Sprinkler Watering System Timer




Introduction: Sprinkler Watering System Timer

This is essentially fancy timer(s) with a manual override, intended to run an 8 zone reticulated watering system, programmable via a web interface.

Step 1: Ingrediants

I live in Bunbury, Western Australia, your parts suppliers may differ.

A > 1 Amp, 5 V Power Supply for Raspberry Pi, & USB cable to suit.

I used a Raspberry Pi, Model 2 B, but it is overkill for what is needed.

Micro SD card with Raspberrian on it.

40 pin cable to go from Pi to prototyping board.

40 pin socket to mount on prototyping board for cable to Pi. Search eBay for “2.54mm Pitch 40P Double Rows Straight IDC Pin Headers"

Prototyping board. Search Ebay for “DIY Prototype Paper PCB Universal Experiment Matrix Circuit Board 5x7cm”

Do not go smaller than 5cm x 7cm, the 40 pin header takes almost all of the 7cm length.

3.3 Vdc to 5Vdc Logic level converter x 2 or 3...Search Ebay for “4-Channels Logic Level Converter Bi-Directional Shifter Module 3.3V-5V”

Jumper cable from prototyping board to relay board.. Search eBay for “Female to Male 20cm 2.54mm 1P-1P Jumper Wire Cable for Arduino”

8 Channel 5v Relay board. Search eBay for “5V Relay Module Board”

Possibly a Tempreture and humidity sensor, and 3 Poles/3 Pin 2.54mm/0.1" PCB Universal Screw Terminal Block Connector to connect a rain sensor.

Possibly a Rain sensor of some sort.

Terminal strip to connect field wiring to. Search eBay for “Terminal Block”

24Vac Transformer. I got mine from Jaycar.

Inline fuse holder + 1 Amp fuse from Jaycar.

Double power point + mounting block from Bunnings.

El Cheapo toolbox from Bunnings. Mine cost $22, cheaper than a flat bit of sheetmetal.

If you want to get flash, buy a sheet of flat sheetmetal, and use it as a gear plate to avoid a lot of holes in the bottom of the tool box.

20mm gland to hold power cord flex.

Power cord flex and plug. Avoid anything marked “Infinaty”, they just had a massive cable recall.

A short bit of earth wire and utilux 5mm washer type lug to earth both the toolbox and the transformer.

40mm male & female bush, or a 40mm conduit fitting, so that incoming cables do not touch and rub on the edge of the hole in the tool box.

Depending on your home network setup, a 5 port ethernet hub, and eithernet cable, and a bracket to hold it in the toolbox.

M5 Screws, nuts and washers to hold down the transformer, the power point mounting block.

M2 or M3 Screws nuts and washers to hold down the Pi, the prototype board and the relay board.

A little bit of small retic hose to space the boards off the bottom of the tool box, or possibly some stand off spacers.

Cable to run from controller to soliniods.

Single entry 20mm conduit J box, from Bunnings, one at each solenoid cluster, to connect the solenoids to the wire.

Connectors, or “Blue points” or terminal strip, to join the soliniods to the cable.

6mm spriral wrap, from an automotive shop, to keep the soliniod cables together.

Soliniods themselves. Search ebay for “Irritrol 205MT Flow Control Solenoid Valve”

You can work out your own plumbing and what you might need.

Step 2: Setting Up the Raspberry Pi

Unfortunately the file upload system on this site is broken at the moment, I will add the rest of the files when I can.

In the short term I have placed them at this link..


You might need to install “openssh-client” on your main computer, or something similar so that you can talk to the Pi.

I used the default Raspian Linux distribution, but I would think the differences to any other Linux distribution would be minimal.

Configure Pi to have a static network address. These instructions seem to be as good as any..


I used, but this is very flexible and depends on your home network setup.

Cycle power to the pi to make sure the pi boots up to the right IP address.

Put all the included files into one directory on your main computer, then using a terminal, ( I am running KDE within Kubuntu, and used Konsole), change to the directory, where you unpacked the files, then check you are in the right directory by typing ...

$ ls -l                       ( lower case L )

This should give you a list of files to be transferred to the pi. Then type..

$ scp *.* pi@

The default password is “raspberry”

This will copy all the files in the currant directory to the pi's web publishing directory.

Preferably in a new tab, ( File->New Tab ) type in..

