My 9V battery keeps dying, what does that mean?

When Irritrol RainDial batteries keep draining faster than they should (usually they last at least a year or more), it is a sign that the controller is failing, but has not failed completely.

As the parts fail they can degrade slowly and the battery ends up providing power to compensate.  However, this causes the battery to drain faster, meaning it may last a week, or month instead of a year.  Eventually you’ll have to replace it more and more frequently until even a new battery won’t be enough for it to work.

There’s no way to really predict when a new battery will not be enough to make it work. One thing is for sure: “you’re living on borrowed time.”

You can wait if you want, but it’s usually better to get it taken care now, otherwise Murphy’s law usually kicks in and it’ll fail right before you are headed out on a long vacation 🙂   They often are intermittent as they’re failing, so it will not water, but when you notice the dying plants, but when you test it, it’ll seem to be working.  When it’s “on the edge of complete failure” it sometimes works, and other times not.  The temperature often effects the behavior.

Irritrol RainDial timers are well made an with a quick repair can last another 10 years. Repairs are the core of our business and we’d appreciate it if you’d select us to do the it.

 

Why does my controller say P:On or P:Off

The RD600/900/1200-R RainDial Timers may display P:On or P:Off on the LCD.

This is one of the features in the new -R series of Irritrol sprinkler timers.  It’s described in the manual in more detail, but basically does this.  The Sprinkler timer has a pump control signal that normally turns on when a particular valve is turned on.  Most people I know don’t have a pump to boost pressure in their irrigation system so it’s not a common feature for the general urban irrigation system.   If for some reason you did not want the pump to come on when a particular valve was on, you can turn it off by setting the main switch to the Set-Programs position, the dial to the valve you want to change the pump settings for, and then press the Manual-On button.  It will toggle between P:On and P:Off each time you press Manual – On.

If you don’t have a pump, it doesn’t matter whether you turn this feature on or off.  If you do have a pump, you’ll know what to do.

If you’re not expecting this to appear on the LCD, you probably need to slide the switch to the “run” position instead of “set programs.

I hope that helps,
The RainDialDoctor

What’s the difference between an RD-600 and RD600-R

Difference between the -R and regular series connectors.

  1. The RD600-R and other -R models have additional wiring to support a rain sensor.  However, it is still possible to use a rain sensor on the older model.  Enter rain sensor in the search box for more info on that.
  2. The biggest difference between the -R models and the standard model is that the -R model has a different size connector (20 pins instead of 16).  There are adapters that allow you to convert between the two sizes.  You can also do some jury-rigging to make them work, but it’s not a “clean” solution.   Alternatively, you can replace the controller and the back-connector board at the same time, which avoids the connector mismatch.
  3. My favorite new feature of the -R series is the rain delay.  If it rains today, you can go out and tell the timer to stop watering for 3 days, or however many you want to delay.
  4. One other key difference is that the RD600-R series saves the programming in non-volatile memory so even if the battery dies, the programming will be saved.  The RD-600 will lose it’s programming if power is removed and the 9V battery is dead or missing.

Should I upgrade to the RD600-R series?

There’s no serious reason to upgrade to the newer series of controllers.  The new features are nice, but not really necessary.  The repair we do is solid and it will last a long time.  Unless the controller is in bad physical shape due to extreme exposure to the elements, it’s usually better to fix it instead of upgrade.
Contact us or enter a question/comment on the Q&A page if you have more questions.

What to do if you can’t open the case door or lost your key

If you have an Irritrol RD-nnnn key and it won’t open:

There’s usually a plastic key you turn on the side of the case to open it.  While you turn it and keep it turned, pull on the door; they sometimes stick closed a bit.

Usually when this happens, it’s caused by the door having a fair bit of friction due to dust or dirt.

Try turning the key clockwise enough that you feel some resistance and give the door slow pull.  If that doesn’t work, sometimes too much pulling pressure prevents the key mechanism from turning. Try pushing the door closed more and see if the key will then turn a little more and  try pulling on the door again.

