The Shouse Tech (Part One – what does it do?)
The Shouse Tech (Part 1)
This is the first in a series of articles that explain the technology that is used to automate and manage our shed-house (the Shouse). In this article I will provide an overview of what they systems do and how we interact with them.
So what do the systems do for us?
The design goal was to have the everyday management tasks taken care of automatically and without any intervention from us. They should operate autonomously whether we are on site or across the other side of the country.
These tasks include:
- Monitoring the amount of water in each of the storage tanks and turning on the bore pump (located 600m away from the shouse) if the tank levels fall below a set point.
- Managing the watering of the grass, orchards and gardens.
- Managing power usage, solar system performance and battery state and health.
- Managing the security and reporting any potential issues.
All of these things sound very straight-forward and fairly simple. For example a simple ball valve could be used to control the tank levels … but there are good reasons why we opted for a more complex solution.
Let me explain in more detail what the water system manager actually does…
- It monitors the water level in the bore (ie the number of cm of water above the submersible pump) to make sure we are not over-taxing our bore. It automatically logs the water level every hour and reports any significant changes that may indicate something is going wrong. We can also log and understand seasonal changes in the ground water levels. (I can tell you that it is quite a trick to electronically monitor water levels in a bore pipe that is 150mm in diameter and 10m deep).
- Depending on the level of water in the bore, it changes the maximum number of liters of water it will pump out of the bore each day.
- The system considers the time of the year and the likelihood of a storm and changes the maximum tank fill level accordingly (to leave room in the water tanks for rain water).
- The system logs daily water usage and reports unusually high or unusually low water usage. It also alerts to potential leaks and blockages in the irrigation system (for example if a irrigation section used 35 liters per minute yesterday and 55 liters per minutes today – might be a broken pipe).
- The water system calculates sunrise and sunset times and changes its behavior accordingly (for example, it will not allow the solar bore pump to start until 90 minutes after sunrise, this prevents tens of pump on-off cycles when the sun is low and too weak to properly drive the pump).
- The system is self-monitoring and to some degree self-healing. For example, if the system loses network connectivity, it will try restarting its Ethernet adapter, if that does not resolve this issue it will try powering off the Ethernet switch and if this fails to solve the problem it can restart the modem. If all of this fails, the system goes into “disconnected mode” and does its best to make intelligent decisions while isolated from the network.
This is just a fraction of the functions that the water management system performs each day. As you can see, this is well beyond what could be achieved with a simple float valve.
We wanted to stay informed about how the various systems are operating and be alerted if things went wrong. To facilitate this I developed a web interface that allows us to not only monitor all major functions, but also make changes from anywhere in the world.
In addition to the web interface, a dedicated alert system receives data from all sensors and makes decisions about what we may need to know about. Alerts are given a rating of 1 – 5.
#1 is a general log event with no associated risk. These are stored on the local micro controller only and are used only for debugging.
#2 is a general “good-to-know” event (for example the battery bank is full). These are logged to a server and can be easily accessed, filtered and searched from any device (phone, tablet, PC). These messages are useful for determining what lead to a more serious event or just keeping an eye on things.
#3 is an alert event – these are pushed to our devices (phones and tablets) much like a text message. These messages are silent.
#4 is an important alert that does not require immediate action. These messages are silent at night.
#5 is an emergency event that requires immediate attention. Message sent at this level are always audible and remain audible until acknowledged. An example of a #5 event might be a suspected broken water pipe or seriously low battery voltage.
In the second of these articles, I will explain the hardware that is used for these systems.
Has the information on this site been useful?
If it has, please consider using the donate button at the bottom of our home page. All donations are used to maintain and improve the website and we are very grateful for any support.
Do you offer a product or service that relates to caravanning or motorhoming?
Would like to tell the thousands of people that visit Hobohome.com each week, about your product?
Every week Hobohome.com attracts thousands of visitors. Like you, they are interested in motorhoming and caravanning in Australia.
Some are building their motorhome, others are travelling in their caravan.
If you have a product or service that relates to motorhomes, campervans or caravans and would like to advertise on our site, please
click here for more information.
We are also looking for new products to review.