Create Your Own Solar Powered Raspberry Pi Weather Station

Picture of Create Your Own Solar Powered Raspberry Pi Weather Station

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In this Instructable you will learn:

  1. How to build a solar powered system
  2. How to design and size the panels and batteries
  3. How to gather data to analyze your system performance
  4. How to wire up a Raspberry Pi to a solar power system
  5. How to safely turn a Raspberry Pi on and off
  6. Building 3D Printed Parts for WeatherPi

And most importantly, have fun doing it!

SwitchDoc Labs is pleased to offer 10% off all our products for Instructable Readers: Use code 6NOFQ9UW at Amazon.com and 672E608 at Tindie.com. Offer good until June 21st, 2015.

What is WeatherPi? WeatherPi is a solar powered Raspberry Pi WiFi connected weather station designed for Makers by SwitchDoc Labs. This is a great system to build and tinker
with. All of it is modifiable and all source code is included. The most important functions are:

  • Senses 20 different environmental values
  • Completely Solar Powered
  • Has a full database containing history of the environment (MySQL)
  • Monitors and reports lots of data on the solar powered system – great for education!
  • Self contained and monitored for brownouts and power issues
  • Can be modified remotely
  • Download your data to crunch it on your PC
  • Can be modified to do SMS (Text) messaging, Twitters, webpages and more
  • Has an iPad Based Control Panel
  • Easy to connect to Twitter, WeatherUnderground, etc

This Instructable will show you how to build a WiFi Solar Powered Raspberry Pi Weather Station. This project grew out of a number of other projects, including the massive Project Curacao, a solar powered environmental monitoring system deployed on the Caribbean tropical island of Curacao. Project Curacao was written up in an extensive set of articles in MagPi magazine (starting in Issue 18 and continuing
through Issue 22). The WeatherPi Solar Powered Weather Station is an excellent education project. There are many aspects of this project that can be looked at and analyzed for educational purposes:

  • How do solar power systems behave? Limitations and advantages
  • Temperature, Wind and Humidity data analysis.
  • Shutting down and starting up small computers on solar power
  • Add your own sensors for UV, dust and pollen count and light color

Follow along on updates to the WeatherPi story on www.switchdoc.com.

Step 1: The WeatherPi Block Diagram

Picture of The WeatherPi Block Diagram

The WeatherPi Block Diagram looks a lot more complicated than it actually is. The first thing to notice that the dashed lines are individual boards (WeatherPiArduino and SunAirPlus) which contain a lot of the block diagram and the second thing is that
all of the sensors to the left of the diagram plug into the WeatherPiArduino board which simplifies the wiring. Don’t be intimidated!

The Subsystems The 

Power Subsystem of WeatherPi uses a SunAirPlus Solar Power Controller which handles the solar panels, charging of the battery
and then supplies the 5V to the Raspberry Pi and the rest of the system. It also contains sensors that will tell you the current and voltage produced by the Solar Panels and consumed by the batteries and the Raspberry Pi. Gather that Data! More Cowbell!
It also contains the hardware watchdog timer and the USB PowerControl that actually shuts off the power to the Raspberry Pi during a brownout event (after the Pi shuts gracefully down under software control). The 

Sensor Subsystem of WeatherPi uses a WeatherPiArduino as the base unit and then plugs in a bunch of optional sensors such as wind speed / direction / rain, lightning detect (how cool is that!), inside and outside temperature and humidity. The 

Software Subsystem of WeatherPi runs in Python on the Raspberry Pi. It collects the data, stores in in a MySQL database, builds graphs and does housekeeping and power monitoring.

Step 2: WeatherPi Sensor Suite

Picture of WeatherPi Sensor Suite

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The WeatherPi Sensor Suite senses the following environmental values:

  • Wind Speed
  • Wind Direction
  • Rain
  • Outside Temperature
  • Outside Humidity
  • Lightning Detection
  • Barometric Pressure (and Altitude)
  • Inside Box Temperature
  • Inside Box Humidity

You can add more to the I2C bus and Analog to Digital Converter such as UV, dust counts, light color (sensing some types of pollution) and more! It’s a great platform for expansion. The sensor suite is built on the WeatherPiArduino board but there are
several similar boards out there on the market.

Step 3: What’s On the I2C Bus?

Picture of What's On the I2C Bus?

