Thursday, July 21, 2016

My Smart Home - SensorPush

I am an efficiency nerd.  I love to use technology to make my life easier, better, or to save money.  I live in the Phoenix area of Arizona so it gets REALLY hot here.  Well, I had noticed that my garage would always seem to be hotter in the summer than outside.  I didn't think much of it the first couple years in my current house but this year it hit me.  The garage is always super hot.  The master bedroom - my bedroom - is right over the garage.  The master bedroom gets pretty warm as well - especially in the summer.  Is there a correlation?  How would I find out?

Well, I had a temperature sensor that I was using to measure outside temperature.  One of those Accurite indoor/outdoor temperature monitors.  Actually, I have two of those.  So I took the outdoor sensor from the one in the master bedroom and put it in the garage.  Now I could see what the temperature was in the garage and compare it to the outside temperature.  I found that my suspicions were correct.  It would often be hotter in the garage than outside.  In fact, I was seeing temperatures above 110 F and it was often significantly hotter than outside.

One of the outside walls of my garage has two vents in it.  One close to the ceiling and one close to
the floor.  In order to cool my garage, I bought a fan and placed it at the vent near the ceiling so that it would blow the hot air out of the garage.  After leaving it on for a couple of days, it seemed like the garage was staying cooler.  It would still get hotter than outside but it seemed better.  However, all my data was based on spot checking the temperatures.  How hot is it in the garage now?  I didn't have any trending data or long term data so I didn't know if my solution was actually helping.

Home Screen
What I needed is a temperature sensor that recorded data from outside and in the garage and let me see the correlation.  I started looking for something I could use.  I found some Internet connected sensors from Accurite but reviews said the user interface was really bad.  I found some really nice sensors from NetAtmo but, as cool as they were, they were expensive and overkill for what I was trying to do (though I will be keeping my eye on it).  Then I stumbled upon a little startup called SensorPush.

The SensorPush sensor was simple.  It recorded temperature and humidity and synced with your phone via bluetooth.  It had a nice looking app and would record your data so you could see trends and spikes, etc.  Plus, since it does not rely on a web service, it wouldn't be rendered useless if the company went out of business.  I decided to give it a try.

I purchased a sensor and set it up in my garage.  The setup was amazingly easy.  I installed the Android app on my Nexus 5x, tapped the plus sign to add a new sensor, and placed the sensor on the phone.  Boom! Done!  The hardest part was coming up with a name for the sensor.  I cleverly named it "Garage Sensor".

Then I sat back and let the data roll in.  After a couple of days, I started to notice something.  I would get these spikes and dips in the temperature.  I wasn't sure what it was until I noticed the timestamp on a Sunday.  The temperature dipped when we left for church (we park our minivan in the garage) and it spiked when we got home.  It seems obvious but that's when I realized that the biggest heat issue in the garage is the car.

It Only Graphs Data from One Sensor
I really liked the data rolling in but it was still difficult to compare it with outside temperatures because I didn't have anything to record them with.  Well, the SensorPush was working so well, I decided to get a second one.  This one I put outside (in the shade) to measure outdoor temperatures.  It helped correlate when the temperature is hotter in the garage than outside so I can better set up my fan.  It wasn't as easy as I'd hoped because the app can't show you temperatures from two sensors on the the same graph (I contacted the company and they said it's something they'd like to add).  However, I was still able to get some good data.

So, with this new data I made some modifications.  I am using an Insteon plug in module to schedule my fan which turns on at 5pm every evening and turns off at 9am.  This, on average, is when the air is cooler outside than in the garage.  I also try to turn the fan on whenever the minivan comes home because it is always hot.

Is it making a huge difference?  I'm not sure.  I probably need to go for a few days without turning on the fan and see if the temperature gets significantly higher in the garage.  I'll do that soon.

Now, as much as I like these sensors, there are (for me) two downsides.  First, as I mentioned previously, they don't display your graphs for multiple sensors on the same chart.  The second is that you can only get your data when your phone is in bluetooth range.  This means I can't check it at work or when I'm away from home.  This is more of an inconvenience than a problem and by not having a connection to a web service, the sensors don't depend on a web service to function and you don't have to have an Internet connection to run them.  So it's good and bad.

All in all, I really like the simplicity and the convenience and the data supplied by the sensors.  I'm quite happy with them and I'm thinking about getting a third one to put in my attic to see if I would benefit from a couple of attic fans...

2 comments:

Anu said...

Being new to the blogging world I feel like there is still so much to learn. Your tips helped to clarify a few things for me as well as giving..
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Haim Toledano said...

Nice information. If all appliances operated with single app then it is very good and make it more easy. Thanks for sharing.