Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Door-actuated space heater power lockout

Here's a little project I did last night:

Power strip modified for dry-contact switching

Magnetic switch on the door
I'll try to keep this short: due to some insulation issues in the garage under the second floor, Henry's room gets kind of cold in the morning.  This is not compensated by the house thermostat because it's in our room and we sleep with the doors closed.  So we use a little electric space heater to regulate the temperature in Henry's room at night.  With this comes a couple of problems:


  • Heater can be left on in the morning
  • If the door is open, the heater then runs open-loop and tries to heat the rest of the house 
  • The heater will run all day long, if it's set to even 1 degree above the "house" temp.  
  • This costs over $.25/hour
  • It's also (more of) a fire hazard since the heater will potentially be running when no one is in the house
I thought of a bunch of different ways to solve this problem.  Sure, go ahead and tell me about how the best way is to "turn the heater off when it's not needed".  Great, it's not going to happen. The next option I picked is the one that, to me, made the most sense.  Basically the heater power is disconnected when the door is open.  Since the door is always left open during the day, the heater won't run, and even if the door is closed, it's fine since the heater won't run "open-loop" (indefinitely).

To do this I modified a power strip and replaced one of the outlets with a 20A solid-state relay.  These relays are crazy - totally isolated and able to handle a lot of load. Since there aren't any moving parts, they don't wear out and you can switch them with very little current.
Solid State Relay



I wired two of the power strip outlets to the "load" side of the relay, and then installed a 9v battery and some contacts to the side of it.  Then I installed a magnetic switch on the door which will switch the 9v to the control side of the relay.  I was really careful to do everything really cleanly, since this is going to be in my kid's room.  (Don't want some wire  to come off and electrify the power strip case to 110v or something). So it took a couple of hours to build, but I am really happy with the result. It's almost invisible in the room and it works like a charm.

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