All you need to know about buying a smart irrigation controller
A smart irrigation controller automatically adjusts watering based on local weather conditions. For example, when it rains the controller will reduce or turn off your irrigation to save you water. It will automatically turn your watering up and down based on the weather and the parameters you input into the controller, this is great for saving water but it should also make your garden even better.
In Darwin, a smart irrigation controller can tap into the Weather Web, a network of over 30 weather stations Living Water Smart has installed that will send localised weather data for your suburb, direct to your smart irrigation controller.
What to consider before buying a smart irrigation controller
You can purchase a smart irrigation controller from an irrigation supplier, retailer or some hardware stores. Make sure they offer a product warranty and, if you’re getting it professionally installed, an installation warranty.
There are several things you need to consider when deciding which smart irrigation controller to buy. For example, while there are a few smart irrigation controllers that will work with garden hoses or other off-the rack equipment, most are designed to be main powered, connected to their own water supply and feature motorised valves and irrigation piping to control the flow of water. Consult with an irrigation expert if you are installing an irrigation system from scratch and are interested in using a smart irrigation controller.
Other things to consider:
- How many zones do you wish to water? Make sure the controller you purchase has enough capacity to support all the zones in your system.
- Will your controller allow the installation of a flow meter to provide leak alerts? It's not imperative but is a great way to keep on top of sneaky leaks.
- How easy is it to use? A smart controller uses advanced software and different irrigation controllers have different levels of user-friendliness. Look at controllers that will be easy for you to use as this will encourage you to interact with it more.
- Will you need an irrigation specialist to install it for you? You can find a list here.
- Can you manage it with your smart phone? This allows you to have access to it while you are away from home.
- Will you mount it inside or outside? If outside, you’ll need a weatherproof enclosure for your system.
- Will there be subscription fees for climate and weather information packages?
For further advice about the type of smart irrigation controller to buy we suggest contacting one of our registered irrigators.
Cost of a smart irrigation controller
The cost of a smart irrigation controller ranges considerably depending on the features and brand and whether it’s for a residential or larger setting. You may find a controller from as little as $150 for a small residential system and they then go up to around $750 for a system requiring multiple zones and additional features. Most controllers should pay themselves off within 1-5 years via reduced water bills.
Accessing Darwin’s Weather Web with your smart irrigation controller
Whilst it’s free to access the Weather Web, some smart irrigation controllers have additional access plans that allow increased functions. Make sure you do your homework and get a controller and access plan that will work for you.
How tap timers and standard irrigation controllers differ from smart irrigation controllers?
Smart irrigation controller:
A smart irrigation controller automatically adjusts watering based on local weather conditions. For example, when it rains the controller will reduce or turn off your irrigation to save you water. It will automatically turn your watering up or down based on the weather and the parameters you input into the controller, this is great for saving water but it could also lead to a healthier garden as your plants are only getting the amount of water they need. Your garden will get just the right amount of water and you could save up to 50% on your water costs.
Standard (central automated) irrigation controllers:
A standard (central automated) irrigation controller operates multiple irrigation stations from a single controller. It is programmed to water your garden according to a schedule that you or your gardener has set. Unless you manually adjust these settings, your watering schedule, including the days and duration watering is to occur, will not change. So if there is heavy rain, your irrigation system will still come on, unless you are home and remember to manually turn it off. It is easy to overwater and waste money.
As a standard (central automated) controller is mains powered it can be easily swapped over to a smart irrigation controller. The multiple irrigation lines of a standard irrigation controller also easily match the multiple irrigation lines required for a smart irrigation controllers.
Programmable tap timers:
Programmable tap timers are battery powered and generally only operate one irrigation line.
If you want to upgrade your programmable tap timers to a smart irrigation controller you are likely to need extra work done by an irrigation specialist. This may include installing an isolation valve, a backflow prevention device, and solenoid valves for each watering station. You will also need to ensure there is a strong consistent Wi-Fi signal at the location where you intend to install your smart irrigation controller and access to a mains power point.