Suggestions on actuator home project

Discussion in 'The Projects Forum' started by jut, Jan 6, 2008.

  1. jut

    Thread Starter AAC Fanatic!

    Aug 25, 2007

    I have a vent that I want to control using electronics and some sort of actuator since it's really high on the wall.

    Here's a picture of the vent and the knob that pushes up or down to close the vent.


    I figured some sort of actuator could push up or pull down the knob.. but I don't have any experience with actuators so I was hoping someone could give me a few pointers. Oh, and I have about 5 years experience with microcontrollers (PIC) and know basic electronics from studying this website.
  2. SgtWookie


    Jul 17, 2007
    So, what are your criteria for opening or closing the register?

    I had a similar situation in my home.

    I bought a stepstool. :D
  3. thingmaker3

    Retired Moderator

    May 16, 2005
    If it were me, I'd pull the register and decipher the mechanics inside. There might be an easier (and more aesthetic) way of moving those louvers.
  4. jut

    Thread Starter AAC Fanatic!

    Aug 25, 2007
    Haha, yeah I knew someone would say that. But the vent is in front of a long table that's about 3 feet deep. Getting up on a chair and reaching for it is a pain. So why do I want to close the vent? My landlord makes stinky, annoying food that I would rather not smell when I'm sleeping.

    And besides, I like playing around with electronics :)
  5. SgtWookie


    Jul 17, 2007
    Put a current sensing loop on the power cord to landlord's stove, and run it into your apartment. In your apartment, connect a spring-return solenoid to the vent lever, powered by a 555 timer. The timer is tripped in monostable mode when current is detected in the landlord's stove circuit, closing the vent. The timer's components are selected to provide a 20-minute delay; 20 minutes after the landlord's stove is turned off, the solenoid de-energises and the vent is opened again.

    As a kicker, you could have a solenoid spray some air freshener throught the vent when it reopens. I've found the Ozium brand to be quite effective.
  6. mrmeval

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jun 30, 2006
    Do you want variable control or do you want open/closed?

    You may consider making your own vent. It's easiest to make it automation friendly.

    If you want to use that 'el crapo vent get at it with something to loosen up the mechanism so it's free to move. For open/close a solenoid would do fine. You may need to amplify the solenoid motion with a lever, see Archimedes he can help you move worlds.

    “Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough and I will move the world”

    Archimedes, 220 BC

    If you want variable control you will have to use a stepper motor.

    In either case you will need the electronics to take whatever control or sensor data you decide you need to position the stepper motor/solenoid to move the lever where you want it. (whew)

    Of course the easiest is to drill a hole in the Knobby and then take a sturdy dowel rod with an eyelet screwed into it and thread a bolt through both. It makes a nice thwapping sound as you open and close it, it's run on free energy and doesn't pollute.

    Mine have a hole in the lever all ready the go!
  7. kender

    Senior Member

    Jan 17, 2007
    How much force do you need to apply to open or close the vent? You need a fair amount of travel in the actuator. I wonder, if an RC servo with a horn an a push-rod would provide enough force.

    P.S. By the way, solenoids are extremely inefficient mechanical actuators. I have a personal rule: "never use solenoids as mechanical actuators". One exception - solenoid valves.