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Lightning Detection for Homeseer

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  • Lightning Detection for Homeseer

    All the weather systems I have seen for homeseer offer no lightning sensing to my knowledge. So I had to improvise, and it works "INCREDIBLY" well... For a total of less than $30! So I will share it with the world:

    If you need lightning detection, for whatever reason, then here is a useful few notes to get homeseer to count these annoying and dangerous strikes: (from up to 30 miles away!)
    First, order/buy an EMP SENSOR PCB from EBAY (or elsewhere if you can find it). The PCB you are interested in will be found by searching keywords "EMP SENSOR DETECTOR MODULE". Mine cost $10 free shipping... Sure you could make it with a coil, trigger etc, but for $10 you cannot!

    It is powered by 3-5vdc, needs to be REGULATED and a clean source, so I added a 7805 regulator chip (adding a forward biased diode to drop it .6v further) and drive it from 12volt input. Now the sensor PCB "DIGITAL OUTPUT" will go 'LOW' whenever lightning is detected, for a short pulse that is usually too fast to detect with anything homeseer offers, so I used an ALTRONIX 6062 or equivalent timer (PCB delay timer) to "stretch out" the pulse for a few seconds so that Homeseer can "see it" happen. (I use an ADIO-100 digital input channel for this function, but any contact input closure that triggers hi-low would work). The PCB has a buzzer too, if you don't want that you can fill it with glue to silence it.
    Simple... when a strike "input" is detected, it simply increments the DEVICE counter using a simple event.
    Combined with other weather sensors, this specifically will determine thunderstorm activity, early warning for sending text message alerts for safety (mowing the pastures, outdoor activities, etc)
    (the device can be reset at midnight, or after an hour of no strikes- whatever tickles your needs)

    My daily logfile is populated with weather history, and this adds electrical storm intensity to the data, as well as turning off a few outdoor radio repeaters that are prone to interference from storms.

    I am not near a city, so mine works incredibly well with zero false triggers. Not sure how it would perform in an urban environment, or if it matters at all.

    NOTE: the altronix timer (or equivalent) is highly suggested (in my application or similar) whereas the sensor is located 800ft away from the homeseer computer because the timer output is RELAY CONTACTS it allows ISOLATION from the enemy which it is supposed to detect. The distance of wire would carry a surge directly into homeseer without isolation. And additional note- the sensor does NOT have to be "exposed", mine is installed into a junction box located on the side of a concrete wall near a security camera...

    Image attached is a screen capture from the ebay auction, and just a note- I am NOT the seller of this item, nor am I affiliated with them.
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Thanks for the tip. Just ordered a board on EBay.


    • #3
      Good find. Ordered 2 to play with.
      Real courage is not securing your Wi-Fi network.


      • #4
        Just a note: The ebay seller actually MAKES these himself, and I have some extras ordered when I posted. I found out he is a couple of weeks away from next batch being completed. So I warned him to make extra batch or two! Might be delay for us all, but the first one I got works GREAT and its storming today, with 188 strikes so far today.
        Also I mentioned to the seller, to consider adding a delay/sustained pulse relay output option, he replied:

        "Concerning relay-based control onboard, the digitial output can sink/source to a max of 10 mAmp. It's low, but it's good enough to be used for controlling a NPN-transistor like a BC547. This BC547 can be used to (re)set a relay, although it's wise to use an additional diode like a 1N4148 in parallel for a relay. I also need to mention that it's very likely the signal will be too short to trigger a relay. So, it comes down to include a delay."

        Perhaps he will make improvement, but it is not beyond most homeseer hackers to achieve a working sensor input. Good luck.


        • #5
          Curious about the buzzer... does that have some sort of pulse stretching in the driver? Maybe that would be a better place to take the output from.


          • #6
            Yes here also ordered one.

            That said my Hobby Board lightning sensor battery is still going after over 7 years here. I build the device out of PVC and put it on the roof here. It uses a 1-Wire dual counter (one of two). Lightning counts on approaching storms would go to the over 10K strikes area and I would graph it using MCS stuff in Windows. The transport from the roof to the basement was a shielded cable grounded outside to a stake before coming in to the house.


