Totally new user, 0 experience, 0 equipment, what to start with

I hate to ask like this, but I have no idea what to look at starting with.

I want to set up a temperature data logger (I looked at the tutorial and its exactly what I want to do) But what do I need to get to get to that level? I’m looking at a spark Photon on Amazon and the Make book “getting started with the Photon”, and now I’m stuck. I am pretty sure I will need more than those 2 items to get this working. I have a couple months of semi-down time while I am at a class. I have my laptop, and free time. I want to get this roughly figured out with a single sensor, then when I get home, scale it up to at least 4 temp sensors, and 1 sensor to monitor a fuel tank.

My limitations, I have horrible internet (at home) - uploading to the web will be problematical at the best. I can set up a personal laptop to log everything, if I can figure that end out. Powering the units, I would love to do power over ethernet - since I can run cabling wherever I want - pulling data that way would be sweet, but if WiFi is easier, i’ll go with easier. But power …no outlets in that area (yet) batteries are possible, but I would still prefer to have batteries as a backup, not primary.

I’m open to suggestions, hints, tips, nudges. Not afraid of the magic smoke inside of electrical things, if i fry it, its still a learning experience.

Thanks for your time,

Hey there,

Welcome to the community, glad to have you! I’ll try to answer some of your questions as best as I can, but can’t make guarantees :wink:

For a WiFi enabled temperature sensor, very little is required. You’d need a (Core/)Photon, and a sensor of your liking. There are different sensors available, each with their own pro’s and con’s. Price, accuracy, combined sensors, waterproofing, size, and so on, can make a difference in determining what is right for you. The DHT22 for example is often chosen because it’s rather cheap, there are plenty of examples, and it also contains a humidity sensor. The DS18B20 on the other hand is ‘just’ a temperature sensor, but also comes in a waterproof variant. It’s also a fair bit more accurate, and a bit more stable. It all depends on your needs and desires.

If you’re planning on doing this in a school, make sure you’ve got a way to connect to the web. Captive portals (which are often found in schools), and enterprise networks might create problems. Setting up a hotspot of your own (using your phone), or sharing your laptops internet might be an option in that case.

Not ‘a lot’ of internet is required. It’s not like you’re going to be streaming HD video with it. If facebook/whatsapp works, then this will most likely be fine as well :smile:

Not sure if you missed the “wifi enabled microcontroller” part somewhere, but it has no Ethernet. WiFi only (for the foreseeable future)
Unless you plan on using ethernet cable to get power there, there’s no plug to stick it into. Using the cable for power is possible, although you have to account for some voltage loss depending on the distance. You could put 12V on it, and then put a regulator on the end to get a nice 5V out, or even 3.3V.
For double checks of the validity of the above, let’s wait for input from some more knowledgeable folks. Should be doable though.

A good place to start would perhaps be the Maker Kit. It has various sensors/actuators. Combined with the Make book should allow for some fun projects. There are also quite a few projects on the forums, as well as on Hackster for you to check out.
As for ‘stuff to get’… A soldering iron, and multimeter are ALWAYS good to have. Rather vital if you ask me. Then some generic resistors (there are packs of 4000 with 50 different values for <$10). Some capacitors as well, also various kinds and values available. Transistors are also good to have, NPN and PNP. To lighten things up a bit, LEDs are always a nice addition, and Neopixels make those so fancy :smile: Depending on how you want to power everything, some voltage regulators might come in handy. You could also use one of these ‘breadboard power supplies’, which take up to 12V and put out both 5V and 3.3V. On the topic of breadboards… you need some of those as well. Easy to prototype on, and doesn’t require soldering. Unless you’re planning to mount something somewhere for a longer period of time, they work just fine. (I’ve got one running for two years now, and it’s pretty okay so far).

A lot of information to take in, so I’ll leave additional tips up to the pro’s. Should you have other questions, or require clarification on any of the above, feel free to ask :smile:


I have Hughes Net (Satellite in the middle of no-where Alaska) Limited to 250Mb (not Gb) a day…I do use my phone as a hot spot for the majority of my surfing, and I could use the Hughes net for the sensors only.

