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Smart Irrigation Controller

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Welcome to the waterwisetips.org – smart irrigation controller page.  We hope this page will help provide a better understanding of what smart controllers are, what they actually do, and whether or not one is right for you.  


Please take a moment to read through the information presented here, as well as explore the links below, and let us know if you have any questions.  We’re here to help.


What is a smart irrigation controller?

While there are some pretty lengthy definitions of smart irrigation controllers out there, it’s really actually quite simple.  Smart irrigation controllers automatically adjust irrigation in response to environmental conditions.  They differ from the standard irrigation controller in that they only water when the landscape needs it.  Conventional irrigation controllers have a preset schedule that doesn’t change until someone manually does so.  This means that irrigation will occur regardless of whether or not the landscape actually needs it.  This usually results in a significant waste of water.  Smart irrigation controllers reduce the amount of water applied to the average landscape by approximately 30%.

The downside of smart irrigation controllers is that they generally cost more than conventional irrigation controllers and require a more involved initial setup and installation process.  So, depending on your ability, you may want to hire a certified professional to install the controller for you.  However, the savings begins immediately after installation.

Remember – a smart irrigation controller won’t fix a poor irrigation system.  Leaks, improper maintenance, and poor design are all very common irrigation system ailments and should be addressed first.

What does a smart irrigation controller actually do?

As mentioned earlier, smart irrigation controllers automatically adjust irrigation in response to environmental conditions.  They do this by a couple of different methods.  Some, usually referred to as signal-based controllers, receive a weather data transmission via radio, cellular, wireless internet, or other technology.  This weather data is then processed by the controller to adjust irrigation.  Other smart irrigation controllers, called sensor-based controllers, receive signal(s) from local measurement devices that measure moisture, temperature, humidity, and more.

While both methods effectively reduce the instances of overwatering and increase irrigation efficiency, signal-based controllers are generally accepted as more reliable since they do not rely on the proper operation of local measurement devices.  However, signal-based controllers often require a small annual subscription fee.  Conversely, sensor-based controllers don’t require any signal fees because their measurement devices are on site and part of your own irrigation system. But remember, these measurement devices will likely require maintenance at some point over their lifespan.

Is a smart irrigation controller right for me?

Rainbird ESP Weather Trak Agrimet Weather Station

Sensor based irrigation controllers receive weather data from onsite devices

Signal based irrigation controllers receive weather data from local weather stations

The AgriMet Weather Station located in Bend supplies real-time weather data to signal based irrigation controllers

It depends.  Are you good about adjusting your conventional irrigation controller multiple times each month?  Do you shut your conventional irrigation controller off each time when it rains?  Do you inspect your landscape regularly for irrigation breaks or signs of overwatering?  If so, you’re doing better than most.  Make sure you fully understand how much water each of your landscape plants require so that you’re programming your conventional irrigation controller correctly.  You’ll be fine without a smart irrigation controller, but could probably conserve even more water with one. 

If you answered “No” to any of the previous questions you should consider a smart irrigation controller for your landscape.  Explore the links below for more information on the different makes and models available.  One of the best places to learn about what model might be best for you is to visit one of Bend’s local irrigation supply stores.  They’ll have knowledgeable staff that will be able to make recommendations based on your existing landscape and irrigation system’s needs. 

As always, feel free to contact us at conservation@bendoregon.gov with any additional questions you may have.

Additional resources and information:

 

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