[How-To] Create a Poor Man's Watering System


How-To Create a Poor-Mans Automated Watering System
(Using a Standard Sprinkler Control Valve)

by BraveSirRobbin

This How-To was created due to the request of Cocooners (from THIS thread) wanting to know how to create an automated watering system that can be controlled by common home automation systems and attached to an outdoor watering faucet.

First our standard disclamair:
CocoonTech.com and its staff are NOT responsible for any injury or property damage resulting from anyone using this How-To guide or any associatied pictures or links.


The information below will show you the parts needed for this project as well as how to properly assemble and implement them so you can automate a lawn sprinkler, plant watering system, etc...

Be aware that there are many types of valves with many different plumbing configurations. The parts chosen for this How-To were purchased at a Lowes Hardware store in Las Vegas, but, links were found so equivalent parts can be ordered by anyone via the Internet. The only exception is for the three plumbing adapters (links could not be found), but hopefully their descriptions are detailed enough so they can easily be purchased at your local hardware store.

Parts Listing:

3/4 inch Orbit Sprinkler Valve Model 57100

Orbit 24 VAC Transformer Model 57040

In-Line Fuse Holder

1/2 amp Slow Blow Fuse (For Operating One Valve).

Appliance Module (X-10 Shown Here)

One Roll of Teflon Tape

Plus the following three pipe/plumbing adapters:

3/4 Inch Hex Nipple (Watts A-875)

Swivel Hose Adapter 3/4 inch FH x 3/4 inch FIP (Watts A-661)

Tapped Hose Adapter 3/4 inch MH x 3/4 inch MIP x tapped FIP (Watts A-665)

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Orbit Brand Valve and AC Adapter

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Orbit Brand Valve and AC Adapter

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Orbit Brand Valve and AC Adapter

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Plumbing Adapters/Fittings


Assemble the three adapters onto the valve as shown in the picture below. Note that the valve has arrows in the inlet and outlet which indicate water flow direction. Please be sure to follow this flow direction so the female hose adapter is in the inlet and the male in the outlet of the valve. Also be sure to use Teflon tape on all of the adapters during assembly. Tighten all adapters securely (do not over tighten as the plastic in the valve's case will crack).

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Water Flow Arrow on Valve

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Assembled Adapters on Valve

This valve assembly can now be mounted on an outdoor faucet as shown below. Note that this particular faucet has an anti-siphon valve attached (included with the faucet). Note that local codes/safety ordinances may require an anti-siphon valve so no outdoor water can backflow into your home's drinking supply.

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Assembled Unit on Outdoor Faucet

The valve requires 24 Volts AC for it's operation. Orbit provides an adapter for this purpose. Any UL approved 24 VAC class 2 transformer/adapter can be used as long as it can supply approximately 0.5 amps of current. This particular adapter can provide 0.75 amps.

This adapter can be controlled via an appliance module or relay contact/closure of your choosing. An X-10 appliance module is used in this first example. Note that you may want to use electrical tape to secure the adapter to the appliance module due to its weight. A short extension cord may also be used instead.

It is good practice to fuse the output of the 24 VAC adapter. You can use an in-line fuse holder with a 0.5 amp fuse (for powering one valve assembly). Make sure you wire the in-line fuse adapter near the adapter itself.

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Appliance Module and In-Line Fuse Holder

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Assembled AC Adapter on Appliance Module

The picture below shows how to wire the components together (for demonstration purposes as short wiring lengths are used). Insure proper crimp/solder terminations are used and to shrink wrap or tape the connections. Since the adapter is AC there is no need to worry about polarity when wiring the system together. You can use 18 to 20 gauge wiring between the valve and adapter/in-line fuse. If you are burying the cable you may want to purchase a jacketed cable for this purpose. Orbit recommends 20 gauge wiring for distances less then 800 feet and 18 gauge wiring for distances greater than 800 feet.

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Wiring Demonstration

Once the system is assembled, wired, and mounted to the faucet it can be checked for leaks and proper operation. Note that there is a manual switch just below the solenoid. Turn this switch down to its OFF position. Now turn the faucet on and check the valve inlet for leaks (note that water may first flow through the valve, but then shut off after a few seconds). Turn the control power to the valve ON and check for proper operation and leaks at the outlet. Turn the control power off (note that the valve will take a few seconds to turn off) and insure the system does properly stop the water flow.

Fellow Cocooner roussell provided the pictures below of his implementation (though he used a different adapter) of the above methodology for our membership.

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Relay/Contact Closure Control:

You can control the output of the 24 VAC adapter rather than the input (120 VAC plugged end) that we controlled via an appliance module above. This method may be chosen if your home automation system includes the capability to switch relays (contact closure) such as an Elk or Ocelot or even stand alone relay control boards that can be controlled via a serial/USB port.

Since the Elk M1 Gold is a popular controller with our membership it will be used as an example system of how to connect the AC adapters 24 VAC output to relays in order to control the Orbit valve.

The Elk M1 can use an expansion module that has a bank of relays, or individual relays can be purchased that can be controlled with the on-board voltage outputs. The schematic below shows how to wire individual relays to these on-board Elk voltage outputs. If using an Elk expansion module for relay control, the wiring to the main board's voltage outputs is not necessary. Also note that the 24 VAC adapter will plug directly into an outlet rather than an appliance module, since we are now switching the output of the adapter rather than its input.

