Battery and Solar Powered Irrigation Controllers
Customers continue to ask about product options that conserve energy and save money. Read on for information regarding renewable energy-based controllers and their best use cases.
October 1, 2021
Battery and solar powered controllers can be installed almost anywhere and are often used where power isn’t easily accessible. They can be used as temporary irrigation on construction sites, traffic medians, roundabouts, greenhouses, and in parks. These controllers are typically used at sites where electricity costs would be too high due to lack of infrastructure. Battery and solar powered controllers also work where existing driveways, pathways, or large trees may block new wire paths. Additionally, they can also aid sites that need to follow municipal/county electricity regulations (codes) or for LEED projects.
Benefits to Battery and Solar Operated Controllers
Using a battery or solar powered controller reduces the area’s carbon footprint. Many of these types of controllers have options for multiple start times, multiple programs, and a pump master valve feature for full customization. Additionally, battery operated controllers are often waterproof and can be installed inside of a valve box. As for maintenance, most solar panels last 20-25 years, solar charger battery packs need to be replaced every 5-10 years with intermittent testing, and the batteries themselves need to be replaced within 2 years. Battery operated controllers offer labor and installation savings when compared to traditional controllers.
There is a wide range of controller options for different sized projects, from small residential jobs to large commercial jobs.
Let’s dig into how these controllers operate. Most have installation options, either installed in a valve box or mounted in a stainless steel or plastic enclosure. Some mounted options have a key to prevent vandalism. The solar panel needs to be installed in full sunlight for maximum charge, but most batteries can last for days without sunlight. There is typically a solar pack inside that does not need sun every day; it charges and stores energy in the battery within the controller via solar panels.
Solar and battery powered controller technology continues to evolve. You can add sensors for freeze, wind, and rain to controllers for better performance. In fact, some counties require controllers with sensors.
Both battery operated and solar powered controllers are available with different options and can be purchased in 6-12 station enclosure configurations. Battery operated controllers do not operate standard solenoids, the valves need to be converted to latching solenoids.
Some controller options are Hunter XC Hybrid (optional solar panel kit separate), Hunter NODE (optional solar panel kit separate) and Rain Bird ESP-9V (6 stations each). These types of controllers have the same install process as a typical system controller, but you’ll need to be very intentional on solar panel placement for proper sun exposure. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations and site codes on whether additional batteries or rain sensors are needed.
The popularity of solar energy continues to grow across the nation- while it has slower growth in the irrigation market, it is still noteworthy. Renewable resources (such as hydropower, biomass, geothermal, wind, and solar) are increasingly generating a bigger share of U.S. electricity; they make up about 20% of all U.S. electricity generation in 2020 (U.S. Energy Information Administration). Solar energy made up 2.3% of total U.S. electricity in 2020 (EIA). This is an exciting and positive change for the green industry.
Source at SiteOne
For more information on battery and solar powered controllers, visit your local branch or our irrigation section of our website today. For educational opportunities on irrigation practices, look for a SiteOne University near you.