Ep.19 Smart Irrigation Systems - Andrew Webb (Reece Irrigation & Pools)

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You're on the plants grow here podcast. I'm Daniel Fuller, come along with me as we enter a hidden world of deep horticultural, ecological and landscape gardening knowledge with featured experts, industry professionals, and enthusiasts. In Episode 15 of this podcast, I spoke with Darren senior about reticulation, which is also known as irrigation. In this episode, we'll be continuing our retake journey by speaking with Andrew Webb from Greece, which is probably the most significant irrigation store around Australia in my mind. Good Andrew, welcome to the show.
Good, Dan. Thanks for having us
on. Yeah, no walkers man. So can you tell us a little bit about what you do at race and how long you've been involved with irrigation?
Okay, so I'm work at race, irrigation, and pools in Canada. I've been with race now 17 years. And I've actually worked in the irrigation and pools division of it for the last six years. And my specialty really is I do designs, any basic sort of designs, but also here to assist people with choosing the right irrigation for their needs. And not only just the retail customer, but also the contractors.
So when it comes to water, the more the better for our plants, is that right?
Not necessarily. So basically, the more it's not about getting the maximum volume of water onto plants, it's about getting the right volume of water onto plants. So that's hence why we've got actually a program going at the moment called the smart irrigation, which is all about teaching people to get the right amount of water onto their plants or the right type of plant,
then what does smart irrigation mean?
So that's literally smart irrigation is literally about getting the right products to the right people, to everybody, which is going to actually assist them getting the that water onto their plants at most effectively. So rather than just having an irrigation system that goes off for a certain period of time, like some of the older systems, which will just turn on at a certain time and then turn off after a pre designated amount of time. Smart irrigation is all about getting the right amount of water to the plants. So watering each zone for the right amount period of time getting the right volume of water per plant. So making sure that the garden beds are getting the right amount the lawn is getting the right amount as opposed to just sitting around for a time having wrong sprinklers. Watering for the wrong amount of time on to plants. Right. So
there might be a little bit more involved with the designing, then a lot of people might think,
absolutely, there's a fair bit more into it, then what a lot of people realize.
So I guess what would be the advantage of using a smart irrigation system as opposed to just running out with a garden hose and watering your plants. That way, we're saying
no garden hose, it's almost impossible to actually determine how much water you're getting down into any particular area of the of the gun. Because gun hoses they fly, you can't determine how long you're not going to stand there. And each particular section of the of the garden and no standard for the right amount of time could be there for you know, the standard for five minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, you can't really determine that as easily. So I wonder if a garden hose although it does work on a small period when when things get tough, but ultimately, it's not a very good way of actually watering again, maybe it might be a good way to put out a Spotfire like for today.
I had I was working in a property that had a Fern tree and it was looking very dry and their irrigation systems obviously weren't working. So as a maintenance gardener I made a little note within our application for my boss to tell the customer about it. But in the meantime, I just bought it with a hose so maybe that might be the spot for where hose is a good fit irrigating plants.
Absolutely. So in that same situation I do exactly the same thing as what you've done. But ultimately you want to actually repair the retake system to actually deliver the right amount of water at the right amount of time to those pots.
So is a smart irrigation expensive like that system sort of sounds like it might be a little bit more expensive than some of the other options out there.
It is a little bit more expensive. So some of the controllers and some of the nozzles and pop ups and everything are a little bit more but ultimately it will save you money and will save you money because you are using less water. You are your gardens going to be healthier. Your gardens going to go fried so people seem to forget how much money they spend on plants and more. So getting the right amount Want to have the healthiest possible garden is essential. So it's going to save you money bit. But ultimately it will save you in water. So it's very water wise. So you're going to be have the right amount of water into the right plant. It's using less water ultimately, by just using it properly. Be more efficient. Absolutely.
Look, Fern trees are not cheap. And the customer was working out today almost lost a Fern tree through lack of water. So
yeah, so but in a smart irrigation system that it's, you know, potentially, that would not happen if it's all working, right? Yeah, absolutely.
So let's say I have just a regular retake system. And it's been going fine, but I want to upgrade it to a smart retake system, how would I go about that? Okay,
so the first thing we'd recommend you do is saying, Give us some type of idea of what you currently have. And from that, we can actually do a redesign for you if that's what's necessary. But ultimately, I'd always suggest that you get a water wise irrigation person to go out to the property, and actually quote them on upgrading this system. And it might be a case of changing nozzles and changing controls might be a No, no, it might be just that they might already have a smart controller just not used properly. And upgrading it the system from that side start from wherever it is that they want to actually go and build it up from there.