If you don’t have an Irritrol RainDial key:

(Also consider borrowing one from a neighbor to get in.  You can usually buy them on Ebay for a few bucks or call Irritrol directly if I’m out of stock.)  If those don’t work, read on.
If you don’t have a key, you can usually get into the case with a slot screw driver.  It takes some patience, but you have two methods to emulate the key behavior. The key is just a star-shaped gear that connects with another gear to lift the plunger from the hole in the case door.
1) find a screw driver about as wide as the hole, put it in and rotate it clockwise, trying to catch the teeth of the mating gear like the key would.
2) put the screw driver in the hole at a 30-degree position (about 1:30 on an analog clock) with the blade horizontal to the ground and lever it downward to about 3:00). the goal is to slide the driver into the grove of the inner gear and lever it it upward.
Forcing it open will often break the catch on the case, or the square loop in the door that it catches.  Many used timers I see have the inner door “loop” broken so it doesn’t catch any more.  There’s usually a lot of friction around the door that can keep it shut without even needing the locking mechanism to work.

To get a new Rain Dial key:

Most local landscaping supply stores (not big-box stores like home depot, but more like the landscapers supply stores that just deal with landscaping).  They should have them as well. Ebay typically has them for sale.
The best thing to do is just get a key – look at the store tab, you should be able to buy one. If not, you can contact www.Irritrol.com – look for their customer service number and they may just send one to you for free.
I hope that helps,
Brian

Why is sprinkler valve is stuck on

If you have a sprinkler valve that doesn’t turn off, or sticks on, the problem is most likely due to one or more of the following:
  1. The valve is failing and it’s not a controller problem
  2. The controller is just programmed incorrectly
  3. The controller is failing – causes strange behavior, seems to work, then does something unexpected. This is quite common
It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what’s going on.  The first two are for you to investigate, the last one one I can solve foryou.
Item 1: Next time the water is “on” when it shouldn’t be, turn off power to the controller, or remove the back ribbon cable (there’s pictures of this on the rainDialDoctor website, see
This disconnects the controller from the valves, so if the valves stay on, it’s a valve problem, not a controller problem. Replace/repair the valve.
If you can’t wait for it to stick “on” again,
  • Try manually turning on a valve and then turn it off.  When you turn it off, the valve should go off within 10 seconds.  If not, the valve may be a problem.
  • Re-check the programming – all three schedules A,B and C.  See Item 2 below.
Item 2: Go to this you tube video to learn how to program it; it’s actually pretty easy and the video does a nice job.  It should apply to just about any model similar to the one shown.  If you want to call me when you’re in front of the controller, I can double check your settings for you.  I’m available on weekends and in the evenings – just let me know what times work for you.
Item 3: If the controller still seems to be causing problems, it’s probably just failing and needs to be repaired.  This is VERY COMMON and likely the cause. I do this all the time and the success rate is near perfect, cost and time are  reasonable.  Let me know and I’ll send you details; this is how I put a lot of food on the table these days.

 

What if a RD600 valve is stuck on, won’t turn off, or comes on when it shouldn’t?

Read when an Irritrol RD600 controller turns a valve on or runs a schedule unexpectedly, or if a valve stays stuck on.

(This and all information on the RainDialDoctor website is copy-righted by Brian Keller.)

Summary: Typical Causes:

If a valve is on when it’s not supposed to be, or won’t turn off; it’s likely due to one or more of the following, each refers to steps you can follow to solve the problem:
  1. The valve is turned on manually at the valve (in the valve box typically underground) The valve itself should normally be turn off in this location so that it can be turn on by energizing the solenoid on top of the valve).  If turned on, nothing can turn it off. Make sure the solenoid it tight (hand tight) and any pressure relief screws are tight. .
  2. The valve is failing and it’s not a controller problem, see below for more details. There’s lot of good info to read, don’t stop reading too soon.
  3. The controller is just programmed incorrectly or got reset and is now running the default program, see below for more details.
    Note that the ABC switch does not set which schedule is going to run; it’s only used to program the schedules.  Schedule AB&C always run, regardless of the switch setting. Thus, if you do not want A to run, then you must “un-program it” by putting the switch on A and setting all the start times to off.
  4. The controller is failing – causes strange behavior, seems to work, then does something unexpected.
    This is quite common and this is a big part of my business, but you should check the first 2 things on the list.  Contact me if you have more questions.
It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what’s going on.  The first two are for you to investigate, the last one one I can solve for you.

