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Intelligent WiFi remote-access sprinker controllers

isisdave

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As we travel more, and weather is more unpredictable, and as our water budget is adjusted daily according to the weather, and as the cost of water that exceeds the budget is now over $8 per CCF, the old set-and-forget sprinkler controller needs to be replaced.

There have been a bunch of these to come to market over the last few years, but nothing has really taken off. I am currently looking at www.rachio.com

This system connects to your wifi system and gets its instructions from the cloud based on observed weather, so it reduces watering when it's cool or wet and increases it when it's hot or dry. You tell it what kind of soil each zone has. It emails you if something goes wrong and it couldn't water (but it can only do this if it has power). It's $249 for an 8-station model, and it wouldn't take long for that to pay for itself, as our water bill was more than that this month and last.

Does anyone have any actual experience with controllers like this? I want to be able to observe and adjust remotely (and any one of (computer, iPhone, Android) is fine as we travel with all three. And I want adjustment to actual conditions, either by observed local conditions, or actual on-site soil moisture readings. I have moisture sensing with an Irrometer system at work, but at home there is no typical soil area near the controller, so sensors would have to be connected via radio or be able to signal back on the valve wire.

It's a bonus to be advised if there is a problem. Wifi connection to Internet is good, but wired Ethernet OK too.

[Other interest: ability to see the state of the garage door and open/close it. There are a bunch of systems for this but they are all too expensive for such a trivial app. I think I could do this with an Arduino for $50.)
 
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Ty1on

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As we travel more, and weather is more unpredictable, and as our water budget is adjusted daily according to the weather, and as the cost of water that exceeds the budget is now over $8 per CCF, the old set-and-forget sprinkler controller needs to be replaced.

There have been a bunch of these to come to market over the last few years, but nothing has really taken off. I am currently looking at www.rachio.com

This system connects to your wifi system and gets its instructions from the cloud based on observed weather, so it reduces watering when it's cool or wet and increases it when it's hot or dry. You tell it what kind of soil each zone has. It emails you if something goes wrong and it couldn't water (but it can only do this if it has power). It's $249 for an 8-station model, and it wouldn't take long for that to pay for itself, as our water bill was more than that this month and last.

Does anyone have other recommendations? I want to be able to observe and adjust remotely (and any one of (computer, iphone, Android) is fine as we travel with all three. It's a bonus to be advised if there is a problem. Wifi good, but wired Ethernet OK too.

[Other interest: ability to see the state of the garage door and open/close it. There are a bunch of systems for this but they are all too expensive for such a trivial app. I think I could do this with an Arduino for $50.)

Very cool.
 

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Irrigation caddy another to look at.
Both ate liked in the Home Automation space.

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MichaelColey

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Sounds like an incredible deal. Their 16-zone system is only $299, too.

Unfortunately, we have more zones (I think we're using 20 on a 24-zone system -- we have a big yard), so their solution wouldn't work for us.
 

SMHarman

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IrrigationCaddy Works well for you Michael. They go up to 44 zones in blocks of 11

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MichaelColey

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IrrigationCaddy Works well for you Michael. They go up to 44 zones in blocks of 11
Nice! Now if it could be weather-aware, like the Rachio.

Looks like IrrigationCaddy is 10 or 11 zones plus up to four additional blocks of 8, for 43 total. Very reasonable price ($249 new / $135 refurb + $52/expansion) for this one, too.

My "dumb" controller cost a lot more than either one of those. When it fails (or if the water-saving features look like they could pay for it), I'll have to look at one of these (or whatever else is available then).
 

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the proper way for Californians to set their sprinklers is off.
 

SMHarman

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Nice! Now if it could be weather-aware, like the Rachio.

Looks like IrrigationCaddy is 10 or 11 zones plus up to four additional blocks of 8, for 43 total. Very reasonable price ($249 new / $135 refurb + $52/expansion) for this one, too.

My "dumb" controller cost a lot more than either one of those. When it fails (or if the water-saving features look like they could pay for it), I'll have to look at one of these (or whatever else is available then).
With the amount you travel I would think some home automation that joins it all together could do you well.
Of course with such automation you can take weather data from a weather station or the internet's and use rules to feed that into the water sprinkler system.
Also with remote access you can hook into HVAC etc to pre set before you return.

Further you hook it into other things in the home to give the watering extra smarts. Say if the alarm says the back door sensor is open the watering will delay. Or if your outside lights are on or your deck music.

Sent from my LT26i using Tapatalk
 
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isisdave

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Sounds like an incredible deal. Their 16-zone system is only $299, too.

Unfortunately, we have more zones (I think we're using 20 on a 24-zone system -- we have a big yard), so their solution wouldn't work for us.