The sensors will be going into the garage, to monitor boiler temps and outside ambient temps. I’ve been planning on extending the WiFi into the garage, and running a Cat 6 cable to one of the computers (my cnc mill) out there anyways. I think distance would be no more than 30ft (Cat 6 is rated to ~290ft) so I could just make a adapter on the plug, and use the poe feature. If I ever decide to swap out (if i get it to work - doubtful) but if I ever did, cable is already ran.

I’d be impressed if you could use up 250Mb on a day. I’ve never measured the actual usage, but I don’t think it comes even close to that.

You will need wifi of some sort, since there’s currently no way to use ethernet.
If you haven’t got mains power anywhere close to where you’d like to use them, POE might be an option. I’ve never used it before, but I thought I saw it worked with >40V. That’s okay, as long as you regulate it down to something the photon can handle. You do not want to put 40V on it, that’s for sure. You could make your own ‘breadboard power supply’ with POE and an adequate voltage regulator. Let us know if you want to go down that route, as I’m sure there are folks on here that can advise on proper practise.
It doesn’t even have to be ‘official’ POE. Using just the cables with a 12V power adapter should work as well, and you’d ‘lose’ less when regulating it down.

@Pife, there seems to be conflicting info:

[quote=“Pife, post:3, topic:19283”]
I’ve been planning on extending the WiFi into the garage, and running a Cat 6 cable to one of the computers (my cnc mill) out there anyways.
[/quote] and,

If you have a computer there, then you must have power! Perhaps it is not where you plan to have the Photon located. I am questioning whether you need wifi here or simply a Raspberry Pi 2 with sensors connected on your LAN doing the data collection and presentation. With a Photon and access to your router, you could avoid using the internet and connect locally to a PC that collects and presents the data (could be an rPi as well).

You could leverage the internet connectivity of the Photon (and rPi as well) by sampling data at higher intervals and sending less often only statistical data of those collected data points, thus reducing internet usage. This data could be sent to a number of web services that allow you to collect and present data. It comes down to whether you want to do everything locally (LAN/WAN) or on the internet. :smile:


I plan on setting up sensors in the garage, and one on the roof (next to the poe camera)

My garage is 30 x ~60 ft, 12 ft high ceiling. I do have power, and lots of it in the area of my equipment, but limited in a couple of the areas where I want to take readings.

I want to monitor 2 boilers, the outside temp, and a underground diesel fuel tank.
Sensors 1&2 : Boiler 1 (wood/coal) I want to track the input and output temp
Sensor 3: Boiler 2 (oil burner) I want to track the flue temp - in other words, if the flue gets hot, it fired up
Sensor 4: Outside temp - needs to be able to go to -70f, worst Ive seen personally is -67, so…
Sensor 5: Fuel Oil level, most likely getting a 4’ft custom sensor from Milone Tech.

I own the house (well bank owns most of it). If I can get this working and tracking, I do not plan on removing any of it, I want this to work with a home network as much as possible if I ever do decide to move/sell the house. If I get this working, I will scale it up even more, I am putting in a small sawmill, and drying room for the cut lumber, I could use this to monitor temps and humidity/water content of the wood as it dries.

I’ve never used any of these systems, Ardunio, Raspberry, Photon or any other similar products. But I am not inexperienced in computer building, programming, ect - just I have not done anything along these lines in 10+ years.

I’m in the store, and looking at the Particle maker kit, the book, the power shield and the relay shield (relay shield - if I am reading this right, I can set that up to switch different pumps on at different temps - heat dump from the boiler, or open vents on a greenhouse ect…)

If I am going about this wrong, feel free to let me know, I wont be annoyed. I looked at COTS (commercial off the shelf) setups, and I was seeing prices from 1k to 5k. I would rather build a custom system to suit my needs and understand it from top to bottom, than drop a couple grand on something I cant get working the way I want it to.

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