I ran a strip of WS2811, 12 volt LED’s in my home for years with a program from Bruhautomation which has kind of long since been obsolete and the author has archived the project. Served me well for years.
The new kid on the block for controlling LED’s for effect lighting is WLED by Aircookie. Awesome project. For some reason though the hardware I’ve always used to drive the LED strip wasn’t working reliably with my new WLED setup. Weird things like having the first 3 LED’s light up uncommanded while the strip was powered off and other things like not retaining the color or brightness from the last known state.
Translation: Data corruption.
The data signal that powers the LED comes from the ESP8266 chip and is a 3.3 volt signal. For a long run of lights to keep things working correctly we may need to amplify the signal to 5 volts.
This is where something called a Logic Level Shifter comes into play.
LED Effect Lighting
We’ve all seen those decorative LED strips in the big box stores. They are either controlled by a remote (who needs another remote control?) or by an app. I am here to tell you that the cheap Chinese lights and their apps are essentially spyware.
So to be safe we want to use an Open Source solution to power our lights. Enter, WLED by Aircookie. Before we go down the rabbit hole I want you to realize that this isn’t the typical geek project.
It is EASY! Anyone can do this. But to make it easy you’ll need a few things that could be optional if you cannot solder or you don’t have a drawer full of electronic geek stuff.
BEFORE I TALK TOO MUCH AND SCARE YOU OFF WE ARE GOING TO DO THIS ESSENTIALLY:
- PLUG IN A CHIP TO A COMPUTER
- OPEN A PROGRAM AND FLASH THAT CHIP WITH ONE BUTTON CLICK
- HOOK UP 5 WIRES
There are a lot of different LED strips and your selection will depend on what you are doing. Because I put a 4′ strip behind a workbench I used 5 volt strips. If you are doing a pretty long run, a 5 volt strip might not power all your lights without additional power injection. 12 volt strips MIGHT also require a level shifter on the data wires to get the signal down stream. Your ESP8266 chip will send a 3.3v data signal out. To make a long run you might need 5 volts. A level shifter turns a 3.3 volt signal into a 5 volt signal. But I digress. Let’s keep this simple.
On to the Build Of Materials:
I’ve actually blogged about this before but I bought some more of these and just think that the Sonoff S31 is the best power monitoring device going. I got mine on Amazon for about $18 each and I think you can find them a buck or two cheaper in other places. Just make sure that you don’t purchase the Sonoff S31 LITE.. The Lite version DOES NOT power monitor.
The devices work with an app called EWELink but the company that makes all this is called iTead and they are a Chinese company based in China and some people have caught their app sending back interesting information to the home server in China. In short……..I don’t trust the app. You can use them right out of the box with the app but that’s not what I’m all about here at John’s Tech Blog.
So what I do is to modify the devices firmware with something called Tasmota which works on Wifi, creates a web page that displays all your vital information and it ONLY reports to any server if you TELL IT TO. Mine reports to MY machine to machine protocol server (MQTT) so I can tie the switches into my Home Automation software so I can turn them on and off. Also you can do really cool stuff which I won’t go into here in great detail. For example, I can have it send me an email if it sees a refrigerator showing so many watts for so long a period of time. Excessive wattage would be from the light bulb being on so maybe me pulling 60 extra watts for 2 minutes means someone left the door ajar. Cool.
I have an old refrigerator in my garage which I suspected was a power hog. I bought a Sonoff S31 Power Monitoring outlet and flashed it with custom firmware (Tasmota) and blogged about that here.
I’ve since figured out you can do a WHOLE LOT MORE with a Tasmota flashed Sonoff S31. I figure there are two important things you’d want to know about an old refrigerator.
- Is it running?
- Has the door been left open?
Both answers can be tackled with home automation. I use the EXCELLENT program HomeAssistant. So let’s get to it, shall we?
Found these cool little outlets on Amazon and verified they can be flashed with Tasmota Over The Air (OTA). They are technically called “Home Awesome Breathing Light Smart Light.
They are also sold under the name TMRLife Plug
They are another made in China device that is controlled via phone app and I generally don’t trust such things. Flashing the device with Open Source firmware is MUCH better for securities sake.
In the interest of being good stewards of the planet AND saving money it’s a good idea to keep an eye on energy consumption. But how? You’ve probably seen commercials for Sense Energy Monitors but that seems kind of extreme to me. Also it has a learning algorithm that takes MONTHS to work and some items never get properly identified.
I’m taking the ONE AT A TIME approach by using simple outlets that can be used for single applications. Introducing the Sonoff S31
Very cool and also reasonably inexpensive. These work right out of the box and link to an app called EWELink.
Just for the record I think EWELink is CRAP.
Also this is Cloud based and the Cloud lands in China somewhere which really doesn’t appeal to me at all. So we’re going to flash this device with Tasmota firmware and no more talky talky to China.
In my quest for the perfect low voltage or dry contact garage door relay I stumbled across this one that I found on Amazon
Seems like it might have been made by ITead because it came programmed with EWELink software. Having said that I cannot find it on their website and I also thought it might be a Sonoff brand name. I still think it is ITead but I just can’t prove it.
I was using a Sonoff 4 Channel Pro relay in my “Smart Garage Door” project however it was big time overkill. I only need one relay to pull this off. In addition to this I was using a NodeMCU ESP8266 to act separately as the garage door sensor. So in essence I had:
- Spare Remote Control (for Security 2.0 garage door opener)
- Sonoff 4 Channel Pro Relay
- NodeMCU ESP8266 Chip for Door sensor
Now I have
- Spare Remote Control
- Sonoff SV
Decided to put a smaller, single channel relay in my Garage Door project. I ordered what I believe is an ITead Sonoff Inching Relay.
This module is preloaded with software and you can use an iPhone to trigger the relay using an app called EweLink
Basically you start the chip up, connect to its WiFi network and configure it to yours.
You see all these Home Security systems being advertised all the time and they all have one gotcha. Some kind of charge every month. Why not just make your own? Also it costs PENNIES on the dollar compared to some of those others.
One of the biggest components of home security is knowing the state of windows and doors. And that is very simple to obtain and with INEXPENSIVE hardware. This guy is the backbone to this project:
This is a NodeMCU ESP8266 Internet of Things (IoT) chip. Translation: It’s a little teeny tiny small board computer with a wifi antenna on it.
You can get ESP8266 devices WAY cheaper than this even though this guy only costs $9 or so. A couple of things I like about it are that it has a Micro USB input connector on it and the legs are already soldered on.