Saturday, August 26, 2023

Unveiling the Air We Breathe: A Journey through Air Quality Monitoring and Insights

In light of the California wildfires over the past few years and our recent move to the Midwest, I've developed a strong interest in monitoring the air quality at our home. The same curiosity was sparked by the presence of smoke from the Canadian wildfires. To fulfill this interest, I've been utilizing PurpleAir, a platform that provides insight into the current air quality around our residence. One of the notable features of PurpleAir is its ability for community air quality monitors to share their data with a broader audience.

Upon relocating to this new area and wanting to stay informed about the air quality in our neighborhood, I delved into the data offered by PurpleAir. Unfortunately, the nearest sensor is situated more than a mile away and operates within a different micro-climate, which could influence the accuracy of the air quality measurements.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Unleashing Home Automation Magic: From Zigzagging with SkyConnect to Soaring with Hubitat

In a previous blog entry, I delved into the fascinating realm of leveraging SkyConnect to interconnect my Zigbee devices with my home automation system. While it seemed like a walk in the park to incorporate Zigbee devices into my Home Assistant setup, I'm here to shed light on some rather unfortunate downsides that cropped up during this experiment.

The crux of the issue lay in the somewhat petite antenna housed within the SkyConnect. This pint-sized component led to a rather finicky connection experience with my Zigbee devices. You wouldn't believe the number of times my sensors and switches decided to take an impromptu leave of absence from the Zigbee network. The result? Automation hiccupped, leaving me high and dry without the expected triggers. And on those rare occasions when triggers managed to sneak through, the devices decided to play hard to control.

Now, let's talk about compatibility woes. The SkyConnect supports just Zigbee and Thread protocols. That might not be a deal-breaker, but here's the rub: I've got a fair share of Z-Wave devices I'm not ready to part with. The grand plan was to simplify my smart home's intricate web, and adding yet another system into the mix for handling the Z-Wave network just didn't tickle my fancy. One system to connect the low-powered wireless devices—that was the dream.

But wait, there's more! Compatibility gremlins struck again. A number of devices I attempted to pair with the SkyConnect ended up being flaky, where they periodically dropped off the network. It's like the functionalities were playing a game of hide and seek. Here's the kicker—I yearned for a system where either the company had its act together or a thriving community would come to the rescue, waving magic wands in the form of drivers to unlock those missing functions.

Introducing Hubitat

Now, hold onto your seats, because after some serious deep diving, I stumbled upon a hero in the home automation arena—Hubitat. Picture this: an automation hub that flaunts wireless radios tuned in to not just Zigbee, but also Z-Wave and a bunch of other protocols. Say adios to the single-protocol constraint; Hubitat had my attention.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Unveiling the Journey: From Tempest Weather Station to Magic Mirror - A Triumph in Weather Data Integration

Some time back, I shared my experience with the Tempest Weather Station, a fantastic tool that keeps us informed about the weather conditions at our home. This has been remarkably invaluable during the more extreme weather events this summer.

However, it's important to note that having the weather station installed is only half the battle; making the data accessible is what truly enhances its usefulness. A while ago, I implemented a solution in the form of a Magic Mirror – a project I undertook to display various helpful information for our household. The base software for the Magic Mirror incorporates weather data display capabilities, with OpenWeatherMap as the primary weather provider. Nonetheless, we encountered an issue with the data accuracy from this provider, as its temperature readings consistently skewed higher than the actual temperatures at our location.

The built-in weather module does allow for alternative weather providers, leading me on a quest to figure out how to funnel the weather data from our Tempest Weather station to one of these providers for display on the mirror. The Tempest Weather station supports data export to Weather Underground in the stock setup. However, the built-in weather module lacked the capability to interpret data from Weather Underground.

Discovering WeeWX

Since the stock weather module already integrated support for OpenWeatherMap, I decided to send the Tempest's weather data to OpenWeatherMap. However, given that this functionality wasn't native to the Tempest, I stumbled upon WeeWX – a project designed to collect data from various weather stations and present it on a customizable dashboard. Additionally, WeeWx offered the functionality to export data to local and cloud-based weather providers.

Despite WeeWx's broad compatibility with different weather stations, it didn't inherently support the Tempest Weather Station. But, taking advantage of WeeWX's plugin architecture, a solution emerged through the creation of the weatherflow-udp plugin. This clever plugin intercepted the UDP packets transmitted by the Tempest, effectively capturing and recording the data.

Once I successfully integrated the Tempest data into WeeWx, the next challenge was to export this data to OpenWeatherMap. Given that direct support wasn't available, my search led me to the weewx-owm plugin, facilitating weather data export to OpenWeatherMap. After setting up the plugin, I was able to transfer the weather data to OpenWeatherMap.

Unlocking Raspberry Pi Potential: Navigating Network Booting Challenges for Enhanced Performance and Reliability

I've set up several Raspberry Pis around our house for various projects, but one recurring challenge is the potential for SD card failur...