Microcontroller for my Reef Tank and Big Green Egg

With the progressive cost reduction in manufacturing and efficiencies in production, we have options for controlling things around the house that just were not available 10 years ago.  For instance, did your Dad have a MicroLogix 1500 PLC connected to his BBQ grill?  Did your brother have a SLC 500 Programmable Logic Controller connected to his Reef Tank.  Of course not!  If he did, he was ahead of his time.

What’s even better is that today’s breed of PLC can even be found with Ethernet controllers onboard.  Ohh the options!  With a little bit of ladder logic programming, a couple of relays and whahhllaahh, you have control of your gigawidget using your standard Ethernet network in the house (or remote).

Today, thanks to online auctions, old equipment outlets and the like, you can pick up PLC’s for pennies on the dollar.  I’ve seen some of the MicroLogix controllers going for 75-100$ in the last few weeks.  That’s just cheap enough, that I’m going to order a couple and see what can be done.

For those that would rather buy and use, check out these two fully baked products.

First, for complete control of your Reef Tank, the Neptune Systems controller is a well matured product.  Featuring extendable high voltage (110VAC) controllable outlets, a variety of probe connections and all sorts of if/then type logic, the options are literally endless for systems control.  Price ~ $500 with all accouterments.

Second, for complete control of your Big Green Egg BBQ grill, have a look at the Stoker controller module. This beauty comes network ready and has a variety of functions for remote alert and control of your burning Pig, or Cow.  It won’t work with Squirrels btw.  Price ~ $275 loaded.

While both of these products are nicely bundled, and offer most all the functions you could want/need, they are still well outside of price ranges most folks are interested in paying.  For this reason, I feel there is a real opportunity for development of some basic options developed around the GNU protocol.  Hence, my work has begun.  If you have special interest in being a part of this, drop me a line (or 1000) with your ideas or code and let’s see what we can contribute to the public domain of PLC control sets.


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