Stories & Features

Smart sprinkler system saves water, shuts off when it rains

Image of Kevin Ball
BC Hydro community rep Kevin Ball finds a remarkably healthy patch of grass. This month, he writes about how smart sprinkler systems can help homeowners keep their lawns in great shape while ensuring they don't waste water in the process.

Connected to your smartphone by Wi-Fi, it's all about better control

Kevin Ball

The grass is always greener on the smart side.

You have smart lights, thermostats and plug-ins, so why not a smart lawn? This is now possible by using a smart sprinkler controller.

Smart sprinkler controllers such as the Rachio are available for homeowners who have installed an underground sprinkler system on their property. While there are many brands that offer the technology, they all fulfill the same basic purposes: to save you water while helping to make your lawn and plants the envy of the neighbourhood.

Of course, one person's lawn is another's waste of water. Before investing in a lush lawn and everything that goes with it, consider opting for no lawn at all.

Programmable systems can even gain from links to weather forecasts

Smart sprinkler systems are connected to your home via Wi-Fi. This connectivity allows homeowners to use their smartphone to program what part of their lawn is watered, while also setting schedules and timers for the sprinklers to operate. In addition to increased control for the homeowner, smart sprinkler systems can also sync their operations with past and present weather forecasts on the internet, managing its water use accordingly.

Homeowners can program their smart sprinkler controls either through an app, or through other smart home services such as Amazon Alexa, Control4, Wink, or Nest. By using a central "hub" system like Amazon Alexa, for example, you're able to control various smart home technologies from a single app, rather than spending time searching through your phone to find a specific app. At least one sprinkler controller allows you to use the same app as you use for your smart light bulbs.

Adjusting for soil type, plant type or sun exposure helps save water

Many smart sprinkler brands analyze weather forecasts for upcoming precipitation, while also having water technology that will stop the sprinklers if rain is detected. That's perfect for the often unpredictable weather we enjoy in B.C.

Users can also program the devices to operate based on soil type, plant type and sun exposure. This ensures that there's only as much water used as is necessary.

By using scheduling features offered by smart sprinkler providers, homeowners can optimize the time of day that their system operates. Metro Vancouver recommends watering no more than once a week [PDF] and during the coolest time of day to reduce evaporation. Typically, you'll want to water in the morning.

Kevin Ball is a member of BC Hydro's community team.