12 DIY Raspberry Pi Projects to Improve Your Smart Home

Raspberry Pi On A Pot Feature Image Photograph By Pi Supply

So maybe you’ve gotten bored playing around with your Raspberry Pi and wanted to make something practical out of it. That’s great!

Whether you’re an experienced electrician or a tinkering newbie who can’t hold a soldering iron without getting burnt, there are plenty of guides and projects out there that you could follow so you could integrate them to your own. Here are 12 projects to start you off and make for an even brighter home.

Tip: Don’t forget to secure your Raspberry Pi while doing these DIY projects.

1. Make a Raspberry Pi Wi-Fi Router

Difficulty: 2/10

What you’ll need:

  • Ethernet cable
  • WiFi adapter (for older models with no built-in Wi-Fi capability)

If you have a lot of wireless smart devices over your home network, you might want to try letting your Raspberry Pi do a bit of lifting. This guide by from Adafruit shows how to set up a Wi-Fi access network and even let you browse the web. It’s a great way to learn about computer networks and ease the load on your router, especially if it’s an old one that needs a bit of replacing.

2. An E-ink Calendar

Difficulty: 3/10

What you’ll need:

  • An e-ink display

If you can afford an e-ink display, you can try making this power-saving e-ink calendar which uses the google-auth module to directly get the date and time from the internet. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you could tweak the code and combine it to a real-time clock module so you won’t have to connect the Raspberry Pi to the internet.

3. Set Up a Security System

Difficulty: 5/10

What you’ll need:

  • IR Proximity Sensor
  • LED
  • Camera Module

With an LED, camera module, and IR proximity sensor, the Person Safety System lets you know who (or what) is right behind your door. The IR proximity sensor is used here as a switch – triggering it makes it take a photograph and send it to you via Gmail. While this project was originally meant to work with a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, you can use almost any other version you have.

Tip: Not comfortable using a Rapsberry Pi? Check out its emulators instead.

4. A Ventilated Cat Litter Box

Difficulty: 6/10

Stuff you’ll need:

  • Litter box
  • PIR motion sensor
  • Motor fan and exhaust pipe

Let’s face it: cat poop leaves a smell even after they’re buried deep in the litter box. This automatic ventilated cat litter box makes sure that none of that smell leaves the litter box. Plus, it logs how many times your cat enters the loo! The code and electronics setup are rather easy to do – the only thing you’ll have to figure out on your own is how to point the exhaust pipe outside.

5. Farm Chia Coins

Difficulty: 6/10

What you’ll need:

  • Nothing more than a Raspberry Pi and an internet connection

These days, you can’t farm Bitcoins and expect to get even a half of a coin in less than a year without hundreds of dollars’ worth of expensive equipment. By why do that when you can try farming altcoins? This tutorial lets you farm Chia using nothing more than a Raspberry Pi. While this won’t earn you a lot, this is an inexpensive way to learn more about cryptocurrencies and blockchains.

6. A Cyberdeck

Difficulty: 7/10

What you’ll need:

  • Touchscreen monitor, keyboard, and other computer peripherals
  • Batteries
  • Hubs, adapters, and electric switches
  • A 3D printer
  • Specifically a Raspberry Pi Zero to fit in the casing

What do Raspberry Pis and cyberdecks have in common? They’re tiny. They’re computers. And they’re a fun to play with. This Raspberry Pi Cyberdeck guide shows you how to get the best of both worlds by making a cyberdeck out of a Pi Zero. The final piece is about as big as a tiny smart phone, but can run all the smart devices in your house and have some processing power to spare to browse the web. Though perhaps the best thing about this is that you can buy all the parts directly from Digikey, which makes things a lot simpler.

7. Trash Sorter with Machine Learning

Difficulty: 7/10

What you’ll need:

  • Camera
  • Pushbutton, resistors, and 5 indicator LEDs
  • A custom enclosure, preferably made from recycled boxes

This is perhaps the simplest project to get into machine learning yet so useful and fun that you’re going to use it all throughout the day. The Pi Trash Classifier with ML uses machine learning and a camera to figure out what classification your trash belongs to. Perhaps you could improve on this by adding four automatic trash bins, one of which opens up to show where to throw your empty bottles and soda cans.

