New Hydrawise Controller

Posted on 5th October 2014 in Controllers

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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.

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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

 

 

Reticulation Control Box Upgrade

Posted on 22nd September 2014 in Controllers, General

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Spring is the busiest time of year for the replacement of reticulation control boxes. At the end of winter we stroll out to switch the retic back on only to discover the box has died and needs replacing.

We specialise in the supply and installation of top quality reticulation control boxes and generally prefer the Hunter X Core for its quality and features.

If you are seeking a new box then check our other site www.reticcontrollerman.com for info on various brands and prices.

 

 

Reticulation Solenoid Puzzle in Yanchep

Posted on 22nd September 2014 in Local Knowledge, Never Seen That One Before

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On Friday I had a call from a client in Yanchep who had installed a solenoid, but was having problems. The two stations in the back were coming on together.

 

So I went out to see what was going on.

 

What was odd was that the two rear stations came on together but they didn’t come on when the front retic station was running. Normally if a solenoid fails open it stays on with every other station.

 

But in this case station one came on, then station two and three together.

 

Odd…

 

So I checked:

  1. The direction of flow on the solenoid he had installed. It was correct.
  2. The wiring and the voltage at the solenoid. It was all perfect.
  3. Whether the solenoid was clogged with glue or dirt, but both were fine.
  4. Whether the controller had failed and was sending voltage on both stations rather than individually. It wasn’t…

 

There was no apparent reason and I was running out of options as all of the logical solutions were coming up blank.

 

Finally I decided to check whether a different controller would get a different result so we wired one up to test it. As I was doing this I asked the client why he replaced the solenoid.

 

He told me ‘I didn’t replace it – I added it to split the rear yard in two.’ And as he said that, it dawned on me what had happened. What was once a complete station had been divided in two – but not completely. Somewhere there was still a connection underground. It was the only explanation left for why both stations came on simultaneously.

 

When we discussed it he agreed and I left him to dig some holes and find that elusive connection.

 

There is always a logical solution to retic problems, but sometimes you need to gather all the information to make sense of it.

 

 

Reticulation and Turf in Joondalup

Posted on 12th September 2014 in Installations, Turf

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This week I did a front yard makeover in Joondalup. It involved removing the old lawn/weed, installing some new retic and then laying some turf.

The existing turf had turned to weeds and looked almost impossible to revive, so the process was:

a) Spray existing turf / weeds and kill off what is there.

b) The bobcat came and removed existing stuff to a depth of around 100ml and then filled with special lawn mix so that it was 20-30ml below kerb level.

c) Reinstall retic and ensure all is getting covered. This involved placing sprinklers around the perimeter of the property spraying in as well as in the middle spraying out. The previous system had a row of sprinklers down the middle and consequently missed much of the lawn. I also installed a new Hunter X Core to make watering so much easier.

c) Screed and lay the new wintergreen lawn.

The budget for a project like this is usually around $3000.00.

Here’s a before and after shot so you can see the difference

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Two Rocks Reticulation

Posted on 12th September 2014 in Installations, Installing

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When it comes to retic in Two Rocks, especially on an established property, you need to be ready for some serious digging and some hard yakka. As the suburb name suggests there is a lot of rock up there and sometimes you just have to go around what you can’t go through.

I did this job last week, installing a whole retic system – 200m of PVC –  to an established property. There were lots of roots and rocks to contend with but also some nice long sandy patches. Thankfully the faithful trencher didn’t let me down and I managed to get it all done in the day.

Without the trencher there would be 2-3 days of work in this one. I used a combination of MP rotators and precision nozzles to get it all done on 3 stations.

Retic Off

Posted on 6th June 2014 in Controllers, Local Knowledge

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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.

 

How To Repair Broken Stormwater Pipes

Posted on 5th June 2014 in General, Repairs

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One of the occupational hazards of doing retic and using a mechanical trencher is that we sometimes hit other pipes under the ground. Some are easier to fix than others and some require a plumber. Where we can we will fix the pipes on the spot, but it isn’t always possible.

Yesterday I accidentally cut thru a stormwater pipe thinking it was the conduit supplied for retic under a driveway. I was half way thru the cut (trimming what I thought was excess) when I realised what I had done… Oops… The pipe I wanted was further down the drive, but now I was left with the job of repairing my mistake.

Sometimes when stormwater pipe is chipped or cracked we can fix it by using another piece of stormwater, cutting it lengthways and using it a a sleeve. You slip it over, glue it and usually that’s all good.

In this case I needed to actually rejoin the two pipes – tricky when neither of them are flexible. It was a clean cut but it was all the way thru so a sleeve wasn’t going to work.

The solution?

Get a 90ml coupling, lift the most ‘movable’ piece of pipe above the other and slip the coupling over  it. Slide it right along, then realign the pipes and pull the coupling back over the other piece of pipe. When you are sure you have it lined up slide it up again and use some glue. You need to be sure not to get sand in between the pipes or they won’t slide.

If you have a whole section of pipe that needs replacing, or if it is impossible to lift the pipe up then simply use two couplings and do the same thing but insert a new piece of pipe where the damaged section was.

 

 

Reticulation Rocket Launcher Anyone?

Posted on 14th April 2014 in Just For Fun

My son discovered this video on Youtube today and is pretty keen to make one… Luckily we have all the parts we need in the back of the Cruiser!

How to Progam a Hunter X Core

Posted on 2nd April 2014 in Controllers

This is the most common controller we use so for those who would like some easy to follow instructions here they are courtesy of Hunter

Part 2 – some more advanced programming:

Why We Recommend MP Rotators Over Other Rotary Nozzles

Posted on 16th December 2013 in Installations, nozzles

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.