Irrigation systems are one of my favorite components of a well presented landscape for a fine home. They serve as the life line to keep the lawn green during the summer and the plants alive during the driest and hottest periods of the year.
While serving in the landscape industry for over 15 years running a landscape design and Installation company, I have seen time and time again instances when homeowners were shell shocked when they receive their first water bill after installing an irrigation system. During the hottest periods of the year, June, July, and August, the irrigation water bill can be as much as $500 a month or more to keep the lawn green. So how do you mitigate these costs? There are some products available to assist and automate the control panel management, should you not be diligent in keeping an eye on the temperatures or weather patterns and adjusting your timer accordingly.
It been my experience that the following products help out with the battle in water conservation:
1: Hunter Mini Click:
Also known as a rain sensor, this device operates very simply; it will prevent your system from watering in the event of a rainfall. Typically they are wired directly into the control panel. Unfortunately, sometimes these simple devises do not work as they should, as spiders build webs inside them or debris builds up inside of them as well. During my tenure in the landscape industry, we would refer to these devises as “service call sensors.” Our clients that had these sensors installed on their systems always had to call us out to repair or replace them every year or so. With a cost of $200 to replace, rain sensors can help, but are not a fail-safe option.
2: Hunter Solar Sync:
While in theory this product is a great idea; it is designed to read weather activity, temperatures, and rainfall, and then automatically update programming on your control panel to be optimize with the current weather patterns. I was excited when this product came out on the market and then quickly disappointed because it practicality does not function as well as it should. My company installed dozens of these devises, and sadly had to go back and remove most of them. More often than not, they would malfunction, get confused, and cause the timer to perform all sorts of crazy things like adjust the time to 3 hours a day per zone and other horror stories. Simply put, I would not recommend installing a Hunter Solar sync.
3: Hunter weather station:
An upgrade from a basic rain sensor, the weather station will measure rain fall and also monitor high wind, and freezing temps and will adjust the control panel to be in sync. Remarkable this unit will also shut the system down when temperatures get below 37 degrees. This will prevent a potential dangerous situation of ice accumulation over surfaces and your prevent damage to your plants. However, keep in mind, temps get that low, the system winterized anyway. These usually cost around $200 to buy and $200 to install. The return on investment for this devise would be 1-2 years depending on the size of your lawn, and is the best option to help automate seasonal adjustments needs to your control panel.
While there are some interesting devices on the market, there is no “set it and forget it” option. The best way to perform sustainable irrigation is to be diligent about observing the weather patterns and adjusting the control panel is always needed. You or your lawn service professional will need to perform this.