Simplified heating control for elderly - guidance reqd pls

My 95 year old father in law, who continues to live on his own in his own home (albeit with our support) has virtually no vision now. He's also finding it almost impossible to learn new things.

He's having real trouble with his heating control as he can no longer see any kind of thermostat - we've tried all the large display versions. So, I've dreamt up a very 'simple' interface of two push buttons with embedded LEDs which we have tested and proved he can both 'see' and use.

It occurs to me this could form the basis of some form of open source program so thers could benefit too.

My concept is this. A standalone box with two momentary buttons (one backlit blue & one backlit red) a speaker and a temperature sensor.

It would work thus:

  • when the boiler was being 'called for' the red LED would be 'on'
  • when boiler NOT being called for red LED would be 'off'
  • press any button and get a 'welcome chime' and the current space temp read out e.g. "Bing bong, it is twenty one point five degrees"
  • at that point both LEDS (red & blue would start flashing) and you'd hear, "To raise the temperature press the red button, to lower the temperature press the blue button"
  • when either is pressed the new set point temp is read out. If the button is pressed quickly, the announcement is curtailed and the new value read out.
  • after 5 seconds of no further presses it announces, "The new set point is XX.X)
  • after a further 5 seconds the flashing buttons go back to either solid or off (i.e. stand by mode)

Ideally the 'voice' recording needs to be a family member so it is familiar and comforting but that's not vital at all.

I'm very aware that the 'simplicity' of this requires a lot working behind it so where do I start? Please?

I do want this to be something EVERYONE can access for their family.

Thank you in advance

If you want sound and, especially a recordable voice, then I suspect a RaspberryPi would be more suitable than an Arduino.

I don't understand "called for" in this bit

  • when the boiler was being 'called for' the red LED would be 'on'
  • when boiler NOT being called for red LED would be 'off'

...R

'Called for' means in this instance the relay output is turned on.

Hmm. Do understand about the Pi, but is it possible with the Mega? Thinking maybe that we record some files and it just reads them from say ad SD card??

Apologies. I already have an Arduino Mega but have never used it. Seems wasteful not to! Also need advice on what hardware needs to be added to make it work.

The temp monitoring needs to have some form of hysteresis too. Thinking 0.5 deg above and 0.5 below but guessing they could be altered as variables

The output is just a relay. All control is in the boiler itself.

Thanks

YorkshireDave:
Hmm. Do understand about the Pi, but is it possible with the Mega? Thinking maybe that we record some files and it just reads them from say ad SD card??

Arduinos can make beep tones but they are pretty crap at producing proper sound from (say) a WAV file. See this TMRh20 PCM library.

You could add an MP3 player module.

But none of this will give the facility to record sounds.

I know your focus is on a system to help an elderly and infirm person but if you want your system to be managed by the elderly person’s carers don’t make the mistake of thinking that the carers will understand anything more than the very simplest of setting up instructions. Something with a decent sized LCD and lots of explanatory text for the person managing the system will be important IMHO. And that is much easier with an RPi. The LCD can be hidden behind a cover so that the elderly person is not confused by it.

…R

I would look at this product:-

This is what I can get out of a Uno with a PWM output like ( but not identical to ) the TMRpwm libiary.

GM thanks. I had identified that one whilst looking through what was available. Good to know.

Robin thank you. We don't need to record sounds. Reading through teh known issues with the library it talks about being processor intensive. As we are only looking at reading a sensor, applying some hysterisis and operating a replay (low priority) then having some kind of polling loop to monitor the buttons and when found waking the thing up doesn't sound too complicated in teh scheme of things... Sorry but my language will be completely wrong here as I've no idea what I'm doing :wink:

Fact is, I have to start somewhere :wink:

I agree it needs lots more to make it configurable, but at 95 what's important is his remaining time so time is of the essence. He's cared for by us so that not an issue here.

I can recommend a DFPlayer Mini. You can get them very cheaply on eBay.

$_1 (4).JPG

You can record your messages in MP3 format using a PC/laptop, then save them onto a micro-SD card. Each file name should start with a 3 digit number, for example 100_The_temperature_is.mp3, 020_twenty.mp3, 007_seven.mp3 and so on. Use whatever system of numbering makes sense to you.

Then insert the micro-SD card info the DFPlayer, connect it to the Arduino with just 3 or 4 wires. The player can be connected directly to a small speaker because it has a built-in amplifier, which will be quite loud enough even if your father in law is a bit "Mutton Jeff". The Arduino sketch can then ask the player to play a particular file by sending the 3 digit number.

For temperature sensing, I can recommend a ds18b20 sensor. They are also relatively easy to use, cheap and easily available from eBay/Amazon.

$_1 (4).JPG

Incidentally I am having the same sort of problem with my father in law who is “only” 88. He insists on keeping the heating on all through the summer but then complains it is too hot at night. Any suggestion about turning the heating off is met with a blank refusal.

YorkshireDave:
I agree it needs lots more to make it configurable, but at 95 what’s important is his remaining time so time is of the essence. He’s cared for by us so that not an issue here.

My comments were made on the basis of this in your Original Post

It occurs to me this could form the basis of some form of open source program so thers could benefit too.

