Making Every Drop Count: Choosing the Right Irrigation Controller for Your Landscape


When it comes to landscape irrigation, there are two main options for scheduling water usage: using a smart controller… or “smartly programming” a standard controller. Both options have their benefits and drawbacks, so it's important to understand the differences between them.

A smart controller is a device that uses weather data and/or real-time sensors to automatically adjust irrigation schedules based on historical and current conditions. This means that the controller can turn off irrigation when it's raining or adjust watering times based on temperature and humidity. Smart controllers can save water and money by reducing overwatering and ensuring that plants receive the right amount of water at the right time.

“Smartly programming” a standard controller involves manually adjusting irrigation schedules based on weather conditions and plant needs. This requires more effort and attention than using a smart controller, but can still be an effective way to save water and money. ALCA recommends standard controllers are adjusted by an experienced irrigator monthly if possible, or seasonally (4 times per year), at the minimum. Some standard controllers can be made “smarter” with the addition of add-ons like soil moisture sensors or rain sensors to help them adjust more like a smart controller - this is a great option when an upgrade to a smart controller is not feasible.

So which option is best for your landscape irrigation needs? The size of your landscape, the types of plants you have, and your budget can guide this decsion. Smart controllers can be more expensive than standard controllers, but they can also provide more precise control over irrigation, saving water and money in the long run. “Smartly programming” a standard controller can be a more affordable option at the outset, but requires more time and effort over time.

Ultimately, the key to smart irrigation is using the right tools and techniques for your specific landscape. Whether you choose a smart controller or smartly program a standard controller, make sure to regularly monitor and adjust your irrigation schedule to ensure that your plants are getting the water they need without wasting money and resources.