Two-wire, battery power, and smart tech are taking control in landscape irrigation. Here’s what you need to know.
Level up your customers’ irrigation systems and give yourself a competitive advantage by learning about the latest trends and top-selling products. These recommendations will not only help grow your business, but also help you tackle the challenges of meeting evolving state and national water use restrictions. Increasingly, customers are asking about product options that conserve energy and save money. Read on to learn three innovative ways to achieve your customers’ irrigation goals.
The basic concept of a two-wire controller is that it uses a single two-wire path to communicate to a decoder or output device. It then uses the same wire to provide power to each zone valve through the solenoid. While a traditional controller is a reliable and tested irrigation method, there are several reasons you might consider two-wire for your next install.
Traditional controller set-ups can use a lot of wire. Because a dedicated wire and common wire are required for each zone or control valve, this can quickly add up—especially in larger systems. Two-wire can actually use up to 70% less wire than traditional systems, depending on coverage area. This could mean lower installation and material costs for the same design and performance.
Longer wire runs can also be achieved with a two-wire arrangement. If your installation has zone valves a significant distance from the controller, rather than upsizing the station wire to a larger gauge, two-wire may be a better option.
Two-wire systems can often communicate back and forth with the decoder or output device with real-time operating and diagnostic information. Imagine: rather than spending hours looking for and troubleshooting a cut wire, the controller could identify the damage and direct you to a specific location on the wire path. The top-selling Hunter ACC features two-way communication.
A two-wire set-up is fully below-ground, aside from the controller. This has several benefits, including allowing the site to remain undisturbed with no above-ground enclosures, which can also limit vandalism risk. As everything “down-stream” from the controller is below-ground, it also limits the risk of water damage. Two-wire systems are very easy to expand. Rather than having to install a “home run” wire from the new zone valve back to the controller, two-wire only requires a connection from the existing two-wire path to add new zone valves.
Since two-wire arrangements may have longer wire runs, the wire path needs to be protected from lightning-induced surges. Additionally, the wire splices need to be care-fully installed using direct-bury connectors to the manufacturer’s specifications. The system is sending both power and communication on the same wire, so poor connections can have a detrimental impact on the operation. Since two-wire is completely below-ground, an installation drawing or “as-built drawing” is essential for future maintenance.
Two-wire technology continues to improve, and irrigation manufacturers are launching new products in the two-wire market each year. As a result, two-wire systems are becoming more price competitive and are a viable option for many projects from smaller residential installations to large commercial designs. The Rain Bird ESP-LXD is an excellent option for any project.
Battery & Solar Powered
Increasingly, renewable resources (hydropower, biomass, geothermal, wind and solar) are easing the demands of the U.S. electric grid; they made up about 20% of all U.S. electricity generation in 2020 (U.S. Energy Information Administration). Solar energy made up 2.3% of total U.S. electricity in 2020 (EIA). This is an exciting and positive change for the green industry.
Battery and solar powered controllers can be installed almost anywhere and are often used where power isn’t easily accessible. They can be used as temporary irrigation on construction sites, traffic medians, roundabouts, greenhouses, and in parks. These controllers are typically used at sites where electricity costs would be too high due to lack of infra-structure. Battery and solar powered controllers also work where existing driveways, pathways, or large trees may block new wire paths. Additionally, they can aid sites that need to follow municipal or county electricity regulations or for LEED certified projects.
In addition to reducing the area’s carbon footprint, many of these controllers have options for multiple start times, multiple programs, and a pump master valve feature for full customization. Battery operated controllers are often waterproof and can be installed inside a valve box. Most solar panels last 20 to 25 years and solar charger battery packs need to be replaced every five to 10 years with intermittent testing. Th batteries themselves need to be replaced within two years. Battery operated controllers offer labor and installation savings compared to traditional controllers.
There is a wide range of controller options for different sized projects, from small residential jobs to large commercial jobs. Most have installation options, either installed in a valve box or mounted in a stainless steel or plastic enclosure. The solar panel needs to be installed in full sunlight for maximum charge, but most batteries can last for days without sunlight. There is typically a solar pack inside that does not need sun every day; it charges and stores energy in the battery within the controller via solar panels.
Solar and battery powered controller technology continues to evolve. You can add sensors to controllers to monitor freeze, wind, and rain for better performance. In fact, some counties require controllers with sensors.
Some of SiteOne’s most popular controller options are Hunter XC Hybrid (optional solar panel kit separate), Hunter NODE (optional solar panel kit separate) and Rain Bird ESP controllers. These types of controllers have the same install process as a typical system controller, but you’ll need to be very intentional on solar panel placement for proper sun exposure. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations and site codes on whether additional batteries or rain sensors are needed.
You can grow your business and generate revenue by helping customers level-up to smart irrigation control. With a large set of smart wireless and app-based controllers available, it’s easy to add these products to new installations or system upgrades. If you live in a colder climate, you can promote these upgrades to existing irrigation clients during your off-season. These smart, app-based controllers, which can be managed by phone, offer customers more control and up to 30% water usage savings. They also help take the guesswork out of irrigation by automatically adjusting schedules to accommodate factors like weather changes or specific plant needs.
While adding smart controllers has an initial cost investment, they offer long term savings. Fewer callbacks results in reduced labor, especially important at the moment. Additionally, they are a great solution for national and regional sustainability programs.
Restrictions & Regulations
Irrigation businesses today are facing new challenges to meet evolving state and national water usage restrictions. Local and state agencies are increasingly mandating the use of water-saving products. For example, all sprinkler spray bodies sold or manufactured in Vermont, California, Colorado, Hawaii, or Maine must be WaterSense certified. SiteOne offers a wide variety of U.S. EPA certified WaterSense products designed to encourage water efficiency, like the Rain Bird ESP-TM2.
According to the EPA, as much as 50% of the water used for outdoor irrigation is wasted due to inefficient watering methods and systems. Statistics like these, along with stricter local watering regulations and increased demands on water supply, reiterate the importance of understanding irrigation options. Updated spray head offerings typically include high efficiency features such as pressure regulators, flow restriction devices, and check valves. The Hunter Pro-Spray with PRS40 and Rain Bird 1804 with PRS30 are two great solutions that make existing irrigation set-ups more efficient.
Next time a customer asks about cost- and water-saving options, you will be prepared to recommend the latest options. Understanding these irrigation tools, which are expected to grow in popularity as technology evolves, allows you to grow your business while facing water usage restrictions with ease.
Counter is the vice president of Category Management at SiteOne® Landscape Supply. SiteOne has a wide selection of irrigation, lighting, turf and landscape maintenance, nursery, and pest management supplies. Plus, with the convenience of over 600 locations, SiteOne is within reach of virtually any job. Find your neighborhood branch at www.SiteOne.com.
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