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The ins and outs of cloud-based irrigation

May 8, 2020 -  By
Irrigation tech adjusting fixtures (Photo: Hunter Industries)

Damage control Clients adjusting their own controllers may lead to issues that the contractor has to fix. (Photo: Hunter Industries)

Wi-Fi’s connectivity capabilities now apply to irrigation controllers.

“Cloud-based irrigation controllers are the largest-growing sector in the market,” says Anthony Long, product manager for Hunter Industries. “I predict all controllers will be cloud based in the next three years. It doesn’t make sense to install a system with old technology these days.”

Wi-Fi or cloud-based controllers allow users to operate and maintain irrigation systems remotely. Kurt Thompson, owner of K. Thompson & Associates, an irrigation training and troubleshooting company based in Lake Wylie, S.C., says end users are driving the popularity of cloud-based irrigation controllers for residential systems.

“It’s all about the property owner who wants to be connected to the controller remotely like the other appliances in their home,” Thompson says. “They can make sure the controller is doing what it’s supposed to do from anywhere.”

Long says contractors also rely on the ability to monitor systems remotely.

“Contractors have access to their clients’ irrigation controllers from anywhere at all times, which allows them the ability to monitor them and make sure they’re functioning as efficiently as possible without having to visit their property,” he says.

Trial run

Long recommends contractors practice and gain experience with cloud-based controllers before installing one.

“The first thing contractors should do is try (them) at their own home,” Long says. “Don’t go straight into a customer’s house and expect the controller to work straight away. You have to do your homework.”

Placement

Cloud-based controllers need access to a strong, reliable signal to function optimally, so contractors should be mindful of a controller’s placement. “It may not be a good place if there are pipes or wires in the wall between the controller and the Wi-Fi source,” Thompson says. “Make sure to test the Wi-Fi connection using the controller. Do not rely on just a mobile device.”

Fine-tune

Once a cloud-based controller is set up and programmed, the system will need to be fine-tuned to the client’s particular landscape, Thompson says.

“Contractors should expect to have to come back several times in the first few months and make adjustments,” Thompson says.

Client control

While many customers enjoy the ability to monitor and adjust their systems, Thompson says this can create an unprecedented layer of customer service. Homeowners who like to “fiddle” with their systems can end up creating problems that will fall on the contractor to fix.

“The contractor needs to be prepared for when the customer messes things up,” Thompson says. “How many freebies will they get? How many times can you fix or adjust things for them? How and when do you charge for this?”

Choose wisely

Long says it’s important for contractors to choose the right controller for the job. For example, Hunter has two Wi-Fi systems for two different markets. The Hydrawise is designed for residential properties, while the Centralus is for commercial sites and sports fields. Long says it also can be difficult to differentiate between smart controllers that can self-adjust based on evapotranspiration data and those that also have internet connectivity and remote access.

About the Author:

Emily Schappacher is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.

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