Guide to overall understanding:

Before you read further, it’s important to know when the timer has turned on a valve vs. when the valve is on even when the timer doesn’t “think” it should be on.   Here’s how to tell the difference:
If the Irritrol RD-600 series timer has turned on a valve (because it was programmed to or was instructed to manually) it will display the valve number on the top row of the LCD screen.  The following indicates that the controller has (or is trying to) turn on valve 4 as shown.
RD-600 LCD with Station 4 active

RD-600 LCD with Station 4 active with Time

 If you don’t think this valve should be on, check the scheduled, time of day, day of the week etc.

Here are some other troubleshooting steps  for the Irritrol RD600 series sprinkler controller:

Step 1: Next time a valve is “on” when it shouldn’t be, turn the off power to the controller, or remove the back ribbon cable as shown below; this disconnects the controller from the valves.

Irritrol RainDial troubleshooting – removing the ribbon cable

If the valves stay on, it’s usually caused by a problem with the valve, not a controller or electrical wiring problem.
You can replace/repair the valve yourself; many times you can simply replace just the guts of the valve and not have to cut the valve out, which is a lot more effort and you might want to contact a lawn care or landscaping service for more assistance.  To do it yourself, you can take a photo of the valve to an irrigation supply store and ask them to sell you the “guts”.  Usually this fixes it, and you don’t need to cut any pipes, just replace the guts and screw it back together.
If you can’t wait for it to stick “on” again,
  • Try manually turning on a valve and then turn it off.  When you turn it off, the valve should go off within 10 seconds.  If not, the valve is likely the problem.
  • Re-check the programming – all three schedules A,B and C.  See Item 2 below.

If the valve goes off, it’s likely a problem caused by the controller; plug the ribbon cable back in and: 

  1. Check the programming (item 2 below).  If you see a small number on the top of the LCD display, it means the controller has turned that valve number on.  It should only do this if it’s programmed to do so.  Check the time and programming to make sure they’re correct.  If it all looks good, try the next step.
  2. Try resetting the sprinkler controller – link
  3. You’ve done all you can, the problem seems to be the controller; we can repair it.  (Item 3 below)
Step 2: If you repeatedly have problems with programming or times changing, you should send it in for repair.  However, if you think you may have a programming issue, go to this you tube video to learn how to program it; it’s actually pretty easy and the video does a nice job.  It should apply to just about any model similar to the one shown.
The Irritrol RainDial RD600 series Training video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhHTeucdKgA
  • Note that older timers will reset on a power outage to turn on every valve, every day at 7am for 10min.  Double check the programming has not changed unexpectedly.
  • Day of the week or time of day – watch out for the subtle difference between the A and P in AM/PM.  It’s the only complaint I have about the Irritrol timers.
Step 3: If the RD-600 series controller still seems to be causing problems or is just acting strange, it’s probably just failing and needs to be repaired.  This is VERY COMMON and likely the cause. I do this all the time and the success rate is near perfect, cost and time are  reasonable.
Contact me for more information.

What does 5En or SEn on the LCD mean?

When is “Sen” normal to be seen on an Irritrol RainDial?

“SEn” or “5En” indicates SENsor.  It is displayed when an (optional) external rain sensor device detects that it has rained.  If you have a rain sensor and it is sensing rain, it should display “SEn” and stops the watering schedule until the rain sensor indicates the rain has stopped and water is needed again.

What to try if you do not have an Irritrol RainDial or other rain sensor:

  1. Some back connector boards have a rain sensor selection switch that can be set to either Bypass or Active. Make sure it’s set to Bypass if you don’t have a rain sensor.
  2. If you have sensor connection screws but no switch, (and no rain sensor or you removed a sensor that’s no longer being used) there should be a jumper wire between the two screws.  If the wire is missing you can just add a wire between the two sensor screw terminals.   FYI: The switch on the board (if you have one) basically does the same thing as the jumper, it connects the two sensor terminals together.

