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How to add stations by replacing your controller with one that has more stations

Life is good, you’ve prospered and you’ve re-landscaped your yard. Now you need more zones to water the roses and the putting green but your controller has all it can handle. What to do now?

Really there are two parts to this problem. You need a bigger controller and you need to connect the new zone or zones to the controller. Both are easily solved though one will offer you the chance to do some digging. Maybe.

Let’s talk about controllers. The problem you face is you have a controller that will not grow with your system. This is something we need to avoid with the new one. Another thing to consider is if you want to add some of the newer features controllers now offer. When I say “newer features” you should think “less effort and work on my part.” Seriously.

Older controllers were pre-set with the number of zones they can handle. These are known as ‘conventional’ style. There is absolutely nothing wrong with these if you know nothing will ever change. Most new controllers are expandable by use of plug in modules. So you can start with 3 zones and end with 15. The module is a simple plug in part that adds zones. Looks something like this. A conventional design will work to add zones if you can find one big enough but I strongly advise getting a modular unit.

We’ll discuss all the new nifty features later on. Right now we’re going to assume you have your new controller and it’s mounted to the wall, ready to go. Now all we need to do is hook up the wires from the new zones. So grab a wire and a screwdriver and let’s get to it.

What? No wire? This is the real challenge here. If you add a zone you add a valve. If you add a valve you need wiring to connect that valve to the controller. More than likely that new valve is a long way away. Long as in “no, I don’t want to dig a trench from the valve to the controller” kind of long. Fortunately you don’t have to.

If you have expanded an existing system then there is a good chance you have another valve nearby. If your valves are clustered, great. Little or no digging. If not then find the valve closest to the new valve and easily accessed. We will now use that wiring and a little technology to run our new valve.

There is a great product out there called ADD-A-ZONE. It mounts at your controller and lets you control the new valve without running wire all the way back to the controller. You disconnect the power and common from the existing valve and tie it into the Add-A-Zone module. You then run one pair of wires to the original valve and another to the new valve. This should greatly reduce the length of wire and ditch needed.  Back at your controller you hook up the Add-A-Zone adapter, program your controller and you are done. The controller thinks you just added a new zone like all the others.

As far as those newer features available on the new controllers, they go far beyond the standard rain sensors. You can tie some of them into your computer to program from your desk, some are internet based and do everything based on local weather conditions, there are soil moisture sensors, weather stations and all kinds of wireless sensors. Might want to take a look before you buy the new one.

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