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Maximize the Efficiency of Your Smart Controller

Conserving water is especially important in outdoor landscape irrigation. We have the technology -- we need the will to work smarter with irrigation controllers.

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Recommendations to Maximize the Efficiency of Your Smart Controller from the California Landscape Contractors Association

Smart controllers, also known as weather based controllers,
are one of the many valuable water saving technologies available
to help make landscape water usage more efficient.

These irrigation clocks that adjust the amount of water applied to a landscape in response to environmental changes. Using sensors and/or weather information, these controllers adjust your irrigation system automatically in response to rain, wind or temperature changes.  Smart controllers can help reduce landscape water usage and in some cases can offer dramatic savings. They can also help you maintain a more healthy landscape.

Smart controllers are becoming very popular in water-sensitive states like California which are experiencing severe water shortages.

However, if used incorrectly the "smart controller", a sophisticated electronic water management device may not give the desired water saving results. 

The California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) is pleased to offer some recommendations to help you maximize the efficiency of this water saving device and to help keep your landscape beautiful.

Program it Correctly.

In order to maximize and maintain water efficiency, the smart controller needs to be programmed correctly.  These mini computers need in depth information about soil, plants, exposure, type of irrigation etc. because they are customized for your property.  Like any computer, if it receives inaccurate information, it will not achieve the desired results, possibly resulting in over or under irrigated areas and damaged plants or hardscapes.
Monitor Your Site.

Site conditions must be monitored, especially the first few weeks after installing your controller to fine tune and adjust your controller settings.  Look for run off, poor plant heath, color changes and/or any other signs that settings might need to be modified.  Several adjustments may be needed.   
Water Mandates and Restrictions.

If you are limited to day of the week watering restrictions, your smart controller may not be allowed to function correctly.  CLCA recommends to either use the smart controller or follow the allocated watering days, not both. If only allowed to water one or two days a week, it defeats the purpose of watering based on sensors and weather information.

Smart controllers and good water management are often more effective at reducing landscape water usage than assigned watering days because most people soak their lawns during their allocated time, actually using more water than the site actually needs. Some cities and water districts are now allowing those with smart controllers to be exempt from limited day watering restrictions.  Be sure to check with your local water district regarding restriction exceptions.  

Regular Maintenance of Current Irrigation System. 

It is important to regularly inspect your irrigation system and repair leaks and/or other problems. Since these controllers consistently adjust your watering, if there is a leak or other problem with the irrigation system, even if programmed correctly, your landscape may not receive the correct amount of water that it needs. Learning to read your water meter will help you determine if you have a leak.

Installing New Landscape. 

If new landscape is being installed, group plants into similar areas based on water needs.  These areas, called hydrozones will help your plants receive the proper amount of water to meet their needs and help to maximize the efficiency of your controller because all the plants have the same water usage requirements.  When selecting an irrigation system for your new landscape, take time to learn about the most efficient irrigation devices and about the water requirements of the plants being installed. Also consider including drought tolerant plants in your landscape design. A well-planned landscape incorporating advanced irrigation technology, drought resistant plants and a smart controller will see the most water savings.

Smart controllers are an excellent tool to help reduce landscape water usage.  When used and programmed properly, a smart controller can help you achieve substantial water savings. And as fresh water becomes more heavily used,and limited by escalating populations and urban systems, every drop saved and reused is important for everyone.

For additional water saving information, please go to: http://www.clca.org/clca/about/consumer/drought/index.php

California Landscape Contractors Association
1491 River Park Dr#100
Sacramento, Ca 95815
(916) 830-2780

Edited by Carolyn Allen, Managing Editor of Solutions For Green

Publication Date: 4/27/2010

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