What makes a controller a "smart" controller? Traditional sprinkler timers require manual adjustments every time the weather changes. “Smart” controllers automatically adjust the watering schedule based on local weather/site conditions. So, once the initial setup and monitoring is complete, there’s no need to reset the timer. The “smart” controller makes adjustments automatically.
I had my first instruction on the new Rain Bird® ESP-SMT Smart Control System back in March. I was amazed at the number of different settings required to set the controller. (Thinking perhaps I wasn't smart enough to program a smart controller!) All these initial intricate settings in regard to slope, sun/shade, soil and grass type in connection with the mini-weather station create ideal watering situations custom designed for your yard. The controller will increase or decrease the amount of water applied as your yard requires.
This is truly amazing technology. No more adjusting controller watering times up in July and back down in September. No more watering when it is raining or over-watering in shady zones and under watering in sunny ones. Controllers up to this point have been mostly a "one size fits all" technology. These new controllers are like having your suits and shoes custom cut to fit you. Precisely programmed to meet the needs of your custom landscape.
Studies from the Irrigation Association show that
"A “smart” controller saves you money by reducing your water use. Your actual water savings will depend on how you have watered in the past. Pilot studies have shown typical water savings to be in the range of 20%-40% annually.
“Smart” controllers also save money by providing a healthier landscape, since a landscape that is properly watered will be less likely to suffer from fungal disease and insect infestations that can require costly treatments, thereby protecting your landscape investment."
I am sure you are pondering is cost. Are they more expensive? Of course they are. Currently "smart" controllers are about $300 more than a normal controller box. Are they worth it? It depends on your yard, your lifestyle and the cost of water in your area. Honestly, I wouldn't recommend them for everyone. If you are like me, and love to have the latest and greatest technology you need to check these out. If you travel extensively and aren't available to adapt your controller settings as the watering season progresses, this might be a good idea for you. If you have an extensive landscape with many varieties of plants, grasses and soils, this is right up your alley. If you live in a place where the cost of water is very high and getting worse every season a "smart" controller upgrade will pay for itself in a short amount of time.
Bottom line, "smart" controllers are a smart move for some people. For the rest, the smartest thing you can do to save money and water, is to install a rain-shut-off device on your current controller. It is simple, inexpensive and effective.
Have a super week!