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Your dream controller

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It looks like there are all kinds of equipment controllers available, and I expect the "best" is going to depend on the specific setup, so instead of asking which is the best brand or model I'm wondering which features a controller would need to be most useful.

 

What would your Dream Controller be able to do?

 

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I want one that grows, harvests and cures my plants then hands me a loaded bowl to smoke test it. :)

 

I've seen a couple of CO2 controllers that would work for around $250.  I got the tank and regulator so just need a controller and a solenoid.  Hopefully this fall.

 

Already have a temp/RH and speed controller on my exhaust fan and a thermostat on the heater so the environment is pretty well in order that way.  My grow room stays so cool that the exhaust fan doesn't come on unless the RH goes up and it's so dry here that doesn't happen often enough so they run out of CO2 and growth slows to a crawl.

 

Not going to get into a system that does all sorts of things and runs off an App on a phone I don't have or want.  Send all my dat to the NSA is another feature I don't like about that idea. :D

 

:peace:

 

 

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You must have been reading my mind Unregistered. I am at the moment trying to source something suitable on a tight budget to control my tent environment. Being only a few miles from the coast we get some big swings in humidity and temps. Argo has a nice set up for controllers which is what I would be looking for, but way above my pay grade :(

I have seen LabRats set up, which is more my style at the moment, as I am, simple but functional lol. I am struggling to get my head around how the wiring is configured to control a heater if cold and a fan if to hot or humid and possibly an air conditioner/dehumidifier if the air brought in is no better than whats going out. So I am interested to see what comes up :)

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7 hours ago, LabRat said:

...

Already have a temp/RH and speed controller on my exhaust fan and a thermostat on the heater so the environment is pretty well in order that way.  My grow room stays so cool that the exhaust fan doesn't come on unless the RH goes up and it's so dry here that doesn't happen often enough so they run out of CO2 and growth slows to a crawl.

...

Sounds like you could use a controller that runs the exhaust fan at a low speed until the temp or RH gets too high, then ramps up the speed as needed. To make it really dreamy it should also release more CO2 as the fan speed increases?

 

As far as the robot goes... if the only way to control it was via a smart phone, would you get one?

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6 hours ago, Shadey said:

You must have been reading my mind Unregistered. I am at the moment trying to source something suitable on a tight budget to control my tent environment. Being only a few miles from the coast we get some big swings in humidity and temps. Argo has a nice set up for controllers which is what I would be looking for, but way above my pay grade :(

I have seen LabRats set up, which is more my style at the moment, as I am, simple but functional lol. I am struggling to get my head around how the wiring is configured to control a heater if cold and a fan if to hot or humid and possibly an air conditioner/dehumidifier if the air brought in is no better than whats going out. So I am interested to see what comes up :)

I blew through my budget awhile ago, but I do have a pyBoard (microcontroller c/w the bits needed to connect to sensors and SSRs or do PWM for speed control, even supports a 160x128 pixel color LCD touch screen) and enough parts sitting around that I should be able to put something together without too much additional cost.

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I watched a vid on youtube on how to build a cheap one using inkbird digital unit with a sensor. Looks easy, heat and cool, day and night, seperately programed and can run at the same time $28 ebay. Now the plants are getting bigger I am going to need to run my extractor fan to keep the CO2 levels refreshed so I am not sure I will need a dehumidifier/conditioner until I get near harvest time to chill them down for the xtra trichs.

 

 

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I'm a little envious of kids nowadays. When I started playing with electronics the project would be building the Inkbird (or the pyBoard, or the sensor subsystems), now you just buy them and hook'em up. The "coding" they are starting to teach grade schoolers will make using these kinds of tools (data acquisition and processing building blocks) second nature, but there is a risk in that we could be fostering the creation of an elite class or guild comprised of the few that know how to actually build the boards.

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I concur with your sentiments. The journey is often more rewarding than the destination. I know I will soon, rue the day, I did not learn how to make a circuit board  ;)  I would like to have a go at building some LED lights from scratch, but electronics to me is like writing and playing music, a total anathema. To be fair I have never really tried or needed to so far, but I think its coming. I can build a good gaming computer but that's just plug and play really.

