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Can I have a standalone controller in addition to an automated controller?

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  • Can I have a standalone controller in addition to an automated controller?

    I'm having a new sprinkler system installed and the installer wants to know what kind of clock I want installed. He's recommending Hunter.

    I have a few questions for the group:

    1) Do most people that use Rain8 or EtherRain also have a standalone controller as well?

    I'd think a standalone controller would be good to have in addition to the automated controller for: 1) When the system is used/tested by someone not familiar with home automation, 2) If the home automation system experiences any troubles, 3) If the house is ever sold, I've been building all my home automation stuff so it fully works in a standalone fashion as well so prospective "conventional" buyers are not turned off by the HA complexities.

    2) Do they make any "HA-enabled" standalone controllers? I would think this would be ideal to avoid having two "brains" controlling the system. I know some standalone controllers have a port labeled "remote" or something similar that can be used to connect a wireless remote controller to cycle through zones, or effectively interact with the standalone controller. Perhaps this "remote" port could be used to connect to HomeSeer to enable some form of automation? Or perhaps, even better, maybe there are HA-enabled controllers that have an RS232 or Ethernet connection for intelligent HA control. It would amaze me if these types of standalone controllers did not exist today.

    3) If a standalone, NON-HA-enabled controller is used in addition to a separate HA controller (Rain8, EtherRain), I assume both are simply wired to each zone in parallel since I believe both the automated and standalone controllers are typically "normally open" for each zone, so by wiring the zones in parallel to each controller, either controller can "close" the circuit to turn on particular zones.

    4) If #3 is correct above, I assume there is nothing preventing both controllers (HA and standalone) from turning on zones at the same time. I wouldn't think this would be a big deal for me because I plan to leave the "standalone" unit turned off at all times and only turning it on when needing it (in the situations suggested in #1 above).

    5) Assuming both controllers (standalone and HA) operate independently, assuming someone accidentally turns on both unit and they both try to turn on two different zones simultaneously, obviously I would not have the necessary water pressure to effectively water the lawn. However, if they both try to turn on the same zone (each applying 24v of power to the zone, wired in parallel), I would think that would be OK in terms of electrical safety. Since both 24v sources would be wired in parallel, the overall power source to the zone would still be 24v (with a higher current capacity due to both transformers providing power on the line concurrently). This would be similar to jumping a car batters in terms of electrical circuitry. Is my logic correct and that this would not cause any electrical issues?

    6) If anything I'm suggesting above is strange, is there anything else you've seen before or you would suggest?

    I plan to have this system installed tomorrow, so anything you can do to provide your input ASAP would be greatly appreciated!

  • #2
    When I went HA sprinklers I kept my legacy controller and used it as the wiring terminals for new HA controllers. I uplugged and unhooked the power to the existing unit and kept the "ground". My reasons were if I sell the house I can undo the HA part and revert back to the existing one if that's what's needed. (I have a pic if that would help you visualize it)

    The advantage of an HA only set up is lots of control and weather intelligence to turn it off and save water. And if you buy a powerline technology that is verifiable like insteon or 2 way x10, you'll know for sure.

    I think I would suggest connecting an ha controller the same way by using its terminals, and disable what was installed by the sprinkler installer by unplugging it. But I wouldn't try to use both, I think that will be too hard and too easy to get tripped up. I think you are a candidate for the MCS Sprinklers plugin which I believe tries to (among a lot of other things) help announce zone failures that it is able to detect.


    Paul
    Paul

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    • #3
      I think the answer to the question in the title of your post is "Yeah, prolly". (Sorry. I had to say that! )

      Paul pretty much covered it as I would. Like him I have my non-HA controller sitting off to the side. In my case I actually removed the wires to it, but leaving the valve wires connected to it but having the power unplugged as Paul suggested (and as you described in #3) should be fine.

      I really don't think you should have both controllers powered up and on-line at the same time as you discussed in #5. You are almost certain to have some contention / overlap in control. Best to leave one unplugged when the other is plugged in and running.

      I'm not aware of any regular stand-alone controllers that also support HS control, but there may be some. My X10 controller (can't remember the manufacturer / model right now) does have manual control buttons and LEDs to let you turn zones ON and OFF and see when they should be working, but there isn't a separate clock and schedule control except via Homeseer and (in my case) my sprinkler control package (posted in the script library).

      Steve

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      • #4
        Originally posted by stevea View Post
        .... schedule control except via Homeseer and (in my case) my sprinkler control package (posted in the script library).
        Steve
        I started using Steve's sprinkler script package this summer and it works very well.
        Paul

        Comment


        • #5
          Are you guys using Rain8, EtherRain, or something else? And how many zones do you have?

          I'll check out the script. I'm interested to see if there's an easy way to take into account:

          1) Weather forecast
          2) Physical roof-mounted rain sensors
          3) Sensor monitor/tracking/graphing - zones in use, amount of water used (or amount of time water used)?

          I'd like Homeseer to do the control and monitoring, but if the only thing I can do is simple timers, I'm hard pressed to see the value of the integration vs. the complexity/sacrifices required.

          Comment


          • #6
            It would also be nice to do things like:

            1) Pause the sprinklers (turn them off) for 5 minutes anytime the front door is opened, or the alarm is set.

            Tying it into Homeseer should make things like this a cynch.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by yeahprolly View Post
              Are you guys using Rain8, EtherRain, or something else? And how many zones do you have?

