Service system upgrading

Discussion in 'Irrigation' started by steveair, Jan 23, 2003.

  1. steveair

    steveair LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,073


    I was wondering if anyone out there is offering to upgrade people's existing system so that it can be serviced without the client being home.

    Not exactly sure what make (want to say hunter), but one of the timers allows your to run a plug from the timer to the outside so you can control the system without going into the house (I mean turn on/off the zones, but as I remember, you can't set station times). Also, I believe you can set up the backflow so that you don't have to go into the house to winterize the system.

    It seems like a excellent marketing idea to existing clients. Also, it seem like a nice add on to new installation, as you can sell them a 'upgraded' system that they don't have to be home for when it needs 'most' servicing.

    Anyone out there have any luck with this yet? And if you are, are you getting people to replace there existing timers to use the new version that allows for outdoor access, or are you selling it with your new installations (or past installations where you installed the compatible timer but not the remote plug in)?

  2. HBFOXJr

    HBFOXJr LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,712

    We've only done a few of the thru wall shutoffs on jobs were there was a crawl space that was a pain. They are not much of an advanatage except in pain in the neck shutoff locations. The appropriate backflow on the outside allows us to kill system water for servicing if necessary. For winterizing we get the client to turn off water if connected in the basement.

    Remote ports- Hunter controllers, what a wonderful thing. Moral booster for the guys, energy saver when servicing (minimizes walking back) and a customer convenience (don't have to bve home for many things) that they like. There is nothing bad to say. We now prefer the Hunter Pro-C for all of our work of 12 zones or less. In 2 years, we've had no failures. We always have the right clock and just add modules as needed. For larger jobs we use Hunter ICC.

    You can progrm remotely if you buy the stuff which is a computer program and a module you down load into and take to the job. I have use it, but infrequently. We discourage our clients from asking us to program controllers, because if you make a mistake they get upset and want you to come back and push the buttons for free. We try to educate them to do it themselves. I also teach them about the water budget feature of the controllers.

    In NJ, our biggest demand months are June and July. Because we build a high efficiency system with matched precipitation nozzles our precipition rate is predictable from zone to zone for sprays and rotors. We also know historical evapotranspiration needs. This allows to set zone times based on June/July and 100% on the water budget. We give the client a chart that tells them what % the waer buget should be set at for each month. All they have to do is go to they're clock once per month and change the water budget. If weather conditions run to either extreme of average they can tweak the water budget up or down a little to their advantage.

    I tell them they may spend more $$$'s in June/July than what they have been used to or plannned but wise usage in other months will make up fo it and give them a better lawn and landscape the entire season.

    We only pushed the remote port thing about 6 years ago and the response was underwhelming. I may try again this spring as water conditions have been tighter and water is more expensive on the tiered billing system that some purveyors are now using.

    I do not give my customer a choice of controllers.
  3. SprinklerGuy

    SprinklerGuy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,778

    I made the switch to the Hunter ProC controller when if first came out but was very disappointed in several things

    The jbox size was too small for easy tie-in. I know that seems like a small thing, but hey a pain in the *** is a pain in the ***!

    The second thing was quality of cabinet. Was disappointed by many customers complaining that the Raindial that we took out was "beefier" and looked better than the proC. Silly, but hey, customer is always right.

    The remote was great, but got tired of explaining its operation to clients over and over and over and over.

    But...the number 1 reason was: drum roll please.....The water budget feature was too easy for the client to bump into. too many call backs for the water running too long/tooshort. Very frustrating to just bump the plus or minus sign. The old Hardie 6000 series controllers had a lock out switch for the budget. You couldn't really accidentally bump them.

    We went back to the Raindial and have zero problems with this now.
  4. HBFOXJr

    HBFOXJr LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,712

    I've had none of those complaints, make none of those and had none of those problems. We don't explain the remote as we don't sell them to the customer.

    We install the remote port only for our own use even for outdoor controllers.
  5. devildog

    devildog LawnSite Senior Member
    from sc
    Messages: 270

    Sell the intangible features to them; not having to be at home for service calls, perform their own inspections without repeated trips to the clock, service people setting clock while their on vacation, the ability to turn clock off when it starts raining and so forth. Do a demo with a quick connect, (just like low-voltage light show) and show it off to the man of the house, (we do like our remotes!) almost always works. We do use RainBird clocks, thus our install time is nominal and cost is less.

    Build the cost into your installations, most will take it in a heart beat when you explain all the intangible benefits (and no one else is offering it). Its all about upselling once you have the commintment. with regards... devildog
  6. steveair

    steveair LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,073


    A few more questions, if you don't mind:)

    How do you market the remote plug in? Are you trying to upsell the customer on the fact that it offers a 'greater convenience' factor to them because they no longer have to be home for repair work?

    Around here, people never seem to be me, it seems like something you could easily add on to the quote because for the few extra hundred dollars on a already multi-thousand system, they'd be foolish not too.

    Do you find that when trying to sell the remote port, people are 'confused' by the technology and think you are just trying to get more money out of them, not realizing that for the small amount of money upfront now, it will save many headaches in the future?

