General > Irrigation Control

Best smart irrigation controller

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Check out this link.

I still can't come away with a clear winner.

Anyone have any advice which controller to use?  I currently have an existing system installed two years ago.  6zones with the rain sensor. Im really just interested in zwave integration and the ability to water based on my local forecast.

Thanks for any help

Following along.

Ha! Thanks

OpensprinklerPi is what I am using. Links to weatherunderground for forecasts

My critique with the wifi based controllers is that they are not as smart as they want you to believe.  They have very fancy graphics, I grant that.  They have unmatched convenience, I grant that too.  BUT, they come with some severe drawbacks:

1.  Most of them rely on the user's ability to link the controller to a proprietary server or website in order to program it.  All of them are made by startup companies.  What's the likelihood a high-tech startup will survive more than a couple years?  How many of them will survive in the near future?  Will the user still be able to re-program your wifi-based controller, if the company goes out of business?

2.  They all rely on weather forecasts using either local weather stations forecasts or NOAA forecasts to suspend watering, but as a group (there may be one or two exceptions), they lack the ability to reconcile difference between forecast and actual rainfall or difference between forecast and actual temperature.  Nor do they as a group have the ability to know the actual amount of rainfall.  A 1" rain in 24 hrs. is vastly different from 1/8" in 24 hrs., but these wifi-based controllers can't tell the difference.  They suspend watering when rain is forecast, but don't adjust watering frequency and duration to take into account the actual amount of rainfall.  Hydrawise is one of the few exceptions that takes actual rainfall into account, but you'd have to pay a $5/month fee to have it incorporate rainfall amount into its scheduling routines. NOAA or weather station rainfall is NOT rainfall at your own location.  A weather station located just a half mile away can have totally different rainfall from your own location.

3. As a group they lack sophistication in modelling the evapo-transpiration based on soil type, plant type, plant density, root depth, water application rate, drip vs. sprinkler, etc.  Only a few have a sophisticated evapo-transpiration model built in that asks sufficient detailed input questions such as soil type,  slope, amount of shade, plant type, root depth, plant density, water loving vs. drought resistant plants, etc.  The one that is the most sophisticated is the Water Sage made by OnPoint.  The Water Sage has almost the same sophistication of ET model as the Rainbird ESP-SMTe.  I wonder if the Water Sage may be made by former Rainbird engineers.  But even the Water Sage is not as good as the Rainbird because it doesn't measure LOCAL temp and rainfall.  Just like all wifi-based controllers, the Water Sage still uses weather station data to forecast rainfall, but doesn't reconcile difference between forecast and actual rainfall or temperature.  Error in forecast temperature can cause errors in the evapo-transpiration prediction.

4. With the exception of the Water Sage's sophisticated ET model, most, if not all of the other wifi based controllers require the user to determine what is the maximum amount of water it needs on the hottest summer day.  What makes them think a typical gardener knows enough about soil water absorption rate, soil moisture retention rate, soil water holding capacity, plant water usage, etc. to know what is the optimal amount of water for their plants?  The wifi-based controller makers themselves are supposed to offer the suggestions to the gardener using built-in ET prediction models.  Again, of all the wifi based controllers I have seen on the internet, only the Water Sage has a very sophisticated built-in ET model.  All the others look like they have either very skimpy and crude ET models or non-existent model at all.

5. Most of these wifi-based controllers don't seem to have the ability to turn on a master valve for selected zones.  Their master valve settings seem to affect all zones, instead of just the zones selected by the user.  I want to be able to turn the master valve on for only certain zones to activate my fertilizer injector and certain zones, such as Japanese maples do not need fertilizer.

6. The strongest selling point of these wifi-based controllers is the convenience factor of being able to control watering with your smartphone.  This is such a hype.  The whole point of a smart controller is once you program it correctly, you shouldn't have to constantly adjust it with your smartphone.  If it's really smart, it should allow you to get the programming done and just leave it alone to make decisions on its own based on changing weather conditions.  Where a remote control capability comes in handy is to adjust the sprinkler or drip irrigation systems, but given the drawbacks with the current crop of wifi-based controllers that's not enough of an enticement yet.  Maybe in 5 years' time the wifi-based controllers will be improved to a point where the drawbacks I pointed out will be eliminated.

I installed a Rainbird ESP-SMTe smart controller two weeks ago and have been extremely happy with it.  It's not wifi-based.  It comes with a local temp sensor and a tipping rain gauge to measure actual rainfall.  A tipping rain gauge is far superior to a rain sensor because it measures total rainfall.  This Rainbird controller has a STEEP learning curve, but once you master the programming and the MANY nuances, it's a true gem and a steal for an ET-based controller at this price.  None of the current crop of wifi/web-based controllers I looked at can match it.

I researched long and hard to find the Rainbird ESP-SMTe and have been very happy with it.  I also looked at the Hunter series, but the Hunter costs a lot more than the Rainbird and the Rainbird has independent programming for each zone, whereas the Hunter has only 4 programs for the whole controller.  That's why I chose the Rainbird.  It's the most flexible and capable controller I have come across yet in this price range.  I love it.


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