Rain Bird ESP-SMT Smart Controller

Discussion in 'Irrigation' started by JimLewis, Jun 18, 2009.

  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,841

    We have installed around 250 of these in the last 2+ years.

    Working out well. You just gotta understand the controller. The programming is really key and I find that over 90% don't program these correctly. They're easy to use, easy to adjust, reliable, etc. - as long as they are programmed correctly. Problem is they're pretty complicated to program. And I'm not talking about the easy answering questions part. That's fairly easy to grasp once you've done it a few times. Sun/Shade conditions, What kind of turf or plants are in the zone, how much slope, etc. All that is fairly easy. It's the little nuances that really can make or break things though.

    For instance, let's say you're setting up a zone that has spray heads. It's going to ask you what the net precip. rate for that spray head is. So your zone has all RB 10' MPR nozzles on it. And you're operating at 30 PSI. so according to the RB literature, the precip. rate for that nozzle, with triangular spacing, is 1.75 in/hr. So that's what you enter, right? WRONG! They're asking for NET precip. rate. A spray head is only about 70% efficient. So you have to multiply 1.75 x .7. The result is 1.23. So your NET precip. rate is 1.23". THAT'S what they are asking for. But most people would either leave it at the stock setting or enter 1.75. Problem is, that's not correct. It's really 1.23. So if you've entered the wrong number in here, you've messed up the programming by up to 30%.

    Another nuance is I find these things tend to over-water a little here in Oregon. So we always set the global adjust to 85% or 90%. Then it forces the controller to water a little less than it would have otherwise. That helps a lot.

    Also, stock settings are set to stop rain at .04". I always change that to .02. They are set to stop at 36 degrees farenheit. I always up that to 44 or 46 degrees. Why would you need to water if it's colder than that?

    You also have to be careful to choose the right soil type and right sun/shade conditions. Because it tends to over-water, if I am not sure if a zone is either 50% shade or 75% shade, I'll choose the latter. They can always adjust up in the fine tune watering later.

    Then I always go over the controller and explain that the blue area is for initial programming and they won't ever need to mess with that area. Then I show them ONLY the fine tune watering section (and how to use it) and I also show them the manual watering section (and how to use it).

    I also give them a 8-page booklet I wrote that really helps explain some concepts to people so they won't freak out. For instance, some old retired people who are home all day and have nothing better to do will freak out because the system came on once at 6:00, again around 7:00 and maybe a third time around 8:00. This is the cycle/soak feature. It's a good thing! But it freaks some people out. So I cover that in my booklet. Another thing that often bugs people is that only a couple zones come on and some zones did not. They think it's broken. So this booklet explains that not every zone is going to be watered each time it comes on. It's only going to water the zones that have basically dried out. I make sure people get a copy of this booklet and read it. It REALLY helps prevent call-backs.

    Anyone who wants a copy of that book can PM me with their email address. I've posted it several times on this forum and then the thread always devolves into chaos and the thread gets removed.

    Anyway, we build in up to 2 free call-backs into the installation price. I think most companies make the mistake of not charging enough up front for the installation of this controller. So then when they get called back, it frustrates them. Not us. We build in up to 2 visits into our install price. And we tell people that. I'd say 80-90% of the time we never get called back after the initial install date. And maybe 10-15% of the time we get called back once. Then a small % of the time we have to make a 2nd call back. Sometimes you have to re-program a zone or two if it's just way off. No big deal. Only takes 5 minutes.

    So long story short - if you learn to program it all right, educate the customer what to touch and what not to touch, be willing to return once or twice - it can be a GREAT controller. I have a lot of people out there who just love it. And it does save a lot of water if it's done correctly. It's not what I would consider easy from the get-go. But if you work it right it can work out really well. We use it to set us apart from the competition. Most of the competition has had a few problems with it in the past and have given up on the controller. So they don't even mention it to their customers. Then when we come along and tell them about it, they're like, "Really? Wow! That's awesome. Nobody else told me about that!" And all of a sudden we look like the smart ones.

    I still like it a lot. But it takes some getting used to and some patience.
  2. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    For your reference Jim.



    Solar radiation, wind and saturated vapor pressure are the primary driving factors for ET. Rainfall is not considered in any ET formula.

    Maybe, maybe not. Without about a decades worth of historical data to compare you wouldn't have the information you need to make that decision.

    Net precipitation is determined by running an audit, anything beyond that is a guess, including assumptions of efficiency. That said, allowing for some system inefficiency is better than using controller defaults.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2012
  3. Tom Tom

    Tom Tom LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,278

    Figured I'd drag up this older thread.

    I have a couple esp-smt's installed and now need to reprogram them due to water restrictions.

    Basically need to set them up to act as a normal controller. For example, water on 2 specific days for a set run time. Been reading manual and I thought it was possible to set espsmt up to act as regular controller, but I must be missing something. I feel like the old John Wayne quote "life is hard, its harder when your stupid"

  4. Wet_Boots

    Wet_Boots LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 47,715

    You'd think they would have a setting for Stupid Mode :p
  5. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    Use the "Allowed Water Days" setting in the controller. See pages 13-18 in the manual.
  6. Tom Tom

    Tom Tom LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,278

    Yep, got the allowed water days, then on page 22 gonna have to use the
    "time-based" method for each zone. PIA but should work.
  7. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    Why not use the allowed water times feature, assuming there is a time restriction as well? There is no good reason to bypass the "smart" features of the controller.
  8. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,841

    I'm with Kiril on this one. I don't know why you'd take a good smart controller and purposely turn it into a regular old timer. Seems like a waste. If there are watering restrictions and you're only allowed to water on certain days, just block those other days. Then you'll still get the benefit of smart watering technology (not watering on weeks when it's cold or rainy, or decreased watering when it hasn't been real hot) and you can still accommodate the watering restrictions.
  9. 1idejim

    1idejim LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 9,441

    I like your style two toms. :clapping:
    Posted via Mobile Device
  10. Tom Tom

    Tom Tom LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,278

    Exactly! Why would I take a perfectly good smart controller and use it as a regular controller? It is a huge waste! I totally agree!

    Water restrictions is the answer(as i mentioned in my post). I prolly did not make that clear enough, my bad.

    Yes, I can set esp-smt to water on the allowed 2 days! Simply enough. However, we are only allowed 20 minutes per spray zone/45 minutes per rotor zone per watering day(total of 40 min spray/90 minute rotor zone per week).

    If I allowed the esp-smt to apply the water it wants to in the allowed 2 days
    of watering, it may try to water spray zones(think june, july, august weather) for 40 plus minutes each watering day(exceeding our restrictions), although I'm not sure how it could do that with a programmed root zone depth of 6 or 7" and sandy/loam soil.

    Figured out I gotta use the "time based method" of the esp-smt which basically turns into a regular esp. There wont be any benefit to the "smart watering technology" as we wont be allowed to apply the "needed" amount of water.
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2013

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