Total noobie - so much info here - need advice on where to start a project!

Hi everyone!

Wow, so much information on this forum and www site, really didn't know where to start so thougt I'd pop up a post and ask!

Background: Many years ago I worked within instrumentation and control systems, and though I left that industry many years ago, I have always carried the love and interest for this subject with me. In the back of my mind, I have always this strange idea of building a small project where I could simply control say the speed of a fan to manage temperature at a point, or control the power to the element to manage the temperature etc - and then plot some intersting graphs of PID control etc. Geekish, yes, but it takes all sorts doesn't it, and this is interesting to me all the same.

So, a day or so ago I started actually looking online for how I could possibly achieve something like this using software/hardware on my Macbook etc, and have come across the wonderful Arduino!

Now - given the massive amount of info on the site, I really have absolutely no idea where to start with this, and though of course I will steadily read through the myriad of information and example projects on the site and forum etc, I wondered if someone who is already enlightened in all things Arduino could possibly point me in the right direction with what Arduino equipment I would need to purchase, software to buy etc to commence such a project.

Bit More Detail: What I would actually want to do is something like this: Have a rig where say a hairdryer/heating element is blowing air over a temperature sensor, and I'd want to have the ability to somehow control the temperature at that point - either by fan control or element control, then measure and plot the temperature over time and just experiment with the PID control algorithm etc to see the different effects. Is this possible to achieve with an Arduino project? Maybe I am batting right up the wrong tree, but thought I'd ask here nonetheless.

I'd love to get started with this silly project/hobby/idea I've had in my head for many years, so if anyone could advise I would be most grateful.

Hope someone can help.

regards all John


Is this possible to achieve with an Arduino project?


If you're willing to take one step at a time, you can learn a lot quickly with Arduino.

There are lots of starter kits and How-To out there. One I did is HERE. Maybe read thru those 'lessons' to get an idea.

To move ahead to higher power stuff, you can us a solid state relay like THIS to control things.

Temperature measurement: See the DS18B20 HERE and for HIGH temperatures see THIS

There is a great PID site HERE

If you're into building stuff things like THIS are possible...

People here will be happy to answer questions, especially if they include enough detail and pointers.

Very plausible. If you want to play with PID, for best results you want proportional control of your output. So rather than a hairdryer where you have few settings, consider using a fan you can control with PWM and a heating element it can blow air over.

Thanks for the prompt replies both, much appreciated.

Terry - that's some fantastic informatiob there, thank you. I have already ordered my starter kit, only a UNO but with an LM35 for me to practice coding and measuring temp etc.

So WildBill - totally get you re the 240v (here in UK) needed to control such things as hairdyers etc, so would I use something like a 12v ceramic heating element and would something like that give off enough heat to raise the temp of a small sensor say a few inches away considerably?

I know it's geeky, but I have always fancied building a small rig with a heater, fan and temperature sensor - for me to then write some control code and monitor the temp when I change the set point for example. So by how many degrees would a 12v heating element raise the temperature? Would they be powerful enough?