Smart Sprinkler Controllers

By Courtney Brown, Conservation Garden Park

You are probably becoming familiar with today’s smart technology – smart homes, smart cars, smart phones, etc. but have you heard of a smart sprinkler controller? Smart irrigation controllers have actually been around for a couple of decades for agricultural irrigation and large commercial landscapes, but only recently have they been made practical for homeowners. In fact, you can now go to any big box store or sprinkler supply store and pick one up for close to the same price as a conventional sprinkler controller.

What’s so smart about these devices? They take the guesswork out of programming when your sprinklers should come on. Smart controllers adjust sprinkler watering automatically, so you don’t have to worry about your lawn drying out as the weather gets hotter and drier, or watering unnecessarily when the weather gets cooler and wetter. Relatively recent refinements to these devices have resulted in controllers that are easier to install, set up and operate.

There are a couple different technologies available, but most are weather-based controllers, which means they use a WiFi internet connection in your home to access real-time weather information for your area. To make the controller even smarter, you provide it with information on each of your sprinkler zones such as plant type, soil type, sprinkler type, sun exposure and slope. The controller then uses this information to make complicated calculations to decide when and how long to allow each sprinkler zone to water.

Since most of these devices have a smartphone app, you can have complete control in the palm of your hand to adjust programs, turn your sprinklers on or off, or check the time of the next estimated run time – anywhere in the world! With the app, you never need to touch the actual sprinkler controller since all the functions are available right on your device. Smart controllers are not only more convenient to operate and monitor, they are also very likely to make your plants and lawn healthier and save water on your landscape because they adjust to the watering needs of your plants automatically.

The average lawn-dominant residential landscape in Utah requires about 3,000 gallons to irrigate ONE time with sprinklers. In other words, your sprinklers are pouring out about 3,000 gallons of water every two or three days during the heat of the summer—and that’s if you’re watering efficiently! In the peak watering season in July, your lawn may need three waterings a week to keep it looking good, but what about a few days from now when a summer storm comes in? Your smart controller will automatically adjust to every change in weather and water accordingly.

Perhaps the most exciting news is that substantial rebates are available throughout much of the state to offset the cost of purchasing these devices. Check for information about rebates for your area. Each rebate-issuing agency will have a list of Watersense labeled smart controllers for your consideration which qualify for the rebate program.