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5 hours ago, Shadey said:

...just plug and play really.

What I'm looking at is largely solder and play on the hardware end. e.g., AM2315 - Encased I2C Temperature/Humidity Sensor

$30US and soldering 3-wires gets you...

  • Good for 0-100% humidity readings with 2% accuracy
  • Good for -20 to 80°C temperature readings ±0.1°C typical accuracy
  • 0.5 Hz update rate

It is easy enough to use they send you to generic examples. The driver software is already done, all the user needs is a little coding to "hook", say, the output of a sensor to the input of a display, or a PID controller, or a wi-fi module...

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4 hours ago, Unregistered said:

It is easy enough to use they send you to generic examples. The driver software is already done, all the user needs is a little coding to "hook", say, the output of a sensor to the input of a display, or a PID controller, or a wi-fi module...

Its easy when you have all the background knowledge lol, I think it would be a steep learning curve for me, just learning how to use everything to check if things are working right or not, would take up a lot of time. Its like when I teach airbrushing, I forget all the stuff I do on auto pilot, that makes it look easy, because it comes from lots of experience learning from mistakes.

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My Controller is a lot easier to build than those electronic gizmos and just uses regular line voltage.  No fancy digital display or controls but has done the job without fail for 15 years.  Just a bathroom humidity controller you can get anywhere and a cooling thermostat you might have to pick up at an electrical supply store.  The separate speed control is a ceiling fan controller I got at Canadian Tire and wired up all CSA style. :)

 

Don't use a light dimmer for the speed control!

 

FanControl.jpgFanController.jpg

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16 minutes ago, LabRat said:

just uses regular line voltage

The thermostat I bought on Sunday off Kijiji was no good, it only works with very low voltage, which I thought would be 110, not 15-20 lol. What you have their Lab is the same as the inkbird I just bought but without the digital lights, hopefully it will serve me as long as yours has.. This is what confuses me with electronics, you can have all these different voltages, amps and watts working together, sometimes not, depending on the type of heating/air conditioning product and manufacturer you purchase from. I guess it comes down to is, if its important enough for me to have to invest a lot of time into learning about it, it will happen eventually due to the money I can save doing it myself.

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18 hours ago, Shadey said:

Its easy when you have all the background knowledge lol, I think it would be a steep learning curve for me, just learning how to use everything to check if things are working right or not, would take up a lot of time. Its like when I teach airbrushing, I forget all the stuff I do on auto pilot, that makes it look easy, because it comes from lots of experience learning from mistakes.

My background and long time interest makes it easier to see the significance of this, but it doesn't really help me use the stuff beyond not making a mess if I need to solder something. The learning curve has been shortened and flattened to the point where it is little more than a bump compared to what it was. You still need some computer skills to get the development environment set up and working, but the tools are developing quickly and it shouldn't be long until the process is just as automated as installing any other hardware driver (video cards, printers, etc.)

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What would be great to have is an all-in-one controller that takes care of everything but then you're looking at around $1000 for a good one and you got to shop carefully to make sure you get a good one and not a $1000 paperweight.

 

Luckily I have good DIY skills.  Not good with electronics unless it's de-soldering and replacing an obviously burned out component but simple wiring or house wiring is a breeze.  Can solder tiny little wires with my heatless battery powered soldering iron or make a stained glass window with the 80W one.  Sweat joints together for copper plumbing or weld up a crack in an engine block.  Worked in all sorts of shops like wood, mechanic and machine shops.  Took a welding course but left for a welding job before I finished my final tests meaning to go back and do them.

 

It's a good thing too or I wouldn't be able to live in my own home if I had to hire pros to do things like, replace my water heater last year, put a new pump in my septic tank, car repairs, new tin roof and on and on.  A lot of stuff has to wait until I can scrounge up the money for parts but we get by.