I thought you already have all the functionality you need for your own system.

…R

Why allow anyone to change the thermostat? We have a heat pump in our home and the temp is set to 72F. If the house temp gets above 76F, the pump switches to cooling. Very seldom changed.

Our previous home we rented out for several years and replace it's old AC with a new heat pump. The new, modern thermostat would turn on the the 80 amp/230 volt backup heat anytime the temp was changed more than 1 degree. So, renter could not turn temp down at night and up in the morning without tremendous electric bill. They just left it set to 72, like we have. I left instructions for the new owner to do the same.

The thermostat at my plant has a locking cover on it so employees can't sneak over and change the heat. Some like it hot, some like it cold. Many office buildings have the same plastic cover on their thermostats.

I suspect your father can find some agreeable temp and the thermostat can just be left at one setting.

Paul

You could just have two push button switches, one a bit higher than the other.

The top button makes a high pitch tone and raises the temperature by 1 or 2 degrees.
The bottom button makes a low tone and lowers the temperature by 1 or 2 degrees.

The high temperature setting has a top maximum limit.
The low temperature setting has a lower minimum limit.

At night the temperature reduces to a preset value, maybe morning the temperature is raised.

.

Paul_KD7HB:
Why allow anyone to change the thermostat?

I was wondering that too: isn't the whole point to define a suitable temperature and never fiddle with it?

Last house I lived in in the UK had a thermostat and a timer, so it turned the whole lot off regardless of the temp from (iirc) about 11pm to 5am, since then blankets were doing the job, but the house was warm by the time we got up.

I'd be inclined to go for a system and timer with perhaps a few different settings based on time. That way the night time temp could be lower, but still on: father-in-law won't freeze if he gets up at 2am to go to the loo, but he's not wasting energy and money keeping the house fully heated through the night.

Paul. I appreciate your comments. However, you must trust me to understand the needs of my elderly Father In Law and to understand what is best for him. I apologise if what he needs doesn't match your expectations or experience, but it is as it is. Unfortunately, your 'suspicion' is incorrect this time.

Larry. Whilst I love the simplicity, what we have found is that he would simply forget what the noises mean. This, unfortunately means its a non starter for him, but obviously suitable for others. The other issue is night setback. Many older people have odd waking and sleeping times. He certainly does. He can go to bed at 9 one day and be up at 2am and the next go to bed at midnight and sleep till 10! What this means is that is no pattern to be able to program.

Ken. Perhaps now you see its not so simple. Perhaps now you can see why I have chosen what I have.

Any pointers greatly appreciated :wink:

YorkshireDave:
Any pointers greatly appreciated :wink:

I have lost track of what you want help with?

I thought you were looking for help to convert your domestic system into something more general for public distribution.

Assuming you are still at the design stage for your own system then it seems to me the simplest thing is a pair of buttons, one above the other. As long as the buttons are visible I can't see any need for LEDs or sounds. Just push the top button to increase the temperature in steps (up to some sensible limit that you have set). And push the bottom button to lower the temperature in steps down to some preset minimum.

It might be a idea to allow only one step change every 30 minutes (say) to give time for the change to permeate through the house.

...R

PS, I would not rule out the psychological value of a pair of buttons that do nothing if you are satisfied that the underlying heating system is set properly and performing reliably.

And there is a lot of psychological value in something to complain about and something which the dutiful and competent son can fix.

Robin. I need help with what I asked for in the OP.
It disappoints me hugely that posts are not read in their entirety.
Please understand he is PARTIALLY SIGHTED.
Please understand, and trust that, I know his needs.

YorkshireDave:
Robin. I need help with what I asked for in the OP.
It disappoints me hugely that posts are not read in their entirety.
Please understand he is PARTIALLY SIGHTED.
Please understand, and trust that, I know his needs.

Maybe you need to re-read what you wrote. I see this

So, I've dreamt up a very 'simple' interface of two push buttons with embedded LEDs which we have tested and proved he can both 'see' and use.

It occurs to me this could form the basis of some form of open source program so thers could benefit too.

and it says to me "I have made a system for my dad and I would like to generalize it so that others could benefit"

And I read everything else in your OP in that context and I seem to have been wasting my time making suggestions in that context up to my Reply #14

As far as I am aware the suggestion I made for UP and DOWN buttons in Reply #14 fully respects both of your points

Please understand he is PARTIALLY SIGHTED.
Please understand, and trust that, I know his needs.

...R

Maybe I can help you. I am a programmer, problem solver, troubleshooter.
What are your skills?
are you good with electronics? making the box?
and your programming skills?

Robin. The clue is in the language, "dreamt up". Nowhere have I said, "I have made". Thank you for your contribution.

Juraj. Thank you.

I am pretty comfortable with electronics and electrical systems. I've been making projects of one form or another for nearly 50 years. I used to programme in Basic but that was thirty plus years ago. I built my first computer in 1978 out of components - soldering every single one into the MoBo. In those days one programmed in assembly language. I used to run worldwide product support for Trend BMS systems so I know control systems for teh built environment.

Making the box, wiring it etc I find very simple. Would prefer through hole components rather than surface mount :wink:

Regards David

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