Towards a better tinyhouse

Inventing to freedom?

Process controllers

with 2 comments

Programmable logic controllers are strange and wonderful beasts.

They have tiny memories, though, and I have not yet had the chance to see if they can do basic math (surely?). They can control motors and stuff directly with their outputs usually up to about 2 amps.  They are resistant to static electricity and stuff too.  One more thing about them is the peculiar way they are programmed.

In a way they are sort of like those lego mindstorm computers for grownups.  You can get a very basic one them for $120 or so new.  Some have the capability to connect to x10 devices to control stuff over the powerlines.  You can get sensors for them and actuators of varying sorts. They can control RC style servos directly, too.  They are also expandable.

I bet you could connect one to a computer to receive commands or send data back, if you wanted to control stuff over the internet.

But how does this apply to tinyhouses?

Well, just remember the hot water heat exchanger stuff.  Having a computer to control the hot water systems would be nice, but it seems like overkill, right? But consider the other things you could also do with the same computer:

-Load balancing.  Turn the freezer or fridge off during the night for instance, could reduce the demand on an off grid power solar system during the night, which could reduce the need for batteries.

– Thermal closet air conditioning.  This uses a water tank to “store cold” during the night and use it to provide cooling during the day.  Or uses an actuator to opena valve to routs air around, rather than through, the houses’s heat exchanging ventilation system (allowing heat to be removed from the house, otherwise the ventilation system’s heat exchanger keeps heat in).

– Provide a control, mechanism for a sun tracking system for a hot water heating panel or solar photovoltaic panel.

-Be used as a security system for the house.

-Turn the ventilation system on or off intelligently to save power.

-Control the function of a water recycling system.

I don’t know, how could you improve the quality of life in a tinyhouse with a dedicated computer?

The thing is, any one of these things is simple enough to do without a computer.  But, taken together, they form a more complicated system that might be easier an cheaper to control with a computer.

This post is a post I selected from the archives to repost. Since few if any of the current readers have read it, I thought it would be just as good as a newly written post.


Written by gregor

March 24, 2011 at 10:48

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. this is a very good idea. I was thinking of something like this since computers are cheap and could manage multiple utilities at once, maybe even with a linux distro specifically designed for it (linuxplug+ LED gui). My goal is to produce enough water, heat, and electric for daily use “in-house” (and “on roof”). I still haven’t figured out the humidity control plan.

    You’ve heard about Arduino and all that?

    I’m thinking of buying the plans for the Tarleton soon, and look for ways where to place/arrange the utilities.


    March 26, 2011 at 08:14

  2. Yes I have played with microcontrollers in the past and read about Arduinos.

    I just kind of like process controllers because they are ready to go and can already be easily connected to motors and valves and stuff. Plus you can buy a lot of different expansion boards, and the don’t crash easily and stuff. Basically they are made for this sort of thing.

    But there are many interesting ways you might automate things, from any microcontroller and make your own control board all the way up to using a dedicated old laptop and some interface boards, which would give you the most flexibility of all.


    March 26, 2011 at 16:56

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