Greenhouse temperature

Having just installed a new greenhouse, we thought it might be a good idea to monitor the temperature in greenhouse. You would think that there are lots of solutions out there. Nothing complicated. Just a display in the house showing the current temperature in the greenhouse, plus maximum and minimum. Maybe a graph. And connected wireless somehow.

There must be loads around. Let’s look on Google! MMMmm. I must be searching on the wrong terms. Where are they?

The closest I could find is a solution from a company called Ubibot. You will find them here: Ubibot.com. They produce a variety of WiFi environmental sensors for industrial and commercial use. I bought one of their cheaper sensors (WS1) for £78 on Amazon just to see if I can get it to work. Ubibot have a store page on Amazon. You will find it here. The WS1 sensor measures temperature, humidity and light levels. More than a enough for a greenhouse!

Image of the Ubibot WS1 sensor.

According to the blurb that comes with the device, 2xAA batteries will power the device for 4-6 months based on readings that are taken every 15 mins. The device connects to the internet via WiFi and the data is stored in Ubibot’s cloud based platform. There is no subscription fee and it is free to use within certain usage limits. It is clearly designed for much larger scale use and I doubt that one sensor in a greenhouse is ever going to reach the limits of the free account.

The Challenge

The main challenge with this device is setting it up. Obviously with a device at this price point, it has a pretty limited user interface and this can be a challenge when setting it up. Combine this with some fairly scant instructions and if it doesn’t all go to plan first time, then you can be in trouble. This happened to me as something went wrong when I was trying to connect it to me home WiFi. I was trying to do this using my iPhone and connecting to the devices on WiFi network. Somehow, it all went wrong. Even though I had followed the instructions. I reverted to the PC based pages. That didn’t help either.

I finally cracked it by using Ubibot’s PC offline tools. You can download them from here. There was the briefest of mentions of it in some of the Ubibot support pages. It allows you to connect to the device using the micro USB port and set it up without connecting to it via WiFi. You have to download some software from the Ubibot site (the install was a little quirky!), but it was a cinch to set up via this route. I wish I had tried this in the first place as it would have saved so much time! It was much easier than trying to connect to it via WiFi.

Once set up, it connected to my home WiFi network and started posting measurements every 15 minutes! The device (and it’s measurements) appear on the Ubibot data warehousing pages. The main screen shows the latest readings and clicking on the device opens up a set of historical graphs. Wow!

The good stuff

  • Even though my iPhone was showing only one bar on my WiFi, the WS1 has connected to our WiFi in the house. I am guessing that it is 20m to the greenhouse through a number of thick masonry walls. The WS1 only supports 2.4G WiFi and not 5G WiFi so it is more susceptible to physical obstructions between the access point and the sensor.
  • Now the data from the WS1 is on the Ubibot platform, I can set up a number of alerts (e.g. sending an email) if some of the data readings reach particular limits. There are some really cool options here. Most of them totally OTT for a greenhouse!
  • Now the data is on the internet, it is possible to view it from anywhere or even share the data with others. Just on the off-chance that someone wants to know the temperature in your greenhouse!
  • It integrates with Alexa too! You need to add Ubibot as a skill to Alexa. Just follow the instructions here then you can say “Alexa, what is the temperature of the Greenhouse?” It took me a couple of minutes to set this up. I wasn’t sure how useful this feature might be – either way, it makes a cool demo!
Summary table from the Ubibot site displaying the WS1 sensor that has just been installed.
Here’s the view from the data warehouse table view.
Detailed information page for this sensor from the Ubibot site.
Here’s the detailed sensor view. There’s not much data here yet as I only got it working this morning!

And we are back!!

WordPress.org logo - Manually updating WordPress

I have had a bit of a nightmare with WordPress for the last few weeks. It seems that an automatic update at the end of last year didn’t work as it should have and a number of the core WordPress files were missed out during the update. The result was the blog went offline and should did the admin dashboard! I had no way of getting into it to fix it!

Here’s the error message I was getting: “PHP Fatal error: Cannot redeclare _wp_register_meta_args_whitelist() (previously declared in /home/j6yrsllk82zz/public_html/blog/wp-includes/meta.php:1394) in /home/j6yrsllk82zz/public_html/blog/wp-includes/deprecated.php on line 4060”.

So today was spent getting things back up and running. Fortunately, it seems to be back working

The fix entailed:

  • Background reading on what to do and how. Unfortunately, I am not a WordPress expert;
  • Backing up all of the content and the database for my blog (I didn’t want to lose any content);
  • Installing a new clean set of WordPress files and overwriting any old ones that might have got corrupted previously;

Now we are back up and running. We are on the latest version of WordPress (5.7) and I everything looks like it is working as it should. I haven’t had chance to check all the pages, but it looks like there isn’t anything missing. And the good news is that the content is backed up too! All 2.3Gb of it!

