Weather-Sensing Irrigation Systems

How often have you seen a situation where lawn sprinklers are running at the same time it’s raining? Or even better, sprinklers that are running while it’s snowing? Your initial reaction is probably to laugh at something that looks totally ridiculous. I know I do. If you’re like me, you ultimately feel what you just saw is a total waste of both water and electricity to run the system. Seeing lawn irrigation systems running when the weather clearly doesn’t require them is, sadly, a common occurrence. Thanks to advances in technology, however, it’s something that doesn’t have to happen at all.

Sprinkler System

Homeowners are now able to save water in their own landscapes with the same weather-based, water-saving technologies that until now were previously only used at golf courses, sports fields, and large public outdoor areas. These technologies include weather-based smart controllers that adjust the operation of your sprinkler system using rain, freeze, and moisture sensors. These types of sensors can help reduce homeowners’ outdoor water usage by as much as 70%.

Weather-sensing irrigation systems allow you to water your lawn based on its real-time needs. For example, if it’s raining, the sensors in your system will detect the moisture and turn off the sprinklers, so you are not watering a lawn that doesn’t need any water. This not only saves you water but is healthier for your lawn. The sensors also will adjust or turn off your sprinkler system if the temperature drops below a certain set point, again saving water but also reducing possible freeze damage to your system.

Weather-based irrigation controllers use historical and real-time weather data to determine the watering needs of your lawn. They use temperature and rainfall data and then calculate how much irrigation is needed each day. The sensors examine each zone of your lawn and determine whether to irrigate as scheduled, turn the system off or adjust the irrigation to apply more or less water. The cost of these controllers runs from $120 on the low end to $500 on the high end.

Soil moisture sensors connect to your existing irrigation controller. They monitor the moisture in your lawn and provide real-time control of the irrigation system. If your ground is wet from a rain storm, the sensors will prevent the sprinkler system from turning on and wasting water. These are simple systems to operate that can provide significant water savings. This is the type of sensor I have at my house, and I highly recommend them. The cost of soil moisture sensors can run anywhere from $5 to around $180.

Rain and freeze sensors measure rainfall and the onset of cold temperatures to prevent your irrigation system from watering your lawn when not needed. You program the rainfall and temperature set points in the system, and it then automatically tailors your watering schedule according to the prevailing weather conditions. Like soil moisture sensors, rain and freeze sensors are simple to operate. They provide real-time control of your irrigation system and help significantly lower your outdoor water usage. The cost of rain and freeze sensors can run from $15 to around $100.

As with any type of energy or water-saving equipment, do your homework before purchasing something. The best bargain isn’t necessarily the product with the lowest price. What you want are sensors that are going to work consistently and reliably over several years so you can achieve the maximum savings.

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About the author
Ben White has written thousands of articles on everything home improvement. He has had the privilege of writing for such websites as the Huffington Post, DeWalt,, HGTV, and many others.

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