Simple WiFi relay board: a 4 channel DIY WiFi relay board (2)

Driving a 4 channel relay board with ESP8266-01 through MQTT


In a previous post I discussed making a WiFi relay inspired by the trouble  Ralph Bacon had with a single relayboard from Aliexpress. Given the fact that the Sonoff SV is relatively cheap (don’t forget the shipping cost though), and the WiFi relay at AliExpress even cheaper, it is a nickle and dime question whether it is wise to DIY such a project yourself. However, if you already have an unused ESP8266-01 and a relay lying around, basically all you need are some DuPont cables to connect the two (as shown in my previous post).

It becomes more interesting to use all 4 pins of an idle lying ESP8266-01 and add a 4 channel relay board.
The ESP8266-01 however is a bit particular with the pins it has,as two of the 4 I/O pins are the pins that need to be pulled HIGH on startup whereas the remaining two pins are the UART. Those UART pins can be used as GPIO, but the problem is that they do not know that, they need to be told that they are no longer UART but in fact GPIO. We do that with a special pinMode command (more about that later).

The relayboard I had in mind is a bit peculiar. I discussed the full workings of this board in an earlier post.

For now however suffice to say the inputs need an active LOW to  close the relays, while in rest, the inputs are HIGH.
That is in fact quite handy when using an ESP8266-01, as two of the 4 pins, GPIO0 and GPIO2, need to be pulled high on start-up, something this circuit actually does. It is necessary though to feed the board, including the optocoupler with 5Volt. The connections between the ESP8266-01 and the relay board are made as follows:

A reminder: the relayboard needs 5Volt and the ESP-01 needs 3.3Volt.  You could use an LDO like the AMS1117 3.3 to drop the 5Volt to 3.3 however,do not connect the two Vcc’s directly. Wait, let me emphasize that: DO NOT CONNECT THE Vcc OF THE ESP TO THE VCC OF THE RELAY BORD, JUST DONT!!!!

The full board
The ESP8266-01 adapter board

The program

For the program I followed the structure that is used by computourist with regard to the use of MQTT messages.
The idea behind that is that commands going from MQTT broker to the node are called ‘southbound’  (‘sb’), while the ones going to the broker (so usually the ‘ state’) are called ‘northbound’ (‘nb’). The specific functions in the node are addressed as numbered devices.
This has advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage being that you get codes like: “home/sb/node01/dev17” rather than something like: “home/cmd/wifirelay/relay1“.
Also the handling of the incoming MQTT is bound to a specified length, so altering it needs to be done with some consideration.
The advantages are that the handling of the code is easier and in fact extending the code with more functions is fairly easy.
What happens in fact is that once a subscribed MQTT code comes in, it is stripped to a its last two digits. These digits define the function it fulfills.
The Payload can be “ON”, “OFF”, “READ”, or a number, depending on the function chosen. The “READ”  payload reads and returns the state of the specific function (‘device’)  that is being read. Some ‘devices’ -as for instance the IP number or the MAC address, can only be read and not ‘set’.

The full list of devices is as follows:
00 uptime: read uptime in minutes
01 interval: read/set transmission interval for push messages
02 RSSI: read WiFi signal strength
03 version: read software version
05 ACK: read/set acknowledge message after a ‘set’ request

10 IP: Read IP address
11 SSID: Read SSID
12 PW: Read Password

16 read/set relay1 output
17 read set relay2 output
18 read set relay3 output
19 read set relay4 output

92 error: tx only: device not supported
91 error: tx only: syntax error
99 wakeup: tx only: first message sent on node startup

As I mentioned earlier, the UART pins need to be told that they should behave like GPIO pins. That can be done with the statement:
pinMode(1,FUNCTION_3);
pinMode(3,FUNCTION_3);

However, this will not work when there are any hardware serial statements left (such as Serial.print, Serial.begin)
So in order to control the relays from e.g. OpenHAB, this is what you add to your itemsfile:

Switch rel1 "WiFi relay 1 [%s]" (GF_Corridor) { mqtt="[mosquitto:home/sb/node01/dev17:command:*:default]" }
Switch rel2 "WiFi relay 2 [%s]" (GF_Corridor) { mqtt="[mosquitto:home/sb/node01/dev18:command:*:default]" }
Switch rel3 "WiFi relay 3 [%s]" (GF_Corridor) { mqtt="[mosquitto:home/sb/node01/dev19:command:*:default]" }
Switch rel4 "WiFi relay 4 [%s]" (GF_Corridor) { mqtt="[mosquitto:home/sb/node01/dev16:command:*:default]" }

this will render the following menu:

The program can be downloaded here. FYI, I trimmed down an existing, bigger program of mine. I left a bit of code here and there that might not be of immediate use in this project, but may come in handy if you want to use the code on a Wemos.
Cost:

  • relayboard 1.80 euro
  • ESP8266-01 1.45 euro
  • 5 and 3.3Volt module 0.40ct

If you are using a different relay board that does not have it’s inputs pulled high in rest, then you need to add 10k pull-ups on GPIO 0 and GPIO2

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Simple WiFi relay board: an overview (1)

In his video nr 107 youtuber Ralph Bacon describes his ‘frustration’ with an ESP8266-01 based wireless relay he got from AliExpress.

