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  #1  
Old April 16th, 2005, 10:38 PM
Michael McSharry's Avatar
Michael McSharry Michael McSharry is offline
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Location: North Bend, WA, USA
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Into to mcsSprinklers

mcsSprinklers is an integrated commercial / residential irrigation control package that uses readily-available personal computer resources to optimally irrigate an installation. It takes advantage of internet technology to obtain current environmental conditions as well as forecast data from which projected rainfall and evaporation is determined. It uses the Rain8 family of valve controllers to provide control via the existing powerline, wired to the PC, or wireless. It also supports integration with Homeseer and xAP to augment the family of valves (via Homeseer Virtual Devices and xap Schema) that can be controlled and further integration with other aspects of automation.

Irrigation control can be based upon calculated waterfall/evaporation, measured soil moisture, or three forms of periodic timed control. Mixtures of these modes can be used as well. Normal watering periods can be altered based upon current conditions such as wind speed, day-of-week, forecasted rainfall, and several other criteria to assure that water is applied only when needed and only when allowed by local regulations.

As well as the sophisticated automated modes of operation, it allows for several forms of manual intervention. Handheld remote control can be used to roam the irrigation zones and selectively turn on/off valves for head flow adjustments. Voice can be used to control zones and the current irrigation status can be vocally delivered with a voice request. Browser access from any internet location can also be used to manually control, observe status, or alter setup parameters.

mcsSprinklers maintains a record of all control actions taken from which utilizations reports can be generated. It continually calculates soil moisture content based upon current environmental conditions and this combined with forecasted precipitation and sunlight is used to provide projections of future watering cycles.

Sprinkler valves are wired to automated valves such as the Rain8 modules in the same manner as valves are wired to traditional timed-controllers. This allows existing installations to be upgraded with a simple replacement of the old controller with automated valves. Control via the powerline or RF wireless yields minimum-effort solutions to retrofit of existing installations.
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Last edited by Michael McSharry; April 16th, 2005 at 11:50 PM.
  #2  
Old April 16th, 2005, 10:50 PM
Michael McSharry's Avatar
Michael McSharry Michael McSharry is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: North Bend, WA, USA
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Timed Control or Control Based Upon Moisture Content

The intention of an automated control strategy is to provide appropriate amounts of water at appropriate times to maintain adequate soil moisture over a give area. In a basic situation this objective can be achieved by applying a set amount of water at regular intervals. In more sophisticated situations this objective is achieved by applying water when the soil moisture content becomes sufficiently low. In both of these situations there may be overriding considerations such as local water conservation regulations that limit when water can be used for irrigation.

The basic automation is achieved using a control model similar to standard timer-based sprinkler controllers. These controllers can be setup to water a zone on a regular interval or on a specific set of days of a week. The timed controller will enable cycling of typically four to twelve zones in sequence. Multiple controllers can be used to satisfy the needs of multiple distribution areas.

In a fixed-time / fixed-interval strategy the amount of water delivered is independent of the environmental conditions that drive the actual amount of water that is needed to maintain the desired soil moisture level. Hot-sunny days will extract more moisture from the plants and soil than cool-cloudy days. Wind also has a contributory effect on moisture loss and the need for replacement of this loss.

The amount of water actually needed is a function of several parameters. The primary factors are moisture loss, soil quality, foliage type, and efficiency of the sprinkler head distribution. All of these factors except moisture loss are known at the time that irrigation valves and sprinkler heads are installed. The moisture loss changes continuously based upon rainfall, solar radiation, temperature, wind speed, and some other less-dominant factors. The moisture loss is generally characterized as evapotranspiration.

It is generally the intention to encourage the foliage roots to penetrate lower into the soil so they will have a strong footing and be less sensitive to surface variation in moisture. This means that the objective of the irrigation controller is to deliver moisture to a desired soil depth. This depth is achieved with traditional installations by saturating the surface with a sufficient volume of water that it will soak down to the desired level. This implies that water delivery will be in bursts rather than a continuous misting.

The setup of an area’s watering schedule in mcsSprinklers includes the type of strategy, start time preferences, and water supply considerations. Five strategies are available. Three are timed and two are based upon soil moisture. The “Calculated” strategy determines moisture content based upon Eto and the “Measured” strategy determines moisture content based upon a moisture sensor probe. Entries are available for moisture content thresholds that will trigger the start of a new cycle. A value of 0 is reasonable for a calculated threshold while the value for the probe will depend upon the interface parameters of the probe.

Eight areas can be independently controlled with up to twelve zones per area for a total coverage of nearly 100 zones. mcsSprinklers can irrigate at the optimal time or is can irrigate up to 24 times per day as user specified times and days of week.
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  #3  
Old April 16th, 2005, 10:54 PM
Michael McSharry's Avatar
Michael McSharry Michael McSharry is offline
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Location: North Bend, WA, USA
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Only irrigate when allowed or it makes sense

It may be possible to run the sprinklers on a schedule that is close to optimal for the interest of the foliage, but this is not the only realistic consideration. It really does not make sense to water in the middle of a downpour, nor does it make sense to water in the evening when there may be recreational use of the area.
It may also be the case that local regulations limit when water can be used for irrigation.

