Effective Rain - Smarter Sprinkler Control

No one likes to see the sprinklers on when it is raining.  Rain shut-off devices can fix that.  But the bigger problem is, they don’t know how much rain fell or when to resume watering after the storm is over.  Also rain shut-off devices allow watering in light rain storms. 

 
Irrigation supplements rainfall.  Water managers should consider both ET and rainfall.  Very simply ET – Rain = Irrigation.  It would be nice if it was that simple.  The problem is not all rainfall is effective.  Rain needs to reach the plants.  In a heavy rain storm water runs off.  Long sustained rain will soak below roots, so how much rain can the soil hold?
 

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Automated Water Management

When "smart" controllers became available, a homeowner wanted to be part of a study to see if it could automate his weekly adjustments. He was fascinated with the smart controller's ability to use weather information to automatically adjust his watering schedule. Because he had already cut back on his water use, He didn't expect to save any water but was glad to see technology take over his weekly routine. He was delighted when he learned he was now using 47% less water compared to neighboring properties. At the conclusion of the two-year smart control study, he saved an additional 160,000 gallons of water. 

 

How could a "smart" sprinkler controller reduce so much water waste without impacting the beauty and health of his landscape? There are three factors a quality smart controller uses to automate landscape water management: 

Weather Conditions
The Landscape
Capabilities of the Sprinkler System

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Smart Irrigation Control - A Comparison

Paul E. Urzagaste a Graduate Student at Utah State University wrote his thesis about research he conducted on various smart irrigation control products.  I asked him to share his thoughts about our Weather Reach products compared to his experience with other products.  He shared this with me and gave me permission to put it on our Blog.

 
“Based on my experience and the results we obtained, between the controllers we tested, there are not significant differences in terms of water conservation.  But when we analyze in detail, different aspects of the controllers, we can find advantages and disadvantages in every single one of the controllers.

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Do I need a sensor in the ground?

When I tell people that Weather Reach smart irrigation control automatically manages watering schedules, I often get asked the question, "Do you use sensors in the ground?"  No, climate controlled irrigation is simpler, more reliable and cost effective. 


Intuitively people think you need a sensor in the ground to accurately control irrigation.  Recently I have been reading a book on military strategy; interesting and complicated.  Quite frequently the author points out indirect assaults are more effective than a direct approach.  In other words, solve the problem by coming at it, in an indirect way.  Climate conditions affect plant water use.  We can measure weather conditions to know how much water plants need. This indirect approach is simple, reliable and cost effective.

We know when it is hot, dry, and windy plants need more water.  When it is cool and cloudy we don't need to water.  Farmers have been watching the weather for thousands of years to know when to water.  Today the science is refined and accurate, using climate sensors to know how much water a plant needs.

All Smart control systems depend on sensors.  Sensors reports conditions.  Smart control systems react to those conditions.  With such a dependency on sensors they must always give good measurements.  When you bury something in the ground it begins to deteriorate.  Sensors on our weather stations deteriorate, so they get cleaned, recalibrated and replaced on a regular basis.  This is so much easier than having to dig up sensors.  If you put a sensor in the ground how long will it last?  How do you know when to replace it?  Where is it?

One of our first big projects went in about 8 years ago.  Over 1000 of our first climate controlled irrigation products were installed in a subdivision. One weather station controls the entire project.  The sensors at that station are maintained.  If this project used soil moisture sensors instead, how many would it have taken?  2000?  4000?  Who knows?  It just doesn't make sense to bury thousands of sensors and expect them to work for the next 20 years.  We need sustainable solutions.

I saw one of the first climate controlled irrigation systems in 1982.  A weather station was connected to an IBM PC that controlled irrigation on a golf course.  I was hooked and have been involved with climate controlled irrigation ever since.  It works, and it's simple, more reliable and cost effective.  

What Makes Your Controller So Smart?

Where does the "smart" in a smart controller come from? Smart comes from sensors, in all varieties. With the goal of automatically watering plants according to their need in a world where weather conditions change constantly, sensors must play a central role in making decisions about when and how much to irrigate. If you believe in the old "garbage in, garbage out" philosophy, a close look at how sensors are used in any smart control system becomes paramount. There are four things that must be taken into consideration: what is being measured, sensor quality, sensor maintenance, and sensor installation. Getting all four of these right presents obstacles that are easily overcome by utilizing an ET Weather Station that is shared with the community. Before we discuss the details of success with sensors, and the value of sharing weather data with the community, a brief discussion of Evapotranspiration (ET) is necessary.

 

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Do you mean I don't need to reprogram my sprinkler controller?

I will never forget the first time I heard these words from a customer who installed Weather Reach smart irrigation control at his home.  There was such delight in his voice.  I realized then that we were doing more than improving water use efficiency, saving money and keeping landscapes healthy, we were selling convenience and peace of mind. 

 


Many people are intimidated when standing in front of an sprinkler controller.  Most of the time when someone is standing there it is because there is a problem and they are not sure how to solve it.  Usually the problem is the landscape is drying out or way too wet.  As they stand there, they are trying to decide what to change and how to change it.
 
So yes, we do ease the worries of our customers, because Weather Reach Controller Link monitors the weather and adjusts irrigation schedules automatically.  Set it and forget it.  Yes it is true.  The only times I have not seen set it and forget it work, are settings mistakes or failure of some component in the overall system.  The technology is sound, it works.  So relax and don't worry about watering your lawn.  Let me help you learn how to use and trust irrigation control technology.

 

 

 

 

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