            It was the same counter used for the Dallas 1-wire tipping bucket and water meters (used one dual counter to two autonomous water meters). I am currently running an RPi2 with DigiTemp in Linux and it is working fine now with a few combo temperature / humidity sensors. I took the HB lightning sensor off of the roof and thinking of mounting it in the attic instead of outside. Also reading about the new "blue" lightning kit that replaces the old "red" lighting kit from the lightning dot org site. It is a basic board with the SMDs already soldered in to place.

            Curious about what the counts are using the debounce circuit for incoming storms and how they are being measured or graphed in Homeseer? Are you using a VB script on the numbers to redefine the counts?

            Here migrating from using Cumulus (running on an RPi2) to using the MeteoStick / WeeWX for multiple wireless sensors outside and pure basic Linux (Python scripting stuff). The Meteostick will work with 1-Wire sensor and the Dallas weather station. Tiny thing way smaller than the Davis console. On the Davis console moved from very basic serial cable to a custom buffered cable from Australia which worked very nicely.
            Last edited by Pete; May 29th, 2017, 08:02 AM.
            - Pete

            Auto mator
            Homeseer 3 Pro - (Linux) - Ubuntu 18.04/W7e 64 bit Intel Haswell CPU - Mono 6.00
            Homeseer Zee2 (Lite) - (Linux) - Ubuntu 18.04/W7e - CherryTrail x5-Z8350 BeeLink 4Gb BT3 Pro - Mono 6.00

            X10, UPB, Zigbee, ZWave and Wifi MQTT automation.


            • #7
              Lightning in my world..

              I went really simple on counting the strikes, because my real purpose of needing lightning detection was to basically confirm a dangerous condition exists. The number of strikes is irrelevant for just this purpose. But my homeseer DOES count the pulses. Each pulse triggers a timer to hold the pulse long enough to allow homeseer to "see" it. For the record, it counts averages around 250 or so per storm. More importantly than high counts, it does not false alert at all! The totals just end up as numbers in a daily log file. My homeseer installation is not really for "interface, display, and control" as much as it is to operate the house in the background without intervention. I live totally off-grid with zero billed utilities, so weather has to be derived from source other than from flaky internet, and the NOAA weather radio input trigger is spotty unreliable due to being away from strong radio signal, it works about 50% of the time, but that is not reliable. I am working on "hail sensor" to add to the metal porch underbelly, to confirm lightning, hail, and wind will give a pretty good indication of tornado alert type conditions. The house has motorized storm shutters and bay doors that close in accordance with security and weather conditions. You can see how it is not really important to count strikes in my situation, although counting does give ability to not trigger until at least above 2 or 3 strikes just to be on the no-false-alert side. (although like I said- NO false alerts have ever happened- but I am not in city, where a transformer popping would count!)

              I am aware however that with lightning that there is usually several quick hits that group tightly together, with my delay timer- these would go uncounted as separate strikes. In fact, assuming a series of strikes occur 5 seconds apart (or more frequent) for a period of one minute, my timer would retrigger at each pulse, and end up counting the series as ONE strike lasting a minute. (this was not an issue to ME, but if you need accurate count, you will need a fast input!) -By the way: duration of a strike is not an element of data in my system, this example was to help explain a drawback to timers.

              The detector PCB does BEEP for each of the multiple strikes, the beep is not sustained and is an exact replica of the digital output. Which occurs too fast to trigger the ADIO-100 input device that I am using- but may not be too fast to trigger another input method. When other people get the pcb, this will certainly be subject of discussion about how to get fast counting. I am different..

              Keep in mind, I am off-grid, and my entire automation system consumes only 19watts - it is not designed for uber-speed at that low power. In my case power was far more scarce than to consider wasting on a "supercomputer" thus I accepted ended up having ultra slow triggers.

              (My automation system performs many functions behind the scenes to allow the off-grid house to operate as a normal house would, without allowing anything to upset the system in event of failure, and preferable with no user intervention, my guests never know I am off grid...)

              I am using JON00's graphing scripts, but not for counting lightning- as my processor usage is such a commodity I only use graphing for solar/power/water related in/out recording. Weather elements could be monitored in this manner also, but I see no reason to do it in my system.