The most likely problem:

Most of my customers get this message and do not even have a rain sensor.  It’s usually a “real” problem that will be intermittent and eventually get worse as time goes by and it’s hard to detect because the message may only appear when you are not looking at it.

It’s caused by a circuity problem that we frequently repair.  Simply mail the controller module and back connector board to us and we’ll have working better than new in no time.

(c) This material is copyrighted

 

How do I reset my Irritrol controller or reset it to factory defaults

On rare occasions something occurs that causes the processor to lock up.  Sometimes the programming acts strange, or the clock even quits working.  This would most likely happen when during power outages or transients.

The good news is that it rarely occurs and is easily fixed by doing the following, depending on whether you have an older or new model controller:

For older controllers: Perform a complete reset by: (note, this will delete all your programming)

  1. Remove the battery
  2. pull off the ribbon cable from the back connector board.
  3. Wait 30 minutes or so for any residual power to completely drain from the unit.  (Newer controllers do need a lot of time to discharge so it’s worth taking the time)
  4. Plug in the ribbon cable again (it should power up)
  5. Reconnect the battery.
  6. Reprogram the controller.
    Note: The older model sprinkler timers have default schedule which is something similar to:every day, 7AM, every station for 10 minutes.  Make sure to go through all the station settings when you re-program the controller or your sprinklers may come on when you don’t expect them to.

It should start with a blinking 12:00pm and now work as expected; you can now set the time.

For newer controllers (Typically the -R models), you can restore the factory default settings by doing the following: (note, this will delete all your programming).

  1. Before you do this procedure, you should try doing the basic reset for older controllers first (see above).  It may work, and you won’t lose your program settings.
  2. Place the Function switch in the Set Programs position.
  3. Place the Program switch to select B.
  4. With AC power connected, carefully disconnect the control module ribbon cable from the PC Board socket.
  5. Open the battery compartment and disconnect the battery.
  6. Press and hold the Manual button in.
  7. Reconnect the ribbon cable, then release the Manual button. Note: The display should now show 12:00 AM. If it does not, repeat the procedure as necessary.
  8. Reinstall the battery.
  9. Reprogram the controller.

What to do if that doesn’t work

If you reset the  controller and that seems to help, but it still behaves strangely now and then, it probably needs repair.  The sprinkler timers tend to get intermittent before the completely fail.

If you want someone to repair it, just contact us – we’ll send you repair details.

Good luck,
Brian

(c) This material is copyrighted

How do I remove the back connector board?

It’s always best to send the back connector board with the controller unit, and there’s no extra charge for working on it. Removing the back connector board is easy; you just need to keep track of the wires and where they go.

Use the steps below, or watch this video.

    1. Just loosen the screws holding the wires, slide them out, then simply remove 4 “Philips” screws that hold it  into the case.  
    2. Do not remove the entire case (it’s too much work), just the yellow or white connector board with all the screw terminals. 
    3. Here are some tips on removing the back connector board
      1. Always disconnect power first, or at least remove the red and yellow 24VAC wires first and cover each end with tape so they do not touch each other or anything else while you work. This protects the transformer from shorting out
      2. Take a picture of the wiring or label the wires before you remove them, Use it as a guide when you hook it back up. 

RD-600_Irritrol_RainDial_BackboardInBoxWithCardCropped

If you have any questions, just let us know.

(c) This material is copyrighted

Why does my timer say OF…?

Question: You just repaired my rain dial RD600 two weeks ago, reinstalled today, flashed 0f9, did a reset now flashing 0f1. Any ideas?

