Battery Powered Solar Recharged Automated Blinds


(Ben Lebson) #1

I’ve been working on this project for around 9 months now and I finally have a satisfactory solution. I was inspired by @jetpuf’s implimentation using the ESP8266.

My solution had to be a bit more creative in order to have low enough power consumption to run on batteries and allow for solar recharging (with a small and discrete solar panel). My solution was to add a central ‘hub’ which is always connected to WiFi which can communicate with the blinds. The blinds are generally ‘sleeping’ and only awake when they receive a command from the hub (over 915Mhz RF). The Hub consists of a WeMos D1 Mini with a RF shield (using RFM69W) and the blind controller uses a Moteino from lowpowerlab.com which also has a RFM69W. The moteino is seated in a custom circuit board that I created which handles the battery, solar charging, servo output and momentary switch input.

Here are the features:

  • Fully self-contained (no need to wire in power)
  • Able to move to 180 different set points
  • Standard “Close” position
  • Customizable “Open” position
  • Able to manually open/close blinds
  • Able to send commands to groups of blinds
  • Able to send command to all blinds regardless of group
  • Theoretical 8.9 Year battery life on 2200mAh LiPo (~20uA while sleeping)
  • Able to charge/top off battery quickly with small solar panel (using 5v 200mA panel)
  • Able to report battery voltage/percentage
  • Able to report charger status (Charging/Not Charging/Fully Charged/Error)

I am currently selling the custom Moteino shield on Tindie:
I sell on Tindie

Videos:

Pictures:
Base Station:


Solar Panel Installation:

Everything Installed in a Blind:

Bottom of Gear Box (see momentary switch):

Switch showing through original drawstring cutout:

Final Moteino Shield design (populated board and bare PCB):

Earlier prototypes (shows full assembly w/ Moteino):

Reflowing some prototype PCBs:

Reflowing a few Moteinos (I’m using 50% bought and 50% made):

SmartThings Interface:

Single Blind:


Group of Blinds:

Base Station:

Code:

3D Printed Parts:

Parts List

1x WeMos D1 Mini

1x D1 Mini RFM69W Shield

1x 915Mhz Antenna

1x SMA to uFL adaptor

1x Moteino

1x Custom Moteino Shield

1x Momentary rocker switch

1x MG946R Servo

1x 5v 200mA solar panel

1x 2200 mAh LiPo battery

1x 3D Printed Gear Box

1x 3D Printed Gear set (2x gears)

1x 3D Printed Circuit Board Cover (inside of blind is sheet metal)

1x 3D Printed Solar Panel Case

1x 3D Printed Base Station Case

Special thanks to @jetpuf for allowing me to use and modify his gear box design and to the LowPowerLabs community for helping me with Moteino coding questions!


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(Christopher Masiello) #2

OK, now for the big question: What is the approximate cost per window?
BTW, GREAT Job.


(Alex) #3

How much would it cost to package this with basic instructions for a straight forward DIY installation + shipping to Canada?


(Ben Lebson) #4

I think I got the price to around $25-$30 per blind not including the base station. The base station costs about $15 itself. This of course assumes your have access to a 3D printer and can reflow your circuit boards yourself.


(Ben Lebson) #5

Unfortunately I don’t have the programming ability to make this a ‘turn key’ solution. You will always need the ability to modify and load Arduino software to make it work. Also, my failure rate for my circuit board manufacturing is pretty high so I would need to refine my manufacturing to address that. Out of the 7 boards I made only 4 are fully operational. One won’t charge properly and two were burnt to a crisp in an unfortunate reflowing mistake.


(Sean) #6

great work on the project, i just ran across jetpuf link last week and now you took it even further. Would you be selling your board you made? How many blinds can you have with one base station? what distance can you get out of it?


(Ben Lebson) #7

I’m thinking of selling them at some point but will have to figure that all out, might be ~$20 for the shield after all is said and done which doesn’t include the 3D printed parts, the servos, batteries, arduinos or switches…

The base station can technically support 254 different blinds but my packet structure is currently set up for 9 blinds (though that should be easy to expand). The range is hard to tell but I haven’t found it’s limit yet and I’ve tested from my second floor to my basement with no issues.


(Megan) #8

posting to follow, as I would buy these up!!! lol. I like the price point. I can 3d print but the reflow bit is out of my wheel house.


#9

I definitely wouldn’t sell these to anyone else, they don’t meet the product safety guidelines for window coverings for either the US or Canada. Your liability would be huge if a kid or a pet gets caught in the cord while this is operating. :disappointed_relieved:


(Ben Lebson) #10

It fully replaces the cord, but I know what you mean. I definitely wouldn’t sell the kit though the pcb I designed is fairly general purpose even if I’m using it for a specific thing. I think the only thing I would sell is the custom shield.


(Jake) #11

This does look like a pretty epic solution though, I’m very jealous and wish I had the ability / tools to design something like this myself!

I’m hoping that now Ikea have made a jump in to the home automation market that perhaps they will include blind automation at some point! (Perhaps wishful thinking!)

Great work though and thanks for sharing!


(Ben Lebson) #12

Post Updated

I have added a link to the 3D printed parts on Thingiverse. Please note the large gear is @jetpuf’s design and the gearbox and small gear are based off of his designs.


(Sean) #13

This is definitely a a excellent price point. Just wondering if u have a write up on the project start to end as far as the code and the setup. I seen the videos and what it looks like. But can’t seem to find the parts you are using. If u have a link that would be great


(Ben Lebson) #14

The reason there is no write up or guide is because it’s currently impossible to replicate. I am using a custom designed circuit board that isn’t available right now. This board is basically what makes it all work together; servo control, solar recharging, battery input and monitoring, switch input. Everything else has been posted (I’ll post a better parts list here in a few minutes).


(Ben Lebson) #15

As for the parts list:

1x WeMos D1 Mini

1x D1 Mini RFM69W Shield

1x 915Mhz Antenna

1x SMA to uFL adaptor

1x Moteino

1x Custom Moteino Shield

1x Momentary rocker switch

1x MG946R Servo

1x 5v 200mA solar panel

1x 2200 mAh LiPo battery

1x 3D Printed Gear Box

1x 3D Printed Gear set (2x gears)

1x 3D Printed Circuit Board Cover (inside of blind is sheet metal)

1x 3D Printed Solar Panel Case

1x 3D Printed Base Station Case


(Sean) #16

That makes sense so your main board ties in the parts. But what parts and the slaves that the master talks to is that also another special board as well? This project is sounding better by the minute


(Ben Lebson) #17

The moteino plugs into my custom board. The moteino uses RF to communicate with the WeMos D1 Mini shield. Smartthings communicates using hubAction to the D1 mini over WiFi.


(Sean) #18

Ok so in the blinds you use the moteino on special boards to control the servo In each blind


(Ben Lebson) #19

Correct, the hub uses a shield that someone else designed. I had to reflow all of the shields myself so if you’re uncomfortable with that you might be out of luck.


(Rick) #20

@blebson nice project! I wish I had a 3d printer! I would love to try this out. I have the same blinds as you, can you raise them up and down or only open and close them? I would love to contribute to this project. I know it said you decided to use the rf shield for the low power? But since the esp modules are so cheap. I don’t see why we couldn’t use a esp and skip your base station ? I would incorporate a 16850 battery and look into using the deep sleep mode of the esp. It would lower the cost and I would think we could use a esp mini or something small. What do you think ? Have you looked into the deep sleep mode for the esp module? The range on the esp is pretty good. :slight_smile: awesome project I would love to help out and start playing with some ideas.