Sensors for Backyard DIY Linear Actuator Projects

Sensors for Home Automation

Home automation can make life a breeze by taking care of easily missed tasks and giving you more time to relax. One area of the home, in particular, is the backyard as there are never-ending tasks associated with pool maintenance, garden upkeep, and much more. That being said, there are also endless possibilities for automation projects to simplify backyard maintenance. With Firgelli Automation’s wide selection of easy to use linear actuators, completing your own DIY home automation project has never been simpler. But that’s only half the battle, you need to know how automate your linear actuators and what sensors are available for you to accomplish the goals of your DIY project. This blog will cover some of those sensors you can use in conjunction with our linear actuators to help you complete your next backyard DIY project. While there are a wide range of sensors you may want to use, this blog will cover a few common ones that are often used to detect environmental conditions that may be useful for backyard automation.   

Linear Actuator Hatch 

To utilize these sensors effectively, you’ll most likely need to make use of a microcontroller to read the output of the sensor. To connect your sensor to your microcontroller, you will need to follow the sensors datasheet as it will vary depending on the type of sensor you select. Once you have them connected, you can control your linear actuator(s) with your microcontroller, if you need help, you can follow our guide here on how to do so. If you want more support on designing the other aspects of your DIY project, you can check out our Linear Actuator Calculator.

Light Sensors

Photoresistors or light dependent resistors (LDR) are variable resistors with a resistance value that changes depending on the amount of light the sensor is exposed to. The more light that is exposed to the sensor, the lower the resistance value which can be useful to detect how much light your design is exposed to [1]. Photoresistors are often found as inexpensive and basic element, like below, but you can also find light sensors that are specifically designed to detect sunlight or UV light. These sensors can be useful with linear actuators in a wide range of applications from automated shade covers for light sensitive plants to automated solar panels to help maximize energy conversion. You can check out our post on how to control a linear actuator with a LDR to learn more.

Photo resistor

Temperature Sensors

There are a few different types of temperature sensors available; the most common being the thermocouple, shown below, which uses the Seebeck Effect to create a voltage difference that changes base on the surrounding temperature. Although, other types of temperature sensors, including resistance temperature detectors (RTD), can provide more reliable results [2]. While these sensors function differently, all will provide a temperature reading to our microcontroller that can be used to automate your linear actuator(s). Temperature sensors can be useful in projects like automated frost protectors to protect sensitive plants, if the temperature drops too low, or for automated canopies to cover your deck or patio if the sun is too hot.

Thermocouple

Motion Detectors

Motion detectors are sensors that are used to sense movement and can be used in a wide range of linear actuator applications. How the sensor detects movement will depend on the type of motion detector and some types may work better for your application. You can check out our post on using motion detectors with linear actuators to learn more. Motion detectors are often used with linear actuators for jump scared Halloween decorations, but can also be used for automated doors for humans or for pets giving them human-free access to the backyard.

Motion Detector 

Rain Sensors

Rain Sensors are used to detect rainfall and usually can also give an indication of how much rain has fallen. Again, there are various type of rain sensors that use different methods to detect rain from water sensitive resistors to optical sensors. Your choice of rain sensor will depend on your application and budget, but all can be used to determine if it is raining, which is most useful for linear actuator projects. Used in conjunction with linear actuators, rain sensors can be used to automate covers to either protect plants or people and their sensitive electronics.

Rain Sensor

Anemometers 

Anemometers are devices that measure wind speed and are less commonly used in DIY projects than the above sensors. Like most sensors, there are different types of anemometers but for DIY projects, you will mostly see a mechanical anemometer use. These anemometers make use of cups that are attached to an axal, and when the wind is strong enough, they will rotate. This rotation is then converted into voltage that fluctuates based on the speed of the wind [3]. These sensors can be useful in application with linear actuators where high winds could damage your design, like with canopies over a deck or patio.

Mechanical Anemometer

References:

  1. Electronics Notes. Light Dependent Resistor LDR: Photoresistor. Retrieved from: https://www.electronics-notes.com/articles/electronic_components/resistors/light-dependent-resistor-ldr.php
  2. Gums, J. (2018 Jan). Types of Temperature Sensors. Retrieved from: https://www.digikey.com/en/blog/types-of-temperature-sensors
  3. Woodford, C. (2020 July). Retrieved from: https://www.explainthatstuff.com/anemometers.html

Sensor Images from: Digikey.com

Rain Sensor From: Arduino.cc

 

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