The 4 Best Irrigation System Upgrades and Controllers

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Irrigation system headTechnology advances so quickly. Think about it.

Do you use the same cell phone you used five years ago? What about that old dinosaur of a computer you once used that seemed to take up the space of the entire desk?

I bet you’re using a smartphone with all of the bells and whistles today and a laptop or tablet that’s not even a fraction of the size of your last desktop computer. Maybe you even have a Bluetooth device in your ear for hands-free calls and a wireless mouse to boot. 

The same can be said for landscape irrigation technology.

Just as smartphones continue to advance — doing more for you in one device than ever before and saving you time and money — irrigation system upgrades and technologies are also improving by leaps and bounds annually, providing boosts in efficiency and using less water in a smarter fashion.

Here are the top technologies we’re using on new landscape irrigation systems today. We also use these technologies to update existing irrigation systems, so they too can become high-tech, high-efficiency, water-saving machines.

It’s All About The Rotator, As In MP Rotator

Time eventually catches up with older, cheaper spray nozzles in irrigation spray heads. Pipes get kinked or clogged or lose pressure over time. The result is an inefficient, water-wasting mess of a system.

Where you’ll see the negative results is in areas that aren’t being irrigated properly—for instance, if the pressure in a system is low, a spray head won’t fully extend so there will be watering gaps.

And that’s not great for the plant material that’s desperate for that water, especially in the heat of summer.

This is where we’ll retrofit existing irrigation heads with MP Rotator nozzles.

These small but mighty nozzles combine the low precipitation rates and greater radius of rotor-type sprinklers with the small size and lower cost of spray-type sprinklers.

MP Rotators spread water more slowly over a longer period of time, which allows the water to soak into the ground more evenly. While a typical spray head will use 3.5 gallons to 4.5 gallons of water per minute, an MP Rotator will only use .7 gallons of water per minute.

This irrigation system upgrade is especially helpful in drier areas that need that extra time to absorb the water. Not only does this save a lot of water, but it also reduces water bills. When you’re not overwatering, you’re also reducing soil runoff, erosion and flooding that result in spongy turf, shallow roots or drowning plants.

MP Rotators also emit heavy water droplets, providing a more wind-resistant spray pattern so the water is directed where it’s intended and not on nearby hardscape areas where it’s not needed.

Because MP Rotators can spray further, covering a greater area, an irrigation system usually doesn’t need as many spray heads. We can get 15 feet of spray out of an MP Rotator versus 4 to 6 feet with a regular spray head. With fewer heads, we now have a more efficient system that uses less water and less pressure because it has fewer places to which to send that pressure. Any pressure problems in a system are instantly improved.

Adding MP Rotators to a system typically costs $60 to $70 per head including installation costs and results in a 30-percent reduction in water use.

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Irrigation Sensors

Wouldn’t it be great if you could actually sense the rain when it was coming so you could plan ahead – say, when your irrigation system is running and it’s pouring outside.

While the weatherman is helpful for some of these predictions, he’s not always accurate, and the percentage chances can really make you wonder what to do.

That’s where the magic of sensors comes into play. They actually sense elements like rain or wind and automatically turn your irrigation system off when it’s not needed.

A rain sensor is a pretty simple and inexpensive irrigation system upgrade, costing only roughly $99 installed. This above-ground technology will sense moisture and keep the irrigation system from running until its next scheduled run time.

A wind sensor will do something similar with winds above certain thresholds, keeping the sprinkler system off so you’re not wasting water or blowing it all over your home or hardscapes when winds are too high.

Irrigation Weather Stations

Even when we watch the weather reports, we can’t always tell whether it’s really going to storm and ruin our outdoor picnic or whether that storm is just going to blow right past us and save us from moving our soiree indoors.

Now imagine the amount of time you’d have to spend rescheduling your irrigation system every time you checked the Weather Channel forecasts?

That’s where weather stations come into the picture. With a sensor, you can only forecast rain or wind individually, but with weather stations you get a compact weatherman which makes your irrigation system a whole lot smarter.

The weather station combines the benefits of a rain sensor with two other valuable components: the freeze sensor and the wind sensor.

In Idaho Falls, we tend to have cold mornings where we’ll start with 50-degree temperatures and then reach 100-degrees later in the day. In the fall, this spread is the same but the temperatures start much lower. So at night and in the early morning, we can have temperatures in the 30s.

And if your irrigation system is still running at those times, the water will ice up on the lawn and you’ll have large ice sheets that need to melt during the day. This delays mowing and can turn the grass yellow. A freeze sensor will delay the sprinkler system’s run time until the temperature warms up to above freezing to prevent these problems.

A miniature weather station costs approximately $350, including installation. For a high-tech hero, this is a small percentage of the cost of an overall system, which typically costs $3,500 for full installation on small properties to $6,500 for full installation on properties around 1 acre or more in size.

Irrigation Remote Control

Like to operate everything in the palm of your hand?

Another technology you can use to advance your irrigation system is a wifi-connected irrigation controller.

With this, you can program and run your irrigation system (if it has up to 16 stations) with your iPhone or Android device.

What does this mean when it comes to weather?

With these controllers, you can download forecasts and turn your irrigation system off when rain is predicted — even without a sensor — saving you water and time in the process.

Plus, since we’re using our smartphones for so many other things, it seems only natural that we use it to help control our irrigation systems.

Are Your Ready For A High-Tech Irrigation System?

Residential irrigation systems are improving every day. MP rotators improve coverage and save you water and money, sensors make sure your irrigation system isn’t running when it’s not needed and weather stations help you better manage the whole system based on weather changes and challenges.

With all of these new irrigation system upgrades and technologies, you'll have the most efficient and worry-free system available.

Think your system is in need of an upgrade? Contact Outback Landscaping’s experts at 208-656-3220 or fill out the contact form to set up a no-obligation meeting with one of our team members to discuss the water needs on your property. 

Request Irrigation Audit & Tune-Up

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