Take a look at their FAQs ... you can buy more than one system and they are aware of each other. That does seem a bit pricey though. Any way you could map 4 of those zones onto 4 others?
 

isisdave

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the proper way for Californians to set their sprinklers is off.

Well, Ron, it's like this. You give us all your water, or all 30 million of us will be coming to live with you. And we won't have showered. :eek:

Honestly, I don't know where they think we're going to get water to provide for growing families already here, let alone newcomers. Desalination is cool if you have lots of electricity, so maybe a few billion more solar cells in the desert.
 
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isisdave

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It looks like Irrigation Caddy just implements the schedule you give it; I don't see that it does any adjustment for weather.

There is an 11-page list of "WaterSense" controllers here ... I'm hoping some Tuggers will have tried one.
 

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You can start by conserving what you use. I do all my washing in cold water. I take "navy showers" most of the year, except dead of winter.

I have desert landscaping. I don't expect that you'd have that, but you could cut back on total lawn space, and use "water smart"plants. My trees and plants operate on a drip system, twice a day for ten minutes each time. In summer it goes daily. Spring and Autumn is three days a week, and winter once a week.And our water department isn't kidding about it. If they see water running down the gutter from your irrigation, you get a call. And a follow up visit to see that it is fixed a few days later. If not, or if it happens again, fines ensue.

If you have a pool, you cannot drain it to the gutter, either. Your pool must be made with a drain tube which sends your water to the reclamation center, where it is treated and returned to Lake Mead.

Nowadays You don't get new water, or more water, you have to learn how to better use what is available.

Fern

Well, Ron, it's like this. You give us all your water, or all 30 million of us will be coming to live with you. And we won't have showered. :eek:

Honestly, I don't know where they think we're going to get water to provide for growing families already here, let alone newcomers. Desalination is cool if you have lots of electricity, so maybe a few billion more solar cells in the desert.
 

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Well, Ron, it's like this. You give us all your water, or all 30 million of us will be coming to live with you. And we won't have showered. :eek:

Honestly, I don't know where they think we're going to get water to provide for growing families already here, let alone newcomers. Desalination is cool if you have lots of electricity, so maybe a few billion more solar cells in the desert.

I spent 15 years working for Marylands Water Resources Administration
and I now have a second home in California, (so Im part of the problem now) Here in Cape Coral Florida, I pay for the water (delivered from a reverse osmosis plant) and I pay to treat the waste water I generate and then I pay for the same water (treated sewage) again to water my lawn

I understand whats happening, which is why I posted what I did

But I think you are right: dirt front yards wont solve anything, Desalination will, either that or mass exodus... Kind of a Grapes of Wrath in reverse.
 

isisdave

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Hi Fern,

You'd be right at home in our yard. We got rid of the last of the grass over a year ago. I'll see if I can post a picture of our front xeriscape tomorrow. (It's mostly rocks.)

I want to regulate watering of the well-established shrubs in the back. I have a seasonal schedule just like yours: same amount of water each time, but fewer days in wetter months. I monitor reported ETo values from the state, but right now only use those to decide when the season is changing. They vary a lot from day to day, and it would be great to automatically water less.

Now, the water district has decided we can only water on Tuesday and Friday. This complicates demand-based watering, and I don't see the point anyway: too much water on two days of the week isn't better than the right amount on three or five or seven. In the front, everything is underground so they couldn't tell, and in the back it happens at night anyway. The controller I'm looking at can handle day-restrictions, applying water sooner but on a legal day if it figures out that things will be too dry by the next one.
 

MichaelColey

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Further you hook it into other things in the home to give the watering extra smarts. Say if the alarm says the back door sensor is open the watering will delay. Or if your outside lights are on or your deck music.
Sounds nice in theory, but since we do all of our watering overnight, it would be overkill.
 

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I'm happy with the $15 rain sensor on my system. If it was wet during the last few days, the system does not go off. Also, on my RainBird controller, there is a setting to reduce the zone times when we are in the rainy season. I'm not away more than 2 weeks at a time so it's not that big of a deal to keep an eye on things manually. And water is more expensive than that where I live.
 

isisdave

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Yeah, but see, it actually rains in Florida.

Here in California, it probably won't rain from March to December, and the amount of water you need to add depends on (mostly) how hot and how windy it's been recently. Plus, different plants (lawn vs old shrubs vs flower beds) have different requirements, and the slope can vary. So maybe some zones need water, but others don't. How does your system handle that?

It's easy to overwater by 30% or so, and this can make an $80 difference per month at my house. [I call that equivalent to three days in Hawaii per year, just to keep things relevant.] The water district has much fancier computers, and they figure out how much I should have used after I use it.

I suppose if I had to pay FL insurance rates, I wouldn't worry about water rates. :(
 

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California lawn == synthetic turf. At least that's what I'd do.