 

I need another 2 grand to build a sealed grow environment this fall and crank out some bud tho. :)

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14 hours ago, LabRat said:

My Controller is a lot easier to build than those electronic gizmos and just uses regular line voltage.  No fancy digital display or controls but has done the job without fail for 15 years.

...unless the fans don't kick in and grows slows to a crawl from lack of CO2, but I guess it is not really a fail because it is something the system wouldn't be expected to handle.

 

Low tech solutions can be inexpensive and more reliable than microcontroller based ones, they are not nearly as flexible though. At this point I know I need the same controls you have, but I'm also thinking about: automatic watering and nutrient feed systems, CO2, automatically adjusting canopy to fixture distance, etc. On the controller side I'm looking for "smarter" operation than a simple set point gets you, and some fancy stuff like the ability to change operating modes/profiles without needing to manually reconfigure - one touch controls for switching lighting, nutrients, temp settings from veg to flower mode, or the profile from pot plants to tomatoes.

 

I am also interested in something which I don't think is always easy or inexpensive to do with low tech controllers, resilience - the ability to handle really bad situations and return to normal operation automatically.

 

e.g., If you wanted to implement both an operating temperature and a maximum allowable temp (a kill the lights or kill the plants situation) you could use two thermostats and maybe a relay, unless your HID lighting has a minimum cool down period before re-striking the arc which will may necessitate using or adding a time delay relay (TDR) to ensure a minimum off time. Then there is the potential for the system to cycle on and off repeatably unless a third thermostat is used to ensure it doesn't try to turn on while the ambient temp is too high to handle. It would probably not be realistic to deal with some special requirements automatically though - CMH lamps require an extended cool down period if shut off before burning for 10 hours, you'd need to power each lamp through a TDR and manually adjust the delay twice when you change lamps if you wanted to play it safe.

 

I would set up two thermostats so I don't cook the plants if the fan goes down or ambient gets too high to handle, but I'm way too lazy and cheap to go all the way with TDRs even though CMH lamps are >$100 because the risk is pretty small... toss a microcontroller at it though and the cost of additional set points and getting fancy is reduced to typing at a keyboard and clicking a few times. low enough that it almost becomes silly not to be able to tell the system you are using CMH lamps and have it automatically deal with them, or to try dealing with excess heat in an energy efficient manner, etc.

 

I'm not looking to build an Argus-clone system, but I can't help wondering how much of that functionality can be recreated and stuffed into a standalone system suitable for home use.

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2 hours ago, LabRat said:

What would be great to have is an all-in-one controller that takes care of everything but then you're looking at around $1000 for a good one and you got to shop carefully to make sure you get a good one and not a $1000 paperweight.

Ya, I noticed; a hygrothermostat could be had for less than $100, but once you started adding extras and specialized equipment the price went up by hundreds per feature. I'm thinking of a modular design; SSRs as required for power control and plug'n'play smart sensors.

 

2 hours ago, LabRat said:

I need another 2 grand to build a sealed grow environment this fall and crank out some bud tho. :)

...and the controller cost $1000 because you've already demonstrated you have money just by being in the position to need one, and probably have more on the line than someone who doesn't. :D

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5 hours ago, Unregistered said:

I'm not looking to build an Argus-clone system

Thats a very impressive setup, I have book marked it for future consideration. When you build it, can you do a how to with pictures please, for obtuse people, a bit overkill for me at the moment. When I was starting this project and talking to people, the advice was what ever size you are thinking of working with, treble it, as thats what you will be looking at after the first couple of grows and they are right and I am only a third of the way through my first lol.

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3 hours ago, Shadey said:

Thats a very impressive setup, I have book marked it for future consideration. When you build it, can you do a how to with pictures please, for obtuse people, a bit overkill for me at the moment. When I was starting this project and talking to people, the advice was what ever size you are thinking of working with, treble it, as thats what you will be looking at after the first couple of grows and they are right and I am only a third of the way through my first lol.

