The irrigation controller is an indispensable tool that you need in order to irrigate at the right time without wasting any water. In fact, irrigating your garden or plants during the most favourable time of the day, i.e. when evaporation is at its lowest, allows you to save water and money! Your irrigation controller will enable you to start and stop the system when required; it will manage the solenoid valves, so that your garden can be irrigated in successive sequences: controlling several networks or stations. The irrigation controller allows you to save water and it also enables you to save time during the upkeep of your garden. The larger the surface area to be irrigated the more essential it is to have this type of accessory!
Depending on your installation, there are two different types of controller: the tap-connected timer and the remote controllers (24 V or 9 V), battery-operated and connected to the solenoid valves by wire; or battery- or mains-operated, wireless and connected to the solenoid valves by radio transmission.
The irrigation controller also includes accessories such as the rechargeable or 9-volt batteries, transformers or even multi-stranded electric cables, which are essential for your installation. Connected to a rain gauge, your irrigation controller will realise its full potential by only activating the automatic irrigation when the lowest rainfall threshold, set by the operator, is reached.
What are the types of automatic systems?
Tap-connected timer. This is the easiest way of making the irrigation automatic. Controllers or timers are connected directly to the tap and they have a coupling to link them to the irrigation pipe.
Mechanical or electrical, they allow the user to programme one or more time frames when irrigation can be carried out. Certain models are equipped with a number of outlets, known as ‘stations, which are able to independently control several irrigations circuits. This kind of automation is battery-operated.
Easy to use and programme, the tap-connected water timer is the solution for setting, in a blink of an eye, the automatic irrigation of your green spaces by connecting it to your drip-type irrigation system. The tap timer uses very little space and can be used to manage automatically the supply to 1 to 6 independent irrigation systems. It is an efficient and inexpensive solution for automating your irrigation system. Use a 9V or 24V solenoid valve with your controller.
Remote controller. Also known central control units, the remote controllers are generally installed at the same time as a subsurface or above-ground irrigation system; and they are often multi-station – a minimum of 2. Connected directly to a specific water supply, they allow for the programming of a host of different irrigation times, on a daily, weekly or one-off basis. Once it is in place and set, this type of controller handles everything.
By connecting to a mains network and controlling the solenoid valves, you won’t have the problem of the batteries failing!
What are the different types of irrigation controllers?
Everything depends on your installation, the different water sources available or the type of plant/surface to be irrigated – lawn, vegetable garden, flowers, etc.
Water timer. Automating the process is quite simple! Mechanical or electrical, the tap-connected timer allows the user to set the duration of an irrigation cycle (depending on the model, from 5 min to more than 2 hours). Connected to the ‘tap’, it is quite simply inserted between the tap and the irrigation pipe. All that is required is to turn the dial to start irrigation, which will cut off at the end of a set period of time. There are 1- or 2-outlet timers.
Single outlet irrigation controller. Relatively simple to use, it is ideal for lawns or a small drip irrigation system. Connected to the tap, it is very easy to set up. Depending on the model, you can set one or several time periods of irrigation of different run times. The most basic versions have a dial while the more complex ones are equipped with an LCD screen displaying the set irrigation times, battery status, etc. The more sophisticated models can accommodate additional accessories, such as moisture sensors or rain gauges, which can influence irrigation management.
Multi-outlet tap-connected controller. This is the exact replica of a single-outlet ‘tap-connected’ controller, but offering extra outlets or stations. Ideal for irrigating different types of zones (a lawn and a vegetable garden or a lawn and a flower bed), which do not require the same amount of irrigation.
Remote controller. The famous central control irrigation unit. Connected directly to the water system, the remote controller offers the possibility of managing up to 15 different stations – for greater efficiency. This scheduling is effected by the solenoid valves, which open or close according to the information sent by the controller. Each part of your garden can be treated independently. Often linked to a moisture sensor or a rain gauge, it guarantees optimal irrigation and a not inconsiderable saving on water.
How to optimise the irrigation of the garden?
As we have seen, installing an automated system for your irrigation has several advantages. Apart from the fact that you won’t forget to irrigate, the saving on water could turn out to be substantial.
Saving water: use rain gauges or moisture sensors. Interrupting and cancelling irrigation when it rains is achieved with the use of rain gauges and moisture sensors. Linked to your controller, they can give you an indication of whether or not it is necessary to start irrigating. Of course, you must make sure that you have chosen a controller that can accommodate the external accessories.
You can also have a rainwater recovery system and a pumping system for the pressurised irrigation water.
Communicating the data. Nowadays, there are devices known as “connected” devices. They enable you to know the amount of water used and to see or modify the settings, to know whether the batteries need to be changed soon, etc. and this can be done from your home or from your tablet or smart phone. Welcome to the world of smart and connected irrigation tools! You can now use your smartphone to water your garden as a result of a connected irrigation system! The WF (wifi) and BL (bluetooth) systems offer a range of products that allow you to control and manage your automatic irrigation and/or the other automated features of your gardens (lighting, fountains, etc.), all from a smart phone or tablet. There is no longer any need to have to be at home at a set time to do the watering, with the stress of possibly missing an irrigation one day…