What is the Rain Bird IC?

Turfhugger.com is all about finding answers to environmental concerns facing the golf industry. With water availability, and therefore water conservation, being a hot topic we knew we should contact the Eastern Canada Rain Bird representative Serge Gauthier to learn more of their new Integrated Control system and how it can help superintendents have more control on how they manage this precious resource.

Darryl James - So, I hear there is a new product on the market from Rain Bird, can you tell us a little more about it?

Serge Gauthier - The IC system is a new control system that is unlike any other out there. IC stands for Integrated Control. Everybody is familiar with Satellite based controllers and most know about Decoders as well. However, few people realize that Satellite technology is over 30 years old and that Rain Bird has been in the Decoders business for over 20 years. Both these technologies have been around for a long time and it was difficult to bring either of them to a higher level. With today’s demands on higher efficiency controls and lower costs, Rain Bird had to step up and create a new control system that could achieve both. The IC system is a fully integrated control system at every rotor or valve on the course. There are no more Satellites nor Decoders on the whole golf course. The central control ”talks” directly to each rotor or valve out there.

Darryl James - How many golf courses has this new IC system been installed in?

Serge Gauthier - Currently, 5 golf courses have had the system in the ground. 4 in the US and 1 in England. All these systems have been in the ground for more than a year, some of them even for over three years now.

Darryl James - What are the core benefits that a new IC system provides?

Serge Gauthier -
1. Affordable. This system uses up to 90% less wire in the ground than conventional control systems. Since we no longer require station wires (satellite) and secondary wires (decoders), the installation is extremely simple and efficient. A single 14/2 Maxi Wire can control a full 18 hole golf course. When you look at a project using conventional satellite system, the overall cost of wire can easily reach 30% of the whole project. With the IC System, this number is reduced quite significantly. The IC System is the most affordable “Single Head Control” system available on the market. We recently had the opportunity to do a comparison for a project with 1,400 rotors. The total amount of wire needed for a satellite based system was 382,067 linear meters (1,253,500 linear feet) of wire, including control, communication and power. This is more than 380 km of wire !!! The weight of all this wire was over 10 metric tons (22,192 pounds)… The same system when using the IC System came to only 32,000 linear meters (105,000 linear feet) and the total weight was less than 1,2 metric tons (2,625 pounds).

2. Intelligent. The IC System allows the user to easily troubleshoot the complete system directly from the central control. Contrary to a satellite system, you can find damaged or broken wires, even bad splices directly from your office easily. Compared to Decoder systems, the IC System is more forgiving when faced with poor splices and damaged wires.

3. Easy expansion. Since we have a wire connecting each and every rotor on the property, where there is a pipe, there is a control wire. If you need to add a rotor, it becomes easy to splice into the existing wire and extend the piping network. The capacity of the system is unmatched, As an example, a 14/2 wire can control up to 750- valve-in-head rotors!

4. Simplicity. When you think about it, especially on satellite systems, there are a lot of components that can stop functioning and render you system inoperable. With the IC System, there is a significant reduction in the number of components needed for the control of your rotors. Actually, you can count them on one hand. Even the Design part is simple. Anybody can design a complete system in just a few hours.

5. Reliability. As mentioned above, there are a lot less components on a IC System. Simplicity results in reliability. As an example, when compared to Decoder systems, the IC has up to 50% less wire splices, and all the splices are directly at the rotor.

Darryl James - Is the cost of a new IC system comparable to your other products?

Serge Gauthier - Cost comparison is difficult to talk about without an actual plan. Every golf course is different. However, with the IC System, every golf course out there can now afford single head control. The reason why most courses do not have single head control is the cost in wire and the cost to install that extra wire. On a satellite system, you need to run a new wire all the way back to the satellite for every rotor you are trying to control. With the IC System, the wire will most likely run all the way from tee to green on a single whole. So, there is no cost difference in wire (or very little) to control 10 or to control 15 stations in that fairway.

Darryl James - Since Turfhugger.com is about environmental stewardship, how will the IC system help Superintendent’s use water and/or any other resources more effectively?

Serge Gauthier - Water savings is the single most important challenge that superintendents will have to face in the next decade. The arrival of computerized centrals 33 years ago has been the biggest contributor to water savings in the late 20th century. New nozzle design and construction technologies have added to this with higher efficiencies and improved DUs and CUs. However, most courses are still running 2, 3, even 4 rotors with each station because of the cost associated with single head control. With this configuration, there is no possibility to adjust run times individually if these grouped rotors are on different slope, type of soil, etc.

As an example, a typical fairway rotor will use approximately 164 litres per minute. So if the terrain conditions would require you to reduce the run time by 4 minutes per cycle on one of these two rotors, this would represent a saving of over 3,200 litres per 5 cycles (1 week)! Since the IC is the most affordable single head control system on the market, this will allow even limited budget golf courses to have access to single head control and give them the ability to increase their watering efficiency.

On another environmental path than water saving, “carbon footprint” calculations are becoming quite popular to assess the “environmental friendliness” of products. This calculation is based on the amount of carbon dioxide produced when manufacturing certain products. Copper wire is one of the products where carbon footprint studies have been done. When comparing the total weight of wire needed on a satellite system versus the IC System (using the 1,400 rotor project mentioned above), the reduction in CO2 production making that wire is over 86% !!!

More info on the Rain Bird IC go here, here or here.


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We mistakenly posted: "As an example, a 14/2 wire can control up to 75- valve-in-head rotor!"

The post should read: "As an example, a 14/2 wire can control up to 750- valve-in-head rotors!"

Valves vary from the extremely basic to the extraordinarily complex, and they are one of the oldest mechanical designs. Thanks for sharing great information, Hope to hear more updates from you ...

We are currently installing 36 hole with the IC system at St Andrews Golf & Country Club in West Chicago, IL. I should have a lot more feed back on the system once it's operational next spring.

Are there Rain Bird IC users out there who would like to provide feed back? The good and the bad...

Great Q Dave, I've got a few leads to answer for you. We'll probably have a follow up post soon. Thanks for your comment.

We are considering the ic as well

Michael Osley,CGCS in Aurora Colorado. We were one of the beta test site for this product. We have a hybrid irrigation system. We have approx. 1000 FD 101 Rain Bird Decoders and 468 IC. The IC's have been working great and we really like the diagnostic capabilities of the ICs. The only issue with the IC that we have experienced in the three years they have been in the ground here is that when you have to change one out in the field the head will turn on if the system is pressurized. We get around this issue by removing the interal and installing a hose donut. The IC system is a great system.