I've got a newbie-ish electronics topic for discussion that doesn't pertain specifically to Arduino so hopefully I can get some feedback in here.
I've got enough of a background to solder things together and write code, but I'm really a self-taught hack with some large holes in my knowledge. I'm getting ready to build my first substantial, permanent project and I'm hoping you can all help.
The topic I'm interested in is making a project "rugged" enough to survive in the real world. I realize this is a broad and hard to describe problem, but I'm at least looking for some pointers or good references to read on the subject.
Here's the situation. I'm going to have a big fish tank in my home, with an Arduino to control certain aspects of it (turning lights on and off, logging data, etc.) I've got prototypes working just fine, but they're on breadboards. Not exactly the sort of thing I want to stick in an environment that can be hot and humid.
So, how do I tackle this? My thoughts:
1) Put the Arduino in a project box. But what's the "best practice" for making connections to the Arduino itself? Are these little .1" breakaway headers really good enough, or do I need to use some other connector? Or solder directly to the board?
2) Once I've got connections made to the board, how do I penetrate the project box? Do I use a panel-mounted terminal strip and connect cables to the exterior? That would make removal for servicing convenient. Or, so I just run cables through grommets and connect internally?
3) What sort of connections can I use "out in the field" to connect sensors, etc.? I'll have some one wire sensors, and PWM signals from the Arduino controlling some devices.
4) In general, how do I determine what the max. cable lengths can be? For instance, if I have a PWM pin on the Arduino giving a signal to an LED driver, can the cable run be 1' long? 10'? Do I determine by experiment?
5) The environment is going to be electrically noisy, too. I'm going to have a VFD controlling a 1/2 hp 3-phase motor, which I've been told is "electrically very noisy." Do I need to provide some sort of shielding for the Arduino itself? What about One Wire and PWM cable runs? Do they need shielding?
Again, I realize my questions are probably wide open and I'm probably not providing enough info for anyone to actually answer, but can I at least get some pointers?