    Of course, to me it makes sense. If you are telling me that a small investment will mean I don't have to be home during service calls, I would have to say yes.....but I know 'money wise' people think differently.

    But I still would think this would be a easy add on to most new install quotes.

    Also, what about upgrading systems to the compatible timer, installing the port, etc........would it be worth advertising this service, or would you be better off trying to sell people a bridge in brooklyn to them?

  7. steveair

    steveair LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,073


    on the matter of building it into the cost.

    Do you think this is the best way to approach the matter.

    Only problem I see with this is that it will increase your estimate, and therefore, in a competitive market, where a few hundred, may seperate 3 differen't guys, its seems like you may loose a few bids.

    I agree with the fact though that it is a service that few/no one else is offering right now, so it may be a good marketing scheme.
    I just don't like the idea of building it in to the cost and 'forcing' the clients into taking it (though maybe they should).

    At least by adding it on as a seperate item, the client can see on paper why your price is higher.
  8. DanaMac

    DanaMac LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,209

    Depending on how the system was installed, you might be able to service it without them home anyway. Most our systems here are not run off wells and pumps, and very few have master valves. So if the water is on you should be able to open a bleeder screw or twist the solenoid and start the zone. That is how I do most my repair/service calls through the year.

    I did install 2 systems this year with the exterior shut of valve. It works the same way as an outdoor water spigot. When you turn the handle off outside, it actually turns off the water appx. 16" inside the house. Make sure the fixture has downward slope to drain the water to the outside. I believe the brand I used was from Watts.
  9. devildog

    devildog LawnSite Senior Member
    from sc
    Messages: 270

    Its not what is the best approach for us, as we sell to any customer.... its what's in their best interests.

    As I stated in the previous approach, we are selling the intangibles, of our service, reputation, quality, and a warranty that beats all others, hands down.....period

    As previously stated, we use RainBird clocks. Thus our cost of sales w/ remote is often less that what someone else may be quoting. And as others have advised time and again on this site, we quote for the install, not the parts / materials, labor and or other details. We shoot for the intangibles, its sales 101.

    ...steveair "it seems like something you could easily add on to the quote because for the few extra hundred dollars on a already multi-thousand system, they'd be foolish not too" exactly... you are selling... the intangibles

    ...steveair "not realizing that for the small amount of money upfront now, it will save many headaches in the future" exactly... you are selling... the intangibles

    ...steveair "If you are telling me that a small investment will mean I don't have to be home during service calls, I would have to say yes" exactly... you are selling... the intangibles

    In closing, whether or not you make a profit on this line item, is up to you. As every Biz out there, we all have a different method for achieving the bottom line, however its "selling the intangibles, our service, reputation, quality, and a warranty that beats all others, hands down.....period" that brings you in a steady stream of referral's. With regardsÂ… devildog
  10. HBFOXJr

    HBFOXJr LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,712


    The actual connection port ships with the Hunter clock standard and NO extra cost. Only cost involved is usually a minimal amount of time on a new install. The unit has 3 wires to connect at the clock. The outdoor end in prewired. All you need to add is a few pvc fittings, conduit clamps ior a junction box with a 1/2" threaded hole to screw the port into and your done. As part of a new install the time is minimal since you are already running wire and drilling holes.

    On a retrofit it is different. Materials cost remains the same but you have to add time for what you might normally do in running the wire and drilling a hole.

    It does not add hundreds of $$$ to the price. We keep a remote transmitter and receiver in each truck for us to use. We sell the benefits to the customer but tell them it is standard. That is the way we prefer to differentiate ourselves from others. Whether you use the Hunter SRC, Pro-C or ICC the remote controls are the same.

    The standard el cheapo transmitter and reciever is fine for most residential jobs and commercial jobs of residential size. It could even be used on athletic fields if the controller was centrally located among a small group of fields. I think the unit ia about $125. Distance is 400-450ft line of site. There is a longer distance version that is $600+.

    The wire harness shipped with the Hunters is fairly short. If mounting the controller indoors, you'll want to mount it on an exterior wall where you can take the system wiring right out. You can extend the harness with inexpensive, shielded 3 conductor cable from Radio Shack. I think they say do not exceed 20 ft.

    We normally run our wire out above grade in 3/4" pvc then down into the ground. The only extra cost on a new job for us is a 3/4s x 1/2f T for the port. Yup, for less than $1 you can go remote.

    Since out side electric is seldom available on our homes the majority of units are mounted in garages. So the remote measn no appt for routine service. we tell tehm electrical problems will still require garage access. They accept that no problems.

    They are worth it in efficiency. Most of our systems are over 6 zones and less than 9. For a test count the number of minutes you spend walking back and forth to a controller 7 times on an 80'x150' lot or larger. If you are doing start ups you'll have to add a couple of extra trips because you'll find stuff to repair and replace and readjust. You can spend 60 seconds or more on each trip to the clock x 5 or 6 jobs a day x 5 days a week for a few months and it adds up. The same goes for winterizations.

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