March 4, 2013

Irrigation and Sprinkler Systems- part 2: Controllers

a simple, battery operated
irrigation controller
If you have need to irrigate or water your lawn or landscape more than occasionally, it is wise to use some sort of controller to manage the watering schedule. Controllers can range from a manual type that is a simple count-down ,non-repeating timer which shuts off the water; to mini-computers which can handle dozens of variables and can keep track of seasonal changes. 

For residential landscapes, a simple battery-operated controller will handle one or two sprinklers, connected to hoses and used for small areas. For a more permanent system, an electronic plug-in controller will handle most needs. Most of these devices can be purchased at large home improvement stores, along with all the needed wiring and connectors. 

irrigation controller for both home
and commercial operation

One of the primary decisions to make is what type of controller to use. If your irrigation system is run by electric irrigation valves, use an electronic controller, preferably one that is rated for outdoor use. Many electronic controllers are rated for indoor use, such as those that are mounted inside a garage or porch. Outdoor controllers have weatherproof enclosures and weather-resistant electronics inside. If your irrigation system is just one or two sprinkler heads ( see previous blog installation) you can use a hose-mounted timer. If you have a commercial-grade irrigation system with more than 20 zones, a control station is required. The main differences in the size of such controllers are their abilities to control water flow, pump operation, and ability to alter schedules quickly.

a sophisticated
irrigation control station, capable of
controlling up to 100 stations

Choosing the right controller for the right size irrigation system is one big step toward owning an irrigation system that functions well without causing too many headaches for the owner. Consider the controller's ability to add zones if you wish to modify or augment your system in the future. The most popular makers of controllers are Rainbird, Hunter, Toro and Orbit, depending on where you are in the country. Mount the timer in an area out direct sunlight and preferably in a protected spot that is easily accessible. A good quality controller can last for 10 years or more, one step closer to a good, low-maintenance landscape.      

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