8. A Pedal Board for Sound Effects

Difficulty: 8/10

What you’ll need:

  • A cheap keyboard to hack and dismantle
  • Stomp switches
  • Materials for the case
  • Any box

This Raspberry Pi-based pedal board lets you have a fully-customizable effects pedal for your guitar. It’s an improvement over the Pi Zero-based Pedal-Pi which only brings one switch to step on. This one is designed to have ten switches, each with an effect that you can program by yourself!

9. A NAS that Looks like a NAS

Difficulty: 8/10

What you’ll need:

  • A SATA to USB2.0 adapter
  • Buck boost converter
  • Power jacks, screws, and trigger cables
  • Either a 3D printer or someone who can print for you
  • Assembled PCBs (though you still have to solder these)

When you make a NAS with a Raspberry Pi, it looks a lot less like a NAS and a lot like a green piece of brick. But not this baby! This 3D-printed NAS guide lets you make one that looks sleek and professional. Plus, if you know how to deal with a CAD, you can change, remove, or add engravings to personalize its looks.

10. An IoT Garden

Difficulty: 9/10

What you’ll need:

  • Grove Pi + Sensor shield
  • 12V solenoid valve
  • DHT11 Humidity and temperature sensor
  • Soil moisture sensor
  • Relays
  • Tarpaulin sheets, PVC pipes, wooden planks, and other construction hardware

With plenty of space and a lot of sunlight, you can try making an self-watering garden that also stores temperature, humidity, and moisture data into a database. Check out this Raspberry Pi Powered IoT Garden and find out how to do everything, from connecting the Raspberry Pi to Firebase, to building the garden with wood and screws.

11. Set Up a Weather Station

Difficulty: 10/10

What you’ll need:

  • BME280 pressure, temperature, and humidity sensor
  • DS18B20 digital thermal probe
  • Two 4.7k ohm resistor, a breadboard, and an MCP3008 analog-to-digital converter
  • 5mm-pitch PCB mount screw terminal blocks
  • Breadboard
  • Anemometer, wind vane, and rain gauge

Why wait for the weather reporter’s forecast when you can do it by yourself? Get into the spirit of DIY-ing and learn how to make your own weather station with the official Raspberry Pi guide on it. This teaches you how to code, build, and measure everything: from humidity and air quality to wind speed and rainfall.

12: Control Incandescent Light Bulbs

Difficulty: 11/10

What you’ll need:

  • Incandescent light bulbs and lampholders
  • Potentiometers
  • MCP3008 analog to digital converter
  • A bunch of resistors and Darlington pair transistors
  • Screw terminals and Schottky diode

Other things you’ll need:

  • Know at least a little bit about Node-RED
  • Soldering skilz and a ton of time
  • Respect for high-voltage mains electricity

If you want to really amp the difficulty for a bit of a thrill, try controlling incandescent light bulbs with a pair of knobs and a Raspberry Pi! And I don’t mean a single bulb. This Okdo guide lets you do 7 bulbs at once, and you can modify it to do even more. You’ll need to do a lot of soldering, testing, and making sure that you don’t burn your board a lot of times. But the good news is that it uses Node-RED, a low-code programming tool based on Node.js that helps make it easier to wire hardware devices together.

Good to know: More project you can work with your Pi: making a motion sensor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to learn how to solder to use a Raspberry Pi?

With most Raspberry Pi projects, soldering is always optional – you can make do with either a breadboard or a grove connector. Or you could use none at all! The beauty of the Pi comes from the fact that there are a ton of ways to do stuff with it even without a soldering iron. Of course, soldering skills do bring a lot to the table, especially with custom parts.

How important are electronics knowledge with Raspberry Pi projects?

It’s vital. Your knowledge of simple electronics can go a long way, and more of it can get you access to even more stuff to tinker with. With DIY Raspberry Pi projects though, electronics knowledge is a come-as-you-go sort of thing. You’ll learn what you need to learn when you get to that point – no need to study an electronics textbook before making a light bulb come to life.

How do I keep myself safe while working with mains electricity and a Raspberry Pi?

There are a lot of ways. But to keep things simple, always remember the acronym PUT: power off, unground yourself, and test before doing anything. This applies to any DIY project that has something to do with high voltage or mains electricity.

Image credit: Unsplash

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Terenz Jomar Dela Cruz

Terenz is a hobbyist roboticist trying to make the most awesome robot the world has ever seen! He would have done that already if he wasn't so busy burning through LEDs.