w/c 27th November 2023


A double bill, given I failed to write any weeknotes last week as the result of some exceptional work shenanigans that started on Friday afternoon and continued to haunt me across the weekend and well into Monday. Thanks go to the patience of the friends we were hours late to meet on the Friday, the patience of the friend who visited over the weekend that I mostly miserably moaned at, the patience of the friends we visited for dinner on Sunday night that I almost exclusively miserably moaned at and the patience of Soph for whom I imagine my miserable moaning represented little change from the norm. In my defence, the shenanigans coincided with the onset of a horrid cold that hit its peak around about the time of my 7:30am start of work on Monday.

Anyway, it’s also been cold as hell, which has started me thinking about how to smarten up our heating. We have a standard combi boiler without any smart tech fitted and a timer interface that requires at least 20 mins stood on a stool to change. I want to be able to automate my heating, change that automation easily, control my heating remotely and of course do it all from smlkjns_assistant. What I don’t want to do however is pay hundreds of pounds for a Nest/Hive type system, pay ongoing subscriptions or to rely on a cloud service I don’t control.

I could try to figure out how to build my own OpenTherm controller but frankly that sounds bloody hard and I don’t want to risk being unable to control my heating at any point during that learning curve. So I settled on working with the existing dumb controls and building something to manipulate them. A SwitchBot would have been the perfect choice mechanically for this purpose but unfortunately requires a platform specific hub as well and whilst an API is available for onward integration, purely local control isn’t. What I needed was a poor man’s jerry rigged switchbot that I could integrate with my own systems directly.

Presenting the most janky of janky first version prototypes – a Pico controlled servo taped to the front of my boiler control. Not a good looking proof of concept but a successful one all the same.

And here’s a demonstration of integration with smlkjns_assistant:

The tape has held up surprisingly well so far, though obviously isn’t a long-term solution. In an ideal world I would 3D print a mounting bracket for the servo but there’s a slight issue with that, in that I don’t own a 3D printer. Next best thing might be to fabricate an aluminium mounting bracket. I think that’s likely the route I’ll go down, though a prerequisite for that is starting to turn the garage into a bit more of a workshop and a bit less of an unorganised pile of garbage.

Thankfully old fashioned pressing a button with my thumb has kept the house reasonably toasty to date, though the cat perhaps has other views.

In more analogue projects, I found some time to start dealing with the corner of our utility room where I had to rip off the skirting board to get the washing machine in. Given you can only buy skirting in lengths approximately the same as the total bumper to bumper length of our car, I introduced Soph to the age old art of cutting some shit up with a handsaw over your knee in a B&Q car park.

Here it is before:

It’s not yet finished because paint and filler takes forever to dry in this weather, so needs another round of sanding, painting and this time better taping on the join with the floor – but currently:

Let me know your tips for getting straight paint lines up against silicone filling irregular gaps please.