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scercpio

Active Member

1

Monday, November 19th 2012, 3:14pm

Modern controller?

My home was built 20 years ago. It has an automatic sprinkler system installed with a Rainbird controller in my garage. It's great that it still runs, but it also runs on 20 year-old technology. The programming interface is dials and knobs. It is so frustrating to perform a simple programming task. I have to look for the manual every time I touch it. After all said and done, it still can offer a very limited functionality i.e. limited, pretty much fixed watering schedule.

I want to replace my 20 year-old Rainbird with a more modern controller. I checked out Home Depot, Lowes, this site, and the internet. I'm so disappointed that all of the controllers on the market today are still of dials and knobs! The only improvement I see is more buttons now - as if buttons weren't the culprit of the confusion and frustration.

20 years and it's still the same. Has Sprinkler system technology being forgotten by time?

Wet_Boots

Supreme Member

Posts: 3,884

Location: Metro NYC

2

Monday, November 19th 2012, 8:13pm

Actual motor-driven electromechanical controllers are rarities now, and have a value that befits their reputation for being "bulletproof"

Modern controllers are purely solid state, and no longer have any knobs or dials beyond the central rotary switch that runs the entire show.

wsommariva

Supreme Member

Posts: 332

Location: Northern New Jersey

3

Tuesday, November 20th 2012, 8:20am

Great feature is season adjust. Adjust from 100% time watering to much lower.

I have two cheap Toros. Work great.

scercpio

Active Member

4

Tuesday, November 20th 2012, 9:30am

I didn't mean dials and knobs as in mechanical controllers. I meant dials and buttons and the little LCD that are common to today's controllers. I'm sure many of the readers will agree how frustrating it is to punch a number of buttons just to perform a simple task.

I want more programming options. I'm looking for a controller that has a more user-friendly User Interface. Any thing?

mrfixit

Moderator

Posts: 1,418

Location: USA

5

Tuesday, November 20th 2012, 11:49am

Try this one.
Controller
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scercpio

Active Member

6

Tuesday, November 20th 2012, 2:38pm

mrfixit,

The irritrol seems to go to the right direction, but it also seems to be a stop-gap solution i.e. you need to download an app to your computer, and to program, you need to connect the remote device to the computer. It's not too clean and involves many external components. Surely, there must be someone who can do better than this.

After more googling, I found irrigation caddy, which seems promising. Only problem I'm seeing is that my garage doesn't have a cat5 outlet and there is no way I can run a cat5 cable into it. If it runs wifi, it probably would be ideal.

Wet_Boots

Supreme Member

Posts: 3,884

Location: Metro NYC

7

Tuesday, November 20th 2012, 9:18pm

I didn't mean dials and knobs as in mechanical controllers. I meant dials and buttons and the little LCD that are common to today's controllers. I'm sure many of the readers will agree how frustrating it is to punch a number of buttons just to perform a simple task.

I want more programming options. I'm looking for a controller that has a more user-friendly User Interface. Any thing?
Lose the word "dial" - they are not to be found in modern controllers, even if the controller is named "Rain Dial" ~ they are all pushbuttons and switches.

As for wanting more programming options, consider spelling out in words exactly what programming you intend for your lawn sprinkler controller. Most lawngrass gets by with simple controllers, and extra bells and whistles are.... extraneous.

scercpio

Active Member

8

Wednesday, November 21st 2012, 9:35am

My rainbird and other "modern" controllers have this big rotary thingy in the middle of it that you can turn it around in a circular motion. I think that's a definition of a dial. OK, it has no knob, just buttons. The point is, it hasn't changed in 20 years. We still program it by a series of dialing, oops, turning and pushing a bunch of buttons. If compared to the telephone technology, it'll be like a rotary phone.

The number one feature I'd like to see from a controller is the ability to automatically turn off for a period of time i.e. winter. For 20 years, I have to manually turn it off in late November and manually turn it on in the middle of March. It seems like a very simple feature, but I can't imagine how many buttons I have to push with the common controllers available today. I'd like to be able to rename my zones or stations instead of 1,2,3... I'd like to run a different watering schedule in the summer than in the spring and fall. Programs A, B, C, D and just aren't enough.

So, today's controllers pretty much offer the same interface and features as 20 years ago. It can't do much more because it is restricted by the dial and button interface. It needs a Graphical User Interface (GUI). I stumbled on Irrigation Caddy, and it seems to be heading towards the right direction. I'm surprised to learn that it hasn't been embraced by professionals on this board.

