Automation experiment for my hobby collection

Slippertalk Orchid Forum

Help Support Slippertalk Orchid Forum:

merc

ST Supporter
Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2019
Messages
184
Reaction score
267
Location
PNW (WA)
My husband watches me painstakingly but constantly fiddling with my tiny shelf of orchids and kept pestering me to automate something. We have a lot of home automation already setup and it all works pretty great. I refused for a long long time, but finally gave in. Funny thing is I'm a software engineer by trade so one would think I'd be all over this s**t. I don't trust most consumer cloud controlled devices on the market for a number of reasons, but mostly because of security/privacy concerns and also because nothing out there is fool-proof. We have a home automation framework installed on our internal network NAS and external network level blocking to put my security/privacy concerns at ease. With all that said, I thought I'd give it a try with something off-the-shelf. I didn't want to write my own control logic because TBH why would I if someone has already done it for me. There's basically a post or tutorial for everything you want to do if you look hard enough.

We use Home Assistant (HA) as our home automation framework. It serves as device control aggregator. It's great. It enables us to share control of all the cloud-capable devices despite the difference in mobile platform preferences (iOS vs Android). This just means we don't have to install a new mobile app per device we add to our home network. Pro tip: If it's a TUYA capable device you can use it with Home Assistant.

Anyway, I've got a long way to go. There's so much more I want to do with this little project and promise to post learnings and findings along the way. This is by no way a complete automated solution to my orchid care, but does help me maintain proper conditions to avoid root rot and desiccation. I hope this info helps somebody out there.

What I've got going on so far:
  1. Fans << ON/OFF at 1h intervals
  2. Lights << ON 12am to 6am
  3. Water pump << helps me maintain humidity levels by drip-filling my little DIY humidity trays


The HA mobile app provides a UI for manual ON/OFF override for any automation we setup. All the orchid-related devices are grouped under the power strip since they're all plugged into it.
IMG_7850.jpg.jpeg
Things that work off-the-shelf:

Things we had to tweak:

Additional notes:
  • I still manually water my plants every 7-10 days. It's something I enjoy and allows for hands-on admiration and an intimate inspection. :)
  • I need to find some decent BT humidity sensors so I can automate drip-irrigation triggers based on those readings.
  • I also need to figure out a failsafe that drains the trays if the water passes a certain threshold. Something like a float-switch to override power to the pump.
  • Redundancy is key to a good control systems so I may install a secondary power strip and pump as a fallback. A battery backup would be smart, but would be pointless if the home network + NAS isn't also on battery or generator backup. This is me just being OCD and is probably overkill for a hobby collection.
  • I'm cheap as hell and refuse to switch out my janky hacked supposed full-spectrum LED light fixtures, but know I probably should. 😬
  • Feit Smart Plugs from Costco are complete garbage. They drop connection and do not reconnect to the network until you unplug the unit and plug it back it.
 
Last edited:

merc

ST Supporter
Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2019
Messages
184
Reaction score
267
Location
PNW (WA)
yes absolutely! problem is you have zero visibility into what’s happening and no ability to override without being in the same room as the thing on the timer. you'd be surprised to find out there are many industrial facilities employing this method for controlling industrial equipment today.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Nov 14, 2022
Messages
144
Reaction score
112
Sounds a bit to me like micro managing something that is best left undone.
They are living plants, indoor environment is full of changes, ups and downs, highs and lows. I am afraid that successful orchid growing requires the owner to be hands on.
Just my two cents worth.
 

Ray

Orchid Iconoclast
Staff member
Moderator
Supporting Member
Joined
Jun 9, 2006
Messages
4,253
Reaction score
1,056
Location
Oak Island NC
I like what you’ve done, but there maybe some cultural factors that can be used differently.

For example, I’d probably control your “humidity-creating pump” with a humidistat. A timer works, and I suppose your household RH up there might vary less than it does in many places, but here the percentage varies from the low 20’s to the 70’s, which would make a timer a less-effective control.

