THE PATHFINDER TO YOUR IRRIGATION SYSTEM CONTROLLER
The most important things to know
to choose meaningfully.
An irrigation controller is a clock that has the power to run the irrigation system, whether it is a lawn sprinkler or if it is a drip irrigation system. The controller allows the system to apply controlled amounts of water, depending on the needs of your landscape, the soil, or the crops. The controller gives the user the freedom to control the schedule of the watering system to run during particular times of the day for specific lengths of time. The automatic timer prompts the opening of the control valves so that water can pass through the pipes and risers until the water passes through the sprinkler heads. This eliminates the need to have to do the watering of your lawn by hand and better manage the water resources available.
Traditional irrigation controller models require the user to manually program a schedule for each controller, guessing how much water the area will need. They are set up with switches and sliders that the user will have to adjust manually. These controllers are made of pins, gears, motors, wheels, dials and utilise mechanical switches and an electric clock to function.
On the other hand, smart irrigation controller models are equipped with individual sensors and a system to encode information such as weather, air moisture, soil moisture, water pressure, plant types and solar radiation to customise even more the schedules.
Among other benefits, the irrigation system controllers reduce chances of underwatering and overwatering therefore enhancing the health and beauty of the landscape as well as reducing the waste in money and natural resources.
Time saved thanks to the possibility of scheduling and automatising the watering of flowers and gardens.
No direct impact on the physical environment.
Peace of mind increased through an increased transparency on water consumption and to the possibility of turning watering on and off from remote.
Savings increased through a more efficient watering process that can take soil conditions and weather forecasts into account.
Because of their different uses, these products can be classified in various ways. Irrigation controllers can be used both for irrigation systems that are found above the ground and systems that are located underground. Aside from location, they can also be classified based on the working environment, whether indoors or outdoors. Another way to categorise them is the number of zones they support, which can either by mono-zone or multi-zone. However, we consider the technology used as the best way to distinguish them:
Hydraulic irrigation controllers were the first type established in the market. They are made up of an electronic clock and a hydraulic system that can send water pressure through indexing pipes that will open and close valves, depending on the force. In this type of irrigation system, the controllers are connected to the valves using small plastic pipes. The controller opens the pipes connected to the valves, for the water to pass through.
For electronic irrigation controllers, the controllers are connected to electric circuits that will supply power to an electromagnet. This magnet will be carrying the electric current to activate the valves where water will flow. When the electromagnet is activated by turning the controller on, the diaphragm valve opens, and the water passes through. These electric controllers utilise a digital screen and integrated circuits for the memory, control, and clock.
Knowing that irrigation control plays a significant role in having a well-maintained lawn or yard, owners should commit to finding the controller that would be a perfect fit for their needs. Here are the main factors to take note of:
Though there are hydraulic controllers, most models available today are electronic (either digital or smart). Hydraulics were the first type of controllers used and usually cater to vast landscapes. Smart controllers come with more technological features, including wireless connectivity and weather sensors, and are useful for all landscapes, whether small or extensive.
For irrigation controllers, their power sources can either be wired or wireless. Wired controllers are usually protected by durable hard wires so that it can withstand changing weather conditions, as well as extra protection from electrical concerns. The downside, since wired, is the limited distance and number of places where they can be located. Batteries often power wireless controllers. This can be beneficial in times of power outages or power interruption, while it might arise the need to replace batteries every once in a while.
If you would be going for indoor controllers, these are usually located inside the patio, shed, garage, closets and other similar areas. On the other hand, outdoor controllers are often hard-wired, are durable and can withstand varying weather conditions. Most of the time, they are equipped with enclosures designed to last long.
Irrigation zones refer to designing your entire system into divisions to be more precise in the distribution of water throughout the area. It ensures that specific zones in your lawn receive the adequate amount of water it needs. By doing the zone assignments, the irrigation system is programmed to be cost-efficient and to conserve water. Usually, zones can be as little as four, six, eight, or as many as 16.
When shopping for an irrigation controller, you will encounter models that come with on-board controls. This means that the controller has buttons and a monitor that displays settings without having to use a separate app. Having control options like this can be handy if different people are managing your lawn, or if you have a gardener for maintenance. If the model does not come with controls on the device, it is generally partnered with an app you can download on your smartphone and tablet.
Most controllers come with duration features, which means how long you can water the plants, ranging from a minute up to 10 straight hours. Another option will be a daily watering frequency if you plan to schedule irrigation for specific time slots every day. For particular towns with strict watering restrictions, some irrigation controllers also come with importing abilities to make sure your schedule will comply with local laws and regulations.
Though it is not a standard feature, some irrigation models come with rain sensors. These are components that shut off the entire irrigation system once the rain is detected. Another integration is soil sensors, which measure the quantity of water in the soil and if there is a need for irrigation.
Another exciting feature to have is having a smart irrigation controller with the ability to use and integrate weather services on the internet or local weather stations to produce weather data. This helps the system identify the need for irrigation, based on the weather updates.
WaterSense is an American program managed by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Having a certification like this assures that the product is designed to encourage efficiency in water usage.