Maintaining a lush landscape isn't cheap. In fact, most homeowners spend 30 to 50 percent of their annual water bills watering their lawns and gardens. To save money -- and the environment -- many people are installing in-ground irrigation systems, which automatically deliver a controlled flow of water. In the past, most sprinkler systems watered the same amount every day, wasting water and dollars. Thanks to advances in technology, however, all systems -- from basic to high end -- are now more efficient and effective than ever.
Even among low-cost underground irrigation systems, there are great money- and time-saving features (many of which are also available as add-on accessories for older systems). Moisture sensors automatically prevent the system from running when the soil has enough moisture. Likewise, rain sensors stop the sprinklers once a specified level of rain has fallen. Sprinkler timers automatically apply water at programmed times. Fertilizer injectors give your lawn or garden nutrients while its being watered. Pressure-regulating sprinkler heads reduce water pressure to prevent water-wasting leaks and to create a constant flow from right next to your house to the edge of your yard.
By spending a few hundred dollars more, however, homeowners can upgrade to a "smart" system. This new breed of high-tech irrigation automatically adjusts based on temperature, humidity, and rainfall. There are now a handful of companies offering Internet-enabled controllers that can plug into existing wiring to take any system from simple to superpowered.
These controllers automatically open and close valves, using the minimum amount of water needed to keep your landscape looking great. Rather than preset schedules, these smart systems tap into your home's Wi-Fi connection to access up-to-date weather information for your area and then water accordingly. Just had a pop-up thunderstorm? Going through an unexpected heat wave?
The controller will make the necessary adjustments. Some products can also manually or automatically account for your lawn's soil composition and your municipality's watering restrictions. The systems are so hands-free that homeowners never need to touch the controller after installation. They can manage and monitor their sprinklers from anywhere in the world using a web browser or smartphone app.
Other features to look for when shopping for smart controllers include: