Quick update

I have exams coming up in the next two weeks, so the blog will be a little on the quiet side. However once the exams are complete expect a flurry of posts on the Thermostats progress.

In other news, Cnet reports that the Raspberry PI has started shipping. You can read about it here. We are also expecting delivery of the MakerBot in the next two weeks.

Thoughts on – “nest – The programmable home thermostat”

For those of you interested in thermostats, you may be interested to see the nest -Learning Thermostat. I’d not heard of these devices until the COO at my work place Dave told me about them over lunch and sent me the link.

The nest is an intelligent home thermostat device that is capable of all sorts of cool things, such as showing you how long it will take the house to warm up, how much energy it uses and figuring out when you are gone for the day.

All of these features are of course very useful and the nest also aims to help cut your electricity bills down, a noble goal indeed.

Each unit clocks in at $249 a piece, and then if you want to have the nest guys install it, that’s a little more on top. This isn’t actually a bad price at all for all the cool functionality, and the really very nice design of the thermostat itself (I believe some guys from Apple are behind the company).

However at $249 per unit the price could soon mount up if you have a lot of baseboard heaters. Buy four thermostats and you have already spent close to $1000 for example. I am hoping my home-brew system will not cost anywhere in this range. The nest will give me a good bench-mark to work against, can I get the components and put them together for less than $250?

The nest has given me some good ideas though! Would it be possible to have a decent looking UI on the thermostat, rather than a plain old LCD?

After doing some digging around online I’ve found some great TFT touch screen Shields for Arduino. You can see an example of one here.

The http://adafruit.com/ website also has a number of other touch-screen shields, so there are plenty of options on this front. This would also allow me to create a very rich UI with interesting ways of representing the temperature in the room.

I’ll do some more research on the TFT options, however I believe this will replace the LCD component on my earlier list .

In conclusion – the nest is a great piece of kit from the looks of it. For those not inclined to build their own system and with the cash to spare, this could be a great addition to your home heating system.

Thermostats – Part 2 – Arduino setup

In my previous post I blogged how I had purchased an Arduino Uno, shown below, I’ll now give you a quick intro on the setup.


First of all you will need a USB cable, this isn’t included with the Arduino Uno, unless you purchase a kit which includes the Uno and other components. The USB cable needs to be  a USB A-Male to a USB B-Male.  I’ve attached a screen shot of this below:

USB cable

USB cable

You can see the USB port (and power) on the Arduino below:

USB port

USB port

I plugged this in before downloading the development environment and it lit up straight away (the board runs on USB power, as well as a standard power cable which also isn’t included).

Arduino plugged in

Arduino plugged in

Next you will need to download the Arduino IDE (Integrated Development Environment). This can be found here. There is a version for Mac OS X, Windows, Linux and for those of you who wish to compile the IDE yourself, the source code.

Once you have followed the process to set up the Arduino IDE then you should be good to go. You can also find a quick guide to the IDE toolbar here.

I experimented with a few of the test applications that can be found in the IDE  to get the hang of things. A list of this examples can be found on the Arduino site here. Also the language reference guide can be found here. And yes the Arduino language even includes a goto statement which I am sure has caused no end of debates online!

So that’s it, an incredibly easy piece of hardware to get setup.

My next step is going to be exploring the Arduino programming language.