Smart Irrigation Systems: Why You Should Make the Investment

Have you ever agonized for hours trying to program your old sprinkler timer? Frustrated when pipes burst or plants get dried and shriveled? Fed up with constantly moving valves around your muddy yard?

I‘m sure we‘ve all been there before. Juggling complex irrigation schedules takes huge amounts of time and effort. Not to mention keeping water bills from skyrocketing.

The good news is new smart irrigation technology takes this headache off your hands completely by micro-managing watering automatically. These advanced systems monitor weather, soil, plant needs and more to optimize your sprinklers to perfection.

In this guide, we’ll explore:

  • Exactly how smart irrigation controllers work
  • 3 compelling reasons you should upgrade your irrigation now
  • A comparison of the top-rated smart systems on the market

Let‘s dig in!

What Makes Irrigation “Smart”?

Smart irrigation systems take programmed watering to the next level using connected technology and sensors.

Rather than sticking with preset schedules, smart controllers make dynamic adjustments on-the-fly based on conditions. Once installed, these systems handle every aspect automatically:

Adjust schedules based on upcoming weather changes, soil moisture measurements, plant watering needs and more.

Halt watering when significant rainfall occurs; prevent overwatering and runoff issues through soil saturation monitoring.

Save preset programs like summer deep watering vs gentler spring soakings based on season, crop type and landscaping.

Optimize usage by understanding specific zone details like sun exposure levels, soil drainage rates and weekly growth factors.

Track issues through flow meters to catch line breaks early; receive mobile notifications if abnormalities occur.

Smart controllers connect via WiFi to accessweather forecasts, allow remote access and integrate with other smart devices. All you do is set some basic guidelines and let automation take things from there!

Reason 1: Slash Your Water Usage (and Bills)

It’s no secret traditional irrigation systems are extremely inefficient. The vast majority of controllers rely on timers and have no capability to account for environmental changes.

Let‘s say April brings steady rain for 2 weeks. Your 20-year-old sprinkler clock continues activating valves daily dumping water straight down the storm drain!

Or what about that 1 week heat wave in May while you were on vacation? By the time you realized and dialed back run times, 50% of your annuals had already dried and shriveled.

The EPA estimates nearly half of all irrigation water used is completely wasted. Overwatering issues like:

  • Runoff from saturated soils
  • Wind drift blowing spray away
  • Evaporation under hot sun
  • Not shutting off in the rain

Smart systems eliminate waste through hypertargeted watering. Advanced sensors halt flows during storms, while underwater probes maintain ideal soil moisture below plant roots.

One university study recorded 25-35% irrigation usage reduction after smart controller installation.

Similar efficiency is seen industry-wide:

City of Fresno, CA: Upgraded 3,000 municipal irrigation stations to smart controllers. Cut water usage by >20% saving 29 million gallons annually.

Town of Florence, AZ: Replaced controllers at 4 public parks. Recorded 18-22% drop inusage.

City of Austin, TX: Smart irrigation at 17 municipal sites reduced usage by 20-50%.

Bottom line: Integrating sensors and automation lets plants soak up more water right when needed instead of losing gallons to runoff and evaporation.

As less gets wasted, your utility bills drop. It‘s perfectly common to conserve over 15,000 gallons per year with smart technology. At $3 per 1,000 gallons in the average city, that’s $45/year saved or $900 over 20 years!

Reason 2: Reclaim Your Free Time

Picture this: It‘s 95° in July, without a cloud forecasted for weeks. Despite setting your obsolete sprinkler timer to water before dawn daily, the lawn looks awful. Grass crunches underfoot, plants are wilting in flower beds. What happened??

Here‘s what:

Temperatures are far hotter than that rusty controller accounts for. Plants now need 50% more water with less evaporation at night.

Sun intensity magnifies compared to cool April when you made settings. More light = faster moisture loss.

Growth rates doubled since spring. Your set run times no longer keep pace.

Sensor ablation means the thing skipped multiple watering cycles somehow.

Auditing all problems and adjusting programming takes hours messing with valves in summer heat. And without smart capabilities, you‘ll repeat this horrible process endlessly as conditions continuously change!

Modern irrigation technology offers relief by shouldering the burden of control. Instead of wasting weekends endlessly tweaking antiquated timers, let smart systems crunch the numbers for you automatically.

Just check phone app notifications for status updates or enjoy carefree weekends knowing continuous adjustments happen behind the scenes. Expanding root systems get just the right moisture. Heat waves trigger extended watering times without withering tender annuals.

Reclaim 10+ hours every month previously wasted "planning" irrigation cycles or fixing issues after the fact.

