Anyone Having Good Success With Compact Astronomical Timers?

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by JimLewis, Sep 11, 2013.

  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,830

    I've been using the Intermatic units. The compact indoor unit we have had a lot of problems with. Seems to overheat or something when kept inside the transformer and then it just goes off earlier than it's supposed to. Weird thing is this is really spotty. I haven't had it happen on any of the systems I've installed where to total wattage of all the fixtures was fairly low (e.g. under 200w) but I've had it happen several times on systems where the total wattage was over 200 watts. So that's what makes me think the issue is related to heat or amperage. Regardless, with a failure rate of about 10%, in my experience, it's totally unreliable.

    We've had good success using the outdoor Intermatic astro timers. But I really prefer to have the timer INSIDE the transformer.

    Anyone got one they use that you have installed a lot of them with good success?
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2013
  2. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,104

    Jim,

    I had a few spotty ones a few months ago, but they have always been great for me and I have used them for years. You may have just gotten into a bad batch. They have had a few as of late.
     
  3. bcg

    bcg LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Tx
    Posts: 1,836

    I've had the same experience, Jim. The externals work great, the internals not so much. I just use the external, I like it better anyway.
     
  4. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,541

    Jim, I wonder if your suspicion about total wattage might be valid.
    I have not had any issue with the inside-the-transformer Intermatics that I have used in two years. But my systems are all LED and I have never done any projects of more than 120 watts or so.
     
  5. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,830

    Yah, I'm starting to notice a pattern. Like you, I've done dozens and dozens of jobs with built-in LED lamps and total wattage/amperage was fairly low and never a problem. We liked them so much we started up-selling them whenever we came across ANY lighting system - LED or not. And I've noticed that on the systems that have a lot higher total wattage/amperage, those are all of the ones we've had the exact same problem with. Namely, the lights come on every day when they are supposed to, but then instead of staying on until the time their supposed to turn off, they just turn off several hours earlier.

    I've ever had jobs like that where we just replaced the timer with a brand new one and it starts out working just fine then the new one starts doing the same damm thing just a few days or weeks later.

    Their website says these things are rated pretty highly. But I seriously doubt it, with the troubles we've been having.

    I guess if there's no better alternative, I'll just keep using the indoor ones on smaller systems and the outdoor unit on my larger installs.
     
  6. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,541

    I just re-read my own post and thought I would clarify (probably no one cares)
    that I have done larger jobs but with multiple 150-watt transformers in different locations.
     
  7. jana

    jana LawnSite Member
    Posts: 75

    Any feedback from users of ControlScapes offering CS-ART? Here
     
  8. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,104

    Terrible timer. Every single one I installed literally melted in the transformer within 2 years of install.
     
  9. steveparrott

    steveparrott Sponsor
    Posts: 1,171

    CAST introduced a new Digital Astronomical Timer (CTDTC) several months ago. This is a recently developed model from Tork that has improved reliability (especially at extreme temperatures) over previous models.
    Visit web page and watch video.
     
  10. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,830

    That sounds pretty good Steve! A few questions / comments about that timer:

    1. I like the fact that it has a rechargeable battery. That's super cool. That's one thing that's been a PITA with the Intermatic one is that the little watch batteries go out over time and need to be replaced. That's cool that the backup battery stays charged as long as it's plugged in and then only comes in in a power outtage scenario.
    2. What's not cool about this timer is I have to plug it in 24 hours before I program it. That's annoying. I'm sure there are ways around that. Like programming it while it's plugged into the transformer. But how annoying is that?
    3. You say it has improved heat tolerance. That would be great. As I am suspecting that that is what is causing problems with the ones I'm using now.
    4. Where are the prongs located on the back of that unit? Near the top? Or Near the bottom? Because that makes a big difference. Ones with prongs on the bottom do not fit inside transformers that have the outlet near the top - i.e. Kichler Transformers.
    5. A scenario that often comes up with my customers is they want their lights to come on 1 hour before sunrise. But as you know, that time changes daily. You can't just tell the timer "come on at 6:00 and off at sunrise. Sunrise could be earlier than that some parts of the year. Other parts of the year, that might only come on 20 minutes before. So is it possible to create an on-event that is Sunrise Minus X?
    6. Where can I purchase these? Online would be preferable, as there are no dealers for CAST in the Portland area anymore. I'm sure if I started liking these more, I can get my main distributor to stock them for me. They'll usually bring in whatever I ask, as long as it's something I'm going to continue to buy. But to try a half dozen out, where could I buy them now?
    7. Is there an outlet on the bottom too? Or just on the left side?
    8. What's list price? (maybe PM me if that's not something you can post publicly.)

    Thanks for your time. This looks interesting!
     

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