Ethernet/Serial/Manual Sprinkler controller?


This may be a bit lengthy, so bear with me...

Does anyone see a market for a standard sprinkler controller that can also be remotely controlled? Think of your run of the mill controller, let's say something like this one - Now imagine the knob was removed, and all programming and manual zone control could be done through menus on an LCD. You would have a few buttons to navigate through the menus and to set the time, manually turn zones on and off, set schedules, etc... at the controller itself just like any other controller. Now add to this a Serial port and or Ethernet port, maybe even a power-line interface like Insteon.

The idea is that it could be installed and programmed by a non-techy person, say a landscaper (also think new home construction), just like any other controller. BUT, it can also be connected to a network so that schedules can be overridden due to weather conditions and tied into a full blown automation system. This way one could still manually adjust sprinkler heads without having to run to a PC to turn zones on and off, or if a program was running, you could just walk over to the controller and cancel it. The idea would be similar to any automated light switch where you have a manual control of a light, yet still have the automation capability.

The reason I'm asking is because I'm looking to build such a thing and possibly selling it if all went well. I love HA, and can't stand working for the man anymore. I have a few other product ideas as well, but I really have a need for something like this so I figured I'd start with this idea first.

Your thoughts?
I would buy one, assuming the price was right and my software/hardware was compatible.

Yeah, price points couldn't even begin to be figured out at this stage of the game. Hopefully such a thing could retail for under $200. I know I wouldn't pay more than $150 for such a thing.

Software compatibility wise - I figure as long as the "protocol" was freely published, that would open the gates for integration with just about anything that accepts plug-ins.

I was also thinking about a touchscreen version, but that would probably have to retail for way too much money.

Maybe multiple versions could be made!?
Just my 2 cents, but my objection to the proposal is that it seems proprietary...

The problem with such fancy devices which individually address only a single need, is that i (and many others) want a single point of integration allowing me to do everything not just sprinklers and i do not want multiple LCDs... I can point to countless areas in my house where this is a problem. i.e. my keychain for the Chevy Suburban, the control unit for my Rinnai water heater, two remotes for garage door openers. Another example is that Hayward and the other pool companies offer pretty fancy pool automation too. Sounds great, but I want one piece, not 10 to do different things and iwant them integrated together when it makes sense. I think i saw one such pool system that offers serial port integration, but it was way to expensive, when Elk offers me almost everything i need to do it for way cheaper and in the same interface, just missing a minor thing in the rules and temperature input i want (1-wire) - i'm holding out and hoping Spanky has been listening :ph34r:

I think the main issue you're trying to solve already has been and (IMHO): Elk is THE platform for sprinkler control without any need for the Rain8, etc. I will be adding touchscreen integration later... I can tie in rain/freeze sensors (and per a prior posts of Spanky's someday maybe integrate with a weather station for imprved logic?). I automate watering as normal, manually control from PC's and keypads now. I agree going to such a controls is a pain especially on a large lot like mine and thus i see/agree one of your main concerns. However, again i think Elk already has solved this: my new Elk wireless reciever arrives tomorrow. I will be assigning one remote as my "irrigation tester" and mapping the keys to dedicated automations tasks. So i will be able to start, pause, advance the zones as i walk around the yard to test / repair / adjust.... (On this point, i wouldn't want to lag an LCD screeen around my yard possibly getting wet for this). This gets the feature you're loking for for the landscape guy without a huge investment in the LCD if it breaks (i paid $25 for the keyfob). The only downside is that GE's icons on the remote are geared for security (so mapping lock/unlock/lights to my usages won't be intuitive)... But a dremel tool and model paint could probably change that.

FYI - The "delta" (i.e. on top of stuff i need for other automation) for pricing for my setup was ~$175 (output expander, (2) relay boards, keyfob) - and if you factor in that 6 out of 8 outputs on the second set of output will be used for other things, it's even less (either $125 or $75 depending on how you look at it)

Anyway, just my opinion... I see these standalone automation units are being manufactured / sold so i guess there are those aren't thinking the same way i am? Maybe they haven't visited this forum?


