Take control with remote technology

Remote controls. They've revolutionized the way we do things. You want to change the channel on television? Point and click. Open your garage door? Mute your stereo? Point and click. Why waste time walking back and forth, when you can point and click?

The convenience remote controls offer is obvious: They save time, they save effort and, in the case of remote controls for irrigation systems, they even save money.

"When you save time in your business, you are also saving money," says Alex Meaney, regional sales manager for Remote Control Technology. "By using a remote control, a site manager can easily turn a two-person job into a solo job because the remote eliminates the need for one person to run from controller to controller while another checks the system."

Jeff Carowitz, marketing manager for Hunter Industries, says using remote controls can ease virtually every aspect of irrigation jobs for people in the turf-care industry.

"It will reduce your trips to the controller no matter what you're doing," he says. "Whether you're winterizing your system, repairing it or simply checking it."

Many different remote controls are available and are specialized to fit the needs of various systems. Some are geared toward larger, more complex systems like the ones used for golf courses; others are suited for simpler, residential systems.

"Anyone who has an irrigation system-from homeowners to landscape contractors to golf superintendents-can have a remote control to fit their system. There are remotes to meet every customer's needs," says Meaney.

Maintenance remotes Remotes used to check your irrigation system and turn on and off water at the site are maintenance remote controls. They are divided into two types: proprietary and universal.

* Proprietary class. Remotes in this category are "proprietary" to one manufacturer and will not work with controllers made by other manufacturers. For example, if you have a Toro irrigation system and choose a proprietary remote, you will get a remote made specifically for a Toro irrigation system, and not compatible with any other brand.

Within this class, you can choose remotes that can communicate short distances or are powerful enough to span long distances with a stronger frequency.

"Many landscape contractors prefer to use proprietary remotes because they can be purchased as an upgrade for an existing system, and because they are designed to be connected and left on site, so the contractor does not have to carry them around with him," says Carowitz.

Another reason proprietary controls are popular is their price. "They're less expensive because they're relative to individual systems," adds Carowitz. "Because they are designed to work with a specific system, they require less circuitry, and that is reflected in the price."

* Universal class. Universal remotes for irrigation systems are like universal remotes for televisions. One remote can control a system made by any manufacturer. It has the capability to connect to any and all irrigation controllers that are equipped to work with remotes.

Meaney recommends this type of controller for institutional site managers or even landscape contractors who have many properties to care for.

"They would want more of a universal system because that would allow them to go from site to site, where they have a mix of controllers at each site, with only one remote control," he says.

Although universal remotes are more expensive than proprietary ones, they save you from having to purchase a remote for each brand of irrigation controller. Thus, they actually cost you less if you have a number of sites to care for that have varying irrigation systems.

The choice is yours Deciding that a remote control will add convenience to your irrigation system is the easy part. Choosing what type of remote will work best, and is most economical, for you will require you to do some homework.

One thing to keep in mind when choosing a remote is the distance you need it to communicate. If you choose a remote that can communicate at a great distance, more than 1 to 2 miles, you may be required to obtain a license for the remote from the Federal Communications Commission. If your site is situated near an airport, where transmission might interfere with its communications, this licensing can be denied.

Also remember that this is not new technology. Remotes have been around awhile and have evolved to better meet your needs.

"Remotes provide secure and reliable communications. It's important for site managers and contractors to understand that remote controls for irrigation work a lot better than the ones for the garage," says Miguel Lackenbacher, product manager for Rain Bird. "They are easy to use, easy to install and very versatile. They are also practical-you can do everything from the palm of your hand."

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