New Hydrawise Controller

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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.)

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. 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 – $680 inc GST plus the cost of an outdoor powerpoint / case if needed.

12 Station – $820 inc GST plus the cost of an outdoor powerpoint / case if needed

 

Tricky Access Reticulation

Sometimes it can be difficult to install a system when there is no way of running wire from the control box to the solenoids. Maybe the liquid limestone went in too quickly and people hadn’t considered the future problems.

It may not be all over…

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There are a couple of battery powered solenoids models available that require w ater supply, but do not need a control box positioned on the wall. We prefer to use the Hunter Node for reliability and ease of use. It functions in much the same way as the X Core controller and had the option of installing multiple solenoids, so even if you can’t access your water meter or get power to your solenoids the ‘Node’ may still allow you have a functioning retic system

iPhone or Android Enabled Reticulation Controller

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A few years back I found myself wondering why no one had devised an app for controlling irrigation and started investigating how to develop something like that myself.

But as time went on I discovered others were already in the race and were likely going to be ahead of me. I decided to leave it and wait to see what developed.

Well here’s one solution that has arrived on the market recently. Its called Hydrawise and offers remote control and programming of your system via a computer or smartphone.

Compared to regular controllers they are not cheap, but they do offer that extra functionality of remote programming. The website suggests the entry level home controller is $395.00 and then there are some options you can add to provide more information about your watering.

At this stage it is about double the cost of a regular X Core, so you’d really have to like those extra features to make it viable. While I like the idea I am yet to be convinced it is value for money.

Here is a video of someone who is pretty happy with the product.

My hope would be that someone would develop an ‘add on’ module for a controller that could be operated via smartphone that would cost approx $50.00 + set up. If this were the case then I think the take up would be high, but right now I think we are still in the innovation stage and costs are quite high.

The Roam Remote Control

I managed to get a hold of one of these babies for home the other day. On a quarter acre block it’s a bit of a pain running back and forth to test the stations so a remote comes in handy – and its even better when you need to change a nozzle.

Now its no longer a case of unscrew, flush, test while running back to the control box each time. Now you can operate the controller while standing next to the sprinkler. Much easier!

The remote allows you to operate your stations for a run time that you choose. Its really simple to install and use.

For some reason my first attempt at installation resulted in some bizarre error messages and strange behaviour by the system. The controller worked fine without the remote attached, however when I wired it up I discovered that 3 stations were coming on at once. There was power (23v) coming from pump, the actual terminal in use and two others.

It was a mysterious problem and I thought the controller was at fault, but I disconnected the remote wires and reconnected… and then all worked fine. I’m not sure what the issue was but its sorted now.

 

 

 

 

 

X Core Hybrid Controllers

This is the control box you would use if you have no access to mains power. It is totally battery operated and does not require a 240v supply.

I came across one of these in Butler this week and only realised when we arrived that it was a hybrid. The trick here is that none of your regular 24v solenoids will work with it, so because we were laying retic and turf that day it meant a frantic search to locate some DC latching solenoids.

In the end Total Eden in Balcatta had 3 we needed so it was long drive there and back to make it work. I’m not sure why anyone would use one of these in Suburbia where power is not an issue. The other thing to remember with these controllers is that the solenoids are expensive. You will pay $80.00 for each solenoid rather than the regular $30.00 so it adds to the cost of the job.

I believe you can use regular Hunter valves and simply change the coil to DC latching, but I haven’t tested that method.

Next time I’ll be making a note of whether the controller is AC or DC!

 

Remote Control Operation of Control Boxes

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.