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Monitor and control from my laptop?

I am putting together a hot water heating system for a 1973 Airstream travel trailer that I am working on restoring. I would love to be able to monitor the temperature of my heating system (as well as ambient) and pressure as well as perhaps even control the circulation pump all from an older laptop that I have. To do that I would need some sensors and a control relay to turn on the pump. I need something that I can hook to my laptop through a serial, parallel or USB port or maybe even through an Ethernet link. It wouldn't hurt to find some software too that is designed for this purpose. I have an electronics background and I am computer literate. I just do not have any idea what might be out there in the way of monitoring and control gadgets that will do what I want to do. By the way the system is all 12 volt. I intend to use a Laing D5 VARIO pump in an open loop configuration to pump hot water to my heating elements. I am looking for moderate cost components and it seems like there should be something out there that would work. Can anyone help steer me in the right direction?




  • Magnehelic
    Magnehelic Member Posts: 63
    Real Controls


         this is a little more complicated (I mean expensive) than you might be thinking.  We are a building automation contractor and deal with the big boys, as well as simple systems.  Currently, the least expensive option I have for you would consist of on IP/Bacnet (controls protocol) router, a light version of our software (fully functional up to 500 points) and one controller with 6 digital outputs, 4 universal inputs, and 2 analog outputs.  I could write the programming for you, give you the devices with instructions on how to install and run comm wire between, and if you could provide me with remote access via the web, I could even optimize it for you from time to time, as well as update your software every year for 100 bucks.  This little endeavour will run you $3,000.00.  this though is a "real" solution, tried and proven.  Still interested?  I am very interested if you are, as I think it would be a fun little "case study" and definitely a unique situation.

  • malconium
    malconium Member Posts: 19
    Way too expensive...

    Thanks for responding...

    Your proposed solution is way outside of my budget. I do think that you might be thinking what I need is more complicated than what I do. I would be happy to be able to look at the computer screen and read the temperatures of 3 or 4 probes. I do not necessarily need fancy data logging either. I was simply hoping to be able to use the laptop as a better way to view several temperature points than having to go look at dials on actual temperature guages. I would even be happy enough to just use a thermostat and relay to the control turning the pump on and off. Doesn't someone sell temperature probes and a small USB control box to which they could be connected?

  • shoudabeenaplumba
    shoudabeenaplumba Member Posts: 74
    This might help get you there.

    I don't know if this would be enough for you, but I've been looking at this little gizmo for myself : [url=http://cgi.ebay.com/Combustion-Analyzer-oil-gas-boiler-furnace-stove-burner_W0QQitemZ270516681827QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item3efc0cfc63]http://cgi.ebay.com/Combustion-Analyzer-oil-gas-boiler-furnace-stove-burner_W0QQitemZ270516681827QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item3efc0cfc63 

    It's for monitoring a burner, but has the techno for at least one probe and a pump/fan relay.  It looks like it has an indoor temp probe, burner probe, O2 sensor, maybe some other stuff.  What I liked about it was the software set-up could be done on a laptop, but then leave it running so you could just check the lights and see how you're doing.  It wouldn't be practical for a burner tech, but I can't afford a 1k combustion analyzer for 2-3 readings a year, then have to buy new sensors for next year. 
  • geno54
    geno54 Member Posts: 43
    Try this

    Try this link. This is from a recent issue of RSES Journal. It can monitor and control several communicating thermostats. Possibly it can go further.


    Good luck with your project, I have a 29 ft Terry and couldn't imagine trying to retrofit a HW system to it. Keep us informed
  • Magnehelic
    Magnehelic Member Posts: 63
    Data Logger Might be of Help


         We use HOBO data loggers to do this in buildings that don't have DDC controls.  The HOBO's are about 95 bucks a piece, and come with software.  You would need external probes....prolly near 25 bucks a piece and then the software.  It wouldn't be real time, but you could deply them all at the same time, and make a pie or bar chart in excel to give you the visual that you are looking for.  You launch them from your laptop, and then after however much time you wish, you hook em back up to your laptop and download the data.  getting closer?
  • malconium
    malconium Member Posts: 19
    Much closer...

    That is a lot closer to what I need. Can you furnish any pointers to companies that sell the products that you mention here? I do not know where to look for them.


  • Randy_30
    Randy_30 Member Posts: 28
    edited February 2010

    The tekmar gateway has alot of features for system interaction and data graphing. Its quite a bit cheaper than $3000. Tekmar 483 is the item but it will need to be integrated with there thermostats. You will need a mac to connect though. If you a pc user this might not be the right direction.
  • Alan R. Mercurio_3
    Alan R. Mercurio_3 Member Posts: 1,620
    RE: Monitor and control from my laptop?

    I'm not sure of the cost but here's one you could look into

    Your friend in the industry,

    Alan R. Mercurio

This discussion has been closed.