Hunter X-Core Handling of Power Out

21 Mar 2016 | blog | perthgardens

We have noticed numerous problems with the Hunter X-Core due the way it handles power outages.

Most reticulation controllers have a battery backup which allows them to retain their watering program if mains power is cut to the device. And most will then revert to their saved watering program (or at least a default program) when power is restored.

This is a safe way of handling a power out situation. As long as the irrigation timer has enough battery power to retain it's stored programs it should be able to continue the existing program from where it left off as soon as mains power is restored.

The Hunter X-Core actually has an advantage over many other controllers when it comes to battery power and program retention. It uses a type of memory called Non-Volatile memory. Essentially the controller stores its data (the watering schedule) in a way that doesn't require power, so essentially it can restore from a very long power-off state (years) with its watering program intact.

However, this is where the design flaw comes in and it's simply caused by a decision Hunter have made with the way the X-Core system restores after a power outage. When power is restored after a power off state lasting more than a few minutes the display goes to a flashing state and the watering schedule is suspended until a button, any button, is pressed on the controller.

The implications of this decision by Hunter are significant. In a nutshell it means you have to babysit the system and check it to make sure it's not in a program paused waiting for input state. This is the opposite to what most people would want from an irrigation system set and forget.

We can't see many advantages to the way Hunter has programmed the X-Core's handling of a power outage but there are certainly many disadvantages.

Here's a few scenarios that we have personally come across just in the last month or so:

  • A tenant in a rental property had a power outage due to power line repairs.
    The reticulation system stopped watering the garden. The tenant has little interest in the garden, and besides he assumes it is being taken care of automatically so he doesn't notice the garden is suffering. In fact no one notices until half the garden is dead and the property has its quarterly inspection. One of our irrigation technicians is called out only to find that the problem is simply that the power was interrupted putting the Hunter X-Core into a suspended state.
  • Tradesman performing work on an unoccupied house disconnects the Hunter reticulation timer in order to use his drill for an hour.
    Although he plugs the controller back in when he is finished, the X-Core goes into a suspended waiting for input state. In other words *the garden stops getting watered until someone notices a problem*. Too late.

So what does Perth Gardens recommend?

  • For various reasons we still like and continue to install Hunter X-Core controllers. For now at least, it continues to be our irrigation timer of choice for domestic installations. But we *are* taking a fresh look at the alternatives because we consider the above issue to be a significant flaw.
  • If you have a Hunter X-Core controller you should be aware of this issue and
    a) check your controller after any known power outages.
    b) Check it anyway every week or two during the hottest months (we're only talking about a 10 second visual check of the display, if it's flashing you simply press any button to return it to normal functioning)
    c) Keep an eye on your garden and notice whether it is getting watered or not. Perhaps pick a spot where it is easy to see signs of watering or evidence of a lack of water. Is the soil wet or not? If it isn't then you need to check further.
  • If your controller is more than a few years old you *might* consider replacing it.
  • The technical team at Perth Gardens are working on an add-on module that will, at the least alert you that an extended power outtage has occurred causing a reboot. Or possibly even override the suspended state and allow for automatic continuation of watering.

Contact us if you're interested in such a device.

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