Smart Irrigation Technologies
July has been designated as “Smart Irrigation Month”.
With all the new irrigation equipment popping up in the marketplace, there is a lot of excitement surrounding the new generation of sprinkler clocks called “smart” controllers. This terminology refers to irrigation clocks that are weather or ET (evapotranspiration) – based. These are, in simple terms, irrigation clocks that vary their watering schedule(s) according to the local weather conditions.
Some of these “smart” controllers receive their local weather information from a regionally local weather station via radio signals, and adjust their watering schedules accordingly. Other “smart” clocks may have numerous years worth of historical data stored within their micro-processors, which help the clock decide when to come on next. To be most effective these controllers should be installed accompanied by a mini- weather station that hangs from a fence, pole or the eave of your house (but out of reach of the sprinkler system!). These weather stations typically measure the local rainfall, at the very least, and relay these findings to the controller. More advanced weather stations also measure effective rainfall (compensating for runoff), ambient air temperature using a shielded thermometer, and some even measure wind speed.
Using these readings the “smart” controller then formulates an optimum watering schedule. Some more basic models simply disallow watering until it deems it necessary within the schedule that is programmed into the controller. Other slightly more advanced “smart” clocks use the weather information to simply calculate a station run time factor, either scaling back run times during periods of cool, moist weather, or beefing up run times to help compensate for hot, dry conditions.
Water savings can be substantial using “smart” irrigation controllers, however water use during the hot, dry summer months might stay the same or even increase as the clock will tend to compensate for the hot, dry conditions. Consequently, water use during the Spring and Fall is typically much reduced. In addition, the vigor and health of the lawn and landscape should be much better as the watering regime of the weather-based clock should be equally matched to the watering needs of the landscape.
One must bear in mind, however, that a “smart” controller is not the solution for a poorly designed and/ or installed sprinkler system. The correct spacing of heads and the installation of the appropriate nozzles are both critical to allow weather-based controllers to perform optimally. Please feel free to call our office to discuss the pros and cons of turning your sprinkler system into a “smart” weather-based system.