Right. So it's not like you have to rip out all the pipes and start from scratch. Again, it might just be a couple of pieces.
Absolutely. It might be just a case of just upgrading what's already there and converting it into a smile arrogation system might be a few changes here and there that might be required. But hopefully it was designed properly to start with. And if it has an all in good, then why you go you can actually you can upgrade an existing system.
Right? I guess that having the right design in the first place is pretty crucial. But that'd be right.
Absolutely. Absolutely. That can save a lot of headaches also down the track. Very thing Cisco going where it should be and how it should be.
You worked for re so what sort of helped us raise offer to DIY gardeners and contractors alike when it comes to the design of their setup.
Okay, so we have a design department. And they're based in Melbourne, however here and why we've actually got our own designer here in wi and all the designs that we go through when they go through to them. And so they'll get a professional designer who will actually design their garden to suit or their backyard, whatever property they've got to actually suit their needs. And our base head on pressures blows the right. The right controllers, the right nozzles, everything, they've got nlb, a smart irrigation system designed to suit their needs. So it's individually done for them.
And what does that cost?
Okay, so for the contract, and all that is it's included, so it's free for the domestic person so that someone who doesn't have an account of us is $29.
So $29 is a pretty small fee.
It's a pretty small fee,
when you're looking at the value you're getting?
Absolutely.
So let's say I'm a contractor, how can understanding smart irrigation help my business and how can it help provide a better level of service to my customer base.
So you're guaranteeing your customer is actually getting the most efficient garden that they can possibly get. So you're using the right nozzles, the right controllers the right amount of time. So basically, the customer, they're going to have a good healthy gun, they're going to be using a lot less water, they go their system, when it's actually designed properly and done properly, it's gonna last a lot longer for them as well. So as we were talking before about upgrading the existing system, if it was designed properly to start with, upgrading the system will be simple. If it's something which was really done without a lot of knowledge into it, and the person's actually just thrown in and water comes out. So they think it's great. Sometimes that might mean moving pipes, moving sprinklers, doing all sorts of things just to make sure the coverage is great. And so hence, I'm being asked to actually tell someone that you're actually a proper water wise installer. It's really it's actually it's almost like a stamp saying to the customer, the ultimate customer that I'm trained in this, I know how to do this, and I'm doing you the best possible job.
It just basically sort of separates you from the Cowboys,
basically. Yes, absolutely.
So I guess a smart irrigation systems going to help us save money and it's going to be better for the environment. It's going to save us money in the long term rather than in the short term if there's a small upfront cost.
Absolutely. Always that Smart is going to save money. And ultimately the way things are going with water, water is going to go up in price. So what you do have in water, you're going to want to have it most efficiently used. And I can't imagine anyone, I don't know what it's like in the other parts of Australia and why I don't believe anyone's going to really give up their garden.
No, no, no, no, absolutely not. Although we do have a bit more water retentive soil here.
Yeah, a little bit nicer. Here, we just got sand, pretty nice tried to hand in the grant
basically seems
pretty well, pretty well, that I mean, everyone over here loves their guns. And everyone's, like, pretty addicted to having nice lawns and nice gardens. And over here, we also have our water restrictions. Nice. I know it's not in all parts of Australia. But over here, we get off mines, what do we get two days a week, we're allowed to water our gardens. If you've only got two days a week where you can water your garden and it's 40 degrees outside, you really want to get the most efficient watering that you possibly can get. And it's essential to actually do it right to start with otherwise, it really is just wasting water and not really making and your gardens not really benefiting from it at all.
total waste?
Absolutely.
Can you explain what a rain sensor is?
