Irrigation Controller Selection: What's Just Right for the Site. (Sprinklers 'N' Such)

Article excerpt

Regardless of your particular irrigation system's challenges, or any eccentricities associated with the site, there are irrigation control products to handle virtually any application. Available for back yards and amusement parks alike are features like alternate energy sources; remote and hardwire communications; weather interactive hardware and software; station, program and cycle versatility; and even more.

There are considerations in selecting your control system beyond the available technology. Consider customer service, technical training, programming options, product and service warranties, product reliability and manufacturer/distributor longevity. These are some of the "features" that earn customer and brand loyalty.

Let the buyer inquire

The following considerations are worth revisiting as they may assist in controller selection:

Compatability/capability

What is the life expectancy of the controller?

What safety features are included or available as part of the control system?

What are the options for future upgrades?

Does the control system meet all applicable local codes?

What about lightning and other power surge protection issues?

What water-conservation features are available?

Features/capacity

Does the system provide rain override capabilities?

What about rain sensor, wind sensor or moisture sensor capabilities?

What is the recommended programming for the controller?

What are the specific programming capabilities of the system?

How (and how long) are programs saved in the event of a power outage?

Are their customer "support groups" with whom the operator(s) can consult (and console)?

How does the control system link and communicate with other system components (pump controls, weather stations, moisture sensors, etc.)?

Warranties

Who, if anyone, provides start-up and adjustment services?

What are the warranties on individual components of the control system, and control system design performance?

Are the providers (manufacturers and distributors) financially capable of standing behind the warranties?

What is the availability of replacement parts?

Too much to touch

The key to successful controller selection is matching end-user capabilities with controller features. Don't pay for bells and whistles that lay idle, or (worse yet) that absolutely intimidate the manager. Too often, a sophisticated computer transforms into a simple timer because the property manager doesn't want to deal with learning the technology.

Another basic but important issue is to select an expandable control system. Is the control system designed in modules that can easily be replaced or upgraded? This a great opportunity to keep up with the technology without having to buy new hardware with every improvement.

Can you add aftermarket features? Flow sensors, weather stations and hand-held radio control are among the options you may want to consider down the road. What about a site that may expand its irrigation needs in the future? When selecting a control system, be sure to specify needs and capabilities for today and "tomorrow."

Option adoption

Consider some of the following features that can help operators efficiently keep the site (and the budget) healthy:

* Water budgeting

* Master valve capability

* Remote control capability

* Water-use recording

* Battery backup

* Station testing

* Moisture sensor capability

* Independent programming

* Skip-day programming

* Cycle-and-soak capability

* Programmable rain override

* Programmable station delay

* Automatic default programming

* ET-based scheduling

* Surge protection

* Programmable calendar

* Security password

These are some of the more commonly requested functions. …