Thanks,
David

Answer:

Hi David,  That indicates that the controller is turned off for 9 days; it’s a rain delay feature.  A RainDial button probably just got pressed accidentally while programming. It’s a handy feature to delay watering if it rains … you can read about it in the manual: http://raindialdoctor.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Irritrol_Rain_Dial_2007_manual.pdf

See page 24
“rd” stands for rain delay, and the number is the number of days.  To get rid of it, follow the steps below and change the delay back to 0.  Make sure to slide the switch to Run again when you’re done.
Happy Thanksgiving,
Note: to turn on or off (set to 0 days) the rain delay feature, you can do this:
1  Place the Function switch in the Set Programs position.
2. Turn the Dial to the Skip Days – Special Functions position.
3. Press the Manual button (repeatedly) to display rd0
(Rain Delay = 0 days).   If it says rd2 or another number, that number is the number of delay days currently set.
4. Press the / buttons to select a Rain Delay period of 1 to 9
days or 0 to turn off the Rain Delay feature.
5. Return the Dial to the Current Time position.
6. Return the Function switch to the Run position.
Posted in Q&A

Using Irritrol Remote Control with any brand of controller

This video shows how to use the remote control unit with an Irritrol controller and also how to use a wiring harness to connect it to any brand controller. This setup requires the Irritrol remote control modules and an Irritrol RD-xxx controller. I build a little adapter that allows you to clip into any system.

This is a quicktime video that shows the basic setup and how to hook it up.  The wiring harness basically connects to the ribbon cable and wires up both 24VAC wires, and one of the sprinkler valves (In this case valve 6).  I used an IDE connector from some old PC scraps I have around, otherwise, you can order the mating connector.

Here’s the video: sprinklerRemoteVideoSmall

Posted in Q&A

Is the rain dial sprinkler controller broken, or is it a sprinkler valve problem? Basic Troubleshooting Steps

(This information and all information on this site is copyrighted by the rainDialDoctor)

Sometimes people suspect the rain dial sprinkler controller is bad.  Before sending it in to get it repaired, or even worse, putting in a whole new system, test to see if the problem is with the valves.  We do this by disconnecting the controller from the system and manually connect the valve wires to the transformer power.

Bypass the timer and check that the 24VAC transformer can turn on the valves directly by doing the procedure below.  You basically touch the valve wires directly to the 24V transformer outputs instead of going through the timer:

    1. Unplug the timer’s ribbon cable from the back of box so it can’t control anything.
    2. Disconnect one of the valve wires (e.g., connected to terminal #1 screwed into the back of the controller box; just loosen the valve’s connection screw and slide out the wire)
    3. Take the wire and hold it directly on the right-most of the two 24VAC screw terminals (touch it for 10-15 seconds, long enough to notice if the valve 1 turns on or not)
      (Note: don’t touch it to both 24VAC terminals at the same time. )
    4. If the Rain Dial Transformer and valve are good, the valve should turn on within a few seconds of touching the wire to the 24VAC terminals.  If it doesn’t come on, it’s most likely a valve or wiring problem, not a problem with the rain dial controller.
    5. Additional things to try, just to be very thorough:
      1. Try repeating the process by touching the wire to the other 24VAC terminal instead.
      2. To eliminate the back-connector board from question, connect the wire going to the VC terminal to the left 24VAC terminal and the valve wire to the right 24VAC terminal.  (You can put two wires under the screw and tighten it down.)  If the valve comes on, the wiring and valves are good, contact us about repairing the controller.
      3. It’s also worth noting, that if you’re having trouble, try disconnecting every valve wire except one, this will help simplify things while troubleshooting.

Note, it is extremely rare for a valve to stay stuck “on” because of a bad controller.  Valves stuck on are usually due to a valve problem, or a programming problem caused inadvertently by the user.  If a  sprinkler valve is stuck on, try disconnecting power to it, or disconnecting the Rain Dial’s ribbon cable from the back-connector board. If the valve stays stuck on, the controller is certainly not the problem.  You can probably fix this by purchasing new “guts” (diaphragm, washers, etc.) for your valve from a good irrigation supply store.  Tell them the RainDialDoctor sent you, and let them know we repair Irritrol RainDial timers.  We’d appreciate it!

(c) This material is copyrighted

Posted in Q&A

The time is frozen, cannot be changed or never changes.

