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New Member

Posts: 2

Location: Northwest Florida


Friday, April 4th 2008, 11:27am

New Controller for Outdoor Use

I am new to Sprinkler Talk, and am in the market for a new controller. I currently have a 12-zone Rain Bird controller (18 years old) driving 11 zones in my yard. I need to purchase a new controller because the old one has been trashed by an "irrigation specialist", and I also want to grow my system by 5-8 zones in the next couple of years. What is the best controller to purchase (and I am more concerned with quality/reliability than price) and can I install it myself? All valves and sprinkler heads currently in use are Rain Bird products if that makes a difference. I am not in the yard maintenance business, but do take care of my yard which is approximately .75 acre. I am able to do most handyman-type repairs around the house (including electrical), and would like to be able to install the new controller myself, but do not want to get into something that is over my head. Most of the people in the sprinkler business in my area are not super intelligent, so I feel reasonably confident that I can connect a new controller without too much effort. Thanks for any information/assistance/help you can provide.


Supreme Member


Friday, April 4th 2008, 3:15pm

If you are the handy-man type, then connecting a new controller should be a piece of cake. The only difficulty there would be if the contacts for the current controller are not labelled (common, zone 1, zone 2, etc). Otherwise, the main thing to keep in mind is to make sure you label each wire before you disconnect it from the current controller so you don't forget where each one goes as you connect up the new controller.

It's learning to program a new one that can be difficult. It depends upon how well you can read and follow directions on modern electronic equipment (think of all those VCRs that used to blink 12:00 because the owners never learned to program it). But if you can learn to program a VCR, then you should be able to learn to program a controller.

Your title seems to indicate that you need a controller mounted outdoors. Is that what you really mean? Basically, there are three choices: indoor controller, an outdoor controller, and an indoor controller mounted inside a water-proof housing. The cheapest would be an indoor controller. I would also think that for convenience you'd want an indoor controller, and can not imagine why a home owner would want an outdoor mounted controller (cost, exposed to vandalism) unless the irrigation system and control valves are far removed from the house. So do you really need an outdoor controller, or will an indoor controller suffice (and your title is just redundant... because of course the irrigation system is outside).

As for valves, unless there is something particularly special about your valves, then just about any controller should work with your valves (assuming you have one valve per zone, if you have multiple valves per zone, then you'd have to start getting into the exact power requirements of your valves and what the controller can output per zone).

But the biggest issue I see that you might run into is that you currently have 12 zones and want to expand upto 8 more. That's 20 zones. From what I've seen, there isn't going to be many controllers that can handle that many zones. They are available, and usually require that you buy a primary controller that can be expanded to a large number of zones. So as you look at cost, you have to look at the cost of the controller AND the expansion modules. Of course another alternative would be to purchase two controllers. The only down side to that would be most are not designed to "talk" to one another to insure that you don't run two zones at the same time. Now if you have the water capacity to handle two zones at once, then that's not an issue (and that's how I'm set up, I've got my drip irrigation zones on a separate controller from my lawn zones; the drip zones don't pull enough water to effect the lawn irrigation or water availability to the house).

Beyond that, I don't have enough experience to give any specific recommendations as it relates to reliability for one controller to another. I can only think to give the general advice of "you get what you pay for". But I've got to add the caveat that when it comes to irrigation controllers, what you might be really paying for is more advanced programming (i.e. you may be paying for features and not necessarily reliability). As an example, as I was installing my irrigation, I had these grand plans for some sophisticated programming. But initially, I just needed to have SOMETHING to get things going. So I purchased the cheapest things available at a local big-box retail outlet. The controllers I purchased have so far been very reliable. Their programming abilities are very limited, but their operation has been just fine. From the look and feel of these "cheap" controllers, I don't know that I would be getting twice the reliability if I paid twice the price. I certainly don't have much programming flexibility, but they do the basics. So as you look at controllers, don't rule out the "less expensive" ones. After all, a cheap controller is cheap to replace (and an expensive one can get damaged from things like lightning strikes as well as cheap ones).



Posts: 2,393

Location: USA


Friday, April 4th 2008, 8:40pm

Give this a look see.

If I can't fix it, it's broken!


Supreme Member

Posts: 5,330

Location: Metro NYC


Saturday, April 5th 2008, 2:15pm

A Hunter ICC is a solid controller, and the modular construction allows you to add zones as you need them. If your old controller was a motorized one, then you will lose something with a move to the modern solid-state designs, and that is resistance to damage from electrical spikes and surges. That is a valid concern for much of Florida, what with lightning activity. That being said, you don't see many of the good brand-name controllers blinking out like cheap light bulbs.


New Member

Posts: 2

Location: Northwest Florida


Wednesday, April 9th 2008, 4:03pm

Thanks for the information each of you have provided. As it turns out, the company I have been dealing with is on the verge of going out of business (personal observation) due to mismanagement, failure to pay bills, etc. and the individual who last worked on my system blew out the transformer on the old controller. The fellow who used to work on my system (1-2 years ago) has just now started his own business, and has offered to help me resolve my problems.

I do need an outside controller because the old one is an uotside controller, and the pump and all the electrical connections are located on an outside wall of the house that is a long way from the garage or any place that is easily accessible from inside the house. If I brought the wiring inside, it would come into a bedroom unless we completely rewired all the outside fixtures.

Good point also about the lightning strikes. We have them all the time. I have lost three hickory and oak trees in the yard from direct lightning strikes. Thanks again, and I appreciate your assistance.


New Member


Wednesday, April 23rd 2008, 4:15pm

New Controller - Installation and recommendation

Hi everyone. I have a rather old Hydro Rain or something like that controller that sounds like a ticking time bomb. I wanted to replace it with either an electronic version or at minimum something quiet. Also would like to get one with remote function. Here is the question, will I have compatibility problems from the existing zones(solenoids). Is it difficult to change the controller? Any recommends for a controller. Just want some programing features (days, times, duration).

thanks, James


Supreme Member

Posts: 482

Location: Houston, Texas


Wednesday, April 23rd 2008, 8:29pm

I am not familiar with the hydro rain, but If it is a (Hydraulic Controller and you want to get the Electric new style you will have some issues.

The only way I know to do this is to find all of your hydraulic valves in the yard. I hope you know where they are or have a plan. You will need to replace all of your hydraulic valves with solenoid style valves. You will have to change the controller and then install new cable to run all of the new valves back to the new controller.
When making the connections to the valves from the controller you will need to use silicone filled wire nuts for direct burial and use valve boxes to put the valves in.

This is a pretty heavy type repair bill. Be careful who you use to do this type of repair.

Good Luck with the Project.

:thumbup: :thumbsup:
LI0006121, BPAT0011021, CI0009500


Supreme Member

Posts: 5,330

Location: Metro NYC


Friday, April 25th 2008, 6:09am

Again, A Hunter ICC or Pro C or even their humble SRC has remote capability, assuming you buy the remote. The controller should be mounted against an exterior wall for easy use of a remote, if you want the receiver connector outdoors.

The noisy controller motor is no functional calamity, and you can buy new motors. At some point, a new motor might cost more than a new controller.

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