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.
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