              Another idea for "danger level" indication, would be to decrement the "strike count" over a period of time (say 5-15min per count), until count returns to zero would be a pretty good "safe" period indication. Of course adding a count each time strike is detected would increase the amount to be taken away. Bad storms would take longer to "get over it"!
              I opted for real simple... just turn "off" the danger flag after an hour of no newly detected strike, without consideration to wind/rain/etc. (leaving count value intact- until midnight logfile resets it). I am outdoors a lot (I'm solar off-grid, remember) and don't want to be on a tractor mowing pastures away from cover when t-storms are rolling in, but rain by itself may be acceptable or even fun -if not freezing! - I can sense everything else but the lightning by simply being outside, sober, and awake. Lightning is the only factor that can surprise or sneak up on me -besides animals. (& a shotgun can't rectify lightning! It's a kind of lightning rod actually...)
              My warning methods are text message (if "away" mode is active, I dont want a warning if I'm already in the house), and a 'radio' page across property, along with red radio tower light visible for a long way. (also flashes for security alert). Radio telemetry consists of homeseer audio output being connected to radio's microphone input, and a homeseer device that "keys up" the radio just before speech occurs. (going a little off topic here to explain)... It uses FRS radio freqs, I didn't implement the reverse voice recognition functions mostly because if someone else chatted on the freq it would mess with my stuff. (but I considered it). With 60ft radio tower, I can get several miles out of the handy talky. I use a HAM radio modified to TX on FRS channels. Not that I am near enough to people to assume a hacker, I still don't want any "open holes" in my system's security.

              When I transmit to the tower from a remote radio/handheld, the audio does come over the house speaker system, this allows me to talk to the occupants (typically my lovely wife). I also have radio in each vehicle for the same purpose, mobile units are 35w and can talk about 10miles. Handy enough that we don't really NEED our cellphones. (also have PTT mic in kitchen area- to reply from within house)
              -This radio system is limited to "RX" only during lightning alerts, because transmitter is relay shunted to prevent damage (as happened once before) along with other things such as disconnecting the PTZ tower camera (after doing a 360 degree tour of incoming weather), & turning off AC power across about 15acres that would be subject to a returning surge if struck. Also during "lightning" alerts, the driveway vehicle sensors may give false triggers, so I turn off the audio chime that goes with it unless a vehicle is confirmed to be sensed by more than one sensor within the time necessary for it to be traveling inbound at between 4-50mph. (under 4 may be two sensors falsifying, and anything over 50mph would be pro drift car driver considering my 2000ft contorted driveway! They would either hit a tree or fall into the creek!). Also - a few of the motion detecting cameras alerts are ignored during lightning activity times, as the lightning causes false detection. (same for motion floods or any PIR motion sensor.)
              -none of those reasons involved the actual number of count to be accurate, so I did not take it to that level, albeit for weather reports it should be accurate. I hope this explains perfectly why/what I was using for motivation.
              I am immune to typical "power line surges" caused by lightning, simply because I am off-grid. But surges CAN be introduced through the wires that extend beyond the faraday cage of the electrical room/house. Including the tower itself, internet & radio antennae, and 15 acres land covered with trenched camera, power, and sensor wiring. These inputs are isolated to at least 5kv, most are 10kv. But anyone knows lightning is in the millions of volts... So knowing when to expect erratic behavior (or damage to occur) is mildly important, pulling circuits totally from inputs is the best protection, but you do what you can.
              Another note: ONE SINGLE GROUND POINT is the best protection from lightning damage. I do not ground each run of 2000ft at the remote point, the ground is RETURNED to the master ground rod at the center of the house in the electrical room. Otherwise (for example) when lightning strikes the ground near the remote gate or sensor 2000ft away, the ground rod at that location will change "in respect" to the "others" by raising it's potential to hundreds of volts if not thousands! The ground is "hot" but it is connected to another ground 2000ft away- viola! You get a burned out wire between the two, and lots of damage on both ends. With one ground rod the earth near the remote installation may increase in potential, but the earth at that location is NOT the system ground. Just keep from wiring things such as the negative camera wire to the metal junction box. Let the box go "ungrounded" in the remote location, it will act as a faraday cage to the electronics inside but if no direct connection to it, then cannot travel down the trenched wires. Example: My radio tower is grounded at the tower base (big lightning rod!), but everything "on it" is isolated from the tower metal electrically, and the electronics is grounded at master common ground. I hope that all makes sense, it's late!

              One more thought:
              If you could use the pulse detection to take synchronized still images from security cameras during storms, it would be cool thing to capture!


              • #8
                Thank you Dick. I envy what you are doing off the grid.

                Curious if you have a weather station in place and what software you utilize if any to monitor the weather station.

                Have you looked at getting weather maps from the NOAA satellite directly?