WeatherPi makes extensive use of the I2C bus on the Raspberry Pi. At SwitchDoc Labs, we love data. And we love I2C devices. We like to gather the data using lots of I2C devices on our computers and projects. Project Curacao has a total of 12, WeatherPi
has 11 devices and SunRover (a solar powered rover under development at SwitchDoc – you will see it as an Instructable in fall 2015) will have over 20 and will require one I2C bus just for controlling the motors. We are always running into conflicts
with addressing on the I2C device. Since there are no standards, sometimes multiple devices will have the same address, such as 0x70 and you are just out of luck in running both of them on the same I2C bus without a lot of jimmy rigging. To get around
this addressing problem (and our conflict with an INA3221 and the Inside Humidity Sensor) we added an I2C Bus Multiplexer to the design which allows us to have many more I2C devices on the bus, irregardless of addressing conflicts. Here is our current
list of I2C devices in WeatherPi:

Device I2C Address
BMP180 Barometric Pressure 0x77
Real Time Clock DS3231 0x68
ATC EEPROM 0x56
ADS1015 Analog to Digital Converter 0x49
FRAM non-volatile storage 0x50
ADS1015 on SunAirPlus 0x48
INA3221 3 Channel Voltage/Current Monitor on SunAirPlus 0x40
HTU21D-F Humidity Sensor 0x40
Embedded Adventures Lightning Detector 0x03
AM2315 Outdoor Temp/Humidity 0x5C
I2C 4 Channel I2C Bus Mux 0x73

Here is what the I2C bus looks like on the Raspberry Pi. This is the output from the example code with the I2C 4 Channel Mux (hence there are 4 independent busses shown for the I2C bus). Note that WeatherPi only uses Bus 0 and Bus 1.

Test SDL_Pi_TCA9545 Version 1.0 - SwitchDoc Labs

Sample uses 0x73
Program Started at:2015-05-10 20:00:56

-----------BUS 0-------------------
tca9545 control register B3-B0 = 0x1
ignore Interrupts if INT3' - INT0' not connected
tca9545 control register Interrupts = 0xc
     0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  a  b  c  d  e  f
00:          03 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
10: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
20: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
30: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
40: 40 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 49 -- -- -- -- -- -- 
50: 50 -- -- -- -- -- 56 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
60: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 68 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
70: -- -- -- 73 -- -- -- 77                         

-----------------------------------

-----------BUS 1-------------------
tca9545 control register B3-B0 = 0x2
ignore Interrupts if INT3' - INT0' not connected
tca9545 control register Interrupts = 0xe
     0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  a  b  c  d  e  f
00:          -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
10: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
20: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
30: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
40: 40 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 48 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
50: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
60: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
70: -- -- -- 73 -- -- -- --                         

-----------------------------------

-----------BUS 2-------------------
tca9545 control register B3-B0 = 0x4
ignore Interrupts if INT3' - INT0' not connected
tca9545 control register Interrupts = 0xc
     0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  a  b  c  d  e  f
00:          -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
10: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
20: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
30: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
40: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
50: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
60: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
70: -- -- -- 73 -- -- -- --                         

-----------------------------------

-----------BUS 3-------------------
tca9545 control register B3-B0 = 0x8
ignore Interrupts if INT3' - INT0' not connected
tca9545 control register Interrupts = 0xc
     0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  a  b  c  d  e  f
00:          -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
10: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
20: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
30: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
40: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
50: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
60: -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 
70: -- -- -- 73 -- -- -- --                         

-----------------------------------
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Step 4: Sizing Your Solar Power System

Picture of Sizing Your Solar Power System

One of the first things that comes up in a solar powered design is how to design the power system. The three main questions to be asked and answered are:

  1. How much power do I need?
  2. How many solar panels do I need?
  3. What size battery do I need?

The first thing you need to do when designing a solar powered system is to determine the power requirements for your solar powered design. Our criteria is that we want the WeatherPi Raspberry Pi Model A to run all day and at least three hours before sunrise
and three hours after sunset. Our goals and budget influence our hardware choices, so they are not totally independent. The table below contains estimated power consumption for models of the Raspberry Pi, including a Wireless USB dongle. We are assuming
in each of these that you turn the HDMI port off which saves ~20ma.

Model A Model A+ Model B Model B+ Model Pi2 B
Current (mA) 260(200) 195(135) 480(420) 290(230) 304(240)
Power (W) 1.3 0.975 2.4 1.45 1.52
Source Measured Measured Measured Measured Measured

All of the above measurements include about 60ma for the USB WiFi Dongle! Parenthetical numbers are without the 60ma. Based on the above, first we will lay out my assumptions for our Raspberry Pi Model A+ based design. The LiPo batteries
chosen will store 6600mAh. Why choose the Model A+? It’s the lowest current consuming raspberry Pi! What is mAh (milli Amp hours)? 6600mAh means you can take 100mA for 66 hours, theoretically. In actuality, you will not be able to get more than about
80% on average depending on your battery. How fast you discharge them also makes a big difference. Slower the discharge rate, the more mAh you can get out of the battery. For comparison, an AA battery will hold about 1000mAh[citation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AA_battery] and
a D battery will hold about 10000mAh[citation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AA_battery]  In a system like this, it is best to charge your LiPo batteries completely and then hook up the computer and see how long it takes
to discharge the battery and die. We did this test on the WeatherPi system. The results are here on switchdoc.com. Assumptions:

  • Two Voltaic 3.4W 6V/530ma Solar Cells (total of 6.8W)
  • 8 Hours of Sun running the cells at least at 70% of max Delivery of current to Raspberry Pi at 85% efficiency (you lose power in the charging and boosting circuitry)
  • Raspberry Pi Model A+ takes 195mA on average (with the Wireless USB Dongle)
  • Raspberry Pi Model A+ running 24 hours per day
  • 6600mAh LiPo Batteries

Given these we can calculate total Raspberry Pi Model A runtime during a typical day: PiRunTime = (8 Hours * 70% * 1060mA) *85% / (195mA) = 25 hours Our goal was for 24 hours, so it looks like our system will work. 16 Hours of running the Raspberry Pi
Model A+ on batteries alone will take (195mA/85%)*16 Hours = 3670mAh which is comfortably less than our 6600mAh batteries can store. The WIFI dongle added about 60mA on average. It was enabled the entire time the Raspberry Pi was on. No effort was
made to minimize the power consumed by the WiFi dongle. Your results will depend on what other loads you are driving, such as other USB devices, GPIO loads, I2C devices, etc. Note that during the day, on average, we are putting into the battery about
6000mAh. This also means a bigger battery than 6600mAh will not make much difference to this system. So, on a bright sunny day, we should be able to run 24 hours a day. Looking at the results from WeatherPi being out in the sun for a week, this seems
to be correct. However, it will be cloudy and rainy and your system will run out of power. The next most important part of the design is how to handle Brownouts! See a step later in this Instructable about how to hand this nasty little problem. The
four most important parts of verifying your Solar Power Design:

  • Gather real data
  • Gather more real data
  • Gather still more real data
  • Look at your data and what it is telling you about the real system. Rinse and Repeat.

Step 5: The Power System

Picture of The Power System

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The power system in Weather Pi consists of four parts:

  • Two Solar Panels
  • One 6600Ah LiPo Battery
  • SunAirPlus Solar Power Controller, Pi Power Supply and Data Gathering system
  • USB PowerControl board for Pi Power Control

We are using 2 3.4W Solar Panels from Voltaic Systems. These are high quality panels that we have used in previous projects and last a long time even in the tropical sun. The picture above is of the same panels on Project Curacao after
six months in the sun. Those are clouds reflected on the panels, not dirt. The panels are prefect. We selected a 6600mAh battery from Adafruit for this design. See the “Sizing your Solar System” step below. We are using a SunAirPlus Solar Power Controller in
this design. SunAirPlus includes an I2C INA3221 3 Channel Current / Voltage Monitor and a I2C 4 channel 12
bit Analog to Digital Converter (ADS1015). The INA3221 allows you to monitor all of the major currents and voltages in the system (Battery / Solar Panels / Load – Computer ). You can tell what your solar power project is doing in real time. Here are
some results from the SunAirPlus board using the onboard INA3221. You can see that the battery is almost fully charged and the solar cell voltage (actually a variable power supply on the test bench) is 5.19V and it is supplying 735mA.

Test SDL_Pi_INA3221 Version 1.0 - SwitchDoc Labs

Sample uses 0x40 and SunAirPlus board INA3221
Will work with the INA3221 SwitchDoc Labs Breakout Board


------------------------------
LIPO_Battery Bus Voltage: 4.15 V 
LIPO_Battery Shunt Voltage: -9.12 mV 
LIPO_Battery Load Voltage:  4.14 V
LIPO_Battery Current 1:  91.20 mA

Solar Cell Bus Voltage 2:  5.19 V 
Solar Cell Shunt Voltage 2: -73.52 mV 
Solar Cell Load Voltage 2:  5.12 V
Solar Cell Current 2:  735.20 mA

Output Bus Voltage 3:  4.88 V 
Output Shunt Voltage 3: 48.68 mV 
Output Load Voltage 3:  4.93 V
Output Current 3:  486.80 mA

You can use this board to power your projects and add a servo or stepper motor to allow it to track the sun using photoresistors to generate even more power.

The USB PowerController Board is basically a controlled Solid State Relay to turn the power on and off to the Raspberry Pi. This board sits between the Solar Power Controller (SunAirPlus) and a Raspberry Pi Model A+. The input to the
board was designed to come directly from a LiPo battery so the computer won’t be turned on until the LiPo battery was charged up above ~ 3.8V. A hysteresis circuit is provided so the board won’t turn on and then turn immediately off because the power
supply is yanked down when the computer turns on (putting a load not the battery). This really happens!!!! You kill Raspberry Pi SD Cards this way.