Okay, so rain sensor is literally, it's a device which actually is attached to the controller. And what it's actually allowing it to do is it will measure the amount of rain, which is actually coming down is actually former. So what it will do is there's some little rubber, actually sorry, a leather washers, which actually sit in the top of the sensor and which actually swell up and they block off a heart within the top of the station. So it's actually allowing how many milk is measuring how many mils of water have actually fallen in that particular area. So what we'll do is, you set up how much how many mils of water you want to fall before it'll actually shut off, and it will actually shut down your controller for you. And then you can actually set your smart controller to actually reactivate at the time, which is, which were the time you actually wanted to actually go. So what it does is it prevents water during freezing weather and below three degrees, it's not going to actually water the garden, when it's actually raining, or when it's very cold temperatures. But you can actually adjust the rain sensor between three 613 and 19 millimeters. So depends on the garden you got depends on how you want to do it. So if your garden is, hypothetically say, six mils, you say you want to tow that six mils and you had five mils of water a smart controller actually pick up and say, Hey, it has actually quite rained enough. So it will actually adjust the runtime of the actual controller for you. So water a little bit further, to actually adjust for that or completely shut down the system. Enough hasn't actually fallen.
That's actually huge. So I guess like, you know, a normal system just isn't going to be able to do that sort of thing for you.
So basically, on a normal system, if you set it to go off at six o'clock in the morning, and it's back in front, it's still going to go off at six o'clock in the morning, unless someone goes out and says it's raining, I'm going to turn it off. Whereas refer rang sensor or window weather sensor, what will actually happen is physically running, it will turn it off, because it's raining. And it's it's a and it will likely pick up that you've got a rain event occurring. I don't need water. So it but you do need to write controllers, we have to operate one. But yeah, it's all part of smart irrigation.
So what's a drip line? And how does that save on water and cost.
So again, drip line somebody manages drip line is because it's subsurface. So it's actually under the grant side, it's actually putting the water exactly at the plant roots. So right down the bottom where the plants actually want to say you're not going to get minimized evaporation, particularly in places where it's pretty quite long. So you're minimizing your evaporation and you'll say there's no wind effect on it because it's below the water so the wind can blow away any of your water. So everything is going straight into the roots of the plant, whether plantation once or whatever.
Yeah, let's see on top of the mulch on top of the Lena
glass leaves. Exactly. I mean the water at the top. It looks nice. It looks nice when you see obvious not faint, but ultimately that's popular apartments apartments and below the ground. Yeah, it's like trying to drink water with your foot doesn't work.
Yeah, plants drinking water through their roots, not through their legs.
Exactly. And grass is no different. Exactly.
Can you tell us a little bit about MP rotators.
Okay, MP rotators is a product made by Hunter. So what MPs actually do is they're designed for low pressure and low water. So basically it's It's a small Ghidorah Oh, yeah, it's a rotator. So it's but it's a small. It's a small sprinkler. And what it does is because it runs on a very low pressure. So if you've got really low pressure in your home, you can still operate, the actual rotator is still going to be effective. And it's got a quite a heavy droplet. So it actually is less affected by wind events and things like that. So it's actually going to land in the areas that you want to actually land on. And it uses very little water as well. So the beauty about MP rotators is, if you've got low pressure and low flow, you can still actually water your garden very effectively. Anything A lot of people don't realize about in pieces because they use light pressure on life flow, you may need to actually run your sprinklers for a lot longer. So you quite possibly might need to run your sprinklers, 40 minutes, as opposed to a normal sprinklers might be 10 or 12 minutes, and then you might be looking at 40. So it's just one of the challenges. One of the only challenges really have an MP Rotator is you could be running your garden cycle and your watering cycle might be going for two to three hours because of the depending on how many stations you got, because of the length of time you get around each station. However, they are a fantastic sprinkler. And I really do help out a lot of people.
And you might use that MP Rotator, like you said just if you have low pressure as opposed to a drip line.
Yeah, low pressure, low flow. There's lots of situations where you go if you over here in wy sometimes the drip lines aren't exactly the best option. And the biggest problem with that is this type of soul because we do have a very sandy soil. So it doesn't spread out nicely across the surface of the ground. So it literally just go straight down, which is great for plants which are close by but not spreading out. So sometimes an option of an MP Rotator is a better option, then, then maybe a trip line is only because he really got to weigh up the situations, because they both got their advantages and disadvantages saying sometimes you can and then plate rotate is going to be far better than a trip mind fragment site. It's another water conscious sort of
option. I think moving forward, if you're not being waterwise, you're just not even paying attention.
Oh, absolutely. I mean, we just want to make sure we start becoming waterwise. And it's just way that we are right now we just have to be like that. It's really important.
Yeah, Gone are the days when we can just forget about how much water we're using?
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And some people just haven't quite got it yet, but they will, they'll just take time they'll get
away.