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Relay Control Schematic

Operation Notes:

Remember that your control reliability is only as good as your home automation system. This is important as you are controlling a water source that, if left on for a long period of time, could cause some annoyance and discomfort! :rolleyes:

When sending an OFF command, you may want to send it a few times. If the appliance module/relay control can be polled you may want to check that the off command was sent and implemented properly.

Also, you may have noticed that the assembly sticks out from the outdoor faucet a bit. Be carefull that the unit does not get bumped as to cause damage to the faucet/plumbing itself (again reference the annoyance and discomfort notes above). ;)

If you want multiple valves/systems you can purchase hose adapters so more than one of these assemblies can be attached to your faucet. Watch out for overall weight, clearances between valves, and again, bumping the assembly. If you want to turn more than one valve on at a time you may want to increase the fuse size to 0.75 amps. This particular valve will draw a little under 0.2 amps of current (refer to picture showing current measurement (in milliamps) below).

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Measuring Valve Current Draw

This valve assembly should be brought indoors in the winter as to not expose it to freezing temperatures. Also, cold water should only be used with this system.

Closing Remarks:

Controlling a sprinkler valve with the two methods above is more for a temporary seasonal setup rather than a permanent one. For systems that require a full time sprinkler system (i.e. in-ground) there are more robust controllers available to the home automation enthusiast.

WGL Designs makes such controllers. One nice feature included with these controllers is that you can have an "OFF" command sent from the unit itself after a given amount of time (that is entered by the user). This will insure that the OFF command will be sent to the valves in case of a failure with the home automation system controls.

Please reference THIS How-To for more information on how to control sprinkler systems on a full time basis. :)
Nice writeup BSR......

Plenty of info to get a newbie started...well done...
Thanks Frank. This was the purpose of the How-to, to get people who are not familiar with sprinkler control valves controlling a quick temporary system without a lot of plumbing hassles.

Thanks for the excellent writeup! This is really a great step by step guide! I had two questions, the first is if you could use 16 guage speaker wire instead of 18 guage wire (is this a safety issue)?

The other question, how tight should the pipe fittings be on the plastic valve? Or does that depend on water tightness?

I had two questions, the first is if you could use 16 guage speaker wire instead of 18 guage wire (is this a safety issue)?

The other question, how tight should the pipe fittings be on the plastic valve? Or does that depend on water tightness?

Actually 16 gauge wire is "thicker" than 18 gauge and thus has a higher current carrying capacity so the answer is of course yes. Remember the smaller the wire gauge number, the greater the overall diameter or thickness (thus higher current carrying capacity).

As for your other question, a good rule of thumb for plastic fittings is to get it pretty snug, then give it one good "oompf" with the wrenches. Make sure you use two sets of wrenches/channel locks, one on the valve itself and one on the fitting. Also make sure you use teflon tape or plumbers putty/goo on the threads.

If it leaks, tighten a little more.
One other basic question for you Robin. I setup the valves as you describe above. I have a 'slop sink' in my basement which has a standard 'hose end' (threads to attach a hose if need be). I attached the assembly to the sink (unpluged), and I turned it on. The water started rushing through the valve.

I then turned off the water, turned the valve to off (the plastic piece), then turned on the water. The water rushed through (a little slower though).

I then went to home depot & bought a presure guage. The PSI is 48 (far from the max of 80psi that the valve is rated for).

Next, I attached the transformer, & plugged it in - water comes through.

I then unplugged the transformer & water still came through.

Next I put the presure gauge on the end of the valve & it is still 48psi.

Im a little confused on how to proceed.

I expected that when the power was turned off, the water flow would stop, when the power was on, the water would flow.

Is my valve bad?
Is my valve bad?

I "think" :) this is normal. Mine will do the same thing if I don't have something on the outlet side. My thinking is that the valve needs to see a little back pressure on the output to function. I may be way off here but mine behaved the exact same way when I first tried it.

Mine does that too, until there's some water pressure built up in the valve, then it's fine. Without power, the valve is closed and no water flows. With power on, the valve is open and water flows.

I used a different valve than the write-up. It's a Toro 3/4" on both sides, which is the same as standard (US anyway) garden hose. On the incoming (left side) I have a female-female converter so I can connect the valve assembly to the hose bib. On the output (right side) I have an adapter for funny pipe (1/4" tubing). My application is for automated watering of hanging baskets on our deck. Huge WAF! This lets me continue with my own HA projects.

The second pic is of one side of the deck with the plants. I don't have the spray ends on the hose yet. That will be one of these nights. I ran the tubing from the hose bib/valve assembly along the bottom of the deck, and then up the poles (found them at Walmart). Using a tee, I am able to water both plants. I will be using an Insteon ApplianceLinc (hopefully the 24VAC transformer doesn't burn that out!) and PowerHome for the automation.

This was a simple project with a huge WAF.

[I was going to post the pics, but it looks like I can't upload to the How-To section, so I will post them in the other thread which started this topic.]
Sorry for not responding earlier to this thread. The valve will take a while to close once power is removed from the solenoid. This is because water is diverted to the top of a rubber bladder and pressure has to develop before this bladder "seals" the water entrance hole inside the valve.
well smack me silly, i JUST figured out was WAF was, LOL. I been racking my brain trying to figure out the term that is so frequently used. I just couldnt figure it out for awhile. Wireless something? something automated? something frequency? Hmmmm,,,then I got it, lol. While its not a techinical term, nor a "device" required to make something work, it sure is a variable on EVERYTHING, lol. Too funny.

You might have guessed, I am single, LOL. So for now. WAF is not a variable for me. Nice. LOL
Wife Acceptance Factor.

Every so often, a project with high WAF allows me to continue with my own little projects.