Step 6: Safely Turning the Pi On and Off

Picture of Safely Turning the Pi On and Off

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The Brownout Problem In this important step, we are going to discuss the problem of powering down and up your Raspberry Pi. In Solar Powered systems, this is called the “Brownout Problem”. We will be showing how to use a simple device,
the USB Power Control from SwitchDoc Labs to solve this problem. One of the most important issue in
designing a Raspberry Pi Solar Power System is turning on and off. The “Brownout Problem” is a real issue. Why worry? If you have a long string of cloudy days, you may run your battery down. You can compensate for this in your design by adding more
panels and more batteries, but that can get really expensive and your system might still run out of power, just a lot less frequently.

Shutting Off the Pi  Shutting a Raspberry Pi off is pretty easy. When the battery voltage falls below some value, you just do a “sudo shutdown -h now” and your Raspberry Pi will shutdown cleanly. After doing the test 
talked about here, we chose 3.5V as the voltage to shut down the Raspberry Pi. Note that in most solar power systems, you need to monitor the battery voltage and not the 5V power supply because with most modern voltage booster systems, the circuitry
will work very hard to keep the 5V going and then just give up crashing to a much lower voltage when it runs out of power. That means your computer would have little or no warning when the voltage is about to drop. By monitoring the battery voltage,
you can tell when the battery is getting low enough and then shut down your computer safely. For LiPo batteries, this will be when your voltage gets down to about 3.5V or so. This can all be monitored with the SunAirPlus solar charge controller that
we are using in WeatherPi.

Starting the Pi Enough about shutting down the computer. What about starting it up?

The Issue  You can’t just let the controller power up the computer. The problem is that the supply voltage will move up and down until there is enough charge in the battery to fully supply the computer. When the computer turns
on (connecting a full load), you will pull the battery down hard enough to brown out the computer causing the Raspberry Pi to crash. This constant rebooting cycle can corrupt and ruin your SD card and cause your computer to never
boot at all, even when the power is restored.  We had this VERY thing happen to us 3500 miles away with Project Curacao. Arduinos
are more tolerant of this, but Raspberry Pi’s do not like a ill-behaved power supply. You just can’t be sure of what state the computer will power up at without a good power supply. This issue can be handled in a number of ways. The first is to use
another computer (like an Arduino made to be very reliable by using a WatchDog – see the Reliable Computer series on switchdoc.com – http://www.switchdoc.com/2014/11/reliable-projects-watchdog-timers-raspberry-pi-arduinos/)
to disconnect the Raspberry Pi’s power through a latching relay or MOSFET when there isn’t enough power. Project Curacao (http://www.switchdoc.com/project-curacao-introduction-part-1/)
used this approach. We didn’t want to add an additional computer to WeatherPi, so we chose a second solution.

Power Your Pi Up and Down with the USB Power Control  A second (and cheaper!) way of handling the brownout and power up problem is to use a dedicated power controller that will shut the power off to the Raspberry Pi and restore
the power when the battery voltage is high enough to avoid ratcheting the supply voltage up and down because of the load of the Raspberry Pi. This is called Hysteresis. We have designed a board to do just this (called the USB Power Controller) that will plug between the USB coming out of the SunAir Solar Power Controller and the Raspberry Pi as in the picture to the right.

The USB Power Controller Board The 

USB PowerControl board is a USB to USB solid state relay.

Anything you can plug into a USB port can be controlled with USB PowerControl. It’s easy to hook up. You connect a control line (a GPIO line or the output of a LiPo battery) to the LIPOBATIN line on the USB Power Control device and if the line is
LOW (< ~3.3V) the USB Port is off. If it is HIGH (above 3.8V) the USB Port is turned on and you have 5V of power to the USB plug.

There is a hysteresis circuit so the board won’t turn on and then turn immediately off because the power supply is yanked down when the computer turns on (putting a load not the battery).

There is little software for this device. You connect it directly to your LiPo battery for automatic control! The only software used detects the battery voltage and decides when to shut down the computer. The USB Power Control takes care of shutting the
power to the Raspberry Pi when the battery voltage gets low enough. Note that a shutdown Raspberry Pi still draws current (according to one quick measurement, about 100ma).

One More Scenario One last point. After thinking about the power down sequence, we came up with one more scenario. What if: 1) The battery voltage reaches 3.5V and the Raspberry Pi is shut down. 2) The USB PowerController will turn
the power off when the battery reaches about ~3.4V. However, what if the sun comes up at this time and the battery starts charging again? Then the USB PowerController will never reach ~3.4V and will never turn off. And the Pi will never reboot. Not
a good scenario! We fixed this by adding a hardware watchdog timer. For a tutorial on hardware watchdog timers, read the SwitchDoc series starting here. We used a Dual WatchDog Timer Board to
fix this problem. We set the RaspberryPi python to “pat the dog” (preventing the watchdog timer from triggering) every 10 seconds. The timer is set to trigger after about 200 seconds if it isn’t patted. The timer is connected to pull the “COut” point
down to ground on the USB PowerController which shuts off the Raspberry Pi. Because of the hysteresis circuit on the USB PowerController the Raspberry Pi will stay off until the battery voltage reaches ~3.9V and then the Pi will reboot. Now the above
scenario will never happen. By the way, there is no real way of using the internal Pi Watchdog to do this. You don’t want to reboot the Pi, you want to shut off the power in this scenario.

