18 May 2012

Irrigation Controllers – Which one is Best for Your Garden

Posted by bcsands

The choice of an irrigation controller (also known as a reticulation controller) is something that depends on a variety of factors including:-

  • Where you live – the amount and frequency of rainfall on your land
  • The size of the watering area – from a large garden to a small townhouse
  • Budget – from the DIY tap timer to a fully integrated and installed automatic system.

Basic Irrigation Controllers

The tap timer is the most basic irrigation controller. It needs to be manually switched on every time. These timers are useful for people on a very low budget, or for gardeners who like to be in charge of when the garden gets watered. They require no electricity or batteries to operate, and are extremely low tech and low maintenance.

To install and use a tap timer:-

  1. Attach the top end of the clockwork tap timer by screwing it securely to the tap
  2. Click the reticulation system to the bottom end using standard tap fittings
  3. If the tap timer has 2 outlets, click the hose connection to the other fitting and switch between the two options as necessary.
  4. Ensure the tap is turned fully on and turn the timer clockwise to the desired time.
  5. Switch off the tap after watering to minimise the chances of a burst hosepipe.

In-Tap, Battery Operated Irrigation Controllers

The next level of irrigation controller gives you lots of automation without having to dig up anything. They simply attach to the tap and lead into the existing reticulation pipework. These devices do, however, reduce the flow of water by up to 40%, but they deliver water where it is needed at set times, for set periods and some can detect rain and will not water at that time.

The maintenance issues are minimal, but the batteries need to be changed every few months and some may require re-programming when the seasons change.

To install an in-tap irrigation controller

  1. Install new, long lasting batteries
  2. Attach the device to the tap and the irrigation pipe using standard hose fittings
  3. Set the date and time functions
  4. Set the days on which you want to water
  5. Set the time of day/night you want to water
  6. Determine the length of time for watering (bearing in mind the reduced water flow)
  7. If you are setting 2 or more stations, don’t program them to run at the same time
  8. Some controllers allow the watering cycle to be repeated more than once a day. This is very handy for hanging baskets and in extremely hot weather.

Fully Automated Irrigation Controllers

This is the ultimate in hassle free watering. The advantages are that you never have to remember to water the garden, the right amount of water is delivered in the right places at the right times, and since the controllers are usually installed indoors, you can comfortably change the program as necessary. Drawbacks are that they are expensive to install, do not work when there is an electricity outage, and solenoid valves can fail occasionally.

Installation needs to be done by a qualified electrician and the whole watering system should be laid out by a professional or a person with a really good practical knowledge base on the subject.

Watering by hand is an unnecessary, wasteful and out-dated method of delivering water to your garden, so take your time and the environment into consideration and install an irrigation controller.

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