Smart Irrigation Controller FAQs

January 1st, 2011  |  Published in Water Conservation

With an ever increasing demand for efficient landscaping practices, the irrigation industry is beginning to roll out smart irrigation controllers intended for the homeowner.  These controllers, when used to their full capabilities and in conjunction with other water saving techniques, have the ability to save measurable amounts of water to make our landscapes more sustainable.

irrigation controller Smart Irrigation Controller FAQs

What makes an irrigation controller smart?

A smart irrigation controller is one with advanced capabilities that allow the controller to adjust set programs based on weather conditions.  At its most basic, a smart controller monitors precipitation.  But more advanced models monitor an array of environmental conditions such as precipitation, temperature, humidity, soil moisture, evapotranspiration, and wind.  From this data, the controller is able to adjust program run times accordingly.  For example, if the “Pineapple Express” dumps some unexpected precipitation in southern California during the summer, the controller “knows” that the temperature has dropped and precipitation has fallen so it will reduce watering times accordingly.

Where does a smart controller get its information?

Depending on the manufacturer and model, a variety of sources supply data to smart controllers.  Basic models are pre-loaded with historical averages used to adjust programs seasonally.  More advanced models can be wired to small weather stations that monitor conditions in real time, whereas the most advanced models interface with real time satellite data or have a wired internet connection.  The most advanced controller systems also allow someone to monitor the status of the irrigation controller remotely via the internet and basic software.

I have a small landscape.  Can I benefit from a smart controller?

The short answer is Yes.  No matter the size of your landscape, a smart controller is a beneficial addition or upgrade.  At a minimum, your controller should have a rain sensor switch which cancels any running program in the event a set amount of precipitation is registered.

How much water will I save?  How quickly will the investment pay off?

Because each landscape is unique and irrigation efficiency depends on the entire system (piping, heads, maintenance, etc.) there is no guarantee or hard figures regarding potential savings.  However, the landscape trade usually assumes the average homeowner in California overwaters up to 30-50%.  So if you install a smart controller, you are likely to pay off your initial investment within a handful of years.  To make a smart controller even more affordable, water districts throughout the state offer substantial rebates.  Check with your local water district for more information.

smart controller display Smart Irrigation Controller FAQs

Smart irrigation controller on display at Earth Day in Santa Barbara. This irrigation controller setup demonstrates wired ETo monitoring. The painted piping, as well as dark container on the left, are components of a rainwater harvesting system.


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