Step 7: The Parts List

Picture of The Parts List

No project is complete without a parts list. These are suggestions! There are lots of options for a number of these boards. If you substitute, make sure you check for compatibility!

SwitchDoc Labs is pleased to offer 10% off all our products for Instructable Readers: Use code 6NOFQ9UW at Amazon.com and 672E608 at Tindie.com.  Offer good until June 21st, 2015.

Parts List (May 5, 2015)

Step 8: Building the Box

Picture of Building the Box

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As with most projects, we tend to “breadboard” the circuitry before we put it into the enclosure. With WeatherPi, we spread out the parts, wired them up, made sure each of the major paths worked (and of course, took the obligatory nighttime geek shot)
and then started placing them in the box, attaching them with screws and posts through the plastic. Putting the WeatherPi into the BUD Industries box was pretty straight forward. We chose to put the solar power part of the circuit on top and the Raspberry
Pi and the WeatherPiArduino Sensor array in the box bottom. The parts were all placed and then all the screw holes and outside screws were sealed with silicon caulking. We used Gland Connectors to run the wires in and out of the box. Then we sealed
the Gland Connectors. The Gland Connectors aren’t necessarily waterproof, but they make things tighter and provide a good strain relief. We then used a waterproof disconnectable connector to tie into the WeatherRack weather instruments.

Step 9: 3D Printing and the WeatherPi

Picture of 3D Printing and the WeatherPi

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In building the WeatherPi Solar Powered Weather Station, we saw a couple of parts that we decided it would be good to 3D Print. In the 6 months since we bought our SwitchDoc Labs MakerBot Replicator,
we have totally changed the way we build special parts for prototyping.  And with the latest extruder and firmware updates, the MakerBot rocks! I have done 10 long prints with no problem. It used to be Xacto knives
and foam, wood and glue, but now we just build new parts when we need them. The three parts we have used 3D Printing for so far are:

  • Bracket with Hinges to connect solar panel panels to weather station box (adjustable for latitude)
  • Opposite hinge on which to hang solar power panels (the tabs on the side of the rectangle are just to make sure the bracket is flat!)
  • Sun Cover for AM2315 Temperature and Humidity Sensor – we killed the Humidity sensor in one of these in the sun in Project Curacao.

Here are the OpenSCAD files.

Step 10: The Raspberry Pi Python Software

Picture of The Raspberry Pi Python Software

A big part of the WeatherPi project is the software. All of the python software for this project is up on github at the switchdoclabs section. We also included all of
the various libraries for the I2C devices we are using.

Non-Normal Requirements for your Pi You will need to add the following software and libraries to your Raspberry Pi

MySQL There are lots of tutorials on the net for installing MySQL. Here is the one we used.

MatPlotLib This is the graphing subsystem with a great interface to Python. It is a bit more complex to install, so we wrote a tutorial on how to install it on SwitchDoc.com. Note that the installation takes a long time, about 8 hours on a Raspberry Pi (mostly unattended).

The WeatherPi Python Software The WeatherPi software is pretty simple. The application was much less complex than the Project Curacao software so
we decided not use the apscheduler package and decided just to use a simple loop with a “every 15 seconds” type of control. Here is the main loop:

secondCount = 1
while True:

        # process Interrupts from Lightning

        if (as3935Interrupt == True):
                process_as3935_interrupt()


        # process commands from RasPiConnect
        print "---------------------------------------- "

        processCommand()

        if ((secondCount % 10) == 0):
                # print every 10 seconds
                sampleAndDisplay()
                patTheDog()      # reset the WatchDog Timer
                blinkSunAirLED2X(2)




        # every 5 minutes, push data to mysql and check for shutdown


        if ((secondCount % (5*60)) == 0):
                # print every 300 seconds
                sampleWeather()
                sampleSunAirPlus()
                writeWeatherRecord()
                writePowerRecord()

                if (batteryVoltage < 3.5):
                        print "--->>>>Time to Shutdown<<<<---"
                        shutdownPi("low voltage shutdown")


        # every 15 minutes, build new graphs

        if ((secondCount % (15*60)) == 0):
                # print every 900 seconds
                sampleAndDisplay()



        # every 48 hours, reboot
        if ((secondCount % (60*60*48)) == 0):
                # reboot every 48() hours seconds
                rebootPi("48 hour reboot")


        secondCount = secondCount + 1
        # reset secondCount to prevent overflow forever

        if (secondCount == 1000001):
                secondCount = 1

        time.sleep(1.0)

Note that we reboot the Pi every two days. Why do we do that? We have noticed that after heavy usage of MatPlotLib and/or MySQL, that sometimes after a long time, you run out of resources, giving all sorts of odd behavior. Since the RaspberryPi
A+ has a small amount of RAM, rebooting is the easiest way of fixing it. Check out all the code up on github.com. The code for the RasPiConnect control panel is discussed in another step.

