Smart Controllers

Rainbird’s “Smart” Clock – The ESP-SMT

Rainbird recently came out with a state-of-the-art “smart” controller that combines both weather data collected from its mini-weather station with historical weather data collected over a ten year span. This clock comes with it’s own mini-weather station, up to a 13 station configuration (in three station increments) and a full three year warranty. Upon installation, the ESP-SMT “smart” controller is programmed according to its location, usually the zip code it is located in. This helps the clock associate with the correct 10 year historical weather data.

Numerous variables are then programmed into the clock on a station by station basis. These variables include (but are not limited to) soil type, root depth, percent shade, slope, vegetation type, etc. (i.e. factors that would affect the infiltration rates and application rates of each zone). The input of the variables and the weather data collected from the weather station helps the ESP-SMT calculate the best watering schedule for the system, once again on a station by station basis.

To control when watering occurs, a watering window (or time period) is entered into the controller. In addition, any days of the week watering is not desired (usually the night before mow day) and any special event days (i.e. weddings, social events, etc.) when watering is not desired are also entered into the clock. Using these parameters the controller then formulates an optimum watering schedule.

This controller might schedule any popup spray zones to come on 3 or 4 times in a night for very short periods of time to avoid runoff. Alternately, it could schedule any zones with rotating heads to come on just once or twice in a night.. Differences in microclimates within the landscape may prompt the ESP-SMT clock to water different parts of the yard on different days as well. Of course the input of each zone’s parameters when programming the ESP-SMT clock is crucial, as it will affect how long and how often each zone will run.

Alpenglow Sprinkler has installed ESP-SMT clocks over the past several years with positive results, saving our clients substantial amounts of water while providing the improved health of both lawns and landscapes. As with any new technological device, a certain amount of adjustment time can be expected before the ESP-SMT will be best dialed in.

The City of Fort Collins is currently offering a $150 rebate for the installation of these “smart” irrigation clocks. We’d be happy to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using an ET-based controller on your site.