Like technological advances in so many areas, sprinkler system controllers have come a long way. In earlier years, controllers were basically timers used to turn the system on and off at predetermined intervals. These controllers certainly had some benefits, but they also had some limitations. Older controllers will turn the system on and off without factoring in weather conditions which could result in underwatering, overwatering and runoff, and unnecessarily high water bills.
Today’s smart controllers have many more features specifically designed to reduce water waste (and therefore your water bill) and keep your landscaping vibrant and lush. They can adjust the watering schedule according to the conditions such as weather, soil moisture, rate of evaporation, plant water use, and other factors that determine how much water is needed and when. They do this using online weather information, often in real time, to quickly make the appropriate adjustments to the watering schedule.
Watering Based on Soil Moisture
Soil moisture sensors (SMS) are buried in the ground and send readings to the controller. The controller compares the moisture levels with preprogrammed data such as soil type and recommended moisture levels to determine a watering schedule.
A controller using soil moisture sensors will allow watering within the upper and lower moisture thresholds programmed into the controller. If the moisture level is low, the controller allows watering. If the moisture level is within the threshold, watering is bypassed.
Watering Based on Weather Conditions
These controllers are known as ET (evapotranspiration), climate-based, or weather-based controllers. There can be different methods of gathering the weather data to adjust the watering schedule.
Historical weather and water use data in your area can be pre-programmed to determine the watering requirement. Optionally, the historical data can be combined with a sensor to adjust the watering schedule.
A signal-based controller uses data from a local weather station via internet, telephone, pager, cable, or other telecommunications device. There is often a subscription fee.
An on-site controller uses rain, temperature, and soil moisture sensors on-site to capture the current conditions and make adjustments.
Programming Smart Controllers
Because smart controllers are Wi-Fi-based, they can be programmed from a number of devices such as computers, tablets, or smartphones. Adjustments can also be made manually, of course. Some even work with Alexa and Google Assistant and respond to voice commands. Most apps are very user-friendly and easy to understand, but if you prefer your system can be monitored remotely by your irrigation contractor.
Why You Need a Smart Controller
- Save water, save money. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that a properly installed and programmed smart controller would save an average home nearly 7,600 gallons of water every year. Not only does this save the homeowner money, it also helps to protect one of our most valuable resources. The EPA calculates that if every home with an automatic sprinkler system were to replace their timer-based controller with a smart controller, the savings across the country would be an astounding 220 billion gallons of water annually.
- Get alerts. With a smart controller, you can receive alerts of problems such as electrical issues. This allows you to remedy the problems quickly and avoid any damage to the system or your landscape.
- Easily monitor your system. A smart controller can provide you with important information such as how long your system ran, which zones were watered, and whether any scheduling changes were made due to weather conditions, and detailed reports of water usage.
- Helping hands. If you are going to be absent from home for vacation or business travel, you can authorize system access for multiple users.
- Protect your investment. Your lawn and gardens are an investment. A beautiful and lush landscape is not only pleasant to look at, it adds value to your home. A smart controller will help to ensure that your lawn and gardens will get the water they need, when they need it.
For advice on the best type of smart controller for you, call the experts at South Austin Irrigation at (512) 534-7449 or contact us online.