Step 11: Building A Control Panel Using RasPiConnect

Picture of Building A  Control Panel Using RasPiConnect

We use RasPiConnect to build our control panels for our projects. It allows us to put graphs, controls, buttons, sliders, etc. up on our iPad/iPhone screens without having to write apps.
RasPiConnect works on Raspberry Pi’s and on Arduinos. We have used this software on 5 different projects, with WeatherPi being the latest. How to build a control panel for WeatherPi is beyond the scope of this Instructable, but here is the tutorial we wrote for doing what we are doing for WeatherPi. We are using the same command passing mechanism in WeatherPi that we used in MouseAir. RasPiConnect comes with an excellent, comprehensive manual here. All the RasPiConnect code that we used in WeatherPi is on github under github.com/switchdoclabs. Note that only
the directory local is uploaded as that is the only places changes to the code are made as explained in the RasPiConnect manual.

Step 12: Full Wiring List

Picture of Full Wiring List

Following is the complete wiring list for WeatherPi. As you wire it, check off each wire for accuracy. Key:

Raspberry Pi A+:  PiA+

I2C Bus Mux: I2CM

Dual WatchDog Timer Board:  WDT

WeatherPiArduino: WPA

USB Power Control: USBPC

SunAirPlus: SAP

Raspberry Pi A+ (PiA+)
GPIO Header
From To Description
PiA+ GPIO/Pin 1: 3.3V I2CM JP1/Pin 4:VCC Power for I2C Mux Board – Computer Interface
PiA+ GPIO/Pin 2: 5.0V WDT JP1/Pin 1:VDD Power for Dual WatchDog Timer Board
PiA+ GPIO/Pin 3: SDA I2CM JP1/Pin1:SDA SDA for I2C Mux Board – Computer Interface
PiA+ GPIO/Pin 5: SCL I2CM JP1/Pin2:SCL SCL for I2C Mux Board – Computer Interface
PiA+ GPIO/Pin 6: GND I2CM JP1/Pin3:GND GND for I2C Mux Board – Computer Interface
PiA+ GPIO/Pin 11 GPIO 17 WDT JP2/Pin1:DOG1_TRIGGER Trigger Input for WatchDog 1 Timer (Pat the Dog)
PiA+ GPIO/Pin 12: GPIO 18 WPA JP13/Pin1: LD-IRQ Interrupt Request from the AS3935 on Lightning Detector Board
PiA+ GPIO/Pin 16: GPIO 23 WPA JP2/Pin3:Anemometer Anemometer Output from WeatherRack – Interrupt
PiA+ GPIO/Pin 17: 3.3V VCC Screw Connector To provide more 3.3V Connections
PiA+ GPIO/Pin 18: GPIO 24 WPA JP2/Pin 2:Rain Bucket Rain Bucket Output from WeatherRack – Interrupt
PiA+ GPIO/Pin 22: GPIO 25 SAP JP13/Pin8: EXTGP0 GP0 on SunAir Board – Yellow LED display
I2C Mux Board (I2CM)
JP1 – Computer
I2CM JP1/Pin 1:SDA PiA+ GPIO/Pin 3:SDA SDA to I2C Mux Board – Computer Interface
I2CM JP1/Pin 2: SCL PiA+ GPIO/Pin 5:SDA SCL to I2C Mux Board – Computer Interface
I2CM JP1/Pin 3: GND PiA+ GPIO/Pin 6:GND GND for I2C Mux Board – Computer Interface
I2CM JP1/Pin 4: VCC PiA+ GPIO/Pin 1: 3.3V Power for I2C Mux Board – Computer Interface
I2CM JP1/Pin 5: RESET’ VCC Screw Connector 3.3V From Pi/Screw Connector
JP2 – I2C Bus 0 WeatherPiArduino I2C Bus
I2CM JP2/Pin 2: VD0 WPA JP1/Pin 2: VDD 3.3V from WPA Board
I2CM JP2/Pin 3: GND WPA JP1/Pin 1: GND GND for WPA Board
I2CM JP2/Pin 4: SC0 WPA JP4/Pin 1: SCL SCL for WPA Board
I2CM JP2/Pin 5: SD0 WPA JP4/Pin 2: SDA SDA for WPA Board
JP3 – I2C Bus 1 SunAirPlus I2C Bus
I2CM JP3/Pin 2: VD1 SPA JP23/Pin 3: VDD 5.0V for Bus 1 for I2C Mux
I2CM JP3/Pin 3: GND SAP JP13/Pin 4: GND GND for SAP Board
I2CM JP3/Pin 4: SC1 SAP JP13/Pin 1: EXTSCL SCL for SAP Board
I2CM JP3/Pin 5: SD1 SAP JP13/Pin 2: EXTSDA SDA for SAP Board
JP4 – I2C Bus 3 Auxiliary GND for WDT Board GND for WDT Board
I2CM JP4/Pin 3: GND WDT JP1/Pin 1:GND GND for WDT Board
I2C Mux Board (I2CM)
JP1 – Computer