                Here while waiting connected the old Hobby Boards Lightning sensor to DigiTemp and it is working fine.

                May 30 18:36:37 Sensor 2 #0 564604
                May 30 18:36:37 Sensor 2 #1 567397
                May 30 18:37:01 Sensor 2 #0 565632
                May 30 18:37:01 Sensor 2 #1 568433
                May 30 18:37:38 Sensor 2 #0 567122
                May 30 18:37:38 Sensor 2 #1 569942
                Last edited by Pete; May 30th, 2017, 06:38 PM.
                - Pete

                Auto mator
                Homeseer 3 Pro - (Linux) - Ubuntu 18.04/W7e 64 bit Intel Haswell CPU - Mono 6.00
                Homeseer Zee2 (Lite) - (Linux) - Ubuntu 18.04/W7e - CherryTrail x5-Z8350 BeeLink 4Gb BT3 Pro - Mono 6.00

                X10, UPB, Zigbee, ZWave and Wifi MQTT automation.


                • #9
                  Weather station (off grid)

                  I do NOT have any "weather station" commercially available.
                  No logging except the midnite statistics include the items listed below.

                  The weather related "things" I monitor (and the reasons why) are described below:

                  1. Rain - knowing how much to automate irrigation is the main purpose, although closing any open bay doors that are exposed to incoming rain and such is a bonus. The rain sensor is a modified self emptying wireless rain gauge ($20 on ebay) modified for HARDWIRE input to ADIO-100 whereas the bucket tips one way to CLOSE the magnetic reed switch, and tips the other way to OPEN the reed switch. So each "status change" indicates .01 inch. Exactly. Once the input stays either on or off for an hour, the system assumes no more rainfall. logfile includes amount of rain today.
                  Concerning rain and possibility of flooding in low areas of the property in my situation, I gather enough history for 3 days about rainfall to calculate basic soil saturation, and include a "runoff" factor, whereas the hard rain events will create runoff that can cause flooding, this rainfall amount is added during rainfall increment and dissipates the count over time, resulting in a standing water alert level that is fairly accurate after fine tuning. This varies based on soil types and slopes, but gives a pretty good indication if the creek is about to overflow, sometimes floods some of the roads. The alert comes before the creeks rise, so this is helpful.

                  2. Wind - speed anemometer purchased from ebay for about $50 gives 0-5vdc output. Easy to integrate with script math to determine exact speed. Wind is important to know if weather is dangerous, but not much else since I do not harness wind power. (if I did, the input power would determine wind force!) . logfile includes max windspeed and average.

                  3. Solar output - This one is easy- Just monitor the output of the solar array. Solar stats are the great majority of the logged information.

                  4. Cloud cover percentage - This one is complicated, but "knowing" the production curve of solar panels compared to the actual output fluctuations during the day can give a pretty good determination of the cloud cover. This is useful to "predict" the ability to waste power on a sunny day, but on cloudy days whereas wasting power may end up meaning the battery does not fully charge is a decision that must be made accurate, the only time it "fools the system" is whenever a storm rolls in the afternoon and never clears up before sunset. Otherwise it is hard to fool it. The error days amount to about 2-3 days per year, so it really helps cut down on generator run-time albeit nothing can predict exact weather. The logfile records the end of day "experience" for record keeping.

                  5. lightning (we already covered that one) - logfile records number of strikes today.

                  6. Temperature (simply use a LM34 IC chip) - the chip gives out .5-4.5vdc and is powered by 5v, very accurate. 1volt=100F. Hardly any math involved there. I used the same sensor for water heater temperature monitoring. Encased in acrylic for waterproof and moisture protection. logfile records MIN, and MAX temps along with the humidity at the min's and max's.

                  7. Humidity- I preferred to stick with the 0-5v input theme, so I use the HIH4000 SIP package IC for most uses, but also found the ebay chinese cheapo 0-5v modules work pretty darn good. So I have some of each. Logfile records mins and max.

                  8. Dew- Dewpoint is calculated. Pretty accurate too... Needed dewpoint alert on certain days if I am painting or doing early morning work that may suffer if gets wet. Logfile does not record dewpoint.

