It’s Automatic: Add a Rain Sensor to your Sprinkler System


Originally Published at PracticallyGreen.com

In my home state of Florida, water is everywhere. The peninsula is surrounded by it, lakes and springs are among the state’s claims to fame, and Florida sits squarely on top of one of the major sources of fresh, clean water in the United States, the Floridan aquifer.

(Waterscape w/ bird)

So you may be surprised that this soggy paradise suffers from many of the same water woes as the rest of the country – drought, wildfires and, because the aquifer is being drawn down faster than it can replenish itself, a dwindling supply of fresh water. In spite of those motivators and the nationwide trend toward xeriscaping and other water-saving techniques, we still use a huge amount of water on our lawns. And up to 50 percent of what we use is typically lost to wind, runoff and evaporation!

Practically Green offers a number of ways you can take action that are easy, effective and immediate. One of them is to add a rain sensor to your automatic sprinkler system. While automatic sprinkler systems have made our lives much easier (No more standing around for hours holding a hose!) sometimes it’s too easy to forget about them. One of my biggest pet peeves is passing sprinkler systems watering away during and after a downpour!

(Rain sensor in its element)

A rain sensor is a small device attached to your automatic irrigation system. The device is installed in an open area so that it can measure rainfall. The user sets it to between one-eighths and one inch and, once the rainfall level reaches that preset, the device interrupts power to the valves so that irrigation water isn’t wasted when rainfall has already saturated your lawn. Once the rain sensor dries to below the preset level, it returns power to the valves so that the automatic irrigation system can operate. There are also newer, smart technologies that can do much more.

Obviously, using a rain sensor saves fresh water. But there are other benefits. Using a sensor helps prevent runoff that can carry fertilizers, pesticides and other pollutants into waterways and groundwater. It saves the homeowner money by reducing water bills and wear on irrigation system components. It can also prevent the need for fungicides by reducing disease caused by overwatering, which, in turn, also saves money and a lot of aggravation.

The benefits of using a rain sensor on your automatic sprinkler system are so great that several states, cities and local governments have instituted laws, codes or statutes mandating their use. Florida’s reads, “Any person who operates an automatic landscape irrigation system shall properly install, maintain, and operate technology that inhibits or interrupts operation of the system during periods of sufficient moisture.” The existence of such requirements means that  rebates or tax credits may be available in your area for installing a rain sensor. HydroPoint, one of the higher-tech irrigation system manufacturers, has links that may be a research starting point on its website.

Rain sensors can be found online and in your local hardware supply store. It’s fairly easy but if you’re not comfortable doing the installation yourself, you may want to contact an irrigation specialist. Having a rain sensor on your automatic sprinkler system will make it so easy to live a little greener that you might find yourself forgetting all about irrigation. It’s a good idea to periodically check your system, though, to make sure the sensor and control unit are still working properly. Also, check all sprinkler heads as a watering cycle runs to make sure they are positioned correctly and aren’t broken.

Visit Practically Green’s action page to get matched to a sprinkler system contractor and to check out other water-related actions. Also, look for a green living consultant in your area who can help with the research and personalize a plan for you!

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