Timer plugs for your tank lights/CO2 – the smart home solution

I’m sure most of you are familar with the age old problem of timer plugs.  We’ve all encountered it before with our tanks bringing the lights on and off at the correct time.

Old school Mechanical Timer

Over the years you probably started with something like the old style mechanical timer plug on the right here 🙂 these were fine for a while but eventually they break, damp gets in them they cease up or sometimes just stop working, they’re also a pain in the ass to adjust should you want to change the settings.  Their final problem is their size. These things are massive and if plugged into the middle of a 4 way adaptor you lose usage of the 2 plug sockets either side of it.  This was just about tolerable if you only had a single light but what about those of us with many lights or things we wanted to turn on/off such as CO2 injection.

In time things got a little better and we upgraded to digital plugs these were great they were a little smaller could support multiple time settings on different days rather than every day being the same and importantly they didn’t lose their real time if there was a power cut. I ran the version on the left for a very long time picked up from B&Q but these had a downside they’re expensive. £8 each one for each light and one for the CO2 on/off.

I recently had a timer break and set about finding a new solution to the timing of lights/things, at first I was considering building my own fanciful solution using a Raspberry pi and some relay boards then writing some software as an app on my phone to control everything and set timers/see status etc.  yay fish tank automation!  Then the missus looks at me and says “why go to all that effort isn’t this exactly what the smart things everyone is selling these days is for”.  Well the idea was planted and the research began.

Smart things/Smart house products are all stupidly complex and can be quite expensive looking at things like Hive and even the Google / Amazon stuff was all stupidly expensive I wanted something cheap and cheerful that could control a few plugs around the house as well as the fish tanks and give me ability to set time schedules as well as do things like overrides should I want to flick the lights on during the day for cleaning or whatever.  So I spent ages researching around.  One day I went to Amazon to buy something completely unrelated but because of the magic of the internet Amazon suggested that hey you may also be interested in this “MiHome by Energenie” I did a little reading looking at reviews and looking up about the actual company its self as I’d never heard of them but at the end of the day for £50 I figured I’d take a punt on it and see what I thought.

Turns out this cheap and cheerful pack with 3 timers and the controler hub was not only dead easy to setup but did everything I wanted.  So the main hub box just plugs into your internet router provided by your isp, it comes with all the cables you need.  Setup is as simple as creating an account on the MiHome website and typing in the code no the back of your hub.  Then associating the plugs is as easy as pressing a button for 5 seconds and clicking OK.

I’ve installed the app on my phone created a group called Lounge Fish tank, assigned 2 plugs to it for one one for each lighting bank and I’ve setup a schedule on the group,  now you can also setup schedules per individual device but because these are lights I want them coming on together.

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I’ve also got my spare plug setup ready for the CO2 once I’m confident that everythings running according to expectations.  Now I only went for the basic plug that does no kind of energy monitoring however I’m not considering that perhaps I should pick up a couple of the (more expensive) Energenie MIHO005 Adapter Plus. These are alot more expensive than the ones in the pack I bought work out to be but they also do the energy usage monitoring.  Having recently upgraded to the LED lights previously shown this may be handy for me to see just how little energy I’m using now compared to how much I was on the old flo-tube setup 🙂

All in I’m very happy so far and its the first actual useful usage of “Smart Home” tech I’ve actually found as to top it off the plugs are barely wider than standard plugs so they fit quite happily in a 4 way adaptor bar without interfering with the slots next to them.  If you’re considering smart plus or just need some new timers I’d definitely recommend doing a little research into these and check these out they’re alot cheaper than pretty much all the other options (probably due to them being a much smaller player)

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