Melnor HydroLogic Four-Zone Electronic Water Timer (#73280): Product Review
The best solution I’ve found for running 4 separate drip irrigation zones from a single faucet.
Available on Amazon
The Four-Zone Digital Water Timer from Melnor promises to alleviate your watering woes by automatically running up to four zones on your irrigation system at the pre-set times you choose. It’s meant for drip irrigation systems running off an outdoor faucet, rather than in-ground systems with an electronic controller.
There’s also an optional moisture sensor that can turn off or delay watering up to 7 days based on soil moisture levels.
One of my biggest frustrations as a gardener in the arid Southwest desert has been finding an automated water timer to run the four irrigation zones set up in the back yard. Each zone drip irrigates different plants with very different moisture needs, so the zones need to turn on and off at different frequencies and for different lengths of time.
This is something an in-ground irrigation system can handle with relative ease. But if you’re working with a single faucet and above-ground drip irrigation, it’s a huge challenge.
So did Melnor’s four-zone timer get the job done? Let’s find out!
Out of the Box
Opening the package started with the usual struggle to open the typical clamshell packaging (why couldn’t they just put it in a cardboard box?!).
The instructions are fairly clear but there are a lot of steps, so take your time reading them and follow along in exactly the order shown.
Installing the Batteries
Before you start, you’ll need to insert 2 AA batteries (not included). Don’t use rechargeable batteries – they don’t fare well in outdoor situations.
Just pull the battery holder straight out from the back of the timer, insert the batteries, and push the holder back into the timer.
Although the instructions don’t mention this, be sure you have it lined up properly – the metal parts on the outside of the holder must line up with the contact points inside the opening. Be sure to push it all the way in; there’s a gasket around the holder that prevents moisture from seeping in when the holder is properly inserted into the timer.
Programming the Melnor Timer
You can program the timer after it’s set up in the garden, but it’s better to do it from the comfort of your couch – at least for the first time you do it.
The Melnor HydroLogic timer has four valves, and each valve can run four cycles. That’s more than enough for almost any situation, although it does make programming the timer a little more challenging. The instructions include a small planning table to help you lay out which zones and cycles go on when and for how long; I suggest you use it.
The timer has a large, easy-to-read LED screen that shows all of the relevant information, including remaining battery life. It’s even readable outdoors in bright sunlight.
Installing the Melnor HydroLogic Timer
Installing the timer is pretty simple – just attach it to the spigot. It comes with a washer inside the coupler that does a pretty good job of preventing leaks, although I chose to replace it with one of these rubber washers from Gilmour.
Next, attach your irrigation hoses to the four valves. Again, be sure you have a good washer inside each coupler to eliminate leaks.
I recommend attaching a cap to any valve that isn’t hooked up to irrigation. That way you won’t flood your yard in case the timer doesn’t work properly (or you program it incorrectly).
If your spigot wobbles or isn’t firmly attached, consider stabilizing it before attaching the timer. The Melnor digital timer is relatively bulky and a bit heavy to be hanging off a faucet that isn’t stable.
If Water Flows Even When the Timer is Off:
When I first turned on the HydroLogic timer, I ran into a problem – water flowed continuously from three of the four valves, even when the program and manual on/off switch were both clearly set to OFF. Despite my best efforts at troubleshooting, including removing and replacing the batteries, reprogramming the timer, and manually turning individual zones on and off, I couldn’t solve the problem.
I eventually learned from Melnor that the valves are held together magnetically. During transit/shipping, vibrations may cause some valves to open and stay open. The problem can usually be resolved by following the steps below:
- Turn the Program to OFF
- Scroll to Manual, set it for 2 minutes and turn it ON (wait to hear a click or for the number to stop flashing)
- After the timer has run for the designated length of time, it will close the valve and turn the water off
- Turn the Program back ON
After the program is turned back on, the water should not flow until the start of the next programmed cycle. I haven’t had any problems with the valves since going through this process.
Note: The instructions have been updated since I received the HydroLogic four-zone timer; there’s now a section that mentions possible valve problems and suggests that removing and replacing the batteries will fix the problem. If that doesn’t work, use the Manual feature to open and close the valve three times. I can’t tell you if that really works (I know that removing and replacing the batteries didn’t work for me), but the four steps outlined in the list above definitely did the trick.
Slow Customer Service
When trying to fix the problem, I couldn’t find any information online that addressed this particular issue so I tried to contact the company directly. The Melnor website isn’t very user-friendly and the only way to contact them is by using an email form. When I hit “Submit” the screen went white – no confirmation on the screen, no confirmation email, nothing. I wasn’t sure if the message had actually been sent so I tried it again. Still no sign that it had gone through.
A week later I got an email from the company with a solution to the problem (see above). The solution worked but in the meantime I’d ordered a second timer, assuming that the first one was defective. Melnor’s customer service team really needs to step up their game, especially in this day and age when quick response times are expected.
The Melnor HydroLogic four-zone timer has a 7-year limited warranty. Warranty claims can be made online through the Melnor website.
This is the best solution I’ve found for running four zones of above-ground or drip irrigation from a single faucet (and I’ve tried a LOT of different options). Once the timer is working properly, it works reliably – mine has been running for a year with no problems. It’s relatively simple to set up, the large LED screen is easy to read and the programming doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out.
Editor’s Note: Some people have reported problems with the valves being stuck in the open position when they first turn on the timer. This problem is easily resolved (the simple instructions are listed above) and does not recur once corrected. Don’t let the poor reviews on some websites scare you off – this is an excellent product.
Where to Buy
The Melnor HydroLogic Four-Zone Timer can be purchased online for under $50. You may also be able to find it in some garden centers and hardware stores but call ahead for availability.
Last update on 2019-04-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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