I was working on a friend’s place recently with a strange fault that was proving difficult to track down.
The solenoid would come on and off intermitently. It would work 10 times in a row and then fail. There was power (27V) coming from the control box but at the solenoid the power varied between 22-26v according to my multimeter.
The power wire to the solenoid had been joined several times before it reached the solenoid and after eliminating any other possibilities (faulty coil/controller) I could only conclude that there was a problem with the wire run.
I ran a fresh wire to the solenoid and tested it around 20 times with no failure. It seemed that the wire was flawed somewhere between the controller and the solenoid. There were numerous connections and it wasn’t easy to find where the problem was so I simply ended up running a new wire.
So far so good…
This week I went back to a job I first looked at a couple of months back.
I stopped in on my way home to see why this particular system wasn’t working. It was late in the afternoon and more than I had time for so I declined to take the job on right then.
So when we got back yesterday I knew what we were doing.
I had already tested for power at the Master Valve and there was nothing there. However what was really odd was that there was intermittent power. I know because I brushed the fleshy side of my forearm across the wires and got a small boot. The power wouldn’t register on the multi-meter, although it did shoot up to 28v on one occasion before dying again and making me wonder if i was dreaming…
So the logical conclusion was that a common wire had been broken somewhere. Even when the master valve was turned on manually there was still no water going thru the system. We began at the controller and traced the wires thru a series of 4 different joins and eventually discovered a sliced cable about 30ml underground alongside the driveway. It looked like the edger had given it a beating.
The wire were joining occasionally hence the odd readings, but once it was all tidied up and rejoined the system was working perfectly again.
If your control box is in an awkward spot or if you have a bigger property then testing the retic can be a real pain in the proverbial.
Running back and forward to the box to test, flush re-test takes time and the solution is a simple remote control that will save you that annoyance.
Finally, you don’t need to walk back to the controller to stop and start a manual watering cycle.
The ROAM Remote lets you do just that: Roam wire-free for simple remote operation. The mid-range solution for residential and commercial applications, the ROAM will operate up to a 300 metre range.
For use with Hunter controllers SRC, XC, X-CORE, PRO-C, ICC, I-CORE & ACC, the ROAM offers features other remotes cannot, at a price we all like. With a large LCD and simple push button operation, this remote is tough enough for anything with its sturdy ABS construction, but small enough to fit in your pocket.
If nothing comes on whatsoever then chances are you may have a broken common wire.
We were at a job today where the back came on, but the front didn’t. The fact that the back came on eliminated the possibility of it being the master solenoid.
It had to be a common wire (or all 3 solenoids had died at the same time).
As is often the case a brief search revealed a wire sticking out of the ground that shouldn’t have been there. A dig in the area revealed its other half and when they were re-joined ‘voila’ the whole system kicked into gear.
Sometimes its a simple solution, but you need to know where to look.
Reticulation wiring that leaves the control box is not dangerous.
As a general rule if you feel anything when you touch the wires it will be a light buzzing in your finger tips. That’s because its low voltage – around 24v and it isn’t enough to hurt you.
The Control box has an inbuilt transformer that reduces the current from 240v so that any wires beyond the controller are safe.
NOTE: DO NOT TOUCH THE 240V WIRES INSIDE THE CONTROL BOX!
That’s also why wires usually aren’t laid in conduit. Most installers will tape the wire to the underside of the main reticulation pipe to protect it, but apart from that it sits free in the ground.
If you happen to chop thru some wires then you can simply rejoin them with insulation tape and all should work again. For some people wiring just isn’t their thing at all and its easier to call someone. If that’s the case then we’d be happy to hear from you.
Sometimes you find yourself working on a job where the original installer decided to save money by simply using the same colour wire all around. Its ‘black’ wire to the master, the stations and the common rather than the multi-core version pictured above.
What happens though if your dog rips up all the rear solenoids and you are simply left with 4 black wires poking out of the ground? How do you work out which one is common and which ones are power?
Option A is trial and error and with just 4 wires the permutations aren’t too bad to have a chance of getting it right. But a smarter option is this:
a) Get a mate to help.
b) Run a new strand of wire directly from the contoller common terminal to the rear where the broken wires are. It might mean you need 30 m of wire.
c) Connect the new common wire to the common probe on your multimeter which you have turned on to <200V.
d) Have your friend stand at the control box and turn on each station in turn. Connect the positive probe from your multimeter to the other wires in turn. When you get 25 V or thereabouts then you know it is a power wire.
e) The one wire that produces no response is then the common.
Its easy once you have done it a few times…
So I’m not sure if this will make good sense but here goes…
In your control box there are terminals marked ‘C’ for common, ‘M’ or ‘P’ for master/pump and then there are the numbers for solenoids 1-6 etc.
Ok – so assuming you are running off the water mains you will need to run the M/P wire to your master valve. It doesn’t matter which wire it connects to on the solenoid. (This is the case for all solenoids) Usually this is the red wire and if you stick with that it will help anyone who comes along to repair it later.
The ‘C’ needs to be connected to one of the wires on every solenoid. It is ‘common’ so you need to make sure it secured at every solenoid otherwise nothing may work. This is usually black in colour.
Then simply decide which solenoid will be station ‘1’, ‘2’ etc.
I like to use multicore wire with different colours allocated to different solenoids. You can use one long roll of wire all the same colour but you need to make sure you know what’s going where because once its buried its going to be tricky!
Once you have a ‘power’ wire and a common wire to every solenoid you should be able to run the system. That’s the brief version… For help with any of these issues call Andrew on 0400044236 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Sometimes a solenoid isn’t working because there is no power getting to it.
What to do?…
Firstly – check that there is power ‘leaving the control box’. Put the multimeter probe on the station terminal and on the common and the reading should be 24V+. If not then the problem lies there. (This does happen) Simply change the wire to an unused terminal and you should have power. Voila!
If there is power there then the break is somewhere between the control box and the solenoid. Depending on how easily accessible the wire is will determine what you do next.
If its possible to use a wire tracker then you may wish to go this route, but assuming most people don’t own one of these then the next best option is to look in obvious places for a break.
These are usually:
- at the base of control box
- by the solenoid itself
- anywhere the ground has been disturbed.
If it doesn’t turn up easily then you need to decided whether it is worth tracing from the box and testing at regular intervals.
If it a sole solenoid then you don’t have much choice, but if it is sitting next to another solenoid then you have two options.
a) wire the two stations together and run them as one – if there is enough pressure.
b) use an ‘add a station‘ device to act as the wire that was broken.
Option A is cheaper if you can get it to work as the ‘add a station’ modules come to nearly $100.00 for the part itself. However if this is your only option then its good to know you can use it.
For help with any of these issues call Andrew on 0400044236 or email email@example.com