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Smart Irrigation Technology

Climate based controllers, soil moisture sensors, and rain sensors

Smart irrigation controllers estimate soil moisture or specific water needs of plants so excess water use is minimized. Smart technologies consist of climate-based controllers, soil moisture sensor- based controllers, and rain sensors. If properly installed and maintained, these controllers save water.

The EPA has a list of WaterSense Controllers to help homeowners find the right one.

Types of smart controllers

  • Climate-based controllers use local evapotranspiration data to determine the specific amount of water needed for a landscape.
  • Soil moisture sensors simply interrupts irrigation set on a timer when the soil moisture is more than the user adjusted threshold.
  • A rain sensor interrupts the scheduled irrigation event during rainfall.

Types of rain sensors

  • One type breaks the connection by weighing the water in rainfall collection cup. Make sure leaves or sticks aren’t turning off the system by weighing down the collection cup.
  • Another type uses electrodes to determine how much water is in the collection cup. This type of cup can also collect leaves and sticks, so make sure to provide regular maintenance.
  • The most common type of rain sensor uses an expansion disk device.  The disk expands as it rains and turns off the sprinkler after an adjusted amount of rainfall.

Installation of rain sensors

  • The sensor should be installed where it is open and unobstructed by trees, large plants, or anything that would block the rain.
  • If it is a wired sensor it is usually near the sprinkler controller and the wires should be connected inside the controller’s valve wiring panel for easy electrical troubleshooting
  • Wireless sensors are more expensive than the wired sensors, however installation and placement is much easier and less time consuming.
  • If you have an existing automatic irrigation system, check the rain sensor specifications to ensure compatibility.

If you are upgrading your irrigation system consider buying a smart controller to help minimize overwatering while maintaining a beautiful and healthy lawn and garden.