April showers may bring May flowers, but your sprinkler is still running. Early spring is here and with it comes the dragging out of garden hoses and sprinkler heads to water our yards back to life. Though each of us are not planning of using too much water this month, we all know hot days are heading our way this summer. The time is right to begin thinking about upgrading your current irrigation system with something a little more sophisticated and environmentally conscious. Yes, we are diving into the topic of smart irrigation controllers.
First, let’s answer the most important question: will a smart irrigation controller save money? There is good news and bad news. The bad news is if you were expecting to get a government rebate for installing a smart irrigation controller, out of the 15 states eligible, Washington is not one of them.¹ When it comes to finding a device that works for you, an advertised EPA WaterSense is fairly meaningless if you were expecting a government check in the mail. However, the WaterSense seal does mean that the device is government approved and has proven to save 20% or more water than a traditional sprinkler system. The good news is that these devices can save you a ton of money. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American household can use up to 300 gallons of water a day in the summer.¹ The City of Spokane charges $0.31/gal for the first 4,500 gallons in a month, $0.66/gal for the next 3,000, and a whopping $0.88/gal for the next 26,100 gallons.² Though, it is doubtful that Spokane will get as hot and dry as Arizona and New Mexico, the amount of water needed for a typical July day can still run a consumer nearly $100 for 1/5 of an acre of grass. Installing a smart irrigation controller will quickly pay for itself within a year or two of using.
Next, let’s look at the cost of one of these devices. The average cost for a quality irrigation controller is around $200. The most expensive sits at $341 for the Blue Spray Smart Controller and the least expensive being $50 for the Wyze Home Smart Irrigation Controller. However, there are two systems that stand out far from the rest. The first is the $239 Rain Machine Touch. This neat little system connects to your smartphone and can even be used with Amazon’s Alexa. You can program and change the settings on your irrigation device from anywhere in the world! With over 700 reviews on Amazon, less than 10% of customers gave the device 1-2 stars. The typical issues with the device being app crashing or sensor malfunctions. The other system is the $199 Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller. Also boasting worldwide control and Alexa features, this system can also connect to smart home devices such as Amazon Echo provided that you have a stable internet connection. Out of the nearly 2,500 reviews, less than 5% came back with a 1-2 star rating. The typical issues involved difficulty with do-it-yourself setup and several faulty connectors. Before purchasing one of these systems it may help knowing what a well-irrigated lawn looks like and how these systems operate.
When watering your yard there are three important factors: time of day, frequency, and duration. During the summer it is recommended to avoid watering your lawn in the middle of the day. The grass will have a difficult time retaining the water and you’ll end up wasting more water. As the days remain consistently warm you will have to water several times a week depending on the soil water retention and humidity. Most importantly, a well-watered lawn will be springy to the step. That is to say, not muddy and not limp.¹ A smart irrigation controller, like Rain Machine or Rachio, uses a sensor to track the evapotranspiration of your yard along with forecasted weather patterns to determine frequency and duration of watering. Evapotranspiration is a big word that means the process of evaporation from plants and soil. In other words, the system measures how fast water is being removed from your grass and dirt. Usually, this is measured through a sensor attached to the side of your house. Each system is slightly different and will determine run times and shut off times differently based on the location of your yard. This is more ideal than a traditional timer which would run even on rainy days.
The easy-to-use smartphone apps will show you all of the readings from the sensor and give you more control with watering your yard. These systems are perfect for anyone that likes to know everything they can about their garden, grass, and yards. If you decide to take a family vacation, then you can rest easy knowing that you can come home to a perfectly watered yard. With these apps you can adjust the setting of your sprinkler system, see detailed readouts, or monitor your yard’s health from anywhere in the world. Truly, yard maintenance has reached an all new technological era.
If you would like help determining if your current sprinkler system is compatible to accommodate a smart irrigation controller or you would like help determining the right controller for you, give Copper Creek a call or send us an email. Our professionals would be more than happy to turn your yard into a smart yard and save you money on your next utility bill. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding your landscaping needs.