Technique for blowing out irrigation system with small compressor


Just wanted to describe a circuit I built to automate blowing out a multi-zone irrigation system using a small home compressor. But first let me give some background.
For the past 5 years, I have successfully blown out my irrigation system each fall using a 10 gallon compressor that I bought for $99 from Home Depot (and that therefore paid for itself the first year that I didn't need to hire a service).
Until this year, I have used the following painstaking manual process. Specifically, for each of the nine zones on my system, I have let the compressor fill & empty about 6 times waiting about 4 minutes between attempts so as to keep the duty cycle down and prevent the compressor from overheating (I also aim a small fan at the compressor fins to further aid cooling). The multiple times per zone is required since 10 gallons of air is not sufficient to blow out all the tubing. The visible water is blown out within the first 2-3 cycles and I add another 3 cycles or so just to be sure and to get out the last drops that show up as a light mist. This painstaking process, however, requires me running back and forth to my garage about 54 times and wastes the better part of a day. Last year, I was able to save some time by "cleverly" programming and rewiring my controller so that every other zone was disconnected, allowing the compressor to recharge on the intervening disconnected zones - this reduced my manual interventions to about 12 trips to the garage.
This year, I built a simple circuit based around a 555 timer and a relay that runs off the 28VAC transformer (using a bridge rectifier, regulator and capacitors to reduce and convert the voltage to 12VDC). The timer turns the relay on for 1 minute and then off for 4 minutes (though both times are adjustable with a pair of potentiometers). Two leads connect to the VAC and the other two leads go across the rain sensor terminals (with the rain sensor temporarily disconnected). Then I can automatically blow out the whole system by setting my irrigation controller to run sequentially through all nine zones with 30 minutes or so per zone (which gets me 6 cycles per zone).
If anybody is interested in the schematic, I would be happy to share it along with photos of the completed project. Note I also added two LED's (red & green) to show the relay state, an off/switch, and a nice box to package it all up.
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That's clever. One thought: Change that to red and blue LED. As one of the 8% of men who have red green color vision problems, we'll all thank you.
My Makita charger, I couldn't tell the difference. I finally took the ## thing apart, and put electric tape over one of the LED, now it's either on or off. No more squinting, and trying to tell if that's red or green.
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Very creative solution. I've been doing mine with an old Sears compressor, maybe 15 gallon size. So, I know exactly the issues you are having. Mine isn't too bad, only 7 zones with 3 heads a zone. Controller is in the garage and blow out connection is outside the garage, maybe a 40ft walk.
Last year, I helped a friend do his using my compressor and the problems were even worse. More zones, more heads per zone and the controller is in the basement. One thing I like about your solution is you can set it up so it takes it's time and the compressor gets to rest. Without being able to automate it, I would not do his again. It was far too taxing on both me and the compressor.
If its easy for you to send the schematics I'd appreciate them. I might decide to build it.
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