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Different types of Irrigation controller / timer

Mechanical or Solid-State (Digital)

Some irrigation controllers are fully digital, including easy touch screen features. Digital sprinkler system controllers with basic features are suited to a more conservative budget. Other lawn sprinkler system controllers have an array of features and options for convenience and ease of operation.

Mechanical sprinkler system timers use manually-operated sliders and switches for programming. An electromechanical controller uses both an electric clock and mechanical switching. That is to say, they are made of a motor, wheels, dials, gears, and pins. These controllers are typically, easy to understand how to operate and program, and are less susceptible to power spikes and surges, but are much more limited in features than solid-state digital irrigation controllers.

Solid-State controllers have digital readout screen, have no moving parts, and use integrated circuits for the clock, memory and control features. These controllers are adaptable, offering many more features at a reasonable cost. More advanced Solid-State controllers such as Smart Controllers can adjust the watering schedule automatically throughout the year. Still other controllers operate solely on battery power, for areas with limited or no electricity. Solar-powered controllers are also available.

Features Available on a Controller

Some controllers come fully loaded with features for efficiency and convenience of operation. In others, extra features may be optional. Key features available on a controller can include:

Clock and calendar settings
The user can program watering times, control watering cycles, and make seasonal adjustments.

Manual start and manual station operation
The user can operate the stations or start the automatic cycle without affecting the programmed start time. This is helpful when you need to do some maintenance to your system. This feature makes it easier to check for leaks, misaligned or broken sprinkler heads and even perform basic tune-ups steps such as adjust spray patters and replace nozzles.

Master Switch
The master switch overrides the automatic functions of the stations.

Master Valve Control
The master valve prevents flow to the system, in case of water problems or system failure.

Station Omission
The user chooses which stations operate, and which do not.

Pump Start Lead
This turns on a pump start relay whenever a station activates, to combine irrigation and pump control. A Pump Start Relay is an electronic device that uses a signal current from the irrigation controller to activate a pump to provide water to the irrigation system. Never connect the controller directly to a pump as damage to the controller will result.

Rain Sensor
A rain sensor shuts down the irrigation system if it detects rain. The purpose of a rain sensor is to stop watering when precipitation is sufficient. Most controllers allow for a sensor to be connected directly to the controller and allow you to easily override the sensor by using a Rain Sensor Bypass switch on the controller.

Battery backup
The controller reverts to battery power in case of power interruption or outage.
The battery typically will just allow the timer to maintain the time, date, and watering schedule. On some controllers it allows the user to program the controller without AC power. IMPORTANT: watering will not occur without AC power. The battery only keeps the time, date, and watering schedule in memory until the AC power is restored or the battery dies.

Non-Volatile Memory
The controller retains its program data without a battery, even if the power fails. The non-volatile memory allows the timer to maintain the time, date, and watering schedule indefinitely. IMPORTANT: watering will not occur without AC power.

The delay feature allows time for valves to close fully in one zone, before opening the valves in another zone.

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