When selecting an irrigation controller, consider the demands your system will make on your controller, especially if the irrigation system will be watering with both drip and sprinklers, and for different amounts of time. How many valves should be used with the sprinkler system and how many with the drip system? What time settings should be used for each? The first thing you generally have to address is budget. Don't over-buy features unless you're confident you will use them. Do think, however, about buying more stations than your landscape area presently calls for. Some of the more essential features to help better manage and conserve water include rain shut off, sensor, multi-program and water-budgeting capability, and battery or other back up to save programs (for AC controllers only).
Installing a sprinkler or drip system without automation has always been a difficult and frustrating problem for homeowners, contractors, and growers alike. Without a controller, the homeowner is left to turn on and off the system manually all the time. Controllers take the hassle out of watering in that they automatically turn on and off the irrigation water with or without you even around. Controllers help to conserve water, resources and time. The irrigation controller (also called a timer or clock) turns the irrigation system on and off at the times you select. In other words, the controller controls the irrigation system and you control the controller. With the controller, you will be able to apply the right amount of water, at the right time, any time, without worry or much personal effort, for optimum plant growth.
So what should you look for when you consider an irrigation controller? While controllers come in all types of shapes and sizes, some of the most important features are:
By using an irrigation controller you will use your landscape water very efficiently, which will have many environmental and economic benefits. The controller regulates the amount of water applied so lower water bills may be anticipated. Waste water runoff from your landscape is reduced, which carries topsoil, fertilizers, and pesticides into lakes, rivers, and streams. Most importantly, the controller takes the hassle out of watering giving you more time to enjoy your garden.
How the Controller Works
Automatic sprinkler irrigation systems can include AC or DC controllers, valves, PVC pipes, fittings, drip emitters and sprinkler heads. Automatic drip irrigation systems can include AC or DC controllers, AC or DC valves, drip tubing, drip fittings, drippers, and microsprinklers. The AC or DC valves (also called stations or zones) control the flow of water to the landscape area. Each valve open and shuts their zone upon a signal from the controller. For example, there may be a few valves in the system; one valve may control the water flow to groundcover using microsprinklers, another valve controls a zone of shrubs using a drip system, and another valve runs a station for the lawn. Once programmed, the controller will control when, how often, and how long each valve will open, based on your programming instructions for that particular zone. The more programming flexibility the controller has, the more efficiently water can be applied to the landscape.
Why Features are Important
The key to watering efficiently is to obtain a controller that can handle diverse landscapes and then to program it properly to meet your plants' water needs. For example, in a yard with a four valve system, valve #1 one may be used to water a section of the lawn area, #2 two is used for another section of the lawn area, #3 three is used for an area with groundcover, and #4 four is a drip system for the shrubs and flowerbeds.
Your watering schedule needs for valves #1 and #2 may be to water the lawn every two days in two to three short time intervals of five minutes each with a 30-minute delay between watering to avoid runoff from the slope.
Your watering schedule for valve #3, groundcover, will be once every three days for 25 minutes. Last, valve #4 with a drip system will open one day a week, on Thursday for three hours starting at 6 AM.
With all of these options in mind, you would like the controller to shut off if it is raining.
To accomplish all of these options, your controller would need the following features:
Controller Features Consideration
The above features are important because they give you the ability to properly manage most any of your landscape watering needs.
About the Controller Features
Multiple programs, along with multiple valves and zones, allow for watering different parts of the yard on different days. The controller station run times determine how long an area can be watered. While watering times are usually in minutes, or hours for drip systems, a few controllers are capable of assigning run times in seconds (for potted plants or cooling inside the greenhouse - use The Drip Store model C034 battery operated controller or the C032 AC controller). Multiple start times allow for repeat watering in the same area on the same day. Odd/even, weekly, and interval program capability allows for flexibility in deciding what days to water. For example, a 30-day calendar would allow watering a large tree once a month. Water budgeting allows for an increase or decrease in station run times by a certain percent. For example, during a cool spell, you may want to decrease watering time by 10% for all programs. This feature allows for the changing of all station run times within a given program in one easy step. A battery back-up is recommended to retain the program if power is off.
Rain shut-off device capability with rain shut-off device is used to automatically override the controller during rain events. (The actual rain shut-off device needs to be purchased separately since it is not included with the controller.)
At The Drip Store we offer a wide selection of controllers and timers for home, commercial application, greenhouses, and nurseries, from 4, 6, 9, and 12 station AC irrigation and propagation models to 1, 4, or 6 station irrigation or propagation battery operated controllers. The battery operated controllers are divided into two types: hose end controllers, which attach to your hose or faucet, and commercial grade field controllers, which are more versatile and can be connected anywhere on the line.