I2CM JP1/Pin 1:SDA PiA+ GPIO/Pin 3:SDA SDA to I2C Mux Board – Computer Interface
I2CM JP1/Pin 2: SCL PiA+ GPIO/Pin 5:SDA SCL to I2C Mux Board – Computer Interface
I2CM JP1/Pin 3: GND PiA+ GPIO/Pin 6:GND GND for I2C Mux Board – Computer Interface
I2CM JP1/Pin 4: VCC PiA+ GPIO/Pin 1: 3.3V Power for I2C Mux Board – Computer Interface
I2CM JP1/Pin 5: RESET’ VCC Screw Connector 3.3V From Pi/Screw Connector
JP2 – I2C Bus 0 WeatherPiArduino I2C Bus
I2CM JP2/Pin 2: VD0 WPA JP1/Pin 2: VDD 3.3V from WPA Board
I2CM JP2/Pin 3: GND WPA JP1/Pin 1: GND GND for WPA Board
I2CM JP2/Pin 4: SC0 WPA JP4/Pin 1: SCL SCL for WPA Board
I2CM JP2/Pin 5: SD0 WPA JP4/Pin 2: SDA SDA for WPA Board
JP3 – I2C Bus 1 SunAirPlus I2C Bus
I2CM JP3/Pin 2: VD1 SPA JP23/Pin 3: VDD 5.0V for Bus 1 for I2C Mux
I2CM JP3/Pin 3: GND SAP JP13/Pin 4: GND GND for SAP Board
I2CM JP3/Pin 4: SC1 SAP JP13/Pin 1: EXTSCL SCL for SAP Board
I2CM JP3/Pin 5: SD1 SAP JP13/Pin 2: EXTSDA SDA for SAP Board
JP4 – I2C Bus 3 Auxiliary GND for WDT Board GND for WDT Board
I2CM JP4/Pin 3: GND WDT JP1/Pin 1:GND GND for WDT Board
Dual WatchDog Timer Board (WDT)
JP1
WDT JP1/Pin 1: VDD PiA+ GPIO/Pin 2:VDD (5.0V)
WDT JP1/Pin 2: GND I2CM JP4/Pin 3:GND GND for WDT Board
JP2
WDT JP2/Pin 1: DOG1_TRIGGER PiA+ GPIO/Pin 11:GPIO 17 WDT Trigger from Raspberry Pi
JP3
WDT JP3/Pin 1: DOG1_ARDUINORESET USBPC: TP7 – COUT Solder Wire to TP7 – COUT on USB PowerControl
WeatherPiArduino (WPA)
JP1
WPA JP1/Pin 1: GND I2CMux JP2/Pin 3: GND GND for WPA Board from I2CMux
WPA JP1/Pin 2: 3V3 I2CMux JP2/Pin 2: VD0 3.3V for I2C Bus 0 from WPA
JP2
WPA JP2/Pin 2: Rain Bucket PiA+ GPIO/Pin 18: GPIO 24 Rain Bucket Output from WeatherRack – Interrupt
WPA JP2/Pin 3: Anemometer PiA+ GPIO/Pin 16: GPIO 23 Anemometer Output from WeatherRack – Interrupt
JP4
WPA JP4/Pin 1: SCL WPA JP4/Pin 1: SCL SCL from I2C Mux Board
WPA JP4/Pin 2: SDA WPA JP4/Pin 2: SDA SDA from I2C Mux Board
WPA JP4/Pin 3: 3V3 VCC Screw Connector 3.3V From Pi/Screw Connector
JP13
WPA JP13/Pin 1: LD-IRQ PiA+ GPIO/Pin 12: GPIO 18 Interrupt Request from the AS3935 on Lightning Detector Board
USB Power Control (USBPC)
USBIN: USB Connector from SAP USB A OUT on SAP
USBOUT: USB Connector to PiA+ USB Power Input on PiA+
JP1
USBOUT JP1/Pin 1: LIPOBATIN SAP JP4/Pin1: LiPo Battery Out SAP Plus of LiPo Battery Out to USB PowerControl
TP7 – COUT: WDT JP3/Pin 1: DOG1_ARDUINORESET Shuts USB Power Control down if Raspberry Pi has been shutdown and LIPOBATIN < ~3.9V
SunAirPlus (SAP)
USB A Out: USBIN on USBPC
J5 Battery: To LiPo Battery Pack
J6 Solar: To Solar Panels
JP4
SAP JP4/Pin 1: USBPC: JP1/Pin1 LIPOBATIN SAP Plus of LiPo Battery Out to USB PowerControl
JP10
SAP JP10/Pin 1: SCL SCL (5.0V) Connected to Outdoor Temp/Hum AM2315 Sensor – works better on 5.0V I2C Bus
SAP JP10/Pin 2: SDA SDA (5.0V) Connected to Outdoor Temp/Hum AM2315 Sensor – works better on 5.0V I2C Bus
SAP JP10/Pin 3: VDD5 VDD5 Connected to Outdoor Temp/Hum AM2315 Sensor – works better on 5.0V I2C Bus
SAP JP10/Pin 4: GND GND Connected to Outdoor Temp/Hum AM2315 Sensor – works better on 5.0V I2C Bus
JP13
SAP JP13/Pin 1: EXTSCL I2CMux JP3/Pin 4: SC1
SAP JP13/Pin 2: EXTSDA I2CMux JP3/Pin 5: SD1
SAP JP13/Pin 3: VDD SPA JP23/Pin2: VDD5 5V I2C Interface from SAP
SAP JP13/Pin 4: GND I2CMux JP3/Pin 3: GND GND form I2CMux Board
SAP JP13/Pin 8: EXTGP0 PiA+ GPIO/Pin 22: GPIO 25 Line from Raspberry Pi to flash SAP Yellow LED on GP0
JP23
SAP JP23/Pin 2: VDD5 SAP JP13/Pin 3: VDD 5.0V for SAP I2C Bus to I2CMux
SAP JP23/Pin 3: VDD5 I2CM JP3/Pin 2: VD1 5.0V for I2CMux I2C Bus1