These perturbations to an ideal cycle are easily expressed in terms of when not to water. Selection of specific days of the week in which not to water provides a lifestyle input. Input for the time-of-day when watering should not happen provide a second form of the lifestyle preferences.

The time-of-day also has scientific significance. Water should be applied at a time-of-day when it has an opportunity to soak into the soil. When applied in the middle of a sunny day most of it will be burned-off rather than soaked-in. In many climates surface water will encourages undesirable fungus growth. The length of time that surface water is present should be minimized to combat fungus. This means that the best time to apply water is at sunrise so it will have time to soak and remaining water quickly burned-off. There are three ways to control when watering will occur. One is a schedule that completes at sunrise with the setup shown in Figure 17. The second is with start time preferences as shown in Figure 18. The third is to limit when watering cannot occur per the setup shown in the Between Hours selections of Figure 20.

It is also desirable to restrict the normal watering cycle to conserve either water or money. Any wind over a light breeze will affect the location where the sprinkler water falls. Wind cannot be controlled, but when it is windy it is smart to not run the sprinklers.

For similar reasons it is also does not make sense to run the sprinklers when it is raining. Not only is it a conservation/cost issue, but it also reflects on being a good neighbor and not doing something that appears dumb. Going beyond this it also makes sense to take advantage of Mother Nature. If she is going to be providing the necessary rainfall in the near future then just wait for her and save your water for a non-rainy day.

Rain restrictions take three forms. Prior actual rain, actual rain today, or forecasted rain. Selecting the corresponding checkbox can employ any of the three. A minimum rainfall level that must be achieved can further qualify them. These are in units of the rain sensor (in or mm) and are entered into the text boxes. Actual rain is determined from the rain sensor. Forecasted rain is determined from the icon for each of the future day’s forecast.

Most jurisdictions water conservation rules can be accommodated with a setting that will not allow an even-day or odd-day watering. In other cases the ban-period period may be extended to two or more days.

To prevent excessive cycles the Max Cycles In Day option can be used to put an upper limit. This would normally come into play if the calculation for evaporation or the measurement sensor produces excessive control demands. (i.e. the sensor is stuck)

When operating with Homeseer it is possible to allow Homeseer logic to restrict watering operations. This is done using a virtual device interface and the status of this device is set ON when the restriction is to be applied.
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  #4  
Old April 16th, 2005, 11:24 PM
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Michael McSharry Michael McSharry is offline
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Single Point Control and Prediction

Ten pieces of information are provided for each zone. At the top in the Area header bar is the area to which it belongs and the Control Strategy for this area. This information is only provided on the Area Sort.

The Zone header contains the Device Code and Name of the device, the zone’s watering status with both a color dot and description, number of minutes for which it has been watered during the week and the calculated moisture level of the soil in this zone.

The control status is shown by a color dot and text description. The colors can be as follows:
• Blue – watered earlier today
• Green – watering now
• Yellow – to be watered within the next day
• Red – not to be watered in near future

When blue, the zone is prevented from watering again today, but the web page will show a checkbox that resets this condition for any Blue dot zone. This checkbox can also be reset via use of the Alias device setup on the Area Tabs.

The day and time of the next predicted water time is shown for each day. If the control strategy is time-based then the prediction should be accurate. If the control strategy is closed loop then the accuracy will be greater as the next watering time approaches. It is also dependent upon the quality of the parameters provided to calculate soil moisture and the quality of the weather forecast.

Zones can be deselected from automatic control with a checkbox entry. It will retain this “disabled” status until the checkbox is cleared.

The two rows in the left column are used to enable and disable automatic and manual control respectively.
Automatic control times are done in the Area Tabs of the setup page and can be changed from the web view in the text box on the first row of the zone information. The number entered is an integer number of minutes. Manual control times are done with the text box on this web view.

The prefix to the automatic control time text box is the predicted time when the zone will next be run based upon the current parameters defined for sprinkler control. Below this predicted next watering time is the actual last watering time.

If the zone has been watered today then another checkbox will appear to the right of the last watering time. If this checkbox is checked, then this zone will again be enabled for watering today.
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  #5  
Old April 16th, 2005, 11:32 PM
Michael McSharry's Avatar
Michael McSharry Michael McSharry is offline
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Get Complete Status

The General Status page provides current status for over 60 aspects of the scheduling. Most of the status fields will be obvious by their name. The top sections contain informations on inhibit situation. The lower sections contain calculated and sensed information. Each value is also shown with the abilitiy to directly control for this view.
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  #6  
Old April 16th, 2005, 11:38 PM
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Michael McSharry Michael McSharry is offline
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Location: North Bend, WA, USA
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... and More Status

Get a consise graphic view of the forecast elements and other weather information used by mcsSprinklers. Status devices also available to be used to identify pending and completed zone to allow other events to be triggered.
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  #7  
Old April 16th, 2005, 11:45 PM
Michael McSharry's Avatar
Michael McSharry Michael McSharry is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: North Bend, WA, USA
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Don't misplace that wiring diagram

The relationship between harness, wire color, and valve are maintained within the plugin. Initially as the wire to valve connection is identified. Later it is shown and more information about the devices and names are entered.
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