Are you suffering from the irrigation shuffle?
I don’t have a smart sprinkler controller so this weekend I went through a well rehearsed routine for sprinkler maintenance:
Walk to the garage
Open the dumb not smart sprinkler controller box
Move the mechanical dial to “single station”
Use the “+” and “-“ buttons to select a valve station
Press the On button
Walk around the house until I reach the lawn where the zone is running
Reach down and adjust the spray head pattern or note the broken head
Walk all the way back to the garage
Press the Off button
Repeat for all 12 zones
That’s assuming the spray head only needed adjustment
If the plastic nozzle was chipped or broken, gotta add these steps too:
Find where I stashed the cache of sprinkler parts
Find the replacement head with the right distance and pattern
Walk back to the sprinkler and replace it
Walk back to the garage and repeat the control box dance to check the sprinkler is now working and adjust the spray pattern as needed
Labor saving gadget or useful automation?
If you’re like me, you go through this dance several times a year.
Each time, you mutter under your breath (or out loud if no one is nearby), “I gotta get a smart sprinkler controller!”
This pain would finally be over with the purchase of a $200 to $500 gadget hooked up to my smart home Wi-Fi network.
I could just walk around from zone to zone, sprinkler to sprinkler, and with my smartphone easily turn the zones on and off without walking back and forth to the garage control box.
Maybe it should, but it never happens!
Why I haven’t bought a smart sprinkler controller
It’s not the money; sure I don’t relish spending $200 or more on a whim, but surely the benefits outweigh the one-time expenditure?
I think it’s more the psychology of the whole thing.
Who wants to admit they are buying a product because they are lazy? Yup, that’s what the wife/spouse/partner/neighbor is bound to say or think.
But all those features! Multiple automated schedules, Internet weather data to optimize water usage, optional rain detector sensor to keep it from running on rainy days, and more.
I don’t need any of that stuff. Or at least not enough to spend $200 and my time to get it hooked up and working.
My hardware store standard issue irrigation controller is over 20 years old and runs fine. It has a basic black & white LCD screen which is good enough.
Programming isn’t that hard if you can read and follow instructions. One and done.
My system was programmed 5 or 10 years ago and other than minor adjustments to the station times, I don’t have to change it.
Maybe if I was a gardening fan or striving for the ultimate perfect lawn and had to constantly tweak everything I might feel differently.
Joking aside – my recommendation
There are good reasons to automate your lawn sprinklers.
If you hate doing the irrigation shuffle, have a broken or obsolete old-school controller, or want some of those new-fangled computerized features, go for it.
There is a reasonable selection of devices at decent prices. Some of them integrate into major smart home with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, or Google Home.
Irrigation systems are pretty much self-contained. Using the smartphone app that is provided by the manufacturer might be all that you need.
You don’t have to over-engineer or over-think it. Using a special app just for the occasional adjustment of your smart sprinkler controller is fine.