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August 16th, 2015

tony_osp: (Default)
Sunday, August 16th, 2015 07:49 pm
Since I have not posted anything for some time, it makes sense to give a quick update.

The SmartGarden v1.0 irrigation controller I installed earlier this year works well so far, pretty reliable and efficient. Keeps my lawn green:-)

I mostly finished new v1.5 hardware, based on Moteino Mega (1284p). This hardware is a bit faster due to W5500 Ethernet controller, and has more RAM (1284p has 16KB), and most importantly - Moteino Mega has built-in high-power RF module. v1.5 hardware still has XBee socket, and I'm using XBee 900 Pro right now (for development and for compat with the v1.0 system), but I'm planning to switch over to the new RF module over time.

I'm planning to swap the Master station controller to v1.5 hardware this fall, after the watering season. In the mean time I'm working on v1.5 SmartGarden firmware.

The v1.5 firmware adds new features and capabilities, including Waterflow counters, analog sensors (intended first of all for soil moisture sensors, but can be any type of sensor), and it also has new WEB UI.

V1.0 WEB UI was still pretty much the original Sprinklers_pi WEB UI, just with few new pages added (sensors dashboard etc), while v1.5 WEB UI is essentially complete rewrite. It is a lot more feature rich, and while using the same core framework (jQuery mobile) it is optimized for bigger screens - a Tablet/iPad/Desktop.

The WEB UI work just started, and may take few more weeks - I can spend only few hours on weekends on the project. But it is progressing well, I will post some screenshots when ready.
tony_osp: (Default)
Sunday, August 16th, 2015 08:02 pm
One of the new capabilities I wanted to add to v1.5 system is the ability to monitor water usage. I started by adding support for hardware water meters (of a typical pulse type), and even bought nice water meter device like this one:



It works, but while working on this feature I realized that supporting water meter is not enough. Ideally I would like to know how much water is used by every zone, so I can optimize watering for maximum results while conserving water.

But it is impractical to equip every zone with a separate water meter. It is also hard to use common water meter to measure individual zones - in some cases it may require multiple water meters (e.g. my setup uses three separate water feed connections), also sometimes water is dispensed manually, for hand-watering from the same water line (going through the same water meter).

However there is a way to do it, and actually it does not even require connected water meter :-)
The water flow for each zone is relatively constant when it is running, and if you calibrate each watering zone you can reasonably reliably calculate the amount of water used simply based on the run time of the zone.

To calibrate each zone you can either use common connected water meter (if there is one installed in the system), or you can use simple cheap stand-alone water meter like this one:


It costs only 10-15 dollars, and it allows measuring water consumption. You can just run each zone for 5-10 minutes, measure the amount of water used, and calculate calibration value. Or as a poor-man option you can use your main house water meter - it has dials you can read, just need to make sure nobody in the house is using water while you are measuring it.
Once it is done, the system can be running with no water meter at all, while producing reasonably accurate water usage reports.

Of course, ideally would be to have real connected water meter as well - it can be used to cross-check calculated and actual consumption, also it could be really helpful as a mechanism for detecting broken valves and water leaks. But minimal setup can run without it.

This mechanism for water metering (both computed water usage and actual water meter support) are part of the v1.5 firmware. I'm planning to have it ready for v1.5 system installation this fall - probably end of September or so.