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Homemade Disinfectant

Someone jumping in a pool made of a smartphone
Due to COVID-19, we are currently locked-in. We tend to not go out. We try to protect the spread for our elders, so we just stay home. In the end, we can work from home, so it's not much of an issue. Moreover, I do not really have a strong desire to do a 2 hour subway ride each day.

While we can get most commodities online (read food here), it seems some household items are impossible to get. Yes, for example, forget the TP, you'll have to go in the shower. Also, forget the gloves, masks and protective gears, we don't really need them and you should leave those to the people that have to work with an infected population.

However, what is becoming more difficult to procure is disinfecting products. We had some alcohol, but not necessarily enough to wash the house or large surfaces. We have some Lysol wipes, but again these are good for small surfaces.

For large areas, the solution seems simple: you can prepare a chlorine solution by mixing bleach with regular tap water. Then again, you need bleach. I'm a big Oxy-clean user, no luck here. So what other source of chlorine could I use? Continue reading "Homemade Disinfectant"

Saving electricity with IoT

Spaduino box
This little box could help you save on your electric bill. Similar to many smart thermostats like Nest and Honeywell Lyric, this smart device helps you control how you use electricity for heat. In this case, it is not how you heat your house but rather how you heat the water in your hot tub.

The math is quite obvious. While connecting devices to the Internet might seem to increase the total demand for power, this is rapidly offset by using electricity more efficiently. For example, this little box consumes less than a Watt of power while preventing a 10kW heater from running on cold nights or when the spa is not in use for long periods.

If saving the planet is not enough, being able to remotely monitor the status of the hot tub away from home and the convenience of remotely setting the temperature without going outside might convince you to use one. Continue reading "Saving electricity with IoT"

Cal Spa Connector

In The Internet of Spas, I briefly explained how commodity IoT hardware could be used to connect a (dumb) spa to the Internet, using the empty RJ-45 port found on most Balboa spa controllers.

At that time, I only had the opportunity to connect the port to a logic analyzer to see the kind of messages the controller was sending. In a way, I could understand the current status of the spa but not control it remotely. In this post, I will document the complete interface and how you can control the various features similar to the Top Side display interface.

It all starts with the RJ-45 connector and what the various pins are connected to: Continue reading "Cal Spa Connector"

The Internet of Spas

Somewhere in my yard, there is an appliance which is not connected to the Internet... yet. Last summer, after a power outage, I realized the pumps were not working. The heater was running, but without water circulating the spa went quickly in Overheat mode, throwing errors on the top display. As it was summer and being a lot outside, I had plenty of time to notice the issue and not worry about freezing conditions.

Being out of warranty, I decided to cut the power to the spa and open the control box. This is where I discovered a Cal Spa CS6200DV branded Balboa circuit board, with SSID 100 66 45. Going through standard components, I noticed a blown out 30A fuse that was feeding the pumps. Replaced the fuse, powered back the spa, everything worked for a total of 2,95$.

Wondering how I could have remotely caught this issue, I started searching the web for a WiFi remote or RF option to the spa. While I noticed a WiFi Balboa bridge, it didn't seem to fit my need or even be compatible. It also needed a paid cloud membership and was well overpriced.
Continue reading "The Internet of Spas"

Honey, where are my amps?

Honey, where are my amps?
I have been using the great ESP-01 for a while now, either as a side WiFi chip for software running on various Atmel AVR chips (ATmega328, ATtiny84, ATtiny85) or as a standalone micro controller. While what you can do with an ESP8266 is impressive, it also has its drawbacks: it uses a lot of power.

If you are using batteries to power your project, you need to make sure you can sleep the WiFi chip most of the time or use a different less power hungry radio, like the various RFM69 chips. However, using something different than WiFi also means you need some kind of receiver.

If you are building gadgets for IoT, you will eventually need a way to connect to the Internet. Having WiFi directly on the gadget saves an extra step.

How much power is the ESP really consuming? Continue reading "Honey, where are my amps?"

Hacking the Red Light (Part I)

Arduino layout
Two years ago, I decided to buy a Budweiser Red Light to enhance our hockey night experience. While the product is quite expensive for what it does, I couldn't be happier with the end result. You have to admit, every goal from your team feels and sounds worth jumping around shouting loudly.

This being said, while the product by itself is great, I couldn't resist the urge to hack it. One of my goal was to connect the house Hue lights to the Red Light so that they would shine red as goals were scored. Googling around, I found some ways of achieving this:

Continue reading "Hacking the Red Light (Part I)"