New Idea: Arduino based water butler

Having a vacation is nice! You do not have to work! You can sleep as long as you want (if you don’t have 2 small kids). You travel and meet new and hopefully interesting people.
What is not so nice is what happens to your plants during that time. In my case, they usually die ;-).
Well you can ask a nice (looking) neighbor to help you out and water your plant, if you like the social experience on doing so, or … you make something.
Yes I know, there are some commercial systems available, but come on, where is the fun in that?

The idea

What I like to do is to build a system that waters my plants every three days until they have enough water. On my balcony (so the system will be outside) I have 6 self-watering planters and it usually takes 3 days in the summer to dry them out.
So water is supplied to each planter, until they reach a specified water level. Then the system should stop.
Each of the planters is watered separately, since the plants use up different amount of water.
There is no water connection available on the balcony and the distance between the floor and the planters is about 1 m going up straight.
I only need the system when I’m on vacation so assembly and disassembly should be easy. It does not have to look really nice, since hopefully no one will see it. (If someone is on my balcony during my absence, I have a totally different problem :-))

idea water butler 0011 1024x764 New Idea: Arduino based water butler

Idea for water butler (concept drawing)

The components

I would like to use the following parts/components:

  • Tubing (to get the water in the planters)
  • A water container (It should hold a minimum of 50 liters)
  • A pump (probably will use a left over from another project)
  • 1 Arduino nano
  • 6 Water sensor (Grove – water sensor)
  • A valve
  • Power supply for the Arduino and the pump

How it should work

Each planter has a water sensor attached and some tubing for the water. All tubes from the planters come together in one valve (the valve should be able to select a tube for each of the planters (see unsolved challenges).
Basically every night the valve mechanism and the pump should be turned on automatically via Arduino, selecting the first tube (of the first planter). Water will be pumped into the planter until the water sensor will detect water (that means, it is enough water in the planter). The pump will be turned off and the valve will be turned to the next tube. Then the same process of pumping water into the planter will start all over, till all the planters have water. Then the Arduino can go back to sleep till the next evening.

Unsolved challenges

A challenge I could not solve yet was a working valve (see my drawing). Having connected 6 tubes at a minimum the control mechanism has to be pretty precise. So I’m not very comfortable with a servo turning x degrees – if I’m not right and only a couple of degrees off, I’m afraid I will have a pool on my balcony after a couple of days.
I’m looking for a mechanism that works like a relay – opening a tube if required. So still working on this one ;-).

2013 07 25 14.03.06 1024x764 New Idea: Arduino based water butler

Idea for water butler valve v01

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