August 4th, 2009
It’s been a long time in coming, but California is finally taking the steps necessary to make installing a graywater treatment system a reality for homeowners across the state. That’s good news for all of us, for California’s strict building codes often become templates for other locales across the country. The plans have been in the works for awhile and were originally supposed to take effect in January 2011, but due emergency conditions caused by an extended drought they’ll instead take effect today (August 4).
So, what’s so new and different about the standards? (more…)
Popularity: 6% [?]
July 3rd, 2009
We know we need to save water, no really we know, but sometimes we just need a little encouragement to get beyond the low hanging fruit. It is fairly easy to install low flow faucets and showerheads in the house, conserve more, and take shorter showers, but when it comes to saving water outdoors, that’s another story. In most backyards, sprinkler systems were installed well before saving water was a huge issue like it is now, so systems are inefficient and wasteful. With enough time, money and work you could fully replant your yard with drought tolerant plants, rip out your lawn and install a highly efficient irrigation system. If you don’t have the time for that, here are a couple backyard projects you can tackle soon, like this weekend or this month. (more…)
Popularity: 9% [?]
May 1st, 2009
In many parts of the country, we’re going to be in for a dry, dry summer this year. Huge swaths of the country are already in drought territory, and for many areas summertime doesn’t offer much hope for change.
Increasing demands on scarce water resources will almost certainly lead to lower caps on water usage (and even rationing in some areas) and/or higher water rates to stimulate conservation efforts. Many Californians are already facing the prospect of higher water rates this year - Los Angeles just announced a 15% reduction in the amount of water that a family can use before triggering higher “second tier” water rates, AND a major increase of those second tier rates as compared to last year.
Over-watering of lawns and gardens is usually one of the greatest sources of water waste. There are many reasons why: some people apply too much water, water at the wrong times thereby increasing evaporation, or don’t adjust their sprinklers and end up watering the street / driveway instead.
One of the best ways to control irrigation water use is to use “smart” irrigation controllers. They not only save you money, but they’ll save an incredible amount of hassle by taking the guesswork out of setting your irrigation schedule correctly. In many water-starved parts of the country your local water agency might offer rebates on these systems, sometimes nearly paying for the entire controller!
Smart controllers come in a couple of flavors: controllers that monitor the conditions in your yard (soil moisture, etc) and set irrigation accordingly, and controllers that base your irrigation schedule on weather data received from satellite, radio or internet feeds. Here’s a run-down on some of the best options available right now.
Weather-Based Irrigation Controllers
Cyber-Rain XCI. The Cyber-Rain XCI system hooks up to your computer and downloads weather reports from the Internet. If it’s an especially hot/sunny day, irrigation times will be increased. Cool and cloudy? Times are reduced. And if rain’s in the forecast, the XCI will stop irrigation for 24 hours. The XCI also does other cool stuff like calculating before/after savings and enabling you to develop simple zone descriptions that anyone can understand - and all via wireless connection direct to your computer. It’s a bit on the pricey side at $399, but if you have a big yard with lots of zones it’s well worth it.
Irritrol SmartDial Controllers. Irritrol SmartDial controllers adjust your irrigation based on weather conditions and evapotranspiration data from the day before, so your plants are truly getting only what they need. The data for these controllers is downloaded daily from a satellite, and you’ll probably have to spring for a data subscription (usually less than $100 / year). The cost of the entry-level six-zone controller will be around $225.
Sensor-Based Irrigation Controllers
Hunter Pro-C With Solar Sync. Hunter’s Solar Sync system nearly does it all - it measures rainfall, temperature and solar radiation, and then adjusts your irrigation schedule accordingly. It even delays your irrigation program if it detects there’s a freezing risk. The system requires three parts: The Solar Sync outdoor sensor and calculation module (purchased as a unit), and a Hunter irrigation controller such as the Pro-C. If you are starting from scratch, the entire unit should cost around $250 ($125 each for Solar Sync and Pro-C controller).
Weathermatic Smartline. The Weathermatic Smartline system along with the optional SLW On-Site Weather Station monitors temperature and rainfall and, coupled with an internal database of solar radiation in your area, will adjust your irrigation levels accordingly. The controller will set you back about $120, and the weather station another $150 or so.
All of these models have been tested under a third-party testing program of the Irrigation Association called the Smart Water Application Technologies protocal, or SWAT. You can review the individual testing reports for each of these (and more) models here.
Popularity: 3% [?]