Successful Invention #1

One of the things that I always aspired to be when I “grew up” was an inventor. As a child, I would take apart toasters, pencil sharpeners, lawn mowers, and generally anything I could get my hands on that was broken and had some sort of intriguing moving parts. However, while I have come up with a number of concepts of my own over the years, until now there was never any actual follow-through.

Scenario: I have a thermostat in my apartment that I want to control with a schedule. I want to be able to cool down the house at night, but warm it up in the morning so I don’t have such a hard time waking up and getting out of bed. In previous apartment complexes, I was able to use a standard 7 day, programmable thermostat (available from Walmart, Lowes, or your favorite home supply store for around $30-$75). However, the heating system in my apartment complex here in Phoenix uses an old system and is incompatible with virtually all the programmable thermostats out there. I was only able to find one programmable thermostat out there that would work with my apartment’s heating/cooling system, but it didn’t have some of the capabilities that I was looking for. So I am basically limited to manually moving the needle on my thermostat by hand if I want to change the temperature. No programmable scheduling allowed!

Solution: Using a small servo, a mini SSC II controller, and a serial interface to connect it all to my computer, I built a remote controlled thermostat module. The servo is mounted on the wall above the thermostat and a string is connected to the needle. Once I figured out how to send commands to the servo using my computer’s com port, I interfaced it with PHP page on my local web server. I then built a flash-based interface with a draggable temperature slider that would send the proper positioning values to the PHP page. The end result… a thermostat in my living room that can be physically controlled from anywhere in the world over the internet.

Click here to watch a demonstration video clip!
(12 megs in size. Windows Media Player required.)


  • Dude- you totally have me cracking up here. You are awesome.


  • Your soooo creative! What a masterpiece. Thats Genius! Im very proud to call you my fiance.

  • Well, I always knew I had a smart kid! 🙂

    I love you!


  • Whoa!!!!!! Rofl! That totally rocks.

    You insanely amaze me sometimes.

  • Once again, you have made something uninteresting into something I will actually take time to read. That is a great quality. Hope youre having fun with that, me, on the other hand is stuck with cement floors and moving a thermostat by hand… guess I’m roughing it. Phfft.

  • That’s supposed to be I… not me. Right? Right.

  • Wow! I just loved that. It’s to bad you weren’t the first one to discover and patent the idea, or maybe you are. I did some plumbing at a 8,500 square foot cabin and he could control most everything from his wireless laptop computer.
    If I ever have a chance I’d simply love to sit down with you and learn some of these things. I’ve never had a master to learn from so I never really got thoroughly good with computers.

  • Yeah I’ve heard of a number of homes that are all automated and what not. I was reading about this one home that has tons of windows, and the blinds are all controlled by a computerized system. It will automatically adjust them according to the season of the year and time of day. You can also use a remote control to open/close and raise/lower them. Of course, that was just one tiny feature of this house. It had so many automated and computer controlled elements that they had a basement area the size of a tennis court, filled with computer equipment just to maintain everything. You can read more about it here.

  • By the way, just so you know, I am hardly a “master” at any of this. I just like to tinker with things and over time (15 years or so), I’ve managed to accumulate enough bits and pieces to have a minor foundation to work with. That, and Google. Yeah. I never would have been able to figure out how to interface that Mini SSC II servo controller through a web page, without google.

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