Successful Invention #1
One of the things that I always aspired to be when I “grew up” was an inventor. As a child, I would take apart toasters, pencil sharpeners, lawn mowers, and generally anything I could get my hands on that was broken and had some sort of intriguing moving parts. However, while I have come up with a number of concepts of my own over the years, until now there was never any actual follow-through.
Scenario: I have a thermostat in my apartment that I want to control with a schedule. I want to be able to cool down the house at night, but warm it up in the morning so I don’t have such a hard time waking up and getting out of bed. In previous apartment complexes, I was able to use a standard 7 day, programmable thermostat (available from Walmart, Lowes, or your favorite home supply store for around $30-$75). However, the heating system in my apartment complex here in Phoenix uses an old system and is incompatible with virtually all the programmable thermostats out there. I was only able to find one programmable thermostat out there that would work with my apartment’s heating/cooling system, but it didn’t have some of the capabilities that I was looking for. So I am basically limited to manually moving the needle on my thermostat by hand if I want to change the temperature. No programmable scheduling allowed!
Solution: Using a small servo, a mini SSC II controller, and a serial interface to connect it all to my computer, I built a remote controlled thermostat module. The servo is mounted on the wall above the thermostat and a string is connected to the needle. Once I figured out how to send commands to the servo using my computer’s com port, I interfaced it with PHP page on my local web server. I then built a flash-based interface with a draggable temperature slider that would send the proper positioning values to the PHP page. The end result… a thermostat in my living room that can be physically controlled from anywhere in the world over the internet.
Click here to watch a demonstration video clip!
(12 megs in size. Windows Media Player required.)