February 07, 2012

Yard light controller replaced with an Eleven

The winner of the Tronixstuff January competition, Mike Rossetti, received a Freetronics Eleven as a prize, and today he wrote to the Tronixstuff Google Group with details of the project he used it for. From his post:

The synchro-motor-driven timer in my yard light controller burned out. So instead of spending $15US replacing the clock I decided to implement my own controller using the Freetronics Eleven! (With an ultimate cost well over $100US. But then a lot of that was acquiring some new tools and stocking my 'kit'. ;^) The cost for the parts actually used was right around $20US—not too bad!) 

Since I was using an Arduino I was determined to make two critical improvements in my yard light controller that the old synchro-clock could not accommodate: 

  - No need to reset the clock after a power-fail (courtesy of an RTC) 
  - No need to get down in the mud twice a year to adjust the clock for that blasted daylight savings time. 

Ultimately, I was able to add one other major feature: 

  - Controllable using an old Sharp remote control. 

Here's what I can do with the remote control: 

  - Display/adjust the current time 
  - Display/adjust the sun sensor level for turning on/off the lights 
  - Display/adjust what time the lights are turned off at night and on in the morning (as long as the sun isn't up) 
  - Display/adjust when daylight savings starts and ends (which Sunday of which month, i.e. DST starts 2nd Sunday of March) 
  - Manually turn the light on or off, overriding the sun and timer

In the picture here can see the original light control box on the left (with the cover removed). That circular opening with the clear tape on it is where the old synchro-clock was mounted. Beneath the black and yellow wires is a 20A solid-state relay I got for about $5 on eBay. I'd originally wanted (and tried like the dickens) to get everything into the original box but there just wasn't quite enough room, hence the add-on box on the right (that's the smallest Radio Shack had that would fit the Eleven). Below the 7-segment LED display can be seen the photocell and the I/R receiver. Back over in the old box is an unused Nexus S power wart. (I really wanted a smaller power supply! Doesn't anyone have such a thing? Something without a built-in plug?) 

That's the project for which I put the Freetronics Eleven to good use. Thanks John and thanks Freetronics for all the fun!

Thanks for sharing the project with us, Mike! We're glad you found a good use for the Eleven.

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