Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Irrigation system

I thought I would share my cool irrigation system. It has a few advantages over manually turning on the tap (especially when I forget to turn the tap off again!), or even one of those irrigation controllers that you can buy from the hardware shop.

It can
  • run a 'master valve' which ensures that even if there are problems down the line, I won't lose too much water.
  • stop irrigatation if rain is detected
  • delay irrigation if rain is predicted (as in the local weather forcast).
  • start irrigation if the weather forcast is a very hot day
  • can be operated remotely via my phone (or any computer) from anywhere

This is the irrigation controller that I chose. It requires a home network (LAN) with an always on computer to control it and a 24V AC power supply (available from any irrigation store for about $30)


I had my EtherRain 7P controller and ER-RD-NW rain sensor shipped to Australia from the US. The cost for the EtherRain-7P controller was $US 162 and a ER-RD-NW Rain Sensor was $US 9. Shipping was $US 17


This is my home server running a 'flavour' of Ubunutu server (linux) with an Xfce desktop. It stores and streams my media (movies, photos, music), does automatic backups of my computers, and runs my irrigation system. I have since found a $38 computer (Raspberry pi) that could also control the EtherRain.

{UPDATE} I have now since transferred control of the EtherRain to my Raspberry Pi running Raspian (Wheezy) - just SSH into it, updated using raspi-config and update, create the LAMP stack (with mysqlite), transfer the files into my Home directory using winscp, set permissions, redirected Apache to use the local folder instead of /var/www ( http://drndivoje.wordpress.com/2010/03/30/easy-change-apache-root-web-folder-www/ ), set up OptiRain, and it just works!  Though I've realised that because it doesn't have an onboard clock that it doesn't really know the time unless you tell it what time (and date) it is - which will be lost if the power is lost or it gets rebooted....there is a fix but maybe later)



This is the master controller. It turns on for all irrigation programs. If I bust a pipe below this point, then at least I can cut the flow until it is fixed. This solenoid cost $80 from Irrigation Tasmania

Another solendoid - this one is for my orchard

Some smaller solenoids (25mm). These are for my vege garden and my hothouse. They were $25 each.

This is the sprinkler in the vege garden. Because I have tank water with low pressure, I need to have a pressure pump running for this sprinkler to work properly.


My pressure pump has a relay attached, so when the solenoid for the vege garden is activated, the relay for the pressure pump is also activated, turning on the pressure pump for when I need it (and not have it running constantly when I don't)

The hothouse does well when it is regularly irrigated. These are an abundance of tomatoes. Yum!
I have a valve in the hothouse to switch from overhead sprays to drippers if it is getting too damp in there.


Control of the EtherRain is done using a web browser. This is a free Linux program they provide called OptiRain. Here I can set schedules, or turn on a cycle for a set time. They also have a windows version.


This is the latest addition to the irrigation system. It's a $25 hothouse from Bunnings. If the irrigation system didn't kick in, the seedlings would get cooked !

I wanted to be able to operate my irrigation system via my phone which I can do using an internet page connected to my server using my wireless network. However, my wireless network doesn't quite reach to the lower parts of my garden. As I have a dynamically assigned IP address for my internet, I set up a free account using no-ip.com  - a program running on my server updates my IP address with no-ip.com and I can just log on to my server using a sub-domain of no-ip.com  - the only catch is I have to log into my account with no-ip once a month, but I have set a task scheduler to remind me to do this. I haven't set it up with a password yet, so anyone with the address could turn on my sprinkler system. If it starts going off at random times, I guess I would have to address this.

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