$ ssh pi@

This should give you a shell prompt from your pi.

Change to the web publishing directory..

$ cd /var/www/html

Then type

$ ls -l

again to make sure the files are in the right place.

You will need to make all the python scripts executable...

$ chmod +x *.py

If this does not work you can either try..

$ sudo chmod +x *.py

or drop back one directory

$ cd ..

And change permissions on the “html” directory

$ sudo chmod 777 html

This second option is not recommended if the pi will be accessible from the Internet.

Update the list of available software...

$ sudo apt-get update

And we may as well do an upgrade while we are at it..

$ sudo apt-get upgrade

Install a web server and support files...

Apache is not the only choice, and is a bit bigger and possibly slower than other options, but it is very mature and has lots of support and options.

The Sqlite3 database is simple and straightforward, just what I want.

$ sudo apt-get install apache2
$ sudo apt-get install php5
$ sudo apt-get install sqlite3
$ sudo apt-get install python
$ sudo apt-get install python-pysqlite2

I am not sure if all of these are all needed, but this is what I used.

$ sudo apt-get install php5-sqlite
$ sudo apt-get install php-db
$ sudo apt-get install php-gettext
$ sudo apt-get install wwwconfig-common

You might also like to install adminer

I did not get it to work for me, but did not try very hard.

$ sudo apt-get install adminer

Follow these instructions to install the wiring pi library.


You should already be at the html directory, if not, change directories..

$ cd /var/www/html

We also need to setup the database. Only type in text after the $ prompt.

pi@retic:/var/www/html$ sqlite3 default.db

Now we need to create a database table to hold the turning on times...

sqlite> CREATE TABLE table_time (

seconds INT

And possibly add an entry or two...

sqlite> INSERT INTO table_time (zone, day, hour, min, seconds) VALUES(1,0,6,1,6);

INSERT INTO table_time (zone, day, hour, min, seconds) VALUES (2, 0, 6, 2, 12);
select * from table_time;

And a second table to keep track of monthly time adjustments...

sqlite> CREATE TABLE table_month (
percent SMALLINT

and prefill it with data...

sqlite> INSERT INTO table_month (month, percent) VALUES (1, 130);
INSERT INTO table_month (month, percent) VALUES (2, 120);
INSERT INTO table_month (month, percent) VALUES (3, 110);
INSERT INTO table_month (month, percent) VALUES (4, 100);
INSERT INTO table_month (month, percent) VALUES (5, 90);
INSERT INTO table_month (month, percent) VALUES (6, 80);
INSERT INTO table_month (month, percent) VALUES (7, 70);
INSERT INTO table_month (month, percent) VALUES (8, 80);
INSERT INTO table_month (month, percent) VALUES (9, 90);
INSERT INTO table_month (month, percent) VALUES (10, 100);
INSERT INTO table_month (month, percent) VALUES (11, 110);
INSERT INTO table_month (month, percent) VALUES (12, 120);
select * from table_month;

You can inspect the tables if you like..

sqlite> .tables  
sqlite> .fullschema

shows the table structure.

If you think you stuffed up for any reason you can always drop a table and start again..

sqlite> drop table table_time;

and to quit from sqlite type...

sqlite> .quit

To run “/var/www/html/water.py” on startup I created “666start.sh” which needs to go in “/etc/init.d/”

To make it executable...

$ sudo chmod +x *.sh

Then move it...

$ sudo mv 666start.sh /etc/init.d/

Ideally it would be started last, but I do not know how to change the order and it seems to work as it is anyway.

At this point in time you should be able to point a browser, on a computer connected to the local network, at your pi's IP address and see a bunch of buttons ready to turn the outputs on and off.

If you click on the “Auto” button you should be able to change the times each zone turns on and runs for. or just

You need to remove the original “index.html” file in /var/www/html for this to work.

pi@retic:/var/www/html $ rm index.html

Hopefully the system time is the same as your local time, if not you may need to change the Pi time zone. This can be done via raspi-config as shown on this web page...


Step 3: Build the Interface Board.

Next we need to interface a 40 pin header from the Pi to a 10 pin relay board, and change the 3.3v signal from the Pi to the 5v that the relay board needs.

The quality of the prototype PCB I used is not that great, the plating is only on one side of the board, but it is good enough. Do not go smaller than 5cm x 7cm, the 40 pin header takes almost all of the 7cm length.