Reason 3: See Major Savings Over Time

At roughly $100 to $350+ depending on system scale, smart controllers definitely have higher upfront costs than their $20 corner store brethren.

However, greatly minimized water usage provides rapid ROI through savings, commonly 2 years or less.

Utility savings – From reduced water and pumping, easily $40-75+ annually.

Equipment savings – Fewer replacements needed; extended system lifespan.

Landscaping savings – Less erosion and dead plants requiring replacements.

Labor savings – No professional landscaper fees to fix sprinkler problems or adjust programming 4x yearly as you resize, reorient and replant beds.

Time savings – Given your personal hour is likely worth at least $25, reclaiming 100+ hours yearly must be accounted for.

Studies analyzing smart irrigation costs found:

Water optimization alone recouped controller costs in 1-3 years

Factoring in all tangential savings bumped ROI over 120% in a decade

So don‘t fear that bigger price tag. View smart irrigation as an investment into greater efficiency with compounded returns each year thereafter.

Smart Irrigation Comparison 2022

With so many options on the market, how do you select the right smart controller your yard?

When choosing, consider:

  • Number of independently-scheduled zones required
  • Features like sensors or app access you value
  • Budget in terms of upfront cost + ongoing water bills

I comprehensively researched the category’s top rated brands and models this year. Here are my recommendations:

Rachio 3 Smart SprinklerOrbit B-Hyve Smart TimerHunter PRO-HC Controller
Zones8, 166, 8, 1225+
Soil MonitoringYesNoYes
Weather TrackingYesYesYes
Smart Speaker IntegrationYesYesNo

Rachio 3 – Best Overall System

If I were to standardize across setups, Rachio‘s 3rd Generation Smart Sprinkler Controller is absolutely my top pick.

This popular introductory model effortlessly handles typical 6-8 zone residential systems. Expandability means easily upgrading to 16 or more valves down the road.

I particularly love how Rachio splits landscaping into custom beds and zones. This let‘s you cater watering specifics between the sunny vegetable garden, established shrubs and flowering annual pots with differing needs.

The phone app provides intuitive remote monitoring and adjustments. Automation customization options are extremely robust for getting schedules dialed in perfectly across soil makeup, plant types, slope conditions and sun exposure.

Rachio also plays nice with smart home ecosystems, integrating with Alexa, Google Assistant and more through IFTTT. Watch demo videos to see how voice commands make irrigation controls shockingly simple.

For most homeowners, I confidently recommend Rachio smart controllers for bring peace of mind through smarter watering. The convenience is well worth the very reasonable investment.

Orbit B-Hyve – Budget Friendly Irrigation

Tap into efficient automated sprinkler operation without breaking the bank by choosing Orbit‘s B-Hyve Smart 6/8/12 Zone Indoor/Outdoor Timer.

While lacking some advanced sensor capabilities of the Rachio, YAML Orbit‘s schedulers still intelligently self-adjust based on weather forecasts to eliminate waste. Temporary manual operation gives flexibility for quick spot watering or testing changes.

The easy-to-use app lets you tweak settings, set plant/zone parameters and monitor activity from anywhere. Integrate voice control through Amazon Alexa for simple hands-free watering activation as needed.

For homeowners needing reliable connected irrigation on a budget, B-Hyve keeps water usage and bills low.

Hunter PRO-HC – Full Commercial Control

On the highest end suitable for dedicated gardeners, golf courses and other commercial needs, Hunter‘s PRO-HC Professional Controller delivers ultimate oversight and future extensibility.

This modular system leverages a library of bolt-on sensors like rain gauges, freeze shutoffs, flow meters and more for micro-variable monitoring. Endless stations handle vast acreage via additional zone expansion kits.

Syncs with Hunter‘s proprietary Centralus cloud portal offer system oversight across multiple geographical sites. Save hundreds of tailored watering programs for different crops and landscapes to dial in year-round efficiency.

While beyond typical requirements, the Hunter PRO-HC highlights the possibilities of smart technology scaled to the nth degree. There‘s no environment or plant it can‘t intelligently accommodate.

So embrace innovation and let computerized sensors potentiate your water savings! Any of these intelligent controllers will start conserving immense amounts of water and money compared to antiquated timers.

Bring Smarter Irrigation Home Today

Hopefully it’s clear why upgrading to modern smart sprinkler systems makes sense:

Slash water usage & save money through hyperlocal weather adjusting

Reclaim your personal time avoiding constant manual watering

See great ROI long-term from compound efficiency gains

Review the options above and choose the best smart irrigation controller matching your yard requirements. Then sit back while technology perfectly waters for you!

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