Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New video online! – mechanical timers 101

I recently produced a video for the Urban Conservation Unit. The focus of this new piece is teaching the uninitiated the ins and outs of the mechanical irrigation timer.

Ye olde time keeper

Whether on well-water or city water, 70% of the homeowner landscape irrigation systems we assess in Miami-Dade County are outfitted with a mechanical timer. Though AC-powered, these timers are as streamlined as possible...

...keeping time and day information through the use of pins and wheels, and turning on and off based on where pins are fixed and how many pins are attached in sequence.

Partners in crime

The gruesome twosome

Because all this device can do is send water and stop it, it is paired with the indexing valve in order to distribute water throughout an irrigation system’s different zones.

Exhibit A

Sworn enemy of the UCU, the indexing valve is an inefficient, unreliable and restrictive method for distributing water on a property. Does this make the mechanical timer guilty by association? Discuss among yourselves.

Carne de perro!

Despite its shortcomings, the mechanical timer does have some saving graces. First, it is built to last. Comparing it to a digital timer, one local contractor confessed to us he prefers the mechanical because it is like “carne de perro!” (tough as dog meat!).

AC power in/AC power out

Further, because many South Florida irrigation systems use pumps, the mechanical timer is advantageous because it can send 240V, or 120V, directly from the breaker to the pump – where a low-voltage digital timer requires a pump start relay.

However popular or practical, the truth about this mechanical beast is that few homeowners know how it works and even fewer know how to program it. Therein lies the motivation for producing this new video.

See it here!

Monday, January 9, 2012

New video online – demystifying irrigation maintenance!

I recently produced a video for the Urban Conservation Unit. The piece focuses on simple landscape irrigation maintenance, guiding viewers through a number of repairs step by step.

Thems the breaks!

The field plot: where we set our scene

Last year, in the wake of some especially disastrous trench-filling work at the TREC field plot (perpetrated by neither Water Resource nor TREC staff) I noticed one of the rotator heads was pulled out of the ground at a sharp angle.

As I continued to walk the plot I discovered that other heads had been completely buried under the soil used to fill the trenches. My first thought: unearth all heads and wet-check the plot for problems. My second thought: let’s make a video!

Grist for the mill

Simple enough, right? What better way to illustrate some simple maintenance tips than in a controlled environment where even we didn't know the extent of the leaning head's underground damage? Well, on that day, fortune was a sloppy trench-filler!

What began as a simple repair scene to be tacked onto other “as yet undetermined” material grew into a complete work when the subsequent wet-check revealed both a clogged rotator nozzle and a fractured zone line!


The culprit unmasked

During our system assessments throughout Miami-Dade County, we consistently encounter homeowners who (unlike property managers) openly admit to not conducting periodic wet-checks on their irrigation systems.

Fractured pipe piece replaced

Naturally, when a nozzle clog, head break or pipe leak goes undetected, the result is often water waste, uneven irrigation coverage and landscape stress (from flooding or lack of water). Ideally, this video will help inspire enterprising folks to roll up their sleeves and do their part for water-use efficiency.

View the video here.