You Are Smarter Than a 'Smart' Controller

You Are Smarter Than a 'Smart' Controller

A smart irrigation controller offers many convenient features. But it won't necessarily save you water or money — especially if you're letting the controller run your system whenever it wants to.

The truth is there is no such thing as the right or perfect irrigation controller. No controller — not even a smart controller — will magically save you water and money.

Just because a smart controller looks modern and sleek on the garage wall and you can access it from your phone, does not mean it will translate into water savings. In fact, trusting technology too much may actually cause you to use more water.

As a conservation consultant and licensed irrigator, my main job is to provide coaching on water management. No matter what type of controller you have, knowing how it works and what settings to use is the key to watering efficiently. You need to control your controller, not the other way around.

There are a lot of different smart controllers on the market, but if you get a smart controller, remember you are smarter than it is — and you need to program it. This means programming it to water on the correct day and time to be in compliance with your city’s watering rules. As far as run cycles, smart controllers typically have two settings: manual and weather-based (automatically adjusts to current weather conditions).

Be careful with the weather adjustable program settings as they tend toward generous use of water. For example, on warm winter days the controller may conclude your dormant grass needs irrigation and turn the system on. In the summer heat, your controller may conclude irrigation three times a week is necessary.

There’s no doubt smart controllers offer many convenient features such as allowing you to turn off your system remotely if it starts to rain or turning your zones on and off when walking your yard inspecting your system for leaks. While these are very convenient features, they won’t necessarily save you water or money, especially if you’re allowing the controller to run your system whenever it deems necessary.

Stay on top of your programming and take note of what it’s doing as it compares to your water bill every month. If you’re hands on with any controller and only water when needed, this is what could save you water and money.

And this may sound silly, but know how to turn your controller off. This is not always clear on smart controller displays so it’s important to find out how. You don’t need to water every week because your controller wants to, so turn it off and skip weeks when you can.

As I said before, there is no such thing as the perfect controller. The only thing that can save water is good programming and diligent water management. Irrigation controllers are never, ever something you want to set and forget because irrigation systems put out thousands of gallons of water each time they operate. Forgetting them will result in high water bills and a lot of wasted water.

We can help you set your controller for the best results. Just book a free irrigation consultation and one of our experts will review your landscape and irrigation system. The consultation may also make you eligible for rebates to improve your existing system. Call 210-704-SAVE or schedule your free consultation online.

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Heather Ginsburg

About our expert

Heather Ginsburg

Heather Ginsburg is passionate about helping homeowners and San Antonio save water. She brings experience as a landscape designer and horticultural therapist to each consultation she has with homeowners in her role as a conservation consultant for SAWS. Heather is an idealist and believes every homeowner can have beautiful low water-use gardens and functional outdoor spaces to interact with nature in a positive, life-enriching way. Heather is an urban farmer who works hard to teach her children to tread lighter on the earth.