How Smart are Your Sprinklers?
You’re all alone at home when you hear it. Sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-shhhhhhhh… and it seems to be coming from outside. You look around, very puzzled and a little afraid, then it comes again sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-shhhhhhhh.
Oh! It dawns on you suddenly. “Alexa, turn the sprinklers off.”
Smart devices are popping up everywhere, even on your front lawn. And while many seem kind of silly, like voice controlled outlets, others, like smart sprinklers are very likely the smart device you never realized you needed.
The Basics of Smart Sprinklers
Sprinklers have been becoming increasingly smarter over the years, but those standard sprinkler systems still can’t hold a candle to a smart sprinkler. These babies are so efficient that in research studies, they’ve been able to save up to 70 percent of the water a traditional sprinkler will use. That’s not just good for the environment, your driveway and your neighbor’s cat, it’s great for your pocketbook.
Smart and Not As Smart Sprinklers
There are two different types of smart sprinklers on the market right now. The main difference is in how they determine when they need to be running (if you let them do their thing instead of programming them directly). Those are:
Sensor-based. This type of sprinkler relies on one of several types of soil moisture sensors to figure out just how wet the soil is. When it’s wet enough, the sprinkler stops. They can either check the sensor on a schedule, watering or not watering depending on the moisture, or they run automatically when the moisture in the soil is out of a programmed range.
The down side to sensor-based sprinklers is that they can literally only measure the moisture around the sensor. If your lot is uneven or unusual, these may not really do much for you and could end up wasting a lot of water.
Weather-based. Also known as a signal-based or evapotranspiration controller, these controllers are actively scanning for weather reports so they can adjust the amount of water they let loose on your lawn. Some systems also consider historical data for your region, others collect on-site weather information to make the most accurate calculations.
Weather-based smart sprinklers are amazing, there are no two ways about it. But they can also get very expensive very quickly. That being said, over the long term, they’ll save you more money because of the increased precision, but if you’re not willing or able to let the computer take control, these are not for you.
For Extra Bang, Add a Flow Meter
Some smart sprinkler systems can be fitted with an optional flow meter, which can prove to be a huge help down the road. You can use a flow meter to measure the amount of water that your sprinklers are putting out, but generally, your smart sprinkler can also do that. What they can’t do is tell you if the pressure is too high or too low, indicating a problem in the system.
For a lot of systems, the optional flow meter is a less than $50 upgrade. When compared to the water bill a broken sprinkler line could cost you, it’s not much in the way of an investment.
Smart Sprinklers May Be Covered By Utility Rebates
Although they can be a pricey initial purchase, the cost of a smart sprinkler system will often be rebated to you by your water utility. Because of the amount of water saved and the run-off that’s eliminated, more and more utilities and municipalities are issuing rebates for these smart devices.
Check with your utility company and the EPA’s WaterSense site to determine which devices are covered in your area.