                  That's all the weather related sensing I do, it is all totally NOT reliant on internet (as is every aspect), however I did set a script to run whenever lightning alert measures at least 5 strikes (assuming a nearby storm) to attempt (try) to download a predefined Motion GIF weather radar image from the local television station website, the reason I do it early is because during a storm the internet usually fails and if the radar image is pre-loaded it will give a "heads up" on the scope and direction of the storm coming. The reason I dont constantly keep a local radar update is because the bandwidth is so slow, that actually affects it really bad to try.
                  This image works most of the time, but like I said- flaky internet shooting +2miles to a tower is not reliable even in good weather.. This radar image is saved in the homeseer images folder and used as an attachment in a text message, but it can be viewed locally if internet is down when storm arrives at least we can sort of know what it was when it hit us.
                  Last edited by Switchdoctor; May 30th, 2017, 09:25 PM.


                  • #10
                    Very nice Dick. Off grid perfection at it's finest!

                    Weather here is a hobby but not a necessity.

                    For rain here utilize the Davis tipping bucket, Dallas Tipping bucket and two digital rain guages; one for just "is it raining" and the other to measure rain.

                    Great idea to utilize the solar panels for cloudiness readings. Here always had issues with getting local UV reads such that I went to using a temperature sensor in a sealed glass jar which sort of works. (and the internet but it is not local enough)

                    For weather radar maps and concurrent to internet stuff utilize NOAA satellites / SD Radio stuff and an small Quadrifilar Helix (QFH) is a circularly polarized antenna in the attic.

                    There is a user here on the forum that uses Huges satellite system for his Internet. Here utilize Wireless 3G/LTE as a backup to primary cable internt. It is good enough for backup to VOIP, internet, SMS and phone line. Looking to building a DIY yagi directional antenna to optimize coverage.

                    There are a few folks here on the forum that have DIY'd NOAA weather radios integrating them to Homeseer. (ardunio stuff). Here using an old Recom radio with audio / NO switches going to the alarm panel.

                    Lightning has been an issue here on the forum with many users integrating alarm panels to their automation. IE: it's mostly relating to ground.
                    Here utilize copper pipe ingress and one ground stake next to the electrical ingress.
                    - Pete

                    Auto mator
                    Homeseer 3 Pro - (Linux) - Ubuntu 18.04/W7e 64 bit Intel Haswell CPU - Mono 6.00
                    Homeseer Zee2 (Lite) - (Linux) - Ubuntu 18.04/W7e - CherryTrail x5-Z8350 BeeLink 4Gb BT3 Pro - Mono 6.00

                    X10, UPB, Zigbee, ZWave and Wifi MQTT automation.


                    • #11
                      UV index idea

                      For me, the solar system gives output, but for non-solar users I bet a solar panel can be connected to a voltage input. The most accurate index would be to measure the current produced by the solar panel (voltage under load). Even if it was only a milliwatt panel the concept is the same.


                      • #12
                        Thank you for sharing. This is a missing piece that I have been wanting for a while now.

                        Just put in my order and will tie this into my Arduino Mega that I have tied to HS currently.


                        • #13
                          This is interesting. I have been considering doing some type of lightning detection. It may be time for me to familiarize myself with arduino!!!

                          Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


                          • #14
                            UV index idea

                            Thank you Dick. You have me googling.

                            For the new lightning sensor here will be connecting it to one wire counter; actually using the same one that I am using today for the Hobby Boards sensor. There is a dual counter on the board and just disconnecting one counter and connecting it to the new lightning sensor. If this doesn't work then just connecting another 1-wire counter to it. It is the same that I am using for a couple of water meters and it works well.

                            Curious wayne and Kerat can the Arduino to lightning sensor count thousands of switch closures per minute? Reason is that I have a few of those around (and RPi's); well I also have a few microrouters with OpenWRT on them and have already tapped in to the GPIO ports on these.

                            Goal here will be to use the new Meteostick connecting that to the Davis weather station, additional Davis sensors and using a few 1-wire sensors.
                            - Pete

                            Auto mator
                            Homeseer 3 Pro - (Linux) - Ubuntu 18.04/W7e 64 bit Intel Haswell CPU - Mono 6.00
                            Homeseer Zee2 (Lite) - (Linux) - Ubuntu 18.04/W7e - CherryTrail x5-Z8350 BeeLink 4Gb BT3 Pro - Mono 6.00

                            X10, UPB, Zigbee, ZWave and Wifi MQTT automation.


                            • #15
                              Lightning Detection for Homeseer

                              Pete. You have me curious about your one wire setup too. Once I get my parts and play a bit, we should trade secrets.