So what a pressure regulated pop ups and sprays and gear drives and how they different to the MP rotators.
Okay, so pressure regulator pop up and gear drops and things like that. So what it actually does is it's ensuring that all the all the sprinklers so every, every nozzle, every outlet is actually using the same amount of pressure in the same amount of water. So rather than it running down the line, hypothetically you think the most well run, the first one is going to get a lots and the very last one is going to get really sore. But what this is going to do is it will ensure that every single part, or every single nozzle is going to actually have exactly the same amount of water and it's going to pop up using the same amount of pressure. So if the first one is going to try for meters, the last one is going to try four meters. The first one's using five liters of water, the last one is going to use five liters of water. So that all comes into design. But you know that from all of your sprinklers, everything's going to be giving you the same topic average.
Yeah, I've worked in gardens before where the first plant nearest to the house is a lot larger than the plant furthest away from the house. And there's no difference in sunlight in the soil or seeing the same.
Exactly. So these are just going to help it and it's a they really do help out with when you're actually doing a design. If everything's pressure regulated, everything's gonna be fine. That's huge. Oh, matched precipitation.
What are your favorite three wall mounted smart controllers on the market?
Personally, I like the weather medic, the weather medic controls that because they're simple. They're very easy. They've got a lot of functionality in I do like the hunters, the Hunter x course I find them quite good. They're very popular. There's a lot of them on the market. And I do like the Rain Bird. Personally, I made a bit old school I did like the team twos which actually have a dial on them. Some people like the ESP, or the x's because they've actually got a push button. That's a bit of a preference as to which way about Amanda is three controllers. These three companies really have come up some good controllers and some really good ideas with their controllers. Yeah, we
had on Darren Sr. In Episode 15, as I said in the intro, and he was just raving about the 100 products.
Yeah, 100 products. They're by far the best known on the in the market and yet they've really come with some answers. Got lots of really good, really good products, have it and move on. Smart products have it. So you can really do some smart irrigation using a product,
I think we could definitely do a whole episode just on the differences between those three brains, but I think we're gonna have to keep on going,
you probably are actually really could do a whole episode just on smart controllers and the differences between them, there's quite a bit, and we'll probably get there.
So is there a big difference in quality between the commercial brands you've just mentioned, and some of the cheaper options on the market?
Definitely. So all the brands which are out there, so one of the biggest things is the option of being a smart controller, as opposed to a controller just being a timer, basically. So all the good controllers, or the controllers are talking about, you can actually make them into either Wi Fi, or they'll use a mobile network. So they'll also pick up a lot of the information from the internet, say hints, you could have a Wi Fi controller, which will pick up a rain event, say it hooks onto the houses Wi Fi, on the internet, the Weather Bureau might be saying or whatever, they all use different type of apps, which collects its weather data from, but it could be saying right, it's going to actually rain today at three o'clock in it's going to, you know that it's estimating is going to be 10 mils of water. So your controller will actually then turn around and actually start thinking about what the controller actually is that program is half and preparing itself is actually going to actually run on that particular day. Because it knows it's going to actually run on a day because it's just got the information from the internet. So it can do all that for you. Most of these controllers also be able to send you reports. So you can actually tell when your controller is actually going off. If you're like myself, you got a security camera outside, you click on security camera, and you can actually see if your if your rating is actually going off. If there for one reason or another you see a problem happening, you can actually turn it off using your phone. So you can actually be can be halfway around the world you can be in Bali on holiday if you're allowed to. And you can actually physically turn your retake off, because you can see it happening. You smart controllers, also you can program into them, the type of garden that you're actually trying to water. So it can be lawn, no particular plants that you can put plant types and all that but soil types in there, put them into the slide of the type of soil, you can add an obvious information to it. And it will actually start telling you how long you need to water your garden for by telling it how what type of nozzles everything in it. And it will turn around to you and say unit water base for 15 minutes. So your control is actually using technology built into it that actually tell you how long to hold your gun for.
Yeah, right. I mean, there's an upfront cost to it. But a lot of those functions that you've mentioned, are actually potentially great money savings as well, as opposed to say, paying for your maintenance garden to come and fix the problem. If you're overseas or I mean, there's a whole lot of money saving in there as well.
