An Idea: 32-Bit Peace of Mind…
I have an idea that I have been thinking about since this summer. I had a pretty decent backyard garden this year and one of the main sources of stress for me was the constant watering logistics.
Because my backyard landscaping changes each season and my garden will vary as well, I need a versatile and customizable watering scheme that I can adapt easily. This prevents me from installing an in-ground, automated system. I like the ability to direct hoses (either attached to sprinklers or drip lines) to certain areas and control the amount of water these zones receive.
I would also like to be conservative in my water usage but not so miserly that my plants and flowers are constantly dying of thirst.
I invested in a commercial water timer that I was able to set for watering 4 different zones. It worked pretty well for the most part. It looked like the setup below:
It got me through the summer but the problem I had was the futzing this thing took. And, if it rained, you had to manually run out and hit a Rain Delay button that would skip the watering cycle for that period.
Also, when I went on vacation, I really had no way of knowing if one of the valves you see above, the grey things that the hoses are attached to, and were made of plastic, hadn’t just blown open and water was filling up my backyard for a week. Even if it were, the only way to have stopped it was to call a neighbor to run over and shut off the whole system.
There should be a better way. I liked the concept, but I needed better monitoring and the ability to control this unit remotely.
I came up with the WaterWorker: an urban garden water controller.
So, briefly, the WaterWorker will interface with a valve system that allows the user to set up and control a home-based garden watering system. The chipKIT will be responsible for controlling the user-programmable times for ON-OFF with the added feature of a web-based interface for remote user control and monitoring. It is not meant to be part of a permanent installation like an in-ground sprinkler system. WaterWorker is an all-in-one unit that attaches to a standard hose bib one would find on the exterior of a typical home or apartment building.
The system should identify moisture levels in the environment so that water is applied only when needed and automatically shut off during rainstorms or other non-optimal watering conditions (i.e. high wind or outdoor functions). It should also report total water usage over time. These features will conserve water yet still allow for healthy lawns and gardens.
Ideally, the power for the controller and valve system will consist of commercially available, off-the-self parts that can be purchased from any local hardware store. The electro-mechanical system should consist of simple solenoids that one might use for an automatic sprinkler system and that could be powered using a solar panel mounted on the roof or in the yard of the homeowner.
A fail-safe routine should be implemented to counter a system malfunction that would allow water to run continuously if unchecked.
I’ll keep you posted.