There is a good article here on what to do if you need to manually install WordPress: https://wordpress.org/support/article/updating-wordpress. I also found this video helpful too: https://youtu.be/5UH7F_tGyRs

Shattered rooflight

The rooflights in the lounge and kitchen were installed in November 2013. http://www.haggleysfarm.co.uk/blog/?p=3398

Today, one of the panes in the lounge rooflights shattered. I only noticed it when I returned home. It can’t have happened long before I got it as it was still making a “tinkling” noise. It was the outer pane of a double glazed unit, so there was no mess inside the house.

We have had some really hot weather for the past couple of days, so I think it must have expanded it the heat.

We’ll have to work out how to get it replaced. But at least it isn’t about to fall inside the house as it is the outer pane that has gone.

Shattered rooflight

These rooflights were supplied by Standard Patent Glazing over in Dewsbury. Someone came out within a couple of days and assessed the damage. It looks like something has hit the glass from the outside, but it is difficult to tell. Unfortunately, it was out of it’s warranty period and it cost us £400 to get it replaced. However, it was done within a couple of weeks and the whole process was pretty painless.

Update on WiFi access points

Yep, they work! We now have around 60Mb/s through WiFi rather than the 5Mb/s we had previously! I have replaced both of the old TPlink 801ND.

When we originally moved into the property, we were on a slow broadband connection so the bottleneck was the broadband connection and not the WiFi access points. Now we are on Superfast Broadband, the bottleneck isn’t the broadband anymore, but the access points. It was time to change.

The property is large so we need multiple WiFi access points to ensure that every room is covered. Because we have ethernet access points everywhere, it is straightforward to install individual WAPs connected to a central switch. There is no need for an expensive Mesh network.

Plus, these new access points look much neater than the old ones!

New WiFi access points

Well, with the Corona Virus lockdown in full swing, it is time to get on with those jobs that have been hanging around for a while.

Next up: New WiFi access points.

While trying to fix an issue with a laptop on our wired network yesterday, I spotted that a number of devices connected to our network switch were connected at 100M rather than 1000M. In fact, this was the problem with the laptop connection – for some reason it was connecting at the slower speed. Anyway, while fixing that problem, I noticed that there were a number of other devices connected at 100M.

The Loxone mini server was one. No great drama there as the throughput is going to be low. But the WiFi access points were also showing up as connecting on 100M rather than 1000M (gigabit connection). Well, a quick look at the specs for the access points (TPLink 801N) did indeed confirm that they only support 100M.

When we moved into the property, we were on a slow broadband connection (just about 8Mb/s download) so the WAPs connecting at 100M wasn’t really a problem. However, in 2018 BT’ Infinity became available and our connection suddenly stepped up to around 60Mb/s download and 15Mb/s upload.

Time for some new ones! The existing WAPs have been installed since 2014. You can still buy them for around £30, but after 6 years I don’t think they really owe me anything.

In terms of replacement, I was looking for something with a gigabit connection to the network. Plus something that looked half decent. I settled for a TPLink AC1350. I have been happy with the original TPLink, so I decided on a simple upgrade for a faster, better looking unit.

I have bought one unit which arrives tomorrow. If it works ok, we will need a second one. But let’s just try one to start.

TPLink AC1350
New WiFi access point – TP Link AC1350

Chickens coming home to roost!

The new chicken coup in the orchard (the chickens are in there, honest!)
See! I told you there were in there!

Well, there isn’t much good news around at the moment, so it is important to make the best of things while you can! Jo has always wanted chickens, but being away 3 days a week in London has caused logistical problems in keeping chickens. Who is going to feed them? Who is going to let them out and then put them away at night?

Now that it looks as if we are going to be be working from home for the next 10-12 weeks, it seemed like a good idea to get some chickens! Why not?? We can sort the logistics out later!

The chicken coup arrived yesterday – I rather smart unit from Omlet. It is incredibly well thought through. It looks and feels fairly bomb-proof and as long as we remember to put them away at night, the foxes (and badgers) shouldn’t get to them. This coup can take up to 4 chickens, but we have only three.

The chickens arrived shortly afterwards. From a local supplier – Hinchcliffes. Two White stars and a black Nero.

No eggs yet. Plenty of poop!

TV distribution amplifier

LDU608G

I guess that it isn’t surprising after living in the house for five years that some pieces of kit need to be replaced.

This week I have had to replace one of the TV distribution amplifiers. Not surprising, but not the first one that I have had to replace since we have been here. The TV signal started to get a “bit blocky” on some of the HD channels. Eventually, I tracked it down to one of the amplifiers – there are two in the property (I wish I had labelled some of the cables better!). I suspect a recent thunder storm might have been the culprit.

Anyway, I have taken the opportunity to replace it with a slightly better unit. This Labgear amp looks and feels particularly well made. They aren’t expensive either – about £50 from Amazon.