What we need is a recipe for new growers - follow these steps, with that equipment, growing those strains, and you should produce this much every x days. The steps should be general good gardening, equipment would be a moving target, but are there any actual strains (consistently come true from seed) or will it always be a matter of taking cuttings from a mother if you want a uniform crop. <shrug>

 

I can document what I'm up to, but I'll be digging into my collection and some of the stuff would not be recommended for new designs or may be slightly different from what is currently available. Right off the start I see that I'm using a pyBoard v1.0 but the current version is 1.1  and I'll make use of some AD590 temp sensors I have that cost >$25 ea nowadays - you can run them hundreds of feet with twisted pair wire, calibrate them to better than 0.05 C accuracy, and multiplex a bunch together with a simple CMOS switch, but I suspect you could put a sensor on a wireless microcontroller for about the same price to get 0.1 C accuracy, kilometers of range, and not need to run wires.

 

Hooking up components is going to be the easy part, turning the collected data into information and useful controls should be interesting though.

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2 hours ago, Unregistered said:

What we need is a recipe for new growers - follow these steps, with that equipment, growing those strains, and you should produce this much every x days

I remember a wise man once said.

On 6/21/2017 at 7:07 PM, Unregistered said:

there is a risk in that we could be fostering the creation of an elite class or guild comprised of the few that know how to (edit) grow marijuana :)

 

Sorry couldn't resist. Back to journey and destination again. Half the fun is the challenge for me of finding the most cost efficient way of utilizing my time and money. Until it makes me cry and pull my hair out :crazy: because I am tight LOL.

 

I think, a lot of people like myself, who are new to growing,would welcome a simple plan of action to follow, but everyone deals with something different in their set up. So you end up traveling around the net, sourcing information that is pertinent to your own needs in little pieces and then putting it together like a jigsaw puzzle.

 

2 hours ago, Unregistered said:

Hooking up components is going to be the easy part, turning the collected data into information and useful controls should be interesting though

I tried basic programing, back in the middle 90's, I was not too bad at it, but collecting and producing information from data is another thing all together. Mind you there are probably programs designed to build programs nowadays. Just tell it what to do and off it goes, I wish.

 

 

 

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20 hours ago, Unregistered said:

...unless the fans don't kick in and grows slows to a crawl from lack of CO2, but I guess it is not really a fail because it is something the system wouldn't be expected to handle.

 

Low tech solutions can be inexpensive and more reliable than microcontroller based ones, they are not nearly as flexible though. At this point I know I need the same controls you have, but I'm also thinking about: automatic watering and nutrient feed systems, CO2, automatically adjusting canopy to fixture distance, etc. On the controller side I'm looking for "smarter" operation than a simple set point gets you, and some fancy stuff like the ability to change operating modes/profiles without needing to manually reconfigure - one touch controls for switching lighting, nutrients, temp settings from veg to flower mode, or the profile from pot plants to tomatoes.

 

 

This is what I have to take into account all the time with my analog solutions to environmental control but I'm beginning to master it and with my fading abilities it gives my old noggin a good workout to help keep me sharp.

 

Once I have it set where I want it then everything is perfect.   Then as the seasons change I have to make minor adjustments to maintain the status quo.

 

I've been growing since '78 and as much as I've learned it has taught me one main thing.  I've barely begun. :circle:

 

:peace:

 

 

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6 hours ago, LabRat said:

Once I have it set where I want it then everything is perfect.   Then as the seasons change I have to make minor adjustments to maintain the status quo.

 

This is what I am hoping for, atm I am adjusting fan speeds and the heater thermostat on my little 1k heater, which is crap, daily. The heater will work fine for a coupe of days then jumps 10-15 degrees for no reason, and you almost cook the poor little things. I try and make it easy, marking points around the dial when I achieve the right temps, but it doesn't always work :( hopefully the temp sensor on the inkbird will be a lot more finely tuned.

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Get a baseboard heater thermostat and wire it up in an electrical switch box with cords on each end to control the heater.  You just leave the heater on high and let the thermostat turn it on and off.  Make sure the thermostat is not right above the heater and where it can get air blown around it.  Works with any heater.

