If you have a sprinkler system that’s operated by a mechanical or an electronic timer (that is, clock-based) you should consider upgrading to a WiFi irrigation controller, also known as a smart controller or a weather-based controller. These devices are much easier to program and many will do it automatically. They reduce water use by using current weather data to decide when to water your yard. A smart controller can also automatically adjust its watering schedule based on the season so that once it is set it up it does not have to be reprogrammed.
Smart controllers can only be used with underground sprinkler systems that have wired controllers so they cannot operate with battery-operated controllers or hose timers. They get weather information through a built-in internet connection that is also used to control them remotely, so you’ll need to have a good WiFi coverage to use them. Note that many devices have a feature that when WiFi goes down, they operate on a pre-programmed schedule. Smart controllers can also be programmed to work with local water restrictions, so that you avoid potential fines.
WiFi irrigation controller let you set your sprinkler schedules using a smartphone app or via your computer. They allow you to set different watering schedules for zones that you define. Using the app, you can turn your sprinklers on and off remotely, set rain exceptions and program watering times from your mobile phone. One thing to keep in mind is that most sprinkler controllers aren’t waterproof and they need to be installed indoors or in a protected space.
Most smart controllers for irrigation systems also connect to smart-home devices such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant and some can also be operated through Apple’s HomeKit, Wink and SmartThings hubs which enable you to control your watering system using voice commands.
These devices are also environmentally friendly because they help you conserve water as well as saving money on your water bills. Most of them are WaterSense-certified which is similar to the Energy Star program for energy saving home appliances. WaterSense products are tested to rigorous EPA standards for water efficiency. Some water utilities will give you a rebate if you install WaterSense approved irrigation controllers which often cover a significant part of the cost of these devices. The EPA has calculated that a WaterSense approved controller saves the average home around 8,800 gallons of water a year which, if applied to every home in the US with a sprinkler system would save 120 billion gallons each year and $435 million in costs.