There are two general types of smart irrigation technology: weather based and soil moisture based. Both can help you save water, but there are some important differences. Here is the lowdown on the two, so you can choose the system that best suits your needs:
Weather-Based Smart Irrigation Technology
lso known as ET-based technology, a weather-based irrigation system includes either a mini on-site weather station or weather sensor capable of monitoring conditions such as temperature, rainfall, and solar radiation on your property, or this same information is broadcast to the irrigation controller from a remote weather site. Depending on the model, the sensor hardware requires an existing controller be replaced with a weather-based controller with the technology integrated into the controller or come as an add-on receiver to your existing controller. Typically the sensors are quite small and can be mounted inconspicuously on a building, fence post or other object in your yard. Most have wireless communication between the sensor and the controller.
The add-on weather-based sensors are suitable for most residential applications. At $300-$600 installed, they are fairly affordable, especially considering they typically lower irrigation water consumption by 20-25 percent or more when properly installed and calibrated on a well-designed system. Payback on such a system varies, but it is not uncommon for a smart panel to pay for itself in lowered water bills within two years.
The controllers with the integrated weather-based technology is similar to the add-on sensor, but because it can use the computing power of the controller, it can have more detailed information entered into it regarding the plant type, soil type, slope, exposure, and sprinkler type that an add-on sensor can.
Typically the integrated weather-based controllers are more accurate than the add-on controllers because of the additional site information they use, when properly programmed and used on an efficient irrigation system, the savings will increase accordingly. Up to 40 percent savings on water consumption when compared to traditional irrigation methods is not considered unusual. They are relatively expensive, costing from $500 to $2000 installed. In addition to the water savings, the increase in plant health, which has the potential to reduce the money spend on treating plant health problems, can be significant enough to more than warrant the expense.