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Toro ECx Automatic Sprinkler System Timer

For a relatively inexpensive piece of gear, the Toro ECx has a lot to offer. These are the six areas we feel are important to understand for any piece of equipment:

Product Evaluation Criteria:  Six categories (the Essentials)

  1. Easy to install and setup?
  2. Perform the core function?
  3. Easy to use (flexible as well)?
  4. Is it dependable (durable, rugged)?
  5. Easy to sustain (availability of parts, and ease of repair)?  And, what is the carbon footprint (where is it manufactured, processes used, end of life cycle—recycle method?
  6. Best & most appropriate use of this product

Is it easy to install and set up?

Yes, the big well-labeled component and installation drawings are helpful.

Does it perform the core functions?

This controller has a good range of features both from the perspective of its capability to add stations, and from the different ways available to manage water use. With three programs, four start times, calendar and interval scheduling, “seasonal run time adjust”, a rain delay feature, and rain sensor capability – this is a very capable controller.  Like most solid-state equipment, once properly programmed, the unit is very accurate with its’ tasks.

Is it easy to use?

Most of the programming is pretty straightforward.  However, some of the commands are not intuitive, which means you need to read the owner’s manual.*   For example: for manual operation, there is no instruction for operating just one station, you have to activate a program, and then “skip” through to the station (zone) you may want.   If you want to “pause” or “cancel” for a function started manually or automatically, you have to press the “+/on” and “-/off” buttons at the same time.  Huh? How would I know that if the manual were not right there?

* With this model, it is difficult to even find out that a (replacement) PDF of the owners’ manual is not available.  Once I was well into the Toro website, I discovered that Safari is not supported, and then, using Firefox got to a hotlink to a new version of ECx, only to be redirected to www.ecxtra.com, where there is an error screen that says “Firefox can't establish a connection to the server at www.ecxtra.com”.  Very frustrating for the customer.

Kudos to Toro for a simple, effective water conservation feature -- the “rain delay”.  This easy to use and understand feature is a winner!

Is it dependable? 

I believe this unit is dependable.  There is nothing in my experience with it that suggests otherwise.  If any reader has experience (good or bad) with this unit – please email!  One caveat, this unit was not tested where there is significant lighting activity, so those of you that have that experience – what is your feedback?

Is it easy to sustain? 

This controller falls under that unspoken agreement that we have with makers of equipment that is strictly “entry level”, that once broken – toss it.  There is no “repairing” something this inexpensive to begin with.  
Carbon footprint -- ____tbd_______?  Where manufactured? What do we do with it when it is done?   This part of the review is in-progress, update to follow.

The best and most appropriate use for this product: 

This unit is aimed directly at the small-scale residential market.  This is where it belongs.

Reviewers’ Opinion on Statements in the Owners Manual

This may seem picky, but to call the unit an “automatic sprinkler system timer” is where the problems all start.   This unit is a controller; it has far more capability than a simple timer.  A controller has the potential to be a water conservation device, and I recommend that the folks at Toro think of it that way as well.  For example: although the front page of the manual lists the feature of four start times per day, no where in the manual does it clearly instruct the end user about the benefit that the multi-starts represent.  Would it be so difficult to simply state that dividing the run time into shorter applications to prevent run-off is highly beneficial?   With some additional effort, the technical writers could have made the Operating Manual far more useful and informative.

In the “season adjust” feature, there is a maximum of 200% adjustment available.  Anything beyond 100% is automatically and arbitrarily split into two run times, with an unknown soak time.  This is an example of good intentions, not being enough.  If a little bit of explanation is not enough, a teensy bit more explanation, is still not enough.  Spell it out so that the end user might actually benefit from what this controller can do!

Also, the manual proclaims the default program of 10 minutes per station, once per day, as a viable operating mode for those that “do not want to program…” (Page 14).  This is misleading, and does the product and the entire green industry a disservice.  There are instances (clay soil and moderate to steep slopes) where 10 minutes may be far too much water to apply at one time.

Delivery Systems Articles ? Product Reviews Articles ? Posted on 02/22/2009 ? Permalink

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