Wifi relay with ESP8266-01 and STC15F104 microprocessor

His frustration is understandable as that particular module is needlessly complicated. It seems the ESP8266-01 is mainly there to make the WiFi connection, while the relay is triggered by yet another microprocessor, the STC15F104. Communication between the two is via AT commands, as if the designers thought, how can we make this in the dumbest way possible.

The ‘simple’ relay board

In his follow up video # 110  Ralph describes another, simpler relay board (pictured), that also frustrated him as the manufacturer apparently had not included the necessary pull-up resistors on the Chip Enable and on GPIO0 and GPIO2. (Edit: this turned out not to be entirely true as the board comes with an ESP8266-01S that has the necessary pullups on board)

Both videos came in my focus again, when i discussed the ‘simpler’ board with a diy mate and frequent commenter. It is very cheap to buy and once you add the resistors (to make it start up correctly) factually you have a Sonoff SV.
Ofcourse the Sonoff SV is less than 5 Euro (plus shipping), as opposed to the ‘brandless’ relay board only costing some 2.60 euro, so you might as well get the real thing, but it opens some interesting perspectives, especially as I had most of the stuff laying around namely an ESP8266-01 a relay module and a 3.3Volt power module, all fairly cheap. Just a couple of DuPont cables to connect the three, and it should be fine. I know it is all nickles & dimes stuff but lets do a quick calculation.

Total 2.08 euro as opposed to 2.62 euro (in a nicer package), so not really cost effective to ‘DIY’  but if you have the stuff laying around, better to use it than for it gather dust. It also allows you to choose another pin than GPIO2 to drive the relay.
Ralph also offers a program to replace the existing firmware in the ESP8266, as well as a phone app (all found in the description of his video). Ofcourse it is also possible to replace the firmware with MQTT responsive firmware. For that you could e.g. use my Sonoff Touch program, albeit that in line 17, you have to change “TouchLED=12;”  to “TouchLED=2;

But why stop there? the ESP8266-01 has 4 I/O pins, if we ad a small 220->5V power module and a 4 channel relay board, we could make a sonoff 4ch. These cost about 22 Euro. So that would be more rewarding to build.
That however will be for part 2.

Adding a popular 5Volt 4 channel relay board to a 3V3 processor (beginners)

Chinese webshops sell a 5Volt 4 channel relay board that is quite popular amongst hobbyist. Sometimes I get the question if it can be used with a 3V3 microprocessor. This ofcourse is very basic Ohms law, so just skip this article if you already know, but for those who still have questions: read on.

Well in short: any relay can be made to work with any microprocessor, but lets look at how this can be done in an efficient way.

Normally, if you have a bare 5Volt relay, it would only require a transistor or a FET to drive the relay with any voltage sufficient to open the transistor. The relay board in question though already has some electronics around it, so lets have a look at the circuit:

It is quite clear that this is not the standard one transistor relay board: the Transistor driving the relay in itself is driven by an optocoupler, that also inverts the signal: It is a LOW on the INx input that will  bring the optocoupler to open, thus feeding the base of the transistor, that will subsequently open and activate the relay. The circuit also shows that the optocoupler can be fed from the same  voltage source as the  relay, or from a different voltage source.

First question we have to ask ourselves: is a 3v3 circuit enough to drive the board?
Well, suppose we feed the board entirely with 5Volt. If we then would connect a 3V3 processor pin such as from a raspberry or ESP8266 or  a modern Arduino, a LOW would indeed activate the relay, as described above, but what happens if we do a HIGH?
Well, with a HIGH there would be a voltage of (5-3.3=) 1.7 volt over the series resistor, the optocoupler and the LED. Given the fact that the  forward voltage of the  optocoupler is about 1.5 Volt and the forward voltage over the red LED is on average 2.2 Volt, that basically absorbs the 1.7 Volt making it safe to say there will be no current flowing through the optocoupler when the IO pin is made HIGH (3V3).
Factually, even if the ‘HIGH’  would only be 2.5 Volt, chances are slim that there would be any current flowing through the optocoupler.

Now ofcourse there are people who shrug at the idea of  having any 5Volt source connected to their 3V3 pins, so what happens if we  take away the Voltage jumper, feed the relay with 5Volt and the optocoupler with 3V3.

Well, suppose we again make the IO pin LOW, then there will be 3V3 over the optocoupler, the LED and the resistor.
The LED and the optocoupler will  have a voltage drop of 1.5+2.2=3.7 Volts. Ergo, there will not be any current flowing through the optocoupler and the relay will not be activated.

Therefore: yes, the relay board can be used with a 3V3 processor, but  you will have to feed the entire board with 5Volt.

But, what if I do not want the signal to be inverted, if I want a LOW to deactivate the relay and a HIGH to activate it?

Well, that is fairly easy: do that with an inverter. One can either use an inverter IC such as a 7404, 7414 or a 4069, but ofcourse then you’d have to wonder whether 3V3 would be enough input for those IC’s  (it is).
Another possibility is just a transistor with a base resistor 470-1000 Ohm (1x for every channel).