no fans!.
I ordered one, and after a little delay – it arrived.
I replaced the Core duo and retired its always on duty, I worked out the PI would cost about £6/year, a saving of approx £30/yr, so my original sensor network would pay for itself in 2 years.
6 months passed and in that time I invested in some more sensors and electronics kit, totalling £178.00 – this would also needed to pay for its self – somehow?
I had a lot of the empirical data that I originally started out to collect, it was valuable information, and was well worth the £178.00 I had spent to date. Could I use the information wisely?
Time is moving on in this set of catchup posts. The next post picks up yet another 6 months on.