You Can Have the Smartest Lawn in the Neighborhood
November 7, 2022
This time of year most people with sprinkler systems in their lawns are either getting them winterized or already have. So it may seem a little odd I’m writing about sprinkler systems now. But I’ve been thinking about our smart home project and how the home will sit on the property and affect landscaping. Obviously the landscaping includes sprinkler system planning (which our development requires).
As our project is a new build I’m trying to think out in front of our needs for everything to include as much ‘future flexibility’ as possible. This includes mechanical, electrical, plumbing and other aspects of the overall project as well as unforeseen future technologies and solutions.
In researching options for sprinkler systems, there were a lot of good, more standard type systems and controls that I’ve addressed in a previous post Let’s Take Smart Home Outside … These are all outstanding solutions and certainly on my list to consider. A sprinkler system I’ve come across since though really has me intrigued, especially from a smart home perspective.
Today’s best smart sprinkler systems let you schedule how often your lawn should be watered and for how long each session. The better models also take weather conditions into account to ensure you’re not irrigating during a thunderstorm for instance. This interesting new system I’ve discovered from Irrigreen does all that, but its robotic sprinkler heads tailor their spray patterns so they don’t overlap or water unnecessary areas (like driveways and sidewalks). They’ll adjust their rate of flow, even taking fluctuations in water pressure into account, to match the precise shape of your lawn and landscaping.
This is particularly interesting to me with our smart home project in Canyon, TX for a number of reasons. As our project is a new build our options are pretty open regarding all the design elements of the home. If we were buying or renovating an existing home I most likely wouldn’t be replacing an existing sprinkler system. Though I probably would install a new smart controller.
Environmentally Irrigreen makes sense as we’ll do some significant landscaping on the property. As we’ll be provided water via a well onsite, conservation will be key as the area only gets an average of 21 inches of rain annually. Nothing close to previous places we’ve lived like New Orleans (64 inches/yr) or Minneapolis (32 inches/yr). The US average is 38 inches of rain per year. So having a system that won’t come on when it IS raining or won’t water our driveway is clutch. Also, as a lot of homeowners with sprinkler systems draw from wells to water their lawns, the impact of mineral content in the water can be an issue. High levels of calcium, iron and other minerals can clog sprinkler nozzles over time. Irrigreen has taken water hardness into account while designing the robotic sprinkler heads. The materials in the nozzles are inert, so they don’t have a bonding point where minerals can cling.
Aesthetically they won’t stain your home exterior or fences with over-spray either. And you’d think an advanced system like this would be expensive. Thanks to the advanced technology, fewer sprinkler heads and less infrastructure makes an Irrigreen system cost competitive with traditional systems. Additionally, Irrigreen estimates that its system will keep your lawn green and healthy while consuming as much as 50 percent less water compared to conventional sprinkler systems, whether they’re ‘smart’ or not.
The secret is technology that was first developed for inkjet printers. Just as the print head on an inkjet printer can spray a pattern of ink so fine and precise that it can lay down tiny text and large images on paper, so can Irrigreen’s XP robotic sprinkler heads. They adjust the flow and the target of their spray so that the water hits your lawn and not your driveway, sidewalks or flowerbeds.
Irrigreen’s XP sprinkler head looks like any other pop-up sprinkler. They connect to PVC pipe buried in your lawn, just like traditional systems, and then pop up when the water is turned on. The difference is that Irrigreen XP heads have 14 nozzles of varying sizes, with flow and pressure sensors in each head, working in concert with an electronic controller to vary the amount of water emitted from each nozzle as the head rotates.
Of course, all this efficiency does require some work up front. Using Irrigreen’s app, you dial in the distance the water streams should travel, marking points every three to four feet as the sprinkler head rotates and adjusting how far the water is thrown as needed to hit the edge of your grass and not go past it. You’ll need to set more points to follow curves or jagged lines, but you can set up to 50 points for each head. This allows the system to put water precisely where it’s intended.
