It’s cookout season and the perfect time to look more closely at making your irrigation options smarter.
According to The Irrigation Association, smart irrigation involves the use of landscape irrigation controllers and devices that reduce water use and save money by monitoring and using real-time information about the site conditions as a basis for irrigation scheduling. This technology has been used in agriculture, on golf courses and parks for decades but has only recently become available and affordable for landscape irrigation.
Types of Systems
Weather-based systems use the daily loss of water from evaporation from soil and transpiration from plants to schedule watering. Smart controllers use data from sources such as the California Irrigation Management Information Systems and from weather station networks to apply just the amount of water needed to replenish what is lost to nature. Key factors include air temperature, humidity, wind speed, and soil and foliage density.
Soil-moisture-based systems measure the moisture level in the soil using sensors buried in the root zone of turf, trees or shrubs and transmit the readings to the controller. The owner sets the “moisture threshold” like a thermostat and the controller maintains it.
Suspended-cycle systems are set like traditional timer controllers, with watering schedules, start times and durations, and will only permit the scheduled watering if its readings show that the soil needs water. If the moisture level is at or above the moisture threshold, the controller will suspend the watering program until the moisture level falls below the threshold.
Water-on-demand systems are the most efficient irrigation method and require no programming of irrigation duration, only start times and days to water. Using a smartphone or touchpad, homeowners can set the lower and upper thresholds for watering, and the system maintains the soil moisture level in a constant range.
There is more to an effective water-saving solution than having a good smart controller. Other critical factors include using the most efficient and pressure-sensitive spray heads, rotors or other emitter devices and running specific cycles to prevent runoff and allow deep soaking with longer irrigation intervals for well-established, drought-resistant plants. Rainwater and graywater reclamation systems are also at the forefront of smart irrigation technology.
Since irrigation can be complicated and involve plumbing, electrical and automation systems, both indoors and outdoors, builders will find the greatest success and customer satisfaction by partnering with a reputable irrigation or sprinkler system contractor in their local area.
Hints and tips from Smart Irrigation Month
Water is more precious than ever, and we invite you to share your water-saving tech and non-tech solutions in the comments below.