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At Susan Friedman Landscape Architecture (SFLA), we specify smart irrigation controllers in most of our landscape projects – for both new projects and renovations. We design landscapes to meet our clients’ desires for seasonal interest and easy maintenance – as well as California’s Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (WELO). By using climate adaptive plants and grouping trees, shrubs and perennials by their water needs into irrigation zones, we can create an irrigation plan that includes a smart controller to help those plants grow and thrive while saving water. 

And, with a smart irrigation controller and app, you can also use your phone, computer or tablet to tap into a network of weather stations, adjust your irrigation schedule, water your landscape remotely, and even troubleshoot problems. Or better yet, forget about it almost entirely!

Phone controlling spray irrigation

Upgrading is a No-Brainer

Smart controllers enable you as the homeowner to take advantage of new technology to fine-tune your irrigation to match your property’s particular microclimate, evaporation rate, soil and plant type. Once your irrigation system is installed or updated, you download the app onto your computer or phone, connect to the smart controller, enter information about your yard, and you are ready to go. If you already have an existing irrigation system, many of the companies now offer a WiFi sensor that upgrades a number of their controllers to make them accessible and programmable by iOS or Android compatible devices.

Technology experts agree that upgrading to a smart irrigation controller is a smart move. Andrew Gebhart in the article “6 Reasons You Need a Smart Sprinkler” on c/net suggests, “You might want to listen to your smart sprinkler’s advice, even if you do traditionally like to set your sprinkler schedule. Smart sprinklers use a variety of metrics to determine how fast the water will evaporate from your soil given the info you tell it about your yard. They can break up watering times into smaller segments automatically to help the water soak in and reduce run-off. They can automatically calculate how to fit all of this in before sunrise and adapt the schedule as that time changes over the course of a season.”

Back in the day, we had to manually set the run times and schedules for each zone and then make adjustments if it rained unexpectedly – or more commonly didn’t rain as much as normal. A smart irrigation controller makes those adjustments automatically based on either local weather data or soil moisture sensors – depending on your type of controller.  

Weather-based Controllers

Weather-based or evapotranspiration controllers are the way to go for the most comprehensive information about what’s going on in your local area. They collect data about the local temperature, wind velocity, solar radiation and level of humidity from a network of local weather stations. This data is then used to evaluate the scheduled irrigation run time and automatically adjusts it to fit the current conditions. This adjustment means that plants receive the amount of water they need and avoids over and under-watering, improving the health of your landscape, conserving water, and saving you money. It’s a win, win, win.

Many Brands and Models

There are many smart controllers to choose from. Each irrigation company offers their own smart controllers that work with their irrigation systems, and some of the newest smart controllers promise to work with almost any system. Well-known irrigation companies like Rainbird, Toro and Hunter all have smart controllers that work with their systems, and the Rachio 3 will work with most irrigation and smart-home systems. And you might want to check to see if you might qualify for a rebate from your water district.

If your landscape and irrigation system could use an update, the SFLA team would be happy to explore how we can help by designing a beautiful and climate adaptive landscape and irrigation plan that will save you time and water while providing a healthier landscape for you to enjoy this summer. 

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