The pinout of the Pi header can be found in a few places including here...


And the pinouts of the relay board and interface voltage adapters can be found on the overlays..

Run links between the 40 pin header and the voltage adapters and the relay pin pin interface point.

I used a couple of jumpers for the longer runs, but mostly I used a single stand of copper wire stripped from the same cable running to the solenoids. You might be able to avoid jumper cables if you had double sided board.

I cut a 20cm female to female rainbow ribbon cable in half, and soldered one end to the interface board, but in hindsight it may have been better to use male to female ribbon cable, and solder the male end to the interface board. 10cm is ample.

I only used one side of the 40 pin header, which is why all my pin numbers are even.

In hindsight a bigger interface board would have been better, with provision for a rain sensor input and / or an IC2 temperature / humidity sensor.

By pure luck I needed 8 zones, which worked in nicely with the relay board and the voltage interface, but it should be easy to increase or decrease this number.

Step 4: 24Vac Soliniods

The 24vAC side of the controller should be simple enough, my setup included 3 banks of solenoids, so even using 2 wires as the return I still only needed 6 neutral terminals.

Step 5: Other Notes.

The manual web control is independent from the timers, except that there is a watchdog timer in water.py that turns the water off after 60 minutes. Just in case you forget to turn it off.

You can toggle a pin directly by pointing your browser at gpio.php?pin=12 , and it will return a list of what pins are on.

The database stores seconds run time, but the web interface shows time in minutes.

The included programs spend 99% ish of their time asleep, with a new thread being started each time the water.py program starts a new timer, so you can have one or all of them on at the same time, and still count the correct seconds.

With no outputs on, my Pi draws 0.2 amps @ 5 volts, but with all 8 relays on it draws 0.83 amps @ 5 v.

I could not find a reference to the maximum currant the Pi can draw, but as my water pressure tends to dip when a solenoid comes on I only have one solenoid on at a time anyway.

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    17 Discussions


    4 years ago

    What do you call the fixed plumbing to water plants ?
    The sprays come on for a few minutes each day, and keep your plants watered ?


    Reply 3 months ago

    Irrigation is the common term for watering potted plants with drip hoses. Sprinkler systems are the ones that commonly get people wet when they walk on your lawn - with the proper sensor. ;)


    Reply 3 months ago

    Irrigation is also when fields are flooded for cropping. Different names are used in different areas I guess. I have added Irrigation to the key words list.


    4 years ago

    sir,in my project of smart sprinkler ,the sprinkler should automatically get on for a set duration(for ex- if i set the timer on for 5-6 am everyday the sprinkler should get on automatically on the assigned days.)So, can it be done using this project or i have to separetely use a RTC(real time clock module for arduino.)??


    Reply 1 year ago

    The Raspberry keeps reasonable time by itself, if it has an Internet connection it is even better as it can update itself from a time server. I am not using a RTC and with no internet it does drift, but everthing still works.


    Question 1 year ago

    Hello, i like your project. But time.php on your site is not working, is there any posibillity to make it work or post it here? Thanks in advance


    Reply 1 year ago

    It works for me.
    What display or message do you get ?


    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank You very much for the files. Now i can test my board. Thank You for your help. Best regards


    4 years ago

    Yes, this project can put the water on for a set duration at the same time every day. It also has the option of putting the water on on even or odd numbered days, but you may need to tweak it if you want something different.

    It uses a Raspberry Pi , not an Arduino, and I do not think it has a real time clock. The Raspberry Pi keeps good time without a real time clock. I think it gets the time and day from the Internet when it starts up.


    4 years ago

    A sprinkler to me is just the part that spreads the water out, or "sprinkles" the water.
    The sprinkler, the plumbing and the timers collectively could be called a sprinkler system I guess.
    I think I can rename it if you think it is confusing...


    4 years ago

    Having trouble with the word "Retic". Googling it seems to mostly lead to pythons, is there a special meaning down under?


    Reply 4 years ago

    Sorry, Retic is just abbreviated Reticulated, and I thought more common than using the whole word. I will update it.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Actually I figured that out but have the same problem with "Reticulated"


    Reply 4 years ago

    Commonly called sprinklers....

    Tom Hargrave
    Tom Hargrave

    4 years ago

    Great project! I have a few PIs sitting around and probably need to build one.