Step 13: Results!

Picture of Results!

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PowerCurrentGraph.png

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The WeatherPi has been outside for about 2 weeks now. Working perfectly. You can see the box being charged up and then going to battery power as the sun moves behind the house. We have had hot days and cold nights as we are just starting to move out of
Spring into Summer. It is not quite generating enough electricity to run 24 hours at the moment (because it is in the shade until 9am and after about 3pm – not quite 8 hours of sun). This will be fixed when we move it up to the top of the house where
it will have sun about 12 hours a day on average (when the sun is not behind clouds!).

What is Left To Do (as of May 10, 2015)? We have the following issues to address: We are working three small issues. 1) The plug for the WeatherRack Weather Sensors need
to be better secured to the outside of the box. Right now it is just attached and sealed by silicon caulking. Too easily broken with small amounts of pressure. We have Gland Connector pressure cable pass throughs that we can use for this. 2) The cheap
RT5370 Wireless Adapter WiFi dongle we are using is shutting itself down occasionally. The Raspberry Pi keeps running, collecting data, etc., but we are locked out of the system. When we look at the WiFi adaptor when it has shut itself down, it is
no longer blinking blue, but the Raspberry Pi and all the external hardware is still running. Looking at the web shows some people having had similar problems with this dongle. We have now replaced it with a WiPi USB Dongle which works well. Interestingly
enough, the WiPi USB dongle reports it is using the RT5370 also, but the WiPi works. 3) Humidity is too high inside of the box. We are going to add small vent hole at the bottom of the box to correct for this. Don’t want that condensing humidity.

Improvements We aren’t building graphs for the Wind Speed, Direction and Rain yet. Just reporting the current values on the RasPiConnect control panel. All the data is being saved into MySQL, however. The temperature and lightning
displays need to be fixed and improved. The cool thing is that all of this can be done remotely!

Step 14: What Else Can You Do With This?

Picture of What Else Can You Do With This?

Here are some additional ideas for projects based on WeatherPi:

  • Replacing the WiFi with a GSM data connection (or just send text messages)
  • Make it tweet the weather!
  • Make a custom Facebook posting with your weather
  • Adding a GPS receiver and store that data. You now have a mobile weather station! When it gets back to WiFi all the stored data will be available.
  • Adding additional air quality sensors, UV sensors, Dust sensors. You have a lot of I2C addressing space that you can fill
  • Connect to the WeatherUnderground or similar services

Step 15: Conclusion

Picture of Conclusion

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WeatherPi is a flexible WiFi connect solar powered Weather Station architecture. It is designed to be a reliable data gathering system that can be placed outdoors in a remote location for an extended amount of time. It is not designed for extreme environments
such as extremely cold locations, but it will work in most places for an extended period of time. Tinker with the design! Change it! Modify it! Let us know what you are doing with WeatherPi!

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