Also, I think you’d do better leaving the fans on at all times. The idea is to create gentle, “tumbling” air that disrupts pockets of stagnant air around and amongst the plants, not to create a breeze. That need for lack-of-stagnation is a 24/7 thing.

When I was in PA with a greenhouse and a 50-mile, one-way commute on the PA Turnpike, I set up an automated overhead “rain” system controlled via a garage door opener fob, a timer/relay and solenoid valve. Just push one button and it would “rain” (RO plus K-Lite @ 25 ppm N) for 30 minutes, then shut off.
 

merc

ST Supporter
Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2019
Messages
184
Reaction score
267
Location
PNW (WA)
yours is a much more elegant solution. I use this (below) which gives real time data to my iphone. Then activate the misting system using a 'grid connect' power point controller or use the Linktap controller for watering.
looks like linktap is the way to go for a fully supported off-the-shelf irrigation automation solution. that and rainbird's, but i've read rainbird's support kind of sucks. it integrates with HA too if you ever want to extend your automation beyond just irrigation and have it all in one place. unfortunately, i don't have a spigot anywhere near my office so this wouldn't have worked for me. if my husband loved me and ok'd a proper glass greenhouse i would be all over this instead of having to figure it out on my own! lol!

those elitech devices are very interesting. thank you for sharing this with me! their hardware covers a wide range, from stand alone consumer to industrial scale PLC modules. i'm not finding any HA integrations off rip, but need to dig into this further to figure out if i can make it work for me. at the very least you've pointed me at alternate PLC modules and sensors for work purposes, which is extremely valuable info. thank you.

you should totally write up a post about your automation setup! i would love to hear about your findings on your automation journey.

I am afraid that successful orchid growing requires the owner to be hands on.
i am still very much hands on at this point. the orchids sit behind me so i am still constantly tinkering. i will say the big win so far is having the 5 gallon water reservoir and pump right there. just whip out the phone and tap the button to refill humidity trays. it's greatly reduced the no. of watering can refill trips to the bathroom. :D

A timer works, and I suppose your household RH up there might vary less than it does in many places, but here the percentage varies from the low 20’s to the 70’s, which would make a timer a less-effective control.

Also, I think you’d do better leaving the fans on at all times. The idea is to create gentle, “tumbling” air that disrupts pockets of stagnant air around and amongst the plants, not to create a breeze. That need for lack-of-stagnation is a 24/7 thing.

When I was in PA with a greenhouse and a 50-mile, one-way commute on the PA Turnpike, I set up an automated overhead “rain” system controlled via a garage door opener fob, a timer/relay and solenoid valve. Just push one button and it would “rain” (RO plus K-Lite @ 25 ppm N) for 30 minutes, then shut off.
humidity ranges widely here too. i need to do some experiments and figure out the rate of evaporation with just fans=ON, fans=ON and doors/windows/vents open, fans=OFF and doors/windows/vents open, etc. per season.

thank you for the tip about the fans. i really appreciate the run down on why they need to be on. most people will tell you to do or try something but fail to provide a reason why. i had originally alternated fan state due to the plants drying out, but i think that was before i made my little DIY humidity trays. i've lurked on ST long enough to learn that monitoring and maintaining humidity is key to success. do you have a recommendation on a humidity sweet spot i should aim for? i refill my trays if they drop below 40 and try not to let me plants sit in water, but will admit that i flood the trays before i go on vacation. pots sit in about 1/8" of water and i just let the trays evaporate over the duration of vacation. coincidentally, vacation is the no. 1 reason for bud blast in this house. lol!

props on the RF rain control! love it! its all about the convenience of being able to orchestrate a series of tasks into the push of a button.
 

merc

ST Supporter
Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2019
Messages
184
Reaction score
267
Location
PNW (WA)
oh i forgot to mention i had a little 2 gallon vicks humidifier plugged into one of those garbage wifi plugs i picked up from costco. it was nice having the tap on/off, but it was constantly failing me because it was offline all the time. i had grand plan to tie in it's ON/OFF state with humidity sensor readings, but trashed the plug and ran out of outlets on my little power strip. i have retired the humidifier for the time being. looks like i need to shop around for another power strip with more outlets. womp womp.
 
