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#1 dzirkelb

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 11:14 AM

I am having someone come out to give me a bid on a sprinkler system for my yard. I would like to know where to start to research the possiblity of automating the sprinkler systems with Home Automation. I have a cpu built that is dedicate for my Home Automation needs and it is running Homeseer. I will go to their forums to figure out the software side, but I first need ideas on the hardware needed.

From what I gather, I would have contracted out the entire sprinkler system, but the controll is the one piece I would request a different type, as that is what I would be controlling.

So, that's about as much as I know for terms of HA for a sprinkler system. Can someone guide me in the right place with literature to read or give me some ideas on what to look for?

#2 Michael McSharry

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 12:10 PM

Since you already have a Homeseer setup a reasonble choice is mcsSprinklers for the software control to give you both timed and weather-condition based control. You will see some discussion here on mcsSprinklers, but considerably more on the Homeseer board. Your selection of valve control hardware will be primarily based upon how you connect your wiring from the field to your PC location. The Rain8 family from WGL has many options for direct cable or IP/Serial via RS-232 and powerline via UPB or X10. For wired IP network connection the EtherRain is another option. Your selection of hardware will depend upon your specific needs and constraints.

What is typically done on installations is to install the cheapest timer that your installer will quote and then replace it with our automated system. The installer will now know how to use your automated selection and he needs some way to test the installation. He will not want to be debugging your automation system just to test his physical installation.

#3 BraveSirRobbin

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 12:15 PM

Doesn't WGL have a model with pushbuttons on the front now for simple local operation?

EDIT:

http://wgldesigns.com/rain8pro.html

http://wgldesigns.com/rain8upbpro.html

That's even simpler local control than most of the cheap hardware store models!

Edited by BraveSirRobbin, 05 July 2011 - 12:20 PM.


#4 JimS

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 12:18 PM

I am having someone come out to give me a bid on a sprinkler system for my yard. I would like to know where to start to research the possiblity of automating the sprinkler systems with Home Automation. I have a cpu built that is dedicate for my Home Automation needs and it is running Homeseer. I will go to their forums to figure out the software side, but I first need ideas on the hardware needed.

From what I gather, I would have contracted out the entire sprinkler system, but the controll is the one piece I would request a different type, as that is what I would be controlling.

So, that's about as much as I know for terms of HA for a sprinkler system. Can someone guide me in the right place with literature to read or give me some ideas on what to look for?

Your best bet is probably to have the sprinkler company just put in a cheap controller to check out the system and either leave it for you to use until you get the automation set up or take it with them if you want to do automation immediately.

I think you will find that most sprinkler companies aren't going to be that familiar with automation or will recommend equipment that is difficult to interface to your automation system.

There are a number of DIY sprinkler controllers out there.

There are several variations of Rain8:
http://www.wgldesigns.com/index.html
I don't have personal experience with them but many people use them...

Or there are some homebrew like this:
http://www.rgbled.org/sprinkler/index.html
I was thinking I might do something like that.

There are also a number of DIY Christmas light automation hardware designs that look like they could be used for 24VAC sprinkler valve control.

#5 dzirkelb

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 12:45 PM

Excellent information, especially that I would have them install a cheap timer, then I just replace that. That answers a lot of questions floating around in my head.

Thanks for the information and the links. This is a good place to start, and I'll post back when / if I need more info.

#6 pete_c

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 01:03 PM

That's what I did.

I went with a local sprinkler company and paid for 10 zones and 50 heads. I probably should have shopped around some more when I did this as its a relatively simple resource intensive endeavor and paid around $3000. Nearby; a friend did a similiar setup with double the zones and heads for a similiar price ($3000). I think maybe because it was a Rainbird certified installer?

I hung around during installation though and had the installers put in additional PVC (largest that they had - 1.5-2") tubing to the peripherals of my property to be utilized for all kinds of "stuff". The most work with these additional endeavors was passing the PVC tubing under the front cement walk. 6 years later I still have only utilized maybe 50% of these extra PVC runs.

I removed my Rainbird timer; replaced it with two Rain8Nets about 2-3 months after it was installed.

It was kind of interesting to watch. The outside "stuff" (running the PVC tubing, putting the sprinkler heads, setting up the manifold, wiring the sprinkler relays outside and running my "stuff" took 4 guys about 4 hours). Two other guys did the inside wiring; basically running a cluster of wires from one side of the basement to the Rainbird box. These two were clueless and dumbfounded wiring up the box; taking about 4 hours to wiring it up with no absolutely no logic to what they did (I rewired my zones 5 minutes after they left). The plumber was a skilled artesian adding new 1" copper tubing from one end of the basement (water source) to another and out the house in less than two hours.

#7 BraveSirRobbin

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 02:32 PM

It's pretty easy to do this stuff yourself once you get the external plumbing connection.

couple of things to make sure you have:

Anti-siphon valve. I like the expensive all metal ones as they have internal valves on the input and exits and can be rebuilt without any plumbing changes. They also drain easily when winterizing.

Prebuilt manifolds that let you change a valve without having to separate any pipe. To better describe, to change a valve you unscrew both couplers and slide the valve straight up without moving any input or exit pipes.

If you live in the cold invest in a good thermal blanket for the anitisiphon (sold at better nurseries) and mine matches my metal antisiphon valve shape. (I also burried my bottom piece).

Note this will add increased amount in materials, but trust me, you will be glad you did this after doing your first repair!! ;)

#8 pete_c

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 03:17 PM

Here the setup was done such that a spring turn up and a fall shut off has to be done every year. (free for one season). I do not have self draining heads; some neighbors around us do and others don't. I still wonder for sure which is better.

