While a smart sprinkler controller is more of an investment than a traditional controller, it is worth the extra cost. It can save money and water by increasing watering efficiency by irrigating in sync with the weather.
What is a smart sprinkler controller?
Smart irrigation controllers are digital controllers that direct the operation of a sprinkler system. Instead of inputting a preset watering schedule into the control panel interface in the garage (or wherever you have it installed), the system's functionality is accessed through a smartphone or tablet app. Everything related to your irrigation system is now right in your hands, literally, at all times.
Regardless of where you are or what time it is, you can control your sprinklers at the touch of a button. You can turn them on and off at any given time, and depending upon the system's intricacy, the controller can also help determine how long and when to water. The advanced technology relies on local weather data or real-time sensors to adjust watering in relation to predicted rainfall, temperature, relative humidity, or soil moisture.
The cost of a smart sprinkler controller
Smart sprinkler controllers range in cost from approximately $80 to $300 and are made to replace the existing programmable controller on your sprinkler system.
An irrigreen smart sprinkler controller is more expensive but offers greater watering efficiency. Irrigreen controllers start at $1570.
How do smart sprinkler controllers work?
Smart irrigation controllers available currently rely on two types of sensors. They are either weather-based or use an on-site soil moisture monitor.
The system takes the gathered data and determines whether the sprinklers should come on and, in some cases, how long to irrigate.
1. Weather-based sprinkler controllers
Weather-based controllers are the more common method. Also called evapotranspiration (ET) controllers, they tap into local weather data—ambient temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, solar radiation—and make run-time adjustments so your landscape receives the appropriate amount of water only when it’s needed.
They aim to minimize water loss through evaporation and plant transpiration. Hence, the name. By minimizing evapotranspiration, little water is lost to the environment, and the maximum amount of water possible reaches your lawn and is available for use.
2. Controllers with soil moisture sensors
Smart irrigation controllers measure soil moisture content using well-established farming irrigation technologies. Soil moisture sensors are buried in the soil and take real-time measurements of the moisture level in the root zone. The controller takes these readings and adjusts irrigation timing and amount according to the readings.
Benefits of a Smart Sprinkler Controller
A smart controller benefits your lawn, the environment, and household budget in the following ways:
- Saves water
- Saves money
- Makes watering easy
- Improves lawn health
- Avoids penalties
1. Improves Water-Use Efficiency and Reduces Water Waste
The most significant benefit of using a smart sprinkler controller is how much water it saves. The smart controller accounts for real-time parameters and only gives the lawn the moisture needed. No more, no less.
On average, a smart controller reduces irrigation amounts between 20% to 50%. Over the lifespan of a residential lawn, this adds up to significant water savings for a homeowner!
2. Saves Utility Costs
A smart sprinkler controller can cut a water bill by up to half, significantly lowering household utility costs. This is a tremendous relief for homeowners seeing a constant rise in household and utility expenses.
Many smart sprinkler controllers are also certified through the EPA's WaterSense program. Users can qualify for and receive rebates on their utility bills just by using a smart controller.
3. Irrigating Becomes Easy
Smart controllers also take the thinking out of irrigating your lawn. Using ET controllers or soil-moisture sensors, they intuitively adjust watering schedules on the fly to meet your lawn’s needs. There’s no longer a need to remember to manually shut off the sprinklers because it rained or is predicted.
4. Fosters Long-Term Grass Health
One of the biggest problems with residential irrigation systems is they are one of the biggest causes of water loss through landscaping. Unfortunately, many believe that if a bit of water is good for the grass, even more is better—and this is not the case at all.
A smart controller gives your grass the optimal amount of water needed at the best time possible. Doing this minimizes environmental stresses and dramatically improves the health of the grass. When your grass is strong and healthy, it can defend itself against diseases and insect problems and outcompete weeds, keeping it looking its best.
5. Avoids Overwatering Penalties
Lastly, when using a smart controller, watering days are programmed to follow a designated schedule, making it easy to follow regulations or guidelines set by local municipalities or homeowners’ associations. Staying within guidelines keeps you out of trouble with the neighborhood HOA and can prevent you from being fined for overwatering or watering on the wrong day.