Chirp! – the plant watering alarm

I’m a programmer/systems architect by education and by the way of winning bread, but somehow I got infected with the electronics bug 3 years ago – had a sidejob to upgrade the firmware of a LED display, got into microcontrollers, then made myself comfortable in analog.
Dave Jones has been saying in his videos – go on, make a product. So I’ve made one – even probably built “down to a price” at some extent. It is available for sale on Tindie, but read on…
hirp! - the plant watering alarm
It’s a “plant watering alarm” – you set the dry point, then water the plant and then it starts to chirp when the plant dries out. Chirps are rare at the beginning and more frequent when the water level gets really low. It has a LED hooked up as a light sensor, so it does not make noise at night.
I decided on a capacitive moisure sensing technique as it is superior to the resistive one – the circuit is totally isolated from the soil, thus it avoids problems with corrosion, battery life, electro-chemical effects and is more reliable and repeatable in general.
The first approach I’ve tried was straightforward – charge an unknown capacitance and measure the time it takes to discharge through known resistance. This works really well when building a makeshift capacitance meter for a lab, but wasn’t really suitable for my purposes. The noise was a problem – when capacitance is so low, you have to increase MCU speed and add a rather big resistance to get some decent dynamic range. This high impedance point picks up all kinds of noise that might be impossible to filter out because of aliasing. Another drawback – high speed and filtering in software implies external oscillator – this affects the battery life and BOM cost.
For more detail: Chirp! – the plant watering alarm

About The Author

Ibrar Ayyub

I am an experienced technical writer holding a Master's degree in computer science from BZU Multan, Pakistan University. With a background spanning various industries, particularly in home automation and engineering, I have honed my skills in crafting clear and concise content. Proficient in leveraging infographics and diagrams, I strive to simplify complex concepts for readers. My strength lies in thorough research and presenting information in a structured and logical format.

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