Update on the Belzona 5122

We applied Belzona 5122 to a couple of areas on the property that were particularly susceptible to wet weather.  We have only ever applied it once (in February 2014) and it seems to have done the trick – no more water ingress problems.

So the question is: Six years later, is it still working?

Well, we have had some really wet weather recently and I took the opportunity to rephotograph the areas where we had applied the Belzona.  You can’t see it dry days, so you have to wait until it is wet before trying to photograph it.  For reference, I have also included a photograph from October 2014 (six months after it was first applied) so that you can see the difference.  If you search on Belzona on this blog, you will find the original posts.

So six years on and it is still doing it’s job!  In fact, the photographs seem to show that there really hasn’t been that much of a degradation of it’s effect.  And there has been no water ingress! The good news is that you can still get it (try www.belzona.co.uk) – you will often see it referred to as “Clear Cadding”.  It seemed expensive at the time, but it has more than done it’s job.  All in all, pretty impressive!

February 2020 and 5 years later the Belzona 5122 is clearly still doing it’s job!

February 2020 and a close up view of the masonry after it has rained. The Belzona5122 was originally applied in February 2014!

October 2014! Here you can see the impact that the Belzona has had on the way the stonework is absorbing the rain water. I hadn’t really noticed this before as there is no impact on the colour of the stonework when it is dry.

New weather station

I have eventually managed to get our new weather station online this weekend.

To be fair, installing the new weather station was a breeze!  It is a set up in terms of quality from the previous weather stations that we have had.  Unfortunately, it was a step up in price too!  It was made even more expensive since I bought two consoles – one for connection to the computer that uploads the data and one for general use inside the house.

The weather station is a Davis Vantage Vue and is aimed at the semi-professional and educational markets.  It is installed in the top field with the outdoor sensors being attached to a newly acquired TV aerial mast and standoff bracket from Screwfix.  I have attached the mast to one of the large stone gate posts using some threaded bar sunk and glued into a set of holes.  This means that the mast can be unbolted and relocated if necessary.  At the moment, we are using just one section of pole even though it came with two sections in the pack.

This is positioned about 75m from the house and works perfectly.  The fact that all the sensors are in one unit makes it look a lot neater than some of the other products.

This is positioned about 75m from the house and works perfectly. The fact that all the sensors are in one unit makes it look a lot neater than some of the other products.

I drilled some over-sized holes into this stone gate post.  I then used anchor set to fix some threaded bar into the holes (actually, these were bolts with the heads cut off).  I then used some nuts and washers to adjust the pole so that it was fixed in the upright position. Shame the camera wasn't level!

I drilled some over-sized holes into this stone gate post. I then used anchor set to fix some threaded bar into the holes (actually, these were bolts with the heads cut off). I then used some nuts and washers to adjust the pole so that it was fixed in the upright position. Shame the camera wasn’t level!

New weather station in position.  It is probably about 6ft high as we are only using one section of the TV mast.  The pole is raised off the ground so that we can strim underneath it.

New weather station in position. It is probably about 6ft high as we are only using one section of the TV mast. The pole is raised off the ground so that we can strim underneath it.

The main issue has been how to get the weather station to upload data to the Internet.  The supplier that I used suggested that I needed to use the Davis Weatherlink software for this, but we are currently using the Cumulus software that can be freely downloaded from the Internet.  It provides all the features that we need, plus it supports a wide variety of weather stations including our new one.  What could have been simpler!

Well, the Cumulus software wants to communicate with the Davis weather station via a serial port and the data logger dongle on the weather station is USB.  So there are two tricks to get this to work…..

Firstly, you need to map a serial port on your computer to map onto the USB port.  You are going to need some software to enable this, but the good news is that you can download this for free.  I used the UART bridge software from Silicon Labs.  You will find it here.  Download the correct version for your Operating System and then plug in the weather station via a USB port to activate the software (the COM port will not show up in Device Manager unless there is an active device connected to the COM port).

Secondly, you need to configure the correct port on Cumulus.  This is relatively straightforward, but confused me for a while.  Once you have the software installed above, plug in your weather station and go to device manager on your computer. If you look at the ports in the list, it will show which port number is being used for the USB.  It is probably either port 3 or 4.  Now go to the configuration page in the Cumulus software and enter the port number in the appropriate field.  You will need to save the configuration and then restart the software.  Bingo!  It should now work.

With the software installed and the weather station attached, device manager is showing that one COM port is active. In this case, it is COM3.

With the software installed and the weather station attached, device manager is showing that one COM port is active. In this case, it is COM3.

 

You need to select Serial in the Davis Type and then select the COM port number (in this case 4). If you don't, you will get an error -32701 from Cumulus when it tries to initialize the weather station.

You need to select Serial in the Davis Type and then select the COM port number (in this case 4). If you don’t, you will get an error -32701 from Cumulus when it tries to initialize the weather station.