The machine in the garden--sprinkler question
August 30, 2007 9:25 AM   Subscribe

I believe I need to replace my sprinkler controller. How hard is this?

Here are the long ugly details. Apologies for the numbered list, but it's the only way I can recall all of the key moments in this little narrative.

1. I didn't turn off the main sprinkler main over the winter and was welcomed with broken bleeder valves and a geyser in the Spring.

2. I fixed those, but my sprinklers still didn't work, so I assumed it was a pipe problem

3. After a busy Summer of hand watering and other distracting chores, I finally bought a multimeter and started testing my wiring

4. There is no current going to my controller valves

5. The transformer is putting out 24VAC, but the terminals that the controllers are connected to are not getting any current. I have also replaced the backup battery.

According to a googled web page, I need to replace the box.

1. Can I just get a six station controller at a big box home repair place?

2. I will write down which color of wire is connected to each controller, but will the box come with sufficient instructions to connect those to the proper terminals?

My lawn basically looks like a dryed out meadow at this point. I am in Z5, Utah, and it has been a very Global Summer.

I know there will be a xeriscaping recommendation, and my only objection is that good xeriscaping is not cheap, and my kids need some lawn to run around on. I would like to gradually start replacing the front lawn, however, and I am looking into overseeding with something like Sheep Fescue and/or a good ryegrass or something that requires less water and is more interesting.

All of my neighbors except one have the green postage stamp thing going on.

Thanks for any suggestions.
posted by craniac to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Should be easy to do if your controller is just a plug in model and not hard wired. I would look for an actual professional irrigation supply that sells to homeowners in stead of a big-box store though. Most irrigation supply places will help you with any troubleshooting, something big-box stores aren't very good at.

You probably know this, but be sure to number your wires with the valve number and "ground" before you remove the old controller.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:01 AM on August 30, 2007

Woops, how did I miss reading half your question? The new box should have proper instructions (I never read them), but you'll have the connecting post for each numbered valve, and ground. That's it for a basic controller.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:04 AM on August 30, 2007

As far as brands go, Irritrol RainDial are the default choice for landscapers in the Bay Area. They last for a very long time, and are easy to program. You may prefer to just replace the brand you have if you're used to programming it.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:10 AM on August 30, 2007

Best answer: I just did this a few months ago, after discovering my previous controller had died.

The thing I found most helpful was taking several digicam shots of the current controller's wiring set up before unhooking everything and then using the images to guide me in putting the right wires in the right places in the new controller. Also, to keep it simple, I purchased the same brand of controller as I had before. The same model was no longer available as I was replacing a rather old controller, but the basic layout/labeling inside hadn't changed at all.

The big box store where I bought this thing had models ranging from 4 to 12 zones, plus one very fancy model that had a programmable module which allowed you to set your watering timing from your computer. I bought the model that had two additional zones, in case I feel motivated to add more sprinklers in the future; the cost difference was very slight.

It took no time at all. In addition to the very thorough instruction manual (in 3 languages) in the box, I noticed there was a lot of advice at the timer's manufacturer's website but I ended up not needing any additional help beyond copying from my photo.
posted by jamaro at 10:40 AM on August 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

My box (late 80s era) has a glass fuse that is somewhat hidden behind the front (removable) panel. Be sure to check for that easy fix too!
posted by punkfloyd at 12:14 PM on August 30, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks all. Every comment in this thread is useful. Also, I knew about the fuse but forgot to check it so I'll look at that when I get home. I'll kick myself if it was the fuse. Twice.
posted by craniac at 1:22 PM on August 30, 2007

Response by poster: Update: This sucker has no fuse to speak of. I took it completely apart.
posted by craniac at 10:45 PM on August 30, 2007

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