Wet_Boots

Supreme Member

Posts: 3,884

Location: Metro NYC

9

Wednesday, November 21st 2012, 11:00am

My rainbird and other "modern" controllers have this big rotary thingy in the middle of it that you can turn it around in a circular motion. I think that's a definition of a dial. OK, it has no knob, just buttons. The point is, it hasn't changed in 20 years. We still program it by a series of dialing, oops, turning and pushing a bunch of buttons. If compared to the telephone technology, it'll be like a rotary phone.
"Dial" as a controller term is somewhat inaccurate, because the central rotary switch of modern controllers can be called a dial. To people knowledgeable about electronics, "dial" is more a word for a continuously-variable control, such as the tuning or volume control on an old vacuum-tube radio. Toro made a controller where the zone run times were set by individual knobs, each one a "rheostat" on the circuit board

The number one feature I'd like to see from a controller is the ability to automatically turn off for a period of time i.e. winter. For 20 years, I have to manually turn it off in late November and manually turn it on in the middle of March. It seems like a very simple feature, but I can't imagine how many buttons I have to push with the common controllers available today. I'd like to be able to rename my zones or stations instead of 1,2,3... I'd like to run a different watering schedule in the summer than in the spring and fall. Programs A, B, C, D and just aren't enough.
You are forever stuck with numbered zones. Name them as you will, but the controller will never know anything but zone numbers. As for turning off the watering, I realize it is a herculean effort to turn the central dial one click to the left, or to click some other switch on a controller, but you, or someone, has to shut off the water anyway, using a valve that is a few feet from the controller, so it isn't anything that anyone will ever expend any design effort upon. Besides, the most modern of controllers now has a month-by-month percentage setting for watering time, so winter months can be set to zero. Also, separate temperature sensors already exist to prevent cold-weather watering.

So, today's controllers pretty much offer the same interface and features as 20 years ago. It can't do much more because it is restricted by the dial and button interface. It needs a Graphical User Interface (GUI). I stumbled on Irrigation Caddy, and it seems to be heading towards the right direction. I'm surprised to learn that it hasn't been embraced by professionals on this board.
Why not spend some quality time with the Rainbird ESP-SMT controller, and its 80-plus page instruction manual and get back to us. You want more. The ESP-SMT has more. That it completely overwhelms most homeowners, and not a few professionals, shouldn't be an issue.

scercpio

Active Member

10

Wednesday, November 21st 2012, 1:43pm

Quoted

You are forever stuck with numbered zones. Name them as you will, but
the controller will never know anything but zone numbers. As for turning
off the watering, I realize it is a herculean effort to turn the
central dial one click to the left, or to click some other switch on a
controller, but you, or someone, has to shut off the water anyway, using
a valve that is a few feet from the controller, so it isn't anything
that anyone will ever expend any design effort upon. Besides, the most
modern of controllers now has a month-by-month percentage setting for
watering time, so winter months can be set to zero. Also, separate
temperature sensors already exist to prevent cold-weather watering.

It's not the act of turning the switch. It's the fact that such action can be automated. The monthly feature is close to what I look for, but what I really want is a time period, for example, 11/15 to 3/1, not just a month to month. The controller/timer is basically a clock. It can very well perform this task. What prevents the manufacturer from offering this feature is the dial and button interface which makes programming task a very difficult chore for the average home owner. I think I can speak for every home owner out there who has ever attempted to program a Raibird or Hunter or Toro.

Quoted

Why not spend some quality time with the Rainbird ESP-SMT controller, and its 80-plus page instruction manual
and get back to us. You want more. The ESP-SMT has more. That it
completely overwhelms most homeowners, and not a few professionals,
shouldn't be an issue.
Thank you for bringing up the manual. Did you notice that it takes 1.5 pages to instruct you how to enter a zip code? I don't want to learn the manual every time I stare at the controller. It's the 21st century. We've had GUI and touchscreen now.

BTW, The Rainbird you referred to is a "smart" or ET controller. It waters based on weather conditions. I get it. I used to have one, but I took it down because it was so difficult to use. I'm an engineer, and I can't figure out how to make it water a little more to prevent my yard from turning brown. I know the buzz is about smart controller nowadays, but unless it becomes easier to use, it has no place in my garage or many other home owner's garage.

The point I'm trying to make is, modern irrigation controllers need to move away from the dial and buttons which is the source of all users' angst, and start embracing the use of GUI to provide better user experience. It would be like what the iPhone did to the cellular phone industry.

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