 

There should be a little wiring diagram in the package with the thermostat.  I got mine at Canadian Tire.

 

:peace:

 

 

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On 2017-06-23 at 6:40 PM, Shadey said:

Sorry couldn't resist...

:D sure. The difference between the two is that it doesn't take specialized equipment or knowledge to rediscover anything that is not included in the basic instructions. With a much more artificial thing, like electronics, it is possible to remove all reference material from public view and set general knowledge on the subject back more than a just decade or two.

 

On 2017-06-23 at 6:40 PM, Shadey said:

I think, a lot of people like myself, who are new to growing,would welcome a simple plan of action to follow, but everyone deals with something different in their set up. So you end up traveling around the net, sourcing information that is pertinent to your own needs in little pieces and then putting it together like a jigsaw puzzle.

Well, OK, ya got me. I am actually more interested in getting lots of people growing than in teaching. More growers should result in less need for the black market, or the government's legal dealers.

 

On 2017-06-23 at 6:40 PM, Shadey said:

...but collecting and producing information from data is another thing all together. Mind you there are probably programs designed to build programs nowadays. Just tell it what to do and off it goes, I wish.

Simply collecting the data usually gets you the basic info (temp, RH, etc.), more than enough info to replicate straight forward set point controllers. Doing a PID Controller, or figuring out how to decide which cooling strategy is most energy efficient ATM, are the kinds of things that still have a steep curve.

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On 2017-06-24 at 1:53 AM, LabRat said:

 

This is what I have to take into account all the time...

I'm doing it all manually right now. If I didn't have these parts laying around that I know I can turn into a controller I'd have probably already picked up the pieces you have. In this case the electronics is causing more work than should be necessary, and I haven't even built anything yet! ;)

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Fan Speed Control

 

As I was looking at the available prototype building blocks I noticed that there doesn't appear to be any microcontroller ready AC motor speed control modules. It is not really surprising since controlling the mains power means getting into meeting standards (UL Listed, CSA Approved, etc.), and that is kinda expensive to do for such a small market (I can't imagine anyone other than prototypers and hobbyists needing such a device).

 

My first instinct was to use a typical TRIAC based phase control circuit (e.g.; Universal motor speed control and light dimmer...), but after a little more digging I came across an AC chopper based alternative I hadn't considered (Single Phase AC Induction Motor Control Reference Design). It is more complicated, but should offer a wider range of control, be quieter (both electrically and acoustically), is very efficient (Power Factor close to 1 = almost 100% of the power being transferred to the motor, IIRC a TRIAC based controller only transfers ~65% of the power), and it will work well with any single phase AC motor (reliable starting at low speeds).

 

There are a few options for hooking the power control to the Dream Controller.

  • A module containing only the AC mains connected components and the optoisolators could be constructed. It would be suitable for very short distances (controlled AC outlet in the same enclosure as the Dream Controller) and manual control would need to be handled by the Dream Controller.
  • The above module could have a tiny microcontroller included, just like in the Single Phase AC design reference linked to above. Toss a slightly more capable microprocessor than what is used in the reference design at it and you can easily include an I2C port (Inter-Integrated Circuit communications, gets you ~2m from the Dream Controller) in addition to a manual control. This would be an upgrade to a basic standalone speed control, with the option of hooking it up to any microcontroller that can handle I2C (probably all but the very tiny ones).
  • Do a sensor/speed control combo unit. Step up to a small microcontroller, hang a temp/humidity sensor off it, do somewhere between a bit and a bunch of programming and it could be a unit that operates as a fancy standalone device or a smart subsystem of the Dream Controller. The sensor units are all I2C devices (hook up two wires then do everything in software), so the main difference between this option and the one above is mostly in the programming. The bits not covered by "mostly" are: indication of temp and humidity; indication of fan speed; input of temp and humidity set points.

I'm thinking of using individual RGB LEDs (can be set to any color) for the three indicators and standard rotary potentiometers (or maybe a pot and a button) for the inputs.

 

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