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Study Finds Smart Irrigation Controllers Not So Smart

dataloggerTests of “smart” irrigation controllers found that most of the devices currently on the market were not as smart as advertised, according to a new study, reports Water Efficiency. To help businesses reduce both water and energy consumption in their irrigation systems, ITT Flowtronex is offering a cash rebate for the replacement of old and inefficient irrigation pump systems, while SunPods delivers a modular solar-power platform for irrigation and water distribution systems.

Conducted by Texas AgriLife Extension Service, the study finds that all six devices tested, all currently on the market, produced excessive irrigation amounts. The bench-tested controllers exceeded recommended irrigation amounts 100 percent of the time, applying on average 6.73 inches more water, while the outdoor-tested controllers exceeded the recommended amount 75 percent of the time applying on average 1.88 inches more water, according to the study.

Smart controllers use weather data to automatically adjust the amount of irrigation water applied, reports Water Efficiency. Some smart controllers use sensors at the irrigation sites to measure temperature and rainfall, but they may also measure solar radiation, wind speed and relative humidity, according to the journal.

Other controllers, commonly called ET Controllers, use evapotranspiration data acquired either through the Internet, telephone or pager to estimate landscape water requirements, reports Water Efficiency.

Both ET and on-site sensor controllers use the data they receive to estimate evapotranspiration at the site and apply enough water to offset it, according to the article.

The study finds that manually controlled irrigation units on timers typically apply about twice as much water as needed. Possible causes for the over-irrigation, include improper ET values, high plant coefficients and insufficient accounting for rainfall, reports Water Efficiency.

The study concludes that smart controllers are potentially superior to manually controlled systems despite their excessive irrigation amounts.

To help businesses improve the efficiency of their irrigation pump systems, ITT Flowtronex announced (PDF) a 10-percent factory-direct cash rebate for the replacement of old and inefficient irrigation pump systems. For a limited time, the new “Cash for Pumpers” program will allow customers to replace pump equipment that has been in service for 15 years or more with a new Flowtronex Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) Silent Storm packaged pump system.

The company said its Flowtronex VFD technology has helped many golf courses reduce energy consumption 25 percent and water consumption by 46 percent. All systems are supported by 65 FlowNet service centers to help with installations.

To qualify for the rebate, customers need to send a photo of the existing/old equipment and fill out a rebate form after the purchase. The offer applies to all qualifying equipment in North America.

For additional energy savings from water systems, SunPods has introduced (PDF) a new transportable, modular solar-power platform for agricultural use, water distribution, irrigation, wells and remote sites. The system provides solar power for on-grid and off-grid applications.

Based on SunPods’ advanced Solar Smart Technologies, the SP-500 is ready to interconnect and power up on delivery, requiring only an electrician to make the connections. The SP-500 can be used on farms, ranches and wineries to power product processing, center-pivot irrigation systems, as well as water irrigation, water distribution, water processing and well-water pumping systems.

Municipal water agencies can also use the SunPods SP-500 for pumping water at water towers, wastewater and water purification plants, which will reduce electrical cost and provide an emergency power back-up system.

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One thought on “Study Finds Smart Irrigation Controllers Not So Smart

  1. We have a family owned landscape business that specializes in water conservation, through smart irrigation management. We continually install many weather-based irrigation controller systems, and consistently see a minimum savings of 30%. We have found that only one product works as advertised and it is the WeatherTRAK Irrigation Controller from HydroPoint Data Systems. We have found that the with the correct programming, correct controller, and with making irrigation repairs, we have seen savings range from 30-900%. In the State of California, it is mandated that any contractor installing a weather-based irrigation controller, must be certified annually through a training course just for water conservation. Even though many contractors will accept a job to install a product they don’t understand and are not certified to install, it should not inhibit, nor overshadow the progress many are making in conserving this limited natural resource.

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