Initial Evaluation of Smart Irrigation Controllers: Year Two (2009) Results

Swanson, Charles
Fipps, Guy
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Texas Water Resources Institute

A smart controller testing facility was established by the Irrigation Technology Center at Texas A&M University in College Station in 2008. A two-year testing program was initiated in order to evaluate smart controller testing methodology needed to determine their performance and reliability under Texas conditions from an “end-user” point of view. The “end-user” is considered to be the landscape or irrigation professional (such as a Licensed Irrigator in Texas) installing the controller. During the first year (2008), six (6) controllers were evaluated over a 60- day period. Details were provided by Swanson and Fipps (2008). This report details the results of the second year (2009) evaluations. Four additional controllers were provided by manufacturers for the 2009 evaluations, bringing the total number of controllers evaluated to 10, and the evaluation period was extended to 13 weeks. As in the first year, the 10 controllers were programed for College Station, Texas using a modified version of the virtual landscape as defined in the IA (Irrigation Association) SWAT (Smart Water Applicator Technologies) 7th draft testing protocol. Programing the controllers according to these virtual landscapes proved to be problematical, as most of the controllers did not allow the direct programing of all of the parameters needed to define the virtual landscape and irrigation system. In addition, it was impossible to see the actual values that some controllers used for each parameter or to determine how closely these followed the values of the virtual landscape. The 2009 results showed some improvement in controller performance over Year One results. There were no software or hardware problems observed. Only one controller had communication problems which were reported to the manufacturer’s representative but not corrected during the study.