A standard irrigation controller is thought of as the “brains” of an automated irrigation system. It applies water at pre-programmed days and times. Smart irrigation controllers are more sophisticated. They are “smart” due to the feedback received either from climate measurements or soil moisture measurements. Once programmed with basic information, smart controllers can use that moisture feedback to adjust irrigation application to match plant needs. But the WiFi enabled controllers from Rachio and Hydrawise have gone a step further in making an irrigation system intelligent and saving water.
What is a Wifi Controller?
This is a smart irrigation controller that you can sync to your smartphone or tablet via WiFi. You can easily monitor what is going on with your system and make changes in the controller program even when far away from home, because your wireless device can act as a remote control. As long as you have a WiFi connection you can alter your watering schedules while on vacation or traveling for business. The unit can also learn from you as you teach it about unique characteristics in your yard. As it gets smarter, it can continue to tweak your irrigation schedule.
How does it work?
Using your WiFi network, the controller accesses the internet directly through your router. Simply enter your wireless password into the unit and it will connect. The unit can then access a live stream from weather stations close to you, meaning it will work with the most up-to-date information and will be able to modify the irrigation schedule based on that information. When you download the app for your Smartphone or other wireless device, you can then control the unit remotely. Flow meters in the Hydrawise unit allow you to detect broken pipes, spray heads and faulty wiring or valves. The interface allows you to view the water usage for each watering cycle and set up email or SMS alerts when a zone’s water usage is abnormal.
Setting up your Wifi Controller
If you have an existing sprinkler controller, simply remove it and replace it with one of our Wifi controllers. Unplug your old controller, detach the low voltage zone wires and remove it from the wall. Affix the new WiFi controller to the wall and reattach the wires. Now you connect to WiFi. You’ll be prompted to sync your controller through the smartphone app. Hold your smartphone up to the unit and it will connect to your WiFi and download a schedule custom to your location. There is no need to leave your computer on or make any network changes. Simply enter your wireless password into the unit and you’re done.
If you do not have an existing controller, you will have to start by building a valve system. Then you connect the smart controller by wiring it to the valves and follow the WiFi connection steps.
Programming your controller
To get the most out of your Smart Controller, teach it well. Take the time to input all useful data such as the type of plant material, precipitation rate and any special conditions that exist. You will have plenty of coaching in the controller manuals about inputting the information. Honing in on all the specific details of your site will help your WiFi controller to save you substantial amounts of water and cut irrigation costs while maintaining good growth and appearance of your plants.
Water Sense Approval
The WaterSense approval means that many water providers and municipalities across the US now provide rebates for buying and installing a smart irrigation controller. These rebates can be good for up to a year after purchase, so check on your local water provider's website or give them a call to see if you are eligible.
Here is a link to the Rebate Finder on the EPA's Water Sense page.