I didn’t realise there were large half acre blocks in Alkimos, but last week we did part 1 of a retic and turf install. 100m of kikuyu and retic hooked up the mains, but to be converted shortly to the new bore and then another 600m of turf laid
A little while back I reviewed the first model of the Hydrawise controller, an innovative new device that allows you to control your irrigation from desktop, android or iPhone app.
The first offering was functional but not that pretty and fairly expensive. The team at Hydrawise have now released a couple of new models, done work on both design and price and the result is great.
I was sent a 12 station model to test and review (so that’s my disclosure) and yesterday I managed to get it up and running. I installed it a few days ago in my garage, but the wifi reception was poor and it kept fading in and out so the easiest option seemed to be that of running some more cable and installing it closer to the house rather than boosting the signal.
The new design (pictured above) is a lot nicer looking than the original and the functionality is excellent. They come in 2 models: a 6 station and a 12 station, however in both cases one station needs to be allocated to a ‘master valve’ or ‘pump start’ meaning they are really a 5 or 11 station if you are running a master valve (and if you aren’t then you should be).
The base model is not waterproof although you can purchase a purpose built box to house the controller. I chose to mount mine in a dry area, although another option I was playing with, before it got messy, was that of stripping the guts out of an old X Core and using it as a box. (It will just fit but needs to mounted sideways.)
The new controllers retail at $279.00 for 6 station and $379.00 for the 12 station. They come with a plug in transformer so you need to have a powerpoint somewhere to plug into. That makes the DIY option a lot easier but it adds the expense of an outdoor powerpoint for those who currently use controllers with built in transformers and have them hardwired (probably 80-90% of homes in WA)
Installing it was simple, although I’m not a fan of the tiny terminal blocks as they are harder to locate cable in. The touch screen is clear and fairly intuitive and there is a setup wizard for locating and connecting to wifi. (You can also connect via a cable.) That was simple and we were up and running quickly.
When it came to programming the controller I found myself on a bit of a learning curve as the methods used for programming your Holman/Hunter etc don’t apply. It wasn’t difficult, but it took a little playing around to get the hang of it. It is able to be configured to specific watering days, start times and run times. I also failed to activate the Master valve initially so that had me scratching my head for a bit as to why nothing would come on.
The programming is done under the ‘zones and schedules’ tab and once you personalise the settings it all comes together quickly and easily. There are a number of options you can add including a flow meter and an ‘enthusiast plan’ for those seeking more info about weather conditions.
Had I not managed to put a spade through my common wire I would have been up and running a lot quicker, but an hour of messing around and trouble shooting slowed me down.
The stuff I liked about it:
Remote access – that’s a biggie these days and to be able to control your sprinklers from anywhere is worth a lot. Its great not to have to even jog down to the shed to turn the system on or reprogram it.
Simple Configuration – once you get used to the way the system is set up it makes good sense and is easy to use.
No need for battery or rain sensor – with your data stored in the cloud a battery back up isn’t needed and with the controller programmed to relate to local weather stations a rain sensor is no longer required.
Contractor options – For those who feel any kind of reticulation programming is beyond them there is the ability for a reticulation contractor to login to their system and program it for them. It can add to the diversity of a business and help people who don’t find this stuff easy.
Some areas for consideration
Watering Days – a specific ‘watering days’ option for WA would be valuable. In WA we can water for 2 days/week off main supply or 3 days off a bore. For a programmer it wouldn’t take much to factor this into a system and it would ‘auto-select’ the right days for people.
A Built in Transformer Model – Here in WA again… 90% of controllers are hardwired meaning there is no powerpoint to plug into, but rather just electrical cable which is used to connect to the controller’s transformer. I know that if I were to be installing these regularly in place of other controllers I would need to factor in the cost of an outdoor powerpoint and an electrician to fit it. Add about $175.00 to the cost. If you’re going to go with a built in transformer then it makes sense to add a waterproof housing that fits with the look of the unit. Update – These are coming soon.
