Tag Archives: UNplug

Take your essential appliances off the grid with this solar power controller

This system allows you to ‘UNplug’ from the grid during the day and re-plug at night.

In today’s ‘always on’ era, there are over 100 million refrigerators, Internet modems and laptops running on fossil fuels in the United States alone, all of which adds roughly 33 billion pounds of CO2 to the atmosphere annually. That is the equivalent of four coal burning power plants, just to put things into perspective. As a way to curb this never-ending problem, Markus Löffler has developed a solution that starts with taking essential household appliances off the grid during daylight hours.


The idea for this project first came about after the Maker and his family suffered a power outage that left his home in total darkness and their refrigerated food spoiled. Upon brainstorming, he decided to absorb the endless sun of Southern California through a series of solar panels and take his refrigerator off the grid during peak hours of the day, which also happen to be when energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions are the highest. What’s more, the aptly named UNplug system automatically reverts back to electricity at night.


Now live on Kickstarter and a recent entry in this year’s Hackaday Prize, UNplug supplies automatic uninterrupted power with built-in surge protection by controlling the power source that goes to an appliance, switching between the grid, solar power and batteries. Meaning, should a thunderstorm, hurricane or a tree falling on a line cause a power outage, the solution is capable of switching back via battery. This lets users keep their most critical home equipment up and running in a time when they’re needed most, whether it’s the lights, security monitors, smoke detectors or phone chargers. One solar panel is enough to take a refrigerator, laptop and modem off of the grid.


The unit is comprised of three main functional blocks: a120V AC unit, a 12/24V DC unit, as well as the sensors and microprocessors. Speaking of which, two configurations are available. The first employs an Arduino-compatible ATmega328 controller without the need for a Wi-Fi signal, while the second uses a Spark Core to wirelessly send data and sync with IFTTT recipes.

“The UNplug firmware will be pre-installed onto the processors so each unit is ready right out of the box. But you can even go ‘fully hacker friendly’ and download and compile your own programs. There is an Arduino and Spark compatible C-library that allows you to program your own functionality and go be beyond the intended use. There are two interfaces (Serial and I2C) to wire connect the unit to other hardware like the Raspberry Pi,” Löffler writes.


In order to completely construct the appliance power system requires a 12V or 24V power inverter, batteries and at least 250W of solar panels. An online dashboard allows the user to monitor energy usage, cost savings and other metrics from just about anywhere. These algorithms and programs are all open source and available on Github.

“UNplug is essentially an Automatic Transfer Switch that switches a load between two sources. It automatically switches when it senses one of the sources has lost power,” the Maker notes. “The ATS will automatically tell the inverter to start. Once the ATS sees that the inverter is ready to provide electric power, the ATS breaks the home’s connection to the utility grid and connects the inverter. The inverter supplies power to the electric load, but is not connected to the electric utility lines.”


What’s nice is that thanks to its modular design, each component can be updated independently. This includes adding more solar modules and batteries, replacing the inverter with a more more efficient unit, swapping out the universal socket MCU with a Bluetooth-enabled controller, integrating a cellular network, and receiving automatic firmware updates via Wi-Fi.

UNplug isn’t only limited to in-home use either; in fact, it can be implemented pretty much anywhere, from RVs and campers to boats and cabins. Head over to its Kickstarter campaign, where Löffler is currently seeking $55,000. Delivery is slated for October 2015.

17 smart crowdfunding campaigns you may want to back this week

Every Friday, we’re taking a look at some of the smartest, most innovative projects that have caught our attention on Kickstarter and Indiegogo over the last seven days. 



This smartwatch doubles as a wireless storage device that allows you to securely access and sync all your files without an Internet connection. ReVault is currently seeking $65,000 on Indiegogo.



This artificially intelligent robot will learn, adapt and grow with you and your environment. Musio is currently seeking $50,000 on Indiegogo.



This shield is an easy way to connect the popular Teensy microcontroller to RGB matrix display panels and create stunning LED visuals with just a few lines of code. Pixelmatrix is currently seeking $30,000 on Kickstarter.



This 3D-printed, Arduino-based robot kit can be modded, driven and even given a personality, all while teaching young Makers about programming and 3D design. Socially Shaped is currently seeking $25,000 on Kickstarter.



This GSM and Wi-Fi-enabled video peephole/doorbell allows you to see, hear and speak to visitors directly from your smartphone. The BUTLER is currently seeking $40,000 on Kickstarter.

YotaPhone 2


This dual-screen, always-on smartphone features a fully-customizable display, hands-free messaging and e-reading for up to 100 hours on a single charge. YotaPhone is currently seeking $50,000 on Indiegogo.

Focus 3D Printer


This new 3D printer folds up like a briefcase and prints dozens of different materials. 3D By Flow is currently seeking $56,475 on Kickstarter.



This portable battery pack charges in 30 minutes and packs 6,000mAh of juice. Lyte Systems is currently seeking $50,000 on Kickstarter.



This system will monitor your home’s electricity consumption and help you save money on your electric bill. Ecoisme is currently seeking $50,000 on Indiegogo.



This Arduino-driven device employs solar energy and electronics to reduce power usage and greenhouse gas emissions. Maker Markus Löffler is currently seeking $55,000 on Kickstarter.



This wearable enviro-tracker monitors air pollution and UV exposure to help you stay healthy and explore your environment. TZOA is currently seeking $50,000 on Indiegogo.



This board gives you the ability to connect and control just about anything, from your toys to your lights, right from your your smartphone. Dangerous Things is currently seeking $18,000 on Kickstarter.



This gadget serves as an automatic muscle tracker, personal trainer and social motivator. Maker Marco Zoltan Daroczi is currently seeking $78,213 on Kickstarter.

Netonos Note


This amplifier integrates with your Sonos system to extend its capabilities to include surround sound receivers, group presets, doorbell chimes and playback of short announcements through its speakers. Netonos is currently seeking $80,000 on Kickstarter.



This modular system lets you personalize and add functionalities to your smartphone. MODR is currently seeking $70,000 on Indiegogo.

Geek Out V2


This device plugs directly into your computer’s USB port and replaces its mediocre sounds with high-def quality. Geek Out is currently seeking $28,888 on Indiegogo.



This multi-color LED smart bulb for your home can be controlled from anywhere via its accompanying smartphone app. Smart  Gator Labs is currently seeking $33,333 on Kickstarter.



This piece of smart jewelry looks to enhance your overall well-being by measuring skin conductance and tracking emotional levels. Moodmetric is currently seeking $50,000 on Indiegogo.

Did you happen to miss last week’s notable campaigns? If so, you can check them out here. Also, if your project is powered by Atmel MCUs and you’ve been featured on our blog, be sure to download the respective badges here for use in your ongoing marketing efforts. 

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