Sustainable Lawn Irrigation: Tips for Saving Water (and Money)

Sustainable Lawn Irrigation: Tips for Saving Water (and Money)

Sustainable Lawn Irrigation: Tips for Saving Water (and Money)

Irrigation systems are one of my favorite components of professional lawn care.

They serve as the lifeline to keep the lawn green during the summer and landscapes alive during the driest and hottest periods of the year.

During the hottest periods of the year; June, July, and August. Water bills can be as much as $500 a month or more to keep the lawn green. 

So how do you mitigate these costs?

Here is what I learned.

My Experience With Saving Water in the Lawn

While serving in the landscape industry for over 15 years and running a landscape design and installation company.  I learned a lot about irrigation.

Look, I have seen time and time again, instances when homeowners were shell shocked to receive their first water bill after installing an irrigation system.    

Fortunately, there are some products available to assist and automate the control panel management. These devices can save you time and water by automatically adjusting your timer to weather changes accordingly.

It has been my experience that the following products help out with the battle in water conservation. 

Quick NoteWhile I have experience with Hunter brand products, other irrigation companies have comparable products. 

1. Use a Rain Sensor-

The Hunter mini-click (also known as a rain sensor) is a great way to make your irrigation system more sustainable

It’s simple, this device prevents your system from watering in the event of rainfall.  Typically they are wired directly into the control panel.  

Unfortunately, sometimes these simple devices do not work as they should, as spiders build webs, or debris builds up inside of them.  

During my tenure in the landscape industry, we would refer to these devices 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 about $200 to replace, rain sensors can help but are not a fail-safe option. But they do save money on water bills.

2: Avoid Using a Solar Sync:

Look, in theory, a solar sync product is a great idea; it is designed to read weather activity, temperatures, and rainfall. The device then automatically updates the programming on your control panel to optimize the settings with the current weather patterns. Saving you from overusing water

In fact, I was excited when this product came out on the market.

Unfortunately, I was quickly disappointed because it does not function as well as it should.  

My company installed dozens of Hunter Solar Syncs and sadly had to go back and remove most of them

In my experience, more often than not, they would malfunction, get confused, and cause the timer to perform all sorts of crazy things. 

For example, 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: Install an Irrigation Weather station:

The weather station is an upgrade from a basic rain sensor. This device will measure rainfall and also monitor high wind, and freezing temps and will adjust the control panel to be in sync. 

Remarkably, this unit will also shut the system down when temperatures get below 37 degrees. 

This will prevent a potentially dangerous situation of ice accumulation over surfaces and prevent damage to your plants.  

However, keep in mind when temps get that low, you will want to winterize your irrigation system anyway. 

These devices usually cost around $200 to buy and $200 to install.  

The return on investment for this device would be 1-2 years depending on the size of your lawn, and is the best option to help automate seasonal adjustments to your control panel to conserve water.

4. Smart Irrigation Technology 

A lot has changed since I was in the lawn care industry. And one of the biggest is the advent of smart technology. 

Nowadays you can buy smart water meters at Home Depot or Lowes that you can control from your smart phone.

While they may not be as advanced as the rain detector or irrigation water station, they can lead to much more sustainable irrigation

In fact, lawn care pros can use Zapier in combination with a smart sprinkler to automate all of their clients' sprinkler systems automatically. 

While these devices are cheaper than other options. They still have a long way to go to meet professional standards

Frequently Asked Questions

Which irrigation system is most efficient?

Drip irrigation is the most efficient irrigation system.

How to install an irrigation system?

Irrigation System Installation Steps

  1. Plan layout.
  2. Dig trenches.
  3. Lay pipes and connect components.
  4. Install sprinkler heads/drip lines.
  5. Test system.
  6. Cover trenches.

How to find a leak in an irrigation system?

Find a leak in irrigation system:

  • Check for visible wet spots.
  • Monitor water meter changes.
  • Listen for hissing sounds.
  • Isolate zones and test each.

Which irrigation method loses the most water?

Surface/flood irrigation loses the most water due to evaporation, runoff, and inefficient distribution.

Overview of Sustainable Lawn Irrigation Options

Explore various sustainable irrigation methods, their benefits, and drawbacks to effectively manage water usage and costs.

Rain Sensor (Hunter mini-click)Prevents irrigation during rainfall by connecting to the control panel.Saves water; Can reduce water bills.Requires annual maintenance due to malfunctions.About $200 to replace.
Solar SyncAdjusts irrigation settings based on weather readings like temperature and rainfall.Conceptually innovative.Prone to malfunctions and programming errors.Costly to install and often removed.
Irrigation Weather StationMeasures various weather conditions and adjusts control panel settings, including shutting down at freezing temperatures.Automates adjustments; prevents ice accumulation.Initial installation cost.Around $400 (purchase and installation).
Smart Irrigation TechnologyControlled via smartphone, potentially more sustainable.More accessible and user-friendly.Not as advanced, needs improvement.Lower than other specialized devices.
General TipsObserving weather patterns and manual adjustment of control panels.Effective water conservation.Requires ongoing attention and adjustment.N/A

The Bottom Line on Sustainable Lawn Irrigation

While there are some interesting devices on the market, there is no “set it and forget it” option.

Whether you are using the best sprinkler on the market, or have a professional irrigation system installed. The best way to perform sustainable irrigation is to be diligent about observing the weather patterns and adjusting the control panel is always needed.  

Still, you or your lawn service professional will need to be attentive to the settings in your lawn if you want to conserve water. 

One of the best ways to conserve water is to remain vigilant.

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