3G? – I guess wifi is like clean water today, but a 3G backup could be another option if the wifi is poor/unavailable.
Up until yesterday I was using a Hunter X Core with a Roam remote control to service our own home, but now that I’ve taken it off I doubt I will be putting it back up again. The features offered by the Hydrawise make the Hunter obsolete, but the challenge for Hydrawise will be to convince people that their product is worth spending the extra $$ on.
For most early adopters there is a price tag attached to being first in line and some will be prepared to pay for this. But early adopters are a small percentage of the population. To pick up the mainstream I would imagine further work on price would be needed, but I imagine this will be possible if volume can increase.
As a retic controller installer I like what I see and I’d be keen to use the product, but the trade price on Hydrawise makes it prohibitive for us to make a profit on. So again the $$ come into play.
Hydrawise is in the market with a great product that will certainly be attractive to many, and WA is a big market, but finding those who are willing to part with the extra $$ to gain the new features will be the challenge.
Our prices on Hydrawise supplied and fitted:
6 Station – $500 inc GST plus the cost of an outdoor powerpoint / case if needed.
12 Station – $600 inc GST plus the cost of an outdoor powerpoint / case if needed
In case you weren’t aware all reticulation needs to be switched off as of June 1st and until Aug 31st.
For most controllers it is a simple matter of turning the dial to ‘off’ and ensuring the sprinklers don’t run. If you continue to run your retic over winter then you will get fined around $150.00
If you aren’t sure how to switch the system off then give us a call and we’ll try and talk you thru it over the phone.
Sure – this is Hunter propaganda, but in my experience MPs have proven themselves to be top quality nozzles over time. It is not uncommon for me to return to a house I installed MP rotators in after 3-4 years and see them performing as well as the day we installed them.
For people with Hunter X Core Controllers this is one of the most common issues and it arises because the controller is incorrectly programmed.
What happens is the system comes on at 5.00am (or whenever you have set it for) runs thru the whole cycle and then does it again… and again… and again…
The problem is more than one identical start time being set.
By that I mean that start time 1 is 5.00am, start time 2 is 5.00am and then start time 3 is 5.00am. For some reason this confuses the machine and causes it behave in this way.
The reality is you only need one start time to run a program, so if you have this issue then ensure you only have one time set.
There can be a few causes of this, but its rare that it happens.
Typically when a system doesn’t have a master valve any time a solenoid fails the retic will leak, but its very unusual when there is a master valve.
I was at a property this week where the retic ‘wouldn’t shut off’.
When I got there the ball valve that isolates the retic had been closed because it wouldn’t stop running on station 1. I opened the ball valve and nothing happened… So obviously it had shut off…
I checked the controller and it was an X Core with some a dodgy dial that wouldn’t do what it was supposed to. So I replaced it, thinking that this was the source of the problem. It needed replacing anyway and when I tested it, all worked well.
Then I got a call that night telling me the retic was stuck on again…
So I dropped in and checked the new controller and it was working fine – BUT – the retic was definitely stuck on station 1.
I had to do another job so I turned it off at the ball valve and went away for a few hours. When I returned and turned it on the water flow had stopped.
The only thing that could cause this was a faulty solenoid both on 1 and the master – perhaps solenoids that were slow closing or remaining partially open. I located solenoid 1, a Rainbird, and noticed that the bleed screw was just a little loose, so I tightened it and that fixed that. I went to the master and the bleed screw was loose on there as well.
I have no idea how these screw get loose, but its worth knowing that this happened without any interference. No one messed with them.
If your retic won’t shut off and you have a master valve then check your bleed screws.
Hopefully tonight all will be well
Usually late September to early october is the busy season for those of us in reticulation.
The watering bans are lifted, the warmer weather hits and people venture outside to discover their sprinklers don’t work, or their control box display has gone blank.
We have had an unusually long winter this year so the ‘switch on’ hasn’t happened for most until just this last fortnight – which has meant that we have all been flat out with a deluge of calls.
If you have landed on this page because you are in that boat then please give us a call, but be aware we won’t be able to get there tomorrow!