A quick breakdown of the major benefits an Irrigreen system delivers includes:
- Unlike a conventional sprinkler system, Irrigreen’s robotic sprinkler heads don’t need to overlap to cover the entire lawn. This greatly reduces the amount of trenching by more than 80 percent. Where a conventional sprinkler system might need 1,500 feet of PVC pipe, you’ll need only 250 feet for an Irrigreen system. That means the system can be installed much faster and reduce/eliminate current issues with construction supply chain.
- Each Irrigreen XP pop-up sprinkler head has 14 nozzles of varying sizes. The head can ‘throw’ streams of water varying distances and adjust the degree of water pressure in real time, so that the spray pattern follows the precise contours of your lawn.
- It also reduces the number of sprinkler heads that are needed. Where a conventional sprinkler system might require 40 sprinkler heads to cover a given area, an Irrigreen system will need just five. Eliminating the overlap between sprinkler heads also eliminates wet spots in the lawn caused by more than one sprinkler head hitting an area with water to ensure complete coverage.
- Unlike conventional sprinklers that spray water a fixed distance and routinely overshoot the edge of the lawn in order to cover all of it, needlessly watering sidewalks, patios, driveways, and other hardscapes, or spraying water on the side of your home or outdoor fixtures such as air conditioners, you can program Irrigreen XP sprinkler heads to follow your lawn’s precise contours, so that water reaches the edge of the lawn and goes no further.
In addition to reacting to water pressure, Irrigreen XP sprinkler heads operate on low-voltage power, so once the plumbing aspect of an installation is finished, the next step is to wire the sprinkler heads to a controller that you connect to your WiFi network (2.4GHz networks only).
Irrigreen’s system takes current and forecast local weather conditions into account, drawing information from Weather Underground and similar online services, before watering your lawn. Irrigreen will even consider the readings from amateur weather stations in your neighborhood, including one that you might be operating. Check out the smart home weather station options I covered in my post ‘Backyard Smart Home Tech to Save You Time and Effort.’
Once it has finished its watering cycle, an algorithm will compute how much water should have been absorbed into and evaporated from the soil, so that the system knows precisely how much water will be needed for the next cycle. The controller also has two inputs to accommodate soil/rain sensors.
The linear distance each Irrigreen XP head can reach depends on your home’s water pressure. With household water pressure of 40 psi, each head can throw water 25 feet. That increases to 30 feet at 60 psi and up to 35 feet at 80 psi. So, this becomes part of the equation when calculating coverage of a lawn.
But the key to Irrigreen’s system is that only some of the nozzles will throw water that far, others will shoot shorter distances so water reaches everywhere in between as the sprinkler head rotates. Eighty PSI is the maximum pressure that an Irrigreen XP system can handle, but pressure above that level would strain a home’s water pipes anyway.
Another neat aspect of Irrigreen’s smart sprinkler system is it can be professionally installed or it can be a DIY project. In our case I’ll probably leave it to the professionals. We will have to coordinate with our builder and subcontractors for conduiting out of the home and under hardscape, like driveway and sidewalk, to get the wiring to the sprinkler heads from the controller. We’ll need the conduit throughout the front and back yards for wiring other smart devices outside our home like Wifi, lighting and cameras as well.
If you’re interested in finding out the cost to DIY install an Irrigreen system at your home, you can enter your name and address in the link. It’ll bring up a customized Google Earth satellite image of your home’s lot with an overlay showing the number of sprinkler heads and zones needed to irrigate your lawn.
If you can’t tell, I’m a little geeked out about Irrigreen. I really like the smart aspects of it, especially where it will save on costs around water usage and drive efficiency through automation. I haven’t mentioned a lot about the Irrigreen app other than a brief description of how to configure the sprinkler heads but also manage the individual sprinkler heads, create custom schedules and view last watering and upcoming cycles. It’s available on Android and Apple.
I’d be interested in hearing about the smart sprinkler system controllers you’re using out there. How do you like them? What are the pros and cons? Would you consider a new Irrigreen system or replacing your current system with one? Is water conservation a concern?
Let Debbie and I know in the comments, DMs and emails as we really enjoy hearing from you. Thanks again to all those following Debbie and I through our home building journey. It’s great to hear your success stories and suggestions as we move through the process. And if you like the content I’m posting each week, don’t forget to ‘Like’ and ‘Follow.’ Until next week …
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