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Irrigation Tech: How sensors save on water usage

July 8, 2021 -  By

From monitoring rain and water flow to tracking soil moisture, irrigation sensors can benefit both contractors and their customers.

Selling point

Incorporating irrigation sensors is nothing new for John J. Carbone Jr., president of Morris & Bergen County Irrigation in Wayne, N.J. His company serves about 8,000 accounts and has been using rain sensors for nearly 25 years. 

“A rain sensor will stop your system from watering when the sensor gathers enough water to interrupt the standard watering schedule,” Carbone says. “When the rain collected in the sensor dries out, the program will commence watering.”

More recently, Morris & Bergen also has started installing flow sensors, which send in-app alerts when a leak is present and give a true representation of his customers’ water usage. 

“That is important to gauge and measure how much you are saving,” Carbone says.

Carbone links his flow sensors to Hunter Industries’ Hydrawise system to alert him and his team when it detects an excess flow. 

Sensors can help contractors save on time, money and labor. (Photo courtesy of Rain Bird)

Sensors can help contractors save on time, money and labor. (Photo courtesy of Rain Bird)

Catch problems remotely

Santa Rita Landscaping in Tucson, Ariz., began using irrigation sensors because it provides value to clients, says CEO Tanner Spross. “It protects their investments and better monitors the system and water use,” he says.

Santa Rita provides construction installation, design/build, commercial landscape maintenance and irrigation services to a mix of 85 percent commercial and 15 percent residential customers. The company has an annual revenue of $25 million.

Spross uses Rain Bird’s flow sensors on the main lines to track flow and water usage, which gives baseline information. The sensors also send flow data to the controller system, alerting the irrigation team to any leaks or breaks in the system and allowing them to identify the problem and shut off the system remotely.

Even with the upfront costs associated with irrigation sensors, Spross says the company can manage the properties better without using as much labor. 

Spross says for residential projects, weather sensors typically cost less than $100, and a flow sensor could cost about $200 to $300 each. On the commercial side, Spross says the installation of a full flow sensor and weather sensor with centralized control costs less than $10,000, and the client will see the benefit in reduced labor spending.

“Irrigation sensors allow our company to scale more and provide better service to our clients,” Spross says. “All of our clients and other contractors should be embracing technology.”

Combining tools

With a variety of irrigation sensor types to choose from, contractors should figure out which capabilities will benefit them and their customers the most. For example, Spiio’s sensor has four functionalities built into the body of the probe: temperature, soil moisture, light and salinity sensors, says Greg Goudeau, Eastern U.S. sales manager for Spiio.

“It’s a data-collection tool that helps you communicate with your customers. It also allows you to only water when the soil actually needs water,” Goudeau says. “The successful landscape contractors are very good business people. They are always looking for a tool that will make them more efficient, and soil sensors will absolutely make their daily, long-term and seasonal schedules more efficient.

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