Up here, we have unlimited pressurized irrigation water. I think we pay $18/year.
 

isisdave

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Some people do that, other go for "native rock" or desert plants. Or redwood chips. Or concrete.

Artificial turf is $4-8 per square foot and (they don't tell you this) has a life of 8-10 years. Most of it is quite hot when in the sun.
 

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Some people do that, other go for "native rock" or desert plants. Or redwood chips. Or concrete.

Artificial turf is $4-8 per square foot and (they don't tell you this) has a life of 8-10 years. Most of it is quite hot when in the sun.

Yep. I'd xeriscape around the periphery leaving smaller inner islands of synthetic. Low water, low maintenance. Would be kind of a fun install, I'd think.
 

Sea Six

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Yeah, but see, it actually rains in Florida.

Here in California, it probably won't rain from March to December, and the amount of water you need to add depends on (mostly) how hot and how windy it's been recently. Plus, different plants (lawn vs old shrubs vs flower beds) have different requirements, and the slope can vary. So maybe some zones need water, but others don't. How does your system handle that?

It's easy to overwater by 30% or so, and this can make an $80 difference per month at my house. [I call that equivalent to three days in Hawaii per year, just to keep things relevant.] The water district has much fancier computers, and they figure out how much I should have used after I use it.

I suppose if I had to pay FL insurance rates, I wouldn't worry about water rates. :(

We don't get much rain in Florida during the winter. By March we have forest fires around here, too, just like in California. However, the rain amounts are fairly predictable, so I just add a few minutes per zone during the dry season. That's something I only mess with twice a year. I don't have much variation between zones because I have a small lot, and only 5 zones. AND - even though I pay wind insurance, my taxes are one third what I used to pay in PA, so the total between taxes and insurance is roughly half what I paid up north. The electric is also WAY cheaper. Unfortunately, the water costs quite a bit more, sometimes around $150 a month. I'm away from home about 3 months a year, but rarely more than 2 weeks at a time. It's just too easy to just adjust as necessary and avoid the cost of a computer system. Your situation must be very different than mine. I think the snow birds who are gone 7 months at a time may benefit from it.
 

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I have the exact Rachio 8 zone unit and love it. it's really easy to set up and works great. Very "intelligent" and skips watering times if forecast tells it you're getting rain in your area. Amazingly accurate in that sense.

State of the art phone app that makes it easy to stop and start watering, zone by zone, right from your phone.

What is somewhat strange is you can't operate but through your phone so it's just a box on the wall with no buttons or gauges of any kind just lights to indicate internet connectivity and all data and settings are via the phone app.

Definitely a great product.
 

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Well, Ron, it's like this. You give us all your water, or all 30 million of us will be coming to live with you. And we won't have showered. :eek:

Honestly, I don't know where they think we're going to get water to provide for growing families already here, let alone newcomers. Desalination is cool if you have lots of electricity, so maybe a few billion more solar cells in the desert.

San Diego is a Salt Mover and Shaker In Desalination Campaign
- by Tony Perry/ Local/ California/ Los Angeles Times/ latimes.com

"San Diego may be known as "America's Finest City," but — at least this week — it's also the epicenter of the desalination and water reuse movement.

More than a thousand water experts from around the globe are gathered at the waterfront convention center for the International Desalination Assn. World Congress.

The area had one of the first desalination plants — opened in Point Loma in 1961 — and will soon see a $1-billion facility open in Carlsbad.

With the state gripped in drought, "we're increasingly the city that embraces ideas to secure our water future.… Here in San Diego, we're taking matters into our own hands," Mayor Kevin Faulconer told the assemblage..."

900x506

Steven Montes, right, installs a pressure relief valve on a 24-inch stainless steel pipe that will carry desalinated water from the thousands of reverse osmosis filters at the soon-to-be-opened desalination plant in Carlsbad, Calif. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

Richard
 

isisdave

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Until recent retirement, I worked in Carlsbad, and the route the 40-inch pipe was taking from the plant to where it joined the district it was to serve 9about 7 miles, and uphill about 1200 feet) was EXACTLY my vanpool route! So we dealt with that for about 15 months. They even had a website that showed where the mess would be when! This enormous project will supply about 7% of the county's water. The location is fortuitous: the plant is right next to the Encina Power Plant, so the "cord" is very short.

An interesting factor is that all the salt that is removed is put back into the ocean, so this effectively doubles the salinity in the area of the discharge. It turns out that some species don't care, but others do.

I think desalination will have to be the way we come up with water in the future, but it does require a lot of electricity. So in effect we need to turn sunlight into fresh water. Fortunately, we have a lot of both the raw materials ... sunlight and sea water.

Thanks to MOXJO7282 ... that's just the kind of Tug personal experience I needed. I found one on craigslist and it's coming next week.
 
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