I remove my antisiphon valve every winter. The RPZ valve was a manditory thing (code) in our area.

The system here in the MW though (easy DIY) is set up for:

1 - Spring - connect the RPZ valve (antisyphon) and test all the zones / heads. Yearly charge was around $75-100.
2 - Fall - blow out all of the zones / heads with air. Remove the RPZ valve (antisyphon). Yearly charge was around $75-100
3 - replace a defective head (easy DIY) $25-$50.
4 - Yearly inspection of RPZ valve - $55

The manifold and valves "box" is buried somewhat in a berm; easy to service and get to.

After 7 years now (started after year 2-3); I do steps 1, 2 and 3 every year. Neighbor forget one year to remove his RPZ valve (and didn't "winterize"). He couldn't find an RPZ valve for less than $300. (aside from other damage to his sprinkler system).

There was never enough pressure to drive my sprinkler system nor in the house as when I moved to this relatively new subdivision the water pressure was at around 20 lbs.

After the sprinkler system was installed I put in an on demand Davey water pump. I purchased the pump myself and had a friend who is plumber install it. While I put the pump/valves/pressure stuff in I also put some electronic metering, etc for the HA system.

Another neighbor used the same Sprinkler company as I did; when they put in her "supplimental" pump they plugged it into the same outlet as her basement freezer. Problems occurred after that installation. I put my pump on a separate wire / breaker to the fuse panel. Good plumbing work but nil on the electrical type work.

Yet another neighbor took the cheapest bid from an inexperienced group of individuals and ended up re-installing his system at least 3 times over 3 years (at a cost of much more than $3000 but maybe less than $6000).

Its been doing fine after about 7 or so years. I had one issue with it and ended up calling Australia speaking to a tech there on disassembling my pump, etc. Very good customer service.

#9 MikeB

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 04:31 PM

I did some searching on this a while back and came up empty, but I wish there were a more traiditonal irrigation controller (Hunter, etc.) with a familiar interface for the irrigation guys to work with, plus a simple ethernet or RS-232 port that I could use to control it via PC/automation controller.

For now I'm using a standard irrigation controller but would love to interface it with my home automation system.

If anyone is aware of one please let me know!

#10 pete_c

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 05:52 PM

For the few month(s) I had the Rainbird ESP going I tried to figure out an easy way to interface it to the HA system. I also contacted Rainbird regarding said endeavor.

I purchased the Rainbird "wireless" module for the Rainbird system thinking of a way to interface the Rainbird system I had; very primitive device and not worth the money.

#11 AnthonyZ

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 06:14 PM

Just to share the "other side" of the Rain8net option...

While my experience may not reflect what is "normal" for WGL, I can tell you that I would never, in a million years purchase another one of their products. Poor documentation, poor product and horrible, terrible, awful customer support. I had a lousy experience recently and it left such a bad taste in my mouth that I rolled my own rig (based on Arduino), programmed much better controls and safe guards and, in my opinion, used better gear (I didn't like the "cheap" triac route they take and I also added push buttons and LED's for status). All for half the price and an hour with a soldering iron. YMMV...

#12 pete_c

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 06:57 PM

Great idea there Anthony; can you share some more regarding your DIY sprinkler controller? I never ripped my Rain8 apart (I did rip the Rainbird controller apart though).

I've not had any issues with my two WGL Rain8's since installation about ~6 years ago or so. I've also not had any issues with a Rain8 ESP installed in FL for about 11 years; except for replacing a power supply.

I did have an issue with one of two WGL's W800's that have been in place for a while. I was running the two off of one power supply.

One of them would just quit working randomly. After some dialog I sent it back. They checked it and found nothing wrong with it. I purchased another one which has been working fine for the last two years or so.

#13 AnthonyZ

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 08:48 PM

One of them would just quit working randomly. After some dialog I sent it back. They checked it and found nothing wrong with it.

Seems to be their MO. I sent in a Rain8Net that was outputting 24VAC on the serial port (I used the 6 conductor cable it ships with to connect to a client's HAI OPII). I shipped it back for repair and they sent it back...still outputting 24VAC. When I emailed to let them know it hadn't been fixed, the owner, Warren, hit the roof. I repaired it myself, Blah, blah, blah...yeah? Well then, why does my DMM say you didn't, eh?

Anyways, the Arduino rig is currently fugly but, I am working on an Eagle layout to eventually have some PCBs made up. I'm just using transistors to fire EM relays but, I am also rethinking that approach and may go the SSD route since the whole idea is to make an irrigation board (which only needs to switch AC). The cost would be ever so slightly higher to use SSDs but, well, they're just kind of sexy...

#14 fwd03

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Posted 05 July 2011 - 11:23 PM

I would also ask the installer put extra PVC pile with low voltage wire in it. So that later on, I can put Christmas light all over the places without having any wire exposed.

#15 JimS

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 07:36 AM

Anyways, the Arduino rig is currently fugly but, I am working on an Eagle layout to eventually have some PCBs made up. I'm just using transistors to fire EM relays but, I am also rethinking that approach and may go the SSD route since the whole idea is to make an irrigation board (which only needs to switch AC). The cost would be ever so slightly higher to use SSDs but, well, they're just kind of sexy...

Sounds interesting. Would like to see more on what you are doing. The rgbled link I posted is a PIC based controller but all the top level scheduling is still done on the PC (or other controller). Doesn't have any local control/status which is a big negative. Uses SSRs. I planned to build up SSRs with an optoisolator and triac.




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