Thanks for the $.02, however, I think you've misinterpreted what I'm trying to accomplish. I agree with you that everything should be centralized. My plan would provide for automatic override of whatever is setup manually within the sprinkler controller. This means you would be able to connect the M1G to the sprinkler controller to automate the sprinklers. The only thing I would be adding to that equation is the added ability to manually control the sprinklers as well as automate them.

This is much like how Insteon, UPB, Z-Wave, etc... light switches currently work. You have a manual control of a light, at the switch itself, and the automated control (M1G, Homeseer, CQC, etc...) of the very same light. The function of one controller does not remove the function of the other controller. I hope that made sense.

The problem, and I understand it's a minor problem, with an automated only solution for a sprinkler controller is that you lose all manual control of the sprinklers. I mean unless you have a keypad in the garage which ties into your automation system AND allows sprinkler control, you have to run into the house to manually turn a zone on or off. This can be a major PITA when you are setting the spray pattern of your sprinklers, or like me, you are under water restrictions, but the side of the house where no one can see needs watering. :ph34r:

Yes, one could argue that running into the house and poking through the HA interface (whatever system it is) to manually turn a zone on or off isn't really such a laborious task, but either is manually turning a light on or off.

Keep the thoughts flowing...
Sorry, i feel like i'm missing something.

With my rain8 & CQC, I can turn the sprinklers on via the TS and also manually opening the valves. Just did that yesterday, as a matter of fact. Are you talking about something different?
Did you read the second paragraph (i know i'm long winded and boring, but check that out - i can't wait for my fedex package to arrive so i can try it).

Unless i've botched my rules in the Elk, as of tomorrow, i can stand next to any head anywhere on my lot and turn it or any others on without running back to the garage (nor even to the central valves as IVB points out). I agree IVB's apporach is simple and indeed cost effective, but on a lot my size (3/4 acre or more) with 10 valves at three seperate locations, such running around even outdoors isn't very desirable for me either... (old house, didn't mind)

There is always more than one way to skin a cat. You both have good points.

I guess what I'm after is simplicity by putting everything into a simple (non-techie) package instead of having to design an elaborate system. It's kind of like why spend money on an X-Box when you could build your own high end gaming PC and use the high end gaming PC for other PC related tasks. Both will play games very well.
If I were you I would just make it a glorified PLC thats easy to configure but not associate it with sprinklers like it can't do other things.

Might look at the Moxa IO products and make something like that for the DIY crowd.
If I were you I would just make it a glorified PLC thats easy to configure but not associate it with sprinklers like it can't do other things.

Might look at the Moxa IO products and make something like that for the DIY crowd.

I thought about that too. There are a lot of other things I'd like to work on aside from this one idea. What you mentioned is one of them. At the moment though I have a need and it should be one of the easier things to build that I'm considering. I figure it's a good way to get started building something.

As a newbie in the HA market, I see lot's of room for improvement/simplicity. HA isn't rocket science by any means, but there is a pretty steep learning curve involved with setting up your own system w/o wasting a lot of money in overlap.

Thanks for the input!
I am a moron!!!! All along i thought menu 14 in the elk would let me assign different actions to the buttons on a per-keyfob basis...

Unless i'm missing something, it's global... so the disarm key mapping applies to all three of my keys :D
I still have eight events in combo which will work, but i should have read up before assuming i could do this... (godo thing is that i can use key5-8 for sprinkler and not worry about the button icons on the remote - still use them to open/disarm, etc
I think you may be able to use whenever button x is pressed and last user was xxx to define what keypad buttons do what.

Someone please correct me if I am wrong. I remember reading this somewhere...
Hmm, i;ll give that a try... I also realized that although you can't do it for all buttons, submenu 2 (or ElkRP) does let you switch the key3/4 and 5/6 assignments... That is actually meeting my needs for now... (i have resume, pause, station up and station down tasks mapped to keys 5-8 with 5/6 swapped out on my "sprikler remote")