Last edited:

spujr

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 25, 2015
Messages
173
Reaction score
49
Hi,

I love this! Nice write up! I'm a firm believer in automation. Giving the plants consistent care is better than hand-tailoring inconsistently due to life activities! I'm pretty sure the large orchid nurseries in Tiawan are using some automation to a degree.

I got this humidifier about a year ago and love it. I have it come on daily so no worries about it turning off and staying off. App easy to use but might violate your standards of a central application to do everything. LEVOIT Humidifiers for Bedroom Large Room Home, 6L Cool Mist Top Fill Essential Oil Diffuser for Baby and Plants, Smart App & Voice Control, Rapid Humidification and Humidity Setting, Quiet Sleep Mode https://a.co/d/0ESpjAX
I do agree with Ray that humidifiers are much easier to keep the plants at a happy level, especially if you put the plants and shelf in a grow tent.

I got these BT sensors which are great and easy to use: https://a.co/d/7CLXImJ I believe you can set this up to activate plug-in controls if the temp or humidity fails above or below thresholds but not 100% sure.

I also leave my fans on constantly mainly for convenience. My grow tent has an export fan that turns on on a wifi controller that I use in the summer when I need to vent the hot air from the top.

Anyways, thanks for sharing!
 

merc

ST Supporter
Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2019
Messages
184
Reaction score
267
Location
PNW (WA)
I got this humidifier about a year ago and love it. I have it come on daily so no worries about it turning off and staying off. App easy to use but might violate your standards of a central application to do everything. LEVOIT Humidifiers for Bedroom Large Room Home, 6L Cool Mist Top Fill Essential Oil Diffuser for Baby and Plants, Smart App & Voice Control, Rapid Humidification and Humidity Setting, Quiet Sleep Mode https://a.co/d/0ESpjAX
I do agree with Ray that humidifiers are much easier to keep the plants at a happy level, especially if you put the plants and shelf in a grow tent.

I got these BT sensors which are great and easy to use: https://a.co/d/7CLXImJ I believe you can set this up to activate plug-in controls if the temp or humidity fails above or below thresholds but not 100% sure.
hey spujr! really really great write up on your automation solutions!

this has turned out to be a great thread hearing about all the different devices people have tried. it def helps me hearing it from orchid people instead of from random amazon reviewers. fwiw looks like someone already did stuff to make the LEVOIT humidifier work with home assistant!

i am currently struggling with the idea of blasting my little office cubby space (where my orchids live) with a humidifier since it also houses all my machines, monitors and peripherals. what's the room humidity sweet spot you guys aim for? i'm thinking anything above 60% would put my equipment on a fast track to failure.
 
Last edited:

spujr

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 25, 2015
Messages
173
Reaction score
49
hey spujr! really really great write up on your automation solutions!

this has turned out to be a great thread hearing about all the different devices people have tried. it def helps me hearing it from orchid people instead of from random amazon reviewers. fwiw looks like someone already did stuff to make the LEVOIT humidifier work with home assistant!

i am currently struggling with the idea of blasting my little office cubby space (where my orchids live) with a humidifier since it also houses all my machines, monitors and peripherals. what's the room humidity sweet spot you guys aim for? i'm thinking anything above 60% would put my equipment on a fast track to failure.
If you can find the space for a small tent, that might help contain the moisture of the humidifier. Personally, I like to keep the humidity above 75% but that's because some of the multiflorals get leaf-tip die back when they get too dry.

Oh, I forgot to suggest a possible solution for your tray water overflow problem: just drill a hole in the tray, install a bulkhead with female thread on one end so you can put in a short tube that determines the max water height and a drainage tube on the other end which allows excess water to drain back in a reservoir.
 

Latest posts

Top