Advantages of Smart Controllers

A look at how smart controllers monitor the weather to save on time, money and water.

Smart controllers monitor the weather to determine the most optimal water output for the landscape.
Smart controllers monitor the weather to determine the most optimal water output for the landscape.
Toro Irrigation

When it comes to keeping lawns and landscapes lush and healthy, water is essential. However, water is a precious commodity, and whether you live in a region that gets very minimal or massive amounts of rain, conserving water is a concern for everyone.

As a landscape contractor or irrigation manager, you know that irrigation systems are essential tools to help optimize water usage, but if you’ve ever driven by a home or business property that has sprinklers on while it’s raining out, you’ve seen just how inefficient and wasteful some irrigation systems can be. Fortunately, thanks to new landscape technology like smart irrigation controllers, having a vibrant, thriving lawn—while reducing water waste—is easier and more economical than ever.

What is a smart irrigation controller?

A smart irrigation controller is like a smart thermostat for lawns and landscapes. It automatically controls your watering schedule, so you don’t even have to think—or do anything—about it. A smart controller enhances your in-ground irrigation system by automatically and accurately adjusting to real-time weather conditions, making it easier for you to maintain a healthy lawn while reducing water usage. This is a distinct contrast to traditional irrigation controllers, which have basic, time-based programs that run on a schedule, even when it’s raining out. What’s more, a smart controller is simple to set up, use and maintain.

What are the benefits of a smart controller?

Smart irrigation controllers have numerous perks. The biggest benefit is that, on a daily basis, smart controllers are constantly monitoring the weather inputs and adjusting irrigation to optimize your landscape without overuse or underuse of water. Many times, people in drought-prone areas like the West will completely shut off irrigation and let landscapes die because there isn’t enough water, but, if you have a smart controller, you can most likely continue running the sprinklers, and your landscape will be healthy and beautiful while you’re using water as efficiently as possible.

Once you set up your smart controller, you’re going to see about a third of your water saved. That’s substantial. And it’s simply because the smart controller is monitoring weather conditions all the time.

Additionally, the smart controller makes seasonal adjustments to the irrigation based on the weather. For instance, in winter, if you didn’t have a smart controller, you’d have to remember to dial back the irrigation when it starts getting cold out, but really, you should have done that a month or more prior since you’ve probably been putting down water when you didn’t need to. Plus, if you have a smart controller and it gets too cold out, there’s a setting on the controller that will suspend all watering, even if there’s no rain.

With a smart controller, you can set it and forget it. You never even have to look at it or modify the settings. The controller provides on-site weather data and picks up daily weather information that will be used in an average of the previous few days. It will also make an adjustment for the next day. For example, if it’s not as hot out as it typically is, the irrigation may run at 70 percent of what is programmed on the controller. So, if it normally runs for 10 minutes, it will adjust and run for seven minutes based on weather conditions. That’s a 30 percent water savings, which, in turn, translates into cost savings. And, once the weather warms up again, the irrigation will ramp back up to account for the increased heat. Once you set the smart controller up, it intuitively calculates and makes daily adjustments for the precise amount of water needed to keep the grass healthy.

For busy landscape contractors and irrigation managers, smart controllers offer additional benefits in terms of convenience and time savings since there’s no longer a need to keep driving by and checking on multiple irrigation sites during the day. The smart controller has everything handled.

Are there any challenges?

Sometimes, when contractors or irrigation managers try to encourage homeowners or business owners  to add a smart controller to their irrigation system, they hesitate to spend money on it. However, once they understand it won’t take long to see the payback on their investment and realize they will save about a third on their annual water bill, they agree it’s the right thing to do in the long run.

Also, some contractors who have never worked with smart controllers are hesitant to try them for the simple fact that they’ve been using a specific system for their entire career and that’s what they’re used to. The good news is that a smart controller is a simple add-on device that’s compatible with their existing system; the contractors don’t have to learn a whole new system, and the installation, setup and upkeep are very easy. It’s a useful addition to what they’re already familiar with that will benefit them and their customers.

Are smart irrigation controllers worth it?

Yes, absolutely. Smart controllers save water, money and time. What’s more, when you and your customers invest in a smarter strategy for watering lawns, you’re investing in more than just an impressive sprinkler system—you’re also becoming better stewards of the environment. Water is a valuable resource, and conserving it is a sustainable strategy that can help you and your customers feel better about how you care for lawns and landscapes.