Monthly Archives: August 2009

Wiring the house, part 2: Buying 1-wire sensors and accessories

So, having moved from a flat to a house a couple of months back it was time to do some actual work on a home monitoring system.

First task: to find a good source for the needed 1-wire sensors and other electronics and hardware.
Some digging around, comparing a lot of prices resulted in the matrix below.
I then ended up buying my 1-wire products and components from Homechip and Hobby-boards, with some additional components from Electrokit.

Please note that prices and other aspects of the stores are expected to change, the data below represent a snapshot as of August 2009. They should in any case provide some starting points for your own 1-wire online shopping adventures.

Vendor Country Comment
Homechip UK Good prices and fast, affordable delivery across Europe, they don’t have quite the selection of 1-wire products as for example Hobby-Boards or DigiKey (who are outstanding when it comes to components).
But with Homechip offering the core component I needed while also being European the first batch of 1-wire sensors were bought from them. Might try other providers later.A good thing about Homechip is that they carry the
T-sense (made by IButtonLink) at an affordable price. VERY convenient temperature sensor! Ok, a bit more expensive than buying the components, but oh so convenient..
Low shipping costs also to rest of Europe outside of UK.
Hobby-Boards US Nice store with some assembled and ready-to-go 1-wire sensor modules, such as the 8 channel relay board or the nice little DS2423-based dual counter(Note: Homechip carries a similar counter).A GREAT thing about Hobby-Boards is that they offer both schematics and PCB layout for free on their web! This gives some very good inspiration for those of us who like to build things from scratch but have spent the last fifteen years doing other things than designing electronic circuits.Reasonable prices but longer/more expensive shipping if you are in Europe. 
Embedded Data Systems US This company among other things makes the HA7Net, which is an Ethernet equipped 1-wire master controller with some real intelligence in it. It contains a web server, upgradable firmware, various tools for reading/writing/maintaining a 1-wire network. The HA7Net also has three 1-wire ports, making it dead simple to create a star-formed 1-wire network.The HA7Net acts as the 1-wire centre point in my network, it is then read by various other software on the internal TCP/IP network. Sweden contains both temperatures across Sweden updated by people’s personal computer connected weather stations, as well as an online shop and a good forum for Swedes interested in home and weather monitoring systems. Quite a few good 1-wire related threads in the forums.The store has a fair number of components as well as pre-assembled sensor modules. Prices are a bit high compared to for example Homechip but if you are in Sweden and need fast delivery it may be worth it.
The store also has various home automation products, such as radio controlled 220V switches.
IbuttonLink US Makers of some good 1-wire products, such as the LinkUSB 1-wire interface, which can be used instead of the standard DS9490R from Maxim. They also make the very convenient T-Sense temperature sensor, but as this is available from HomeChip at the same or even better price (given the current USD to EUR exchange rate), I’ve got my T-Sensors from Homechip.
1.wire shop Germany Expensive German online store
Fuchs Shop Germany Expensive German online store
SparkFun US GREAT company with a fantastic amount of cool gadgets and electronics kits in the store, usually with very affordable prices. If you like fiddling around with electronics and microcontrollers you’ll love SparkFun. SparkFun offer free schematics for many of their kits, they also have good tutorials and forums. Great site!
Digikey US
Giant retailer of electronics components. More than 1900 employees, more than 450.000 products in stock. If you need an electronics component, Digikey is likely to have it, and at a good price. Based in US means longer delivery and higher shipping costs though.
Edit: Turns out Digikey has a great international service as well! For their Swedish customers they even offer free shipping on orders of more than €65, which is pretty easy to reach when looking through their catalog…
Electrokit Sweden Probably Sweden’s best online store for electronics components and Arduino microcontrollers. Good prices, very affordable shipping costs.
Lawicel-shop Sweden Sells various embedded systems products, including Arduino boards. Seem to be more expensive than Electrokit.
Maplin UK Sells all sorts of electronics and components. Might be worth considering for UK people.
Energibutiken Sweden Online store with a small but fairly good selection of products relating to energy monitoring. They among other things have an interesting data logger for those who don’t want to be bothered by running a server for their 1-wire projects.

Syncing Firefox sessions across computer and platforms

I regularly use 3-4 different computers, from time to time also guest operating systems running in virtual machines. For years I have been thinking it would be great if you could bring your current Firefox status with you to a different computer, for example between a Mac and PC.

After recently actually looking into this topic I found the new Mozilla Weave Firefox extension. It is in beta and have some bugs, but is very promising even in its current state. However, it doesn’t sync sessions.

I recently also started using the nice Dropbox service for file syncing. Dropbox has both Windows and Mac clients and works fully transparently: any file you put in the dedicated Dropbox folder on your local computer is automatically synced to the Dropbox service and from there propagated out to your other computers where you have Dropbox installed and running. As you get 2 GB of free storage that is more than plenty for storing session information.

Only thing missing now is to find where Firefox’ sessions files are stored. As I am using the excellent Session Manager Firefox extension, a quick look in the Advanced tab of its options dialog revealed that you can indeed specify where Session Manager’s session files should be stored. Change this to your local Dropbox folder and you are set! As soon as you save a session in Session Manager it will be almost instantly available on your other computers. To use them on these other computers you use the “Load session…” command in Session Manager’s menu, which in turn is found in Firefox’ Tools menu.

Have been using this setup for some weeks now, works flawlessly.

Wiring the house

Moving to a house from an apartment made me realize you have new things to consider.

– How much money is spent on heating?

– We have a 45-year old, huge waterboiler in the basement, how much does it cost to keep it running? Would we save money by replacing it with a modern one?

– It is said that return-on-investment on air-air heatpumps is quite short, around 18 months is often mentioned. But before installing such a pump to reduce the need for electrical heating it would be great to have a system in place measuring how much electricity is used for electrical heating before and after the pump is installed, and how much energy the pump itself uses.

– How do you measure the above, collect the data and present it in a good way?

– After installing radio controlled switches across the house, how do you control them in a good way? The included remote works ok, but a computer interface is really what is needed to create more advanced lightning setups.

In the coming posts I’ll sum up the experiences made in planning, building, configuring and running the above services. Having searched the net for information and experiences from others I have found some, but not a whole lot. Hopefully my findings will help others with similar plans and ideas.