              I'll check out the script. I'm interested to see if there's an easy way to take into account:

              1) Weather forecast
              2) Physical roof-mounted rain sensors
              3) Sensor monitor/tracking/graphing - zones in use, amount of water used (or amount of time water used)?

              I'd like Homeseer to do the control and monitoring, but if the only thing I can do is simple timers, I'm hard pressed to see the value of the integration vs. the complexity/sacrifices required.
              I don't remember what mine is, but it is an X10 driven 8 zone box. I think the Rain8 seems to be pretty popular.

              I thought the EtherRain was a bit of a hybrid. It actulally has its own built-in smarts that you can program from a PC, but my first impression (somewhat dated now) is that it was not really a good fit for integration with Homeseer: Overkill if you just want to have HS control your sprinklers.

              My package is pretty simple. It lets you define any number of different schedules, run times for each zone for each schedule, logs each zone to a database (that you can look through via a web page), enable/disable individual zones, etc. For anything more elaborate, I think most people go with Michael McSharry's McsSprinklers. Although I've never used it, he's got tons of smarts in there to account for stuff like weather forecasts, soil evaporation, rain, etc. Although mine is free, it sounds like you may need something more like what he offers (and he has three 'tiers' of the product).

              Steve

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by yeahprolly View Post
                Are you guys using Rain8, EtherRain, or something else? And how many zones do you have?

                I'll check out the script. I'm interested to see if there's an easy way to take into account:

                1) Weather forecast
                2) Physical roof-mounted rain sensors
                3) Sensor monitor/tracking/graphing - zones in use, amount of water used (or amount of time water used)?

                It would also be nice to do things like:

                1) Pause the sprinklers (turn them off) for 5 minutes anytime the front door is opened, or the alarm is set.

                Tying it into Homeseer should make things like this a cynch.

                I'd like Homeseer to do the control and monitoring, but if the only thing I can do is simple timers, I'm hard pressed to see the value of the integration vs. the complexity/sacrifices required.
                I have the simplehomenet EZFloras, 2 of them for 14 zones. I updated an existing script from the board (start on post #12) to get them to work together, which is posted in the insteon section. and is fairly easy to get working. Because I have a master valve on both water legs of my system, I had to sacrifice a valve on each controller for that. You'll want to read the directions before buying if this applies to you.

                My approach was to use UltraJones UltraWeatherbug to pull weather from a near by station. Based on how hot and how much rain, I turn on / off different schedules out of steve's script to accomodate it. He has it document and that are some extra features for vb programmers

                I believe the only thing his script doesn't do is "the pause". That was on my "nice to have" list but since everything else is working so well its on the back burner.

                I suggest starting with Steve's scripts and your own customizations via vb code in events, and the see how it goes.

                Paul
                Paul

                Comment


                • #9
                  Hey Paul,

                  Thanks for the kind words about Snevl Sprinklers. I am actually really pleased someone is using the extensions. I got a personal request for those and wasn't sure if anyone but the original requestor would use them.

                  Just FYI (wrong forum, but oh well): I'm perfectly willing to add any other customized extensions that may be needed. Sounds like you are way more sophisticated in your use than mine.

                  Steve

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I wouldn't go that far... . Its very simple logic.

                    It looks at what is or has happened and not forecast, and it only affects the next watering.

                    I have overlapping schedules that are selected for tomorrow based on how much its rained today, or how hot it was.

                    1) Over x", press all of the skip buttons. done. no water tomorrow.

                    2) If it didn't rain enough to cancel, how hot was it today? The overlapping schedules (3 total) each simply add more time per zone tomorrow based on how much the grass was blasted today. One of the three is the right amount of water: Cooler - pick the schedule with the least time, Hotter - pick a schedule with more time. Over 95, longer still. (looking at a mid day schedule for over 95 too) "Skip" 2 of them and "Unskip" the other, correct choice. It does this all right before midnight as a plan for the next day.

                    3) Then next day right before "launch", 5:00 am, I check the rainfall (since midnight) i and can skip everything if there was enough rain in that time. I live in michigan after all and who knows?

                    Needless to say, I spent too much time looking at my Dad's Rube Goldberg books as a kid. Thanks for you comments, and I will stop now before we are asked to "get a room"
                    Paul

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by pbibm View Post
                      Needless to say, I spent too much time looking at my Dad's Rube Goldberg books as a kid.
                      Fair enough. Offer still stands, but take it to the other room....

                      Steve

                      P.S. In the next release, I'll probably change the labels on the skip buttons. It confuses me (is it skipped now? or if I press it will it skip?) so I figure it isn't clear to anyone.

                      Steve

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Cool... I may come up with something, but the functionality of what i have is high and it did not take a lot to get there. I think the first time I used it the skip buttons threw me. It is a nice enhancement
                        Paul

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          To the OP, here is a pic of the EZFloras wired into the RainBird that came with the house:


                          If you look closely you can see the circuit board, battery and terminals pulled away from the
                          existing unit.




                          The middle wire is a power bus, it was easier to keep the PS connected to its original terminals
                          and less stress on the wires and Ezflora connectors. There is now a HS server on left side of
                          that plywood. I got the sprinkler system wire for 1$/foot at a local sprinkler supplier. Use the
                          real deal, don't substitute
                          Paul

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