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Smart irrigation and the internet of things?

Smart irrigation by Garden City Florascaping

If you’ve been following along with our blog posts, you know by now that Garden City Florascaping is passionate about landscaping!  We love every aspect of it, from the design and engineering challenges presented by new landscape projects to the hardscape, plants, mulch, and lawn that grace them.  However, to be successful growing lawns or gardens in Missoula, we have to have water! Here’s a look at some cool new sprinkler products we’ve discovered to upgrade your existing irrigation system or build your own smart irrigation system.

Irrigation is a big part of our job.

OK, that’s an understatement.  It’s a HUGE part of our job.  Unless it’s a patio or a fence, chances are it’s going to need water as part of your landscape.  However, we live in an area where water is relatively scarce.  We wrote a blog post last March on this very subject – how to maximize the performance of your system, save water, etc.  Check it out here if you really want to geek out on irrigation.  Today, we’ll expand on that and dive into the ever-expanding world of smart irrigation.  Smart irrigation, at least in our eyes, combines efficient design with water saving products to save you, the consumer, both water and money.  Since that last post on irrigation, several new products have hit the market.  We had a chance to try out a few in 2016. We’ll also look at a few we’ll be trying out in 2017.

Smart irrigation and the internet of things.

In early 2016, we were introduced to an irrigation controller called Hydrawise.   An Australian company created it, though it has since been bought up by Hunter Industries.  It’s a pretty neat little controller, with a built in touch screen and weather station monitoring capabilities.  But, my favorite part is the app you can use to control it.  Yes, there is an app for that!  The app allows you to connect it to a weather station. This allows the controller to basically think for itself if you’d like.  But, it also allows you to control the system from anywhere as long as the controller is connected to wifi.

Things like manually running a zone, adding or removing time from a zone, or delaying a watering are easy to do from your device.  Couple this controller with a flow meter and a rain sensor and you’ve got one powerful, water saving system that literally pays for itself in a few seasons of use.  As an installer of said systems, this is especially helpful when adjusting a head, making repairs, or winterizing a system.  The ability to run it from outside and not have to go into someone’s house is great in my opinion!

We primarily install Rainbird products.  This is for no particular reason.  We believe both Rainbird and Hunter are quality products (I’m a big fan of Hunter’s MP rotator nozzles and their valves!).  These brands are what’s available around these parts.  We began with Rainbird years ago and have stuck with it simply because of familiarity and ease of servicing our systems.  New for 2017, Rainbird is offering it’s own line of smart irrigation products, including a dedicated smart controller.

Making your existing system a smart irrigation system.

Let’s say you’ve got an existing sprinkler system and you’ve followed all the steps we’ve previously laid out to make it as efficient as possible.  You’ve swapped out the heads for a more efficient model (i.e. MP rotators!), you’ve matched ET rates and precipitation rates.  You’ve even gone so far as to install pressure regulators to ensure your pressure is optimized and you’re minimizing water loss to misting.  But, if you’re still using an old controller, your system may be as good as it gets.  Enter Rainbird’s new LNK ready controllers!  Simply install one of these controllers in place of what you’re currently using.  If you have a Rainbird controller we’ve installed in the last 5 or 6 years, chances are we can upgrade it simply by swapping out the face plates and adding the LNK module.

This module also connects you to your controller via an app and offers similar functionality the Hydrawise app does.  However, in typical Rainbird fashion, we think it’s a little easier to use.

Smart irrigation heads.

And finally, here’s a product that we think will revolutionize the irrigation industry: the smart irrigation sprinkler head.   This is a product we’re very excited to try!  It’s similar to other systems in that it uses internet/wifi connectivity and sensor/weather station input to determine watering cycles.  But, the real difference is that the sprinkler heads themselves are connected, not just the controller that’s telling valves to open and close.  In addition, one smart head replaces potentially a dozen or more heads in a conventional system.  Via an app, you tell it precisely where to water.  Watch the video!

What does all this mean?  Two important things, at least. First, less plastic in the ground! This also means less waste going to the landfill after an installation.  Secondly, more water is conserved!  Take a look at the Irrigreen webpage and you’ll see what we mean. Sadly, this product is not available in Montana yet.  We are working with a sales rep currently to bring this product to the state, and hope to have a demonstration kit soon to try out.  Stay tuned on that front.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of what’s available out there to connect your irrigation system to your “internet of things” at home.  A quick search online will show you many more products.  But, it is a list of what we can find right now in Missoula (you can have it today if you want), as well as what we’re hoping will show up in Missoula soon.  As we march forward into 2017, ask youself, “Am I doing everything I can to save money and make my sprinkler system as efficient as I can?”

Most of these upgrades are available for around $200.  This means they will pay for themselves in one season in water savings alone!  And if you’re an existing customer, we’ll install these upgrades free of charge when you buy them – this is how much we care about saving water.  All new systems in 2017 will certainly be designed utilizing these various “smart technologies”.  Contact us today to reserve your spot!