Smart irrigation: Why you should set up smart watering with your next smart sprinkler
Smart irrigation is not only convenient and cost-effective, but it’s also simply the right thing to do.
With the world’s population approaching 8 billion, water is becoming more and more scarce. Up to 70% of world’s water consumption is used for irrigation. It is not surprising that this is also where most of the water withdrawals are wasted. Up to half of the water we spend on irrigation is wasted due to inefficient irrigation methods.
With smart irrigation, you’ll be doing a favor to yourself AND to the world.
In this article, you’ll find out why smart irrigation is awesome. And don’t worry, it’s not a complicated and costly system, that only the big few can afford. Continue reading and find out why.
Smart irrigation: complete irrigation system vs. smart sprinklers
First of all, you need to differentiate between the two solutions.
Irrigation controllers are stand-alone irrigation units that control your irrigation. Since it’s a standalone solution and you will need to check if it’s compatible with your smart home controller.
On the other hand, you can upgrade your ordinary irrigation sprinklers and make them smart. The only thing you need is a simple smart relay which you wire to your electric sprinkler. As long as the smart module is compatible with your smart home gateway, there shouldn’t be any problem to connect it with other smart devices in your home.
Most of the garden hoses and equipment have motorized valves that connect irrigation controllers to their own water supply. Making an ordinary irrigation sprinkler smart is not that difficult. However, setting up a complete smart irrigation system will most likely require you to hire a professional to plan the garden zones in advance.
In short, the main advantage of a complete smart irrigation solution is, that it offers you more features and also insights about the weather, soil conditions while adding a smart module to your existing irrigation is cheaper, simpler to install and you can control it the same way you control other smart home devices. The latest is a better choice if you already have irrigation and/or you don’t need as many features and you want to control your smart home from one app.
How smart irrigation works
Smart irrigation system collects information from sensors and sends predefined user orders to actuators, that make the water sprinkler to go off. The data is collected by moisture sensors. A user defines the moisture and the temperature range. When the threshold is reached an action is performed (i.e. start/stop irrigating when moisture is at a certain level). The irrigation controller can also make sure that the water is actually flowing, that the pipes are not clogged or leaking, etc. The user can control the system easily via a smartphone app. Based on weather information and sensor data, the controller can determine on its own when it's the best time to irrigate, how long to irrigate and how much water to use.
The 6 main features of smart irrigation
One of the biggest decisions when choosing a controller is how you are going to control it. Do you want to control your irrigation remotely via a smartphone app, or would you rather control it directly on the device with buttons? The latter might be useful for people that are not comfortable with using smartphone apps. There won’t be any physical buttons, just a LED light to signal if the system is working. Anyway, if you’re ok with these drawbacks and are perfectly capable of using smartphone apps, we suggest you choose remote app control. It’s more convenient, more intuitive and you can check and control your system from anywhere.
Set up separate irrigation zones for plants that have different needs
Each irrigation valve irrigates its own area. The area irrigated by one valve is one irrigation zone. You can personalize each irrigation zone and water the soil as much as the plants there need it. You can have as many zones as you have valves. Make sure your irrigation controller supports as many zones as you need.
Think in advance how you want to use your smart irrigation. How complex will it be? Irrigation controllers vary when it comes to scheduling options. Scheduling is a very useful feature, as it gives you peace of mind - even when you’re on vacation. When connected to a moisture sensor, it can automatically shorten or prolong irrigation times to make sure your plants are not thirsty or drowning in water. If you need specific scheduling options, make sure the controller supports it before purchasing. The best time to irrigate is early in the morning - before 10 AM.
Notifications are useful and convenient. You can get notified when the irrigation starts, when it’s completed, if there are any errors, some smart controller even notify you if there is a leakage in the system, etc. Whatever your wishes concerning notifications are, make sure the controller supports it before purchasing.
Even smarter smart irrigation
Some irrigation systems can go one step further and take into account the weather and the local environment. Smart scheduling is a great idea that could optimize irrigation even further, but with current technology can be quite quirky. One feature that works well is turning off the irrigation when it rains.
As of now, most smart irrigation controllers cannot connect to your smart home gateway and other smart devices in your home. It is definitely the next step for most smart irrigation units and we can expect to see more smart home gateway support in the future. The ones that support it definitely have an advantage.
Before purchasing, decide which features you actually need. You might not need all the fancy features of the expensive smart controllers. For most smart homeowners, scheduling irrigation times will be enough. Always plan your needs ahead and then check which solution fits you best.
Lower consumption = Lower cost + Environmental responsibility
There is no dispute that smart irrigation saves water compared to “dumb” irrigation systems. Controlled studies (including the ones at Irrigation Association) show that smart irrigation systems save between 20% and 50% of water.
When you think about it, smart irrigation is a smart and responsible thing to do. Especially when it comes to agriculture, which is the main water spender, smart irrigation should be adopted as soon as possible. The agriculture already is getting smarter and smart irrigation is already quite popular for commercial use.
However, the same is not true for home use. Most irrigation systems are made for large commercial areas in mind, not small gardeners. Thanks to innovative smart home brands, it has gotten significantly easier for small private properties to set up their own smart irrigation. The system can be controlled through an intuitive smartphone app and what’s even better - it connects to your favorite Z-Wave hub and smart devices.
Who is smart irrigation for?
You don’t have to be a tech enthusiast with massive gardens to make use of smart irrigation systems. Upgrading to smart irrigation is neither complicated nor costly. If you’re not sure how to set it up you can hire a professional to do it for you. In the long term the cost of smart devices and their set-up will pay for themselves by lower water bills as a result of lower water consumption. Once you set up the system, programming and scheduling irrigation via a smartphone app shouldn’t be a challenge. The use of the app is quite straightforward and besides that, it’s smart enough to work properly without constant manual modifications. Don’t let the small initial setup hassle stop you from years of savings and convenience.
Smart irrigation can be very smart
Even though we mentioned that some smart features can be quirky, there are irrigation controllers out there that are very smart - and they’re getting even smarter.
With the use of sensors to gather data and advanced algorithms to set up scheduling, they will maximize the effectiveness of irrigation. They can determine the rate at which the water will evaporate and based on those estimates automatically water the zones in multiple shorter irrigation segments to maintain optimal soakness of the soil. They will take into account when the sun sets and raises and which season of the year it is. Some controllers will warn you about your state’s irrigation limitations based on your ZIP code. You can set up how many centimeters of water per hour should be sprinkled or even how deep are the roots of your plants in the garden.
But as we mentioned, unless you have a very large irrigation area, you won’t need these features. For individual use, making your ordinary water sprinklers smart will be enough.
Smart watering controlled by your voice
For people who got used to controlling their smart devices using voice, this could be important as well. Since smart sprinklers (at least some) can connect to your smart hub, you can use voice commands to manage your irrigation. You will need to make sure that the smart controller you’re buying supports either Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant.
In conclusion, making your watering system smart is a smart thing to do. Your main benefits will be:
- Remotely control sprinkler system via a smartphone app
- Set us schedules to water your garden automatically
- Add sensors (rain, soil wetness, etc.) to know better what your plants need
- Get notifications and prevent errors like leakages
- Save water - environment-friendly solution
- Lower water bills
- Use voice control to control the watering system
Some smart devices are more a matter of preference, but smart irrigation should be a no-brainer for most. Even if you’re not a smart home enthusiast, it brings too many benefits to ignore it. It’s perfectly understandable if you don’t feel the need to control your lights with your phone instead of using an ordinary light switch, but smart irrigation convenience and cost reduction should be more than enough to convince you to make your garden sprinklers smart by adding a smart switch.