Aug 24, 2023

6 Useful Raspberry Pi Sensor Projects You Can Do

By hooking one or more electronic sensors up to the Raspberry Pi's GPIO header, you can build a variety of useful monitoring projects.

The Raspberry Pi is well-loved as a general-purpose computer, commonly used for programming, hosting files, emulation, and browsing the web. However, one of the unique features of the Raspberry Pi is its GPIO header which allows it to interface with physical electronic components such as LEDs, switches, and servos, as well as sensors to measure a variety of things.

Both beginners and advanced tinkerers will find something that catches their fancy in this curated list of the best Raspberry Pi sensor projects.

A weather station is a set of instruments and sensors that are capable of measuring atmospheric conditions. A personal weather station can be installed outside your home to provide information about current weather conditions in your location, as well as weather forecasts.

This weather station project by the Raspberry Pi Foundation uses Pimoroni’s Weather HAT + Sensors Kit to obtain weather information and send it to a web dashboard. With onboard BME280 (temperature, humidity, pressure) and LTR-559 (light, proximity) sensors, the HAT provides an all-in-one solution, including a 12-bit ADC and 1.54" IPS LCD screen (240 x 240) for digital readout. You can also hook it up to the kit’s external sensors to measure wind speed and direction, as well as rainfall.

You’ll need a Raspberry Pi model with a 40-pin GPIO header, a suitable weatherproof enclosure (if you plan to keep it outside), and a suitable high spot to install the external weather sensors. The Adafruit IO service is used set up a web dashboard that can be viewed from any device.

While here are many other options for creating your own weather station, this one is easy to set up. Be sure to check the Raspberry Pi website for more details and the required software.

A home security system alerts you about any intrusions or break-ins by using an array of motion sensors, door/window sensors, and cameras. Instead of paying hundreds of dollars upfront and a recurring monthly fee for home monitoring services, why not install your own DIY home security system? That’s exactly what Thomas Jensen of Cavelab did, and he published a detailed blog post, complete with instructions on how he went about it.

However, please do keep in mind that a DIY home security system comes with its own risks, and the most important one is the lack of a backup in the case of an emergency. Also, you're responsible for monitoring and maintenance.

That aside, Thomas’s home security solution includes a number of redundancies to ensure that the system continues operating as intended and alerts you if anything goes wrong. The setup uses a Raspberry Pi 3B, a step-down interface circuit board, a metal cabinet enclosure fitted with a DIN rail and terminal blocks, a bunch of wired and wireless sensors, an Arduino Nano (as backup), and other hardware you can find listed on his blog.

Smart thermostats offer several features over regular thermostats, including automatic regulation based on your preferences and the ability to control your home’s heating and cooling remotely via your smartphone, tablet, or another internet-connected device.

Smart thermostats tend to be expensive, though, and a good one will set you back at least $200 for a single unit. You will also need to account for the multiple heating zones in your home.

Joseph Truncale created ThermOS as an answer to the many downsides of off-the-shelf smart thermostats. It is an inexpensive system that uses a Raspberry Pi connected to six temperature sensors and is linked to the home’s hydronic heating system via a relay module.

Required parts include a Raspberry Pi 4, a solderable breadboard, a 400 tie-point breadboard, a 5V relay module for Arduino, six DS18B20 temperature sensors, and other equipment you can find listed in the bill of materials on Opensource. The code is hosted on GitHub.

Truncale’s setup cost him about $150, but your mileage may vary depending on the size of your home and how your current heating system is wired up. This project will take a fair bit of work to complete and may require modification for your home’s heating system. Therefore, this one may be better suited for the more advanced tinkerers

This project will check if your plant is getting enough water. It uses a Raspberry Pi Pico microcontroller board, a capacitive soil moisture sensor, a 0.96-inch I2C OLED display, jumper wires, and a breadboard

The system will monitor the soil moisture and show different facial expressions on the OLED display based on the soil moisture percentage. You can find the associated code on the IoT Project Ideas website. It is a pretty simple project, and you can use the Pico W instead to add IoT functionality to the setup.

Looking to make your own smart doorbell? Look no further than our guide on how to build a wireless doorbell with Home Assistant installed on a Raspberry Pi.

Ravi Singh walks you through the process of building a custom wireless doorbell capable of playing a sound from your selection of MP3 files when the bell switch is pressed; it can also be used as a smart speaker.

It is easy to set up and is a good project for beginners. All you need is a Raspberry Pi running a Home Assistant server, two Wemos D1 mini or NodeMCU boards, a 50mm speaker, a PAM8403 mini 5V digital amplifier board, DuPont or jumper wires, and a 3D printed case for assembly.

If you already have a collection of smart devices that you would like to add to a local network for convenience and control, Home Assistant is a good way to achieve this. Home Assistant is free and open-source home automation software that runs on a special Linux-based operating system. It offers fast and secure access to your connected smart devices and makes it easier to build a home automation system.

Check out our guide on how to install and set up Home Assistant on your Raspberry Pi. You can connect multiple sensors, and control devices like lights and appliances to automate tasks in your home. It is also possible to install various add-ons and integrations to extend Home Assistant's functionality.

With the help of a Raspberry Pi and a few electronic components, you can outfit your home or office with sensor systems for a variety of purposes, from environmental monitoring to home security.

These sensor projects are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the capability of the Raspberry Pi's GPIO header. Feel free to explore and find more projects that whet your appetite for tinkering with electronics and sensors using the Raspberry Pi.

Tomisin is a staff writer at MUO with a penchant for breaking down complex topics into easily digestible bits. He first started writing reviews of phones and gadgets in 2016 and loves reading spec sheets and tinkering with new technology.Currently, he writes about DIY tech for MakeUseOf and looks forward to expanding his horizons.