Selecting the Right Smart Control System for a Project

by Doug Callison | On Demand

CEUs/PDHs: (* CEU's Pending) Credits: LACES 1,IA 1,APLD 1,PGMS 1,NALP 1,QWEL 1

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Webinar Description:
There are dozens of Weather-Based Smart Irrigation Control Systems on the market and it can be challenging to select the system that best fits the project needs.

Requirements for Smart Controller in California:
California requires weather-based automatic adjustments, flow sensing, master valve, and rain shutdown on new and major remodeled landscape irrigation systems. Smart Controllers with EPA WaterSense labelling qualifies for rebates with many water districts. Smart controllers save water by automatically adjusting irrigation to only what the plant needs and eliminating water waste from broken pipes, stuck valves, or missing sprinklers, and not irrigating in the rain.

Factors to consider when selecting a Smart Control System:

  • Primary goal for the new system: For many users the answer is water savings. For others it is labor saving (doing more with fewer people).
  • EPA WaterSense Labelling: Products with WaterSense Labelling have been tested for water savings capabilities and can qualify for water district rebates.
  • Manufacturer: How long has the company been in business? How is the company funded (privately or publically held, venture capital funded)? Several manufacturers have gone out of business or were acquired by other companies in the last few years and left customers with non-functioning systems.
  • Type of system: Cloud or PC? ET or Soil Moisture Sensor? Local weather sensor with historical weather data or Internet delivered full weather data? Full functioning controller backup or control hardware with no backup or local control? Modular components (stations, communication modems) or need to replace entire controller when there is a problem?
  • Communication options: Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Fiber Optics, Cellular? Onsite controller networking by Radio, Hardwire?
  • Reoccurring costs: Costs to access system? Communication costs (Cellular data)? Advanced feature costs (flow sensing, weather data)?
  • Basic & advanced features: Reports, notifications, water use tracking, alarms, adjustments, online Help, flow sensing, flow management, multiple language support, multi-level user support?
  • Local support: Distributor, local factory staff, phone/email, training?
  • System upgrades: How does the manufacturer handle hardware and software upgrades? Does the hardware need to be changed out to upgrade system features? Is there a cost for feature upgrades?

Selecting the best system for the project:
  • Calculate upfront cost and reoccurring costs: Include product cost, installation cost, and ongoing costs. Ongoing costs can offset the money saved in reduced water consumption.
  • Potential savings: How much water are you using now compared to how much water the plants need? How often are you adjusting the irrigation programs and station run times now? How much water and plant material have you lost to under/over watering, pipe breaks, etc? The highest savings comes from a small number of trained (water, soil, plant material) system operators, utilizing the automatic weather-based adjustments, with feedback from field personnel. The lowest savings typically come from doing the same thing you have always done with the old system with the new system.
  • Who will operate the system: Do you have trained personnel on staff? Do the personnel that will operate the system have the tools, training, and time to manage the system? Are you considering an outside Irrigation Water Manager?
  • Narrow the selection down to the systems that have the features you need: Ask the manufacturers to install a demo system for you to use for a few months. If you need to go out to bid create a specification to get the features/functions you need.


Learning Objectives:
1. Review the California MWELO requirements for irrigation controllers.
2. Identify the system requirements (site and user requirements).
3. Calculate system costs (upfront & reoccurring) and potential payback (water & labor savings).

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Doug Callison

Senior Water Conservation Manager, Rain Bird Corporation

Senior Water Conservation Manager, Rain Bird Corporation

Doug Callison is the Senior Water Conservation Manager for Rain Bird in Southern California and Hawaii. Doug is involved with new product development and works with commercial users to develop water conservation solutions. Doug has been in the irrigation industry for 40 years working in distribution, irrigation consulting, and with irrigation manufacturers. He has been with Rain Bird for a total of 28 years. Doug is an Irrigation Association Certified Irrigation Designer and Landscape Water Auditor.