Oh, absolutely, absolutely. But it gives you a lot more control over at in this day and age. And I mean, I'm no different to anyone else. I love using things off my phone. It's so simple, so easy. And being able to control everything that well being able to have your controllers that telling you not telling you, but actually helping you and actually water the correct times for the correct amount of time. For all that sort of stuff. It's actually it's well worth it. Definitely worth it.
So why in your mind, do you reckon that most people haven't really clued on to this new system? I
think a lot of times it's people, they save $1 before we actually see the advantage. And it's like that, it's like that with a lot of things. We've all I think everyone's falling into that sort of category at one point in time, where you've looked at news saying the dollar number dollar figure as opposed to actually saying the advantages you're actually getting from it. And also in a lot of cases, too, I think it's a bit of an issue with a lot of contractors, we need to sell it to the people installing it who are in ultimately installing it for the customers. So hence why I recently came out with the smart irrigation pamphlets aimed at saving what got us so we're trying to educate the installers so that they can go off to their customers and hopefully, instill that information to their customers. So ultimately, it will get around to everybody. But we're trying to do it through more than anyone the actual installer, the contractor themselves.
Yeah, that's heat.
Can I build a solenoid manifold now without the need to cut pipe or even use glue for the section?
Yes, absolutely. So we actually have a manifold system which actually snaps together and screws together for you. It's called it's it's called the Hanky Panky manifold system, aka Yeah, so you can build that to however you want it so you can build as many solenoids into it. You can have them go in whatever direction you want. Left right backwards you can warm outer. So you can do it however you want the actual manifold to be set up and it all snaps together. like glue, no cutting. I think if you wanted to add an extra solenoid onto it you can you can pop on and off in you can literally add solenoids you can type them off if you want to set it up however you want them. There's no necessity at all for gluing or cutting pot. Well, that's pretty handy. It is they sell quite well. They're really popular once people use them once then they they free pretty well, using them Elvis on
here I can imagine. So where do you see smart irrigation evolving in the future? And where do you think that things are heading long term?
Well,
I think I'm hoping I'm hoping one day when enough people actually get onto smart irrigation enough people actually doing it about the same why but we don't have water strips and then we'll have a really nice because won't be necessary. Does everyone be doing it properly? That'd be wonderful that ultimate, I actually can imagine a time when it's the only system you're allowed to put in that you won't be able to buy a controller which is just a timer, it has to be a smart controller has to be plugged in properly, I can just see wasting Wi Fi I can leave, I can see that water is becoming fat precious over here. Something would need to be done. And I can imagine that's where they're going to start more than likely with our gardens. And if you're not getting on the bandwagon, then you might lose that garden, which we all want to keep. So I can I can just say you're heading down that path unless we start doing something pretty radical.
Totally. But this is kind of a two fold thing I see it's number one plant the right plant in the right place. Absolutely. And then we're going to get the water right.
That's a definitely the right size, you got the right plant, right place, it will it'll grow well, you get the right amount of water onto it, it's really gonna do well. And you can do that inside water at the same time.
And like I say, thinking about how that water is going to react with your soil with the plants in your garden. There's a lot more to it than it looks on the surface.
Yeah, absolutely.
So just before we wrap this episode up, is there anything else that you'd like to tell the listeners about? I'm
just that I would always recommend that unless you're actually a professional gardening retake installer, I would definitely go into a store like a recertification store and speak to the guys because we definitely have to help you out with smart irrigation, we definitely have to help you have some training. And if you'd need it, we can. We can also show you all the latest products out there. We all were companies say over hunters, rain birds or Toros the whole lot and they bring us in the lightest products every time they come out. They let they use apps to actually push their product along to people to actually show them what's like the lightest thing on the market. And definitely keep in contact with people like ourselves because we'll help you keep up with what's out there on the market. And you're gonna encourage everyone to try some something a little bit different with some of these controllers and some of these nozzles and all that they really will ultimately save you time save the money and it will just make your job so much better.
Absolutely couldn't agree any more man. Thanks for coming on the show Andrew.
Not a problem at all.
Thank you for having me.
Race, irrigation and pools are an excellent source for retake parts and also an excellent source for information and custom setup designs. As always, check the show notes which can be accessed through your favorite podcast listening app or through our website at plants grow hear.com for relevant links which are clickable depending on how you're viewing them. If you listen on iTunes and you like the show, Ben and I would appreciate if you could give us a review to let us know europeen You can also reach out to us on Facebook and Twitter by searching plants grow here.

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