I see this on rare occasions but have not been able to repeat the problem enough to diagnose it.  Something causes the processor to lock up.  The good news is that it rarely occurs and is easily fixed by doing the following:  (You might want to write down your current schedule before doing this since the Irritrol RD600 will default program to 7am, every station, 10minutes on schedule A.)

Perform a complete power-down reset by:

  1. remove the battery
  2. pull off the ribbon cable from the back connector board.
  3. Wait at lease a minute for any residual power to completely drain from the unit
  4. Plug in the ribbon cable again (it should power up)
  5. reconnect the battery.

It should start with a blinking 12:00pm and now work as expected; you can now set the time.

If this doesn’t work, try following the more detailed instructions on this page.  Note that it has additional factory reset settings for the Irritrol RD-xxx-R series of controllers.

Good luck,

Brian

 

Posted in Q&A

How do you clear the FUS or FU5 message?

(All information here is copyrighted by Brian Keller, 2012).

If this troubleshooting information doesn’t help solve the issue and you’d like to have it repaired, please send it to us.  We repair all models of RainDial timers.

Here’s the instructions for clearing the Irritrol RD-600 series sprinkler controller “FUS error” or “FU5 error” if it doesn’t go away easily.  (It’s usually caused by a shorted solenoid, wiring, or voltage surge, or controller circuit problem…) (Incidentally, FUS stand for Fuse, if you see a 5, it’s really an S)

General overview: The information below can help isolate the problem to being an issue with a valve, but keep in mind that the fuse message is often due to a problem with the system that we can repair.  Definitely use the troubleshooting information below to help determine if a valve(s) seems to be the problem.  If it’s not, just send it in for repair; we’re happy to help.

  1. Try clearing the FUS message using the instructions below and see if it comes back. (Set the dial to the Current Time position, press the + or – button.)
  2. If it comes back, check the fuse if you have one — here’s a link on how.
  3. If the fuse is good, and the message comes back,
    1. the suspected “problem valve” number will show up in the top of the LCD screen when the FUS message is displayed.
    2. Try removing the wire for that valve number and run the schedule again.
      1. If you have multiple numbers appearing, remove the wire for each of them, clear the message, and run the schedule without the valves connected.
    3. If the FUS message does not return with the wires disconnected, it’s likely a solenoid or valve wiring problem.  Reconnect the valve wires one by one until you find out which one causes the error to appear; this is your suspected bad valve/solenoid.
      Once identified, try swapping around the bad valve wires to another terminal and see if the problem “follows” the valve wire.  This will help confirm which one is bad. (The valve number shown with the FUS error will follow where you put that valve’s wire), If it follows the valve, check wiring and/or replace the solenoid.

      1. Solenoids are usually easy to replace, just turn the water off, disconnect the wires, unscrew the solenoid and replace it.
      2. You can get them from your local landscape supply store (E.g, SprinklerWorld, or other, but probably not HomeDepot or Lowes).
      3. If you want to pickup the parts first, take a picture of the valve to the store with you.
    4. If the FUS message returns with the same valve number even if you moved the valve to a new location, it’s unlikely that you’d have two solenoids fail at the same time and it is likely a circuit problem with the controller that we frequently repair; you can contact us here.

TO CLEAR THE FUS OR FUS/5 MESSAGE:
Set the dial to the Current Time position, press the + or – button

For full controller reset:
Older models can be reset by removing the battery and power from the controller – this may reset programming. Always try this method first, then the full factory default reset sequence.  All the details can be found in this DIY page: Reset Instructions
Newer models can be completely reset by doing the following.  This may remove all your programs:
1. While the controller is power-up, disconnect the
“Ribbon Cable” from the socket on the terminal board.
2. Disconnect the 9 volt battery.
3. Set the “PROGRAM” switch to “B”
4. Set the “MODE” Switch to Set Program (Middle) position between “OFF & RUN”.
5. Hold down the “MANUAL” button while reconnecting the ribbon cable.
6. Reset Current Time.
Important note: If the message keeps coming back and doesn’t appear to be a valve/wiring problem, it’s an indication of another real problem that we repair frequently.  Just let us know if we can help, you can reach us by going to the contact page.  We usually respond the same or next day.