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Update: check out our new standalone OpenSprinkler Bee (OSBee) 2.0 with built-in WiFi and OLED display.

Two months ago, I wrote a blog post about the preview of OpenSprinkler Bee, which is an open-source arduino-based controller for battery-operated sprinkler valves. While that’s still in the development stage, today I am glad to announce that an Arduino shield version of OpenSprinkler Bee is completed and immediately available for purchase at the Rayshobby Shop.

Update: check out our new standalone OpenSprinkler Bee (OSBee) 2.0 with built-in WiFi and OLED display.


So what is this Arduino shield version, and how is this different from other OpenSprinkler prodcuts that we carry? Well, an Arduino shield is a circuit board that you plug into an existing Arduino — it does not have a microcontroller chip itself, but contains additional circuitry that extends the basic functionality of an Arduino. So to use the shield, you will need to provide an existing Arduino board.

How is the OpenSprinkler Bee (OSBee) different from the other OpenSprinkler products? The main difference is that OSBee is designed to work with battery-operated sprinkler valves. These valves internally use a latching solenoid, which only draws power when you open or close the valve, and does not draw power if it remains in the same state. So it’s very efficient and suitable for battery-operated controllers. The other OpenSprinkler products, such as OpenSprinkler 2.1s, DIY 2.1u, OSPi 1.4, OSBo 1.0, are all designed for 24V AC sprinkler valves, which operate on 24V AC and require a power adapter / transformer.

While OSBee shield itself does not have built-in wireless modules, you can stack it with other Arduino shields, such as RF, WiFi, Ethernet shields, to provide web connectivity. The OSBee Arduino library has one example of using the Arduino Ethernet shield with OSBee shield to create a web interface for sprinkler control.

Is there any easy way to tell latching solenoid valves from 24V AC valves? Yes. Latching solenoid valves usually come with a special plug, and the two wires are usually colored differently because the solenoid has polarity. 24V AC valves usually come with just two wires colored in the same way (because AC voltage has no polarity). Here are some examples of latching solenoid valves. Note the special plugs and/or different wire colors.


For valves that come with stripped wires, simply attach them to the screw terminal blocks on OSBee shield. For valves with special plugs, you can cut and strip two pieces of wire (20 to 24 AWG): insert one end of the wire to the plug, and the other end to the screw terminal block.


How to open or close the latching solenoid valve? Electrically, latching solenoid valves have quite low coil resistance (a few ohms). To open the valve, you apply a momentary positive voltage on the coil. The specific voltage depends on the valve specification, but it typically varies between 9V to 22V. To close the valve, just reverse the voltage polarity. The important thing to keep in mind is that the voltage is applied as a pulse — usually 25 to 100 milliseconds. Because the coil resistance is so low, the instantaneous current is very high, up to a few amps. So you can’t apply the voltage continuously (or it will smoke the coil or the power supply!) In addition, it’s better to first build up the voltage into a capacitor, and then dump the charge to the valve from the capaictor.

How to generate such a high voltage from Arduino’s 5V or 3.3V pin? It’s by using a neat circuitry called ‘boost converter‘. The Wikipedia has plenty of information about how it works, but the basic principle is to use a MOSFET switch, an inductor, a diode, and a PWM signal to build up the charge into a capacitor. This way you can generate a high voltage from a low-voltage source such as AA batteries.

How to apply a voltage in both polarities? This is by using another neat circuitry called ‘H-Bridge‘. The H-Bridge is made of four MOSFET switches. By closing the pair of switches in each diagonal direction, you can apply voltage in either positive or negative polarity. Because you also need a state where no voltage is applied on the solenoid, that’s three states in total and hence two microcontroller pins are required to produce three states. Wait, why not directly use two microcontroller pins to apply the voltage? Well, microcontroller pins can neither handle high voltage nor provide high current, so you need MOSFETs to help switch high voltage and high current using only logic signals from the microcontroller.

With all the technical concepts explained, here is the diagram of the various components on the OSBee Sheild:

The shield can switch 4 independent valves / zones. The boosting voltage is software adjustable — anywhere from 9V to 24V. An Arduino library with three demo programs are provided in the OSBee Github repository. For details, please refer to:

OSBee Shield v1.0 is now available for purchase at the Rayshobby Shop. Thanks!