Should You Buy a Smart Irrigation System for Your Lawn and Garden?

Ever notice your neighbors’ sprinkler system watering the lawn on a rainy day? It can be a big waste of water not to mention money.  This past spring I installed a smart irrigation controller to see if it could help — and it did.

Watering a garden and lawn can account for over 50 percent of a homeowner’s yearly water use.  However, most irrigation systems are pretty simplistic — they water the same amount every day, even if it’s raining.  So, much of that water gets wasted, pouring down on ground already moist enough for your plants.

The new generation of smart irrigation systems take into consideration the temperature, humidity, amount of rainfall and other factors to determine when and how long to actually water.  No more watering your lawn on a rainy day.

The smart irrigation system I tested is made by Cyber-Rain (full disclosure: they sent me a complimentary Cyber-Rain XCI to test).  If you have an existing irrigation system, it’s easy to install and set up.  It contains a controller that turns the water on and off, a software program that downloads the local weather report via the internet, and a radio device that remotely updates the controller.

So how well did it work?  I used 31 percent less water compared to the year before.  In the chart below you can see, in red, how much less water I used in 2010 versus 2009.  Note that the savings probably would have been greater, but I had been fairly diligent about manually managing my water use the previous year, so my 2009 water use was already lower than it would have been had I just let it run normally.  Conversely, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area which had cooler summer than usual in 2010, so perhaps the savings was greater than it will be in future years… we’ll see.

What about money savings?  The Cyber-Rain XCI costs a bit under $400, and my lower water use in 2010 saved me about $197 — so it would take about 2 years to pay for itself.  I have a relatively small yard and live in a mild climate, so folks that live in the south or with a big lawn or where the water is more expensive will likely find faster payback.

There’s no doubt smart irrigation systems are the way of the future.  Thirty-six states in the U.S. face water shortages in the next several years and residential use is a big factor. In fact, in California, all irrigation systems sold will need to be smart controllers starting in 2012. Xeriscaping (landscaping that does not require irrigation) is clearly the best way to reduce water use in the yard, but a smart controller may just be the next best thing for those not able/ready to go that route.

You can learn more about Cyber-Rain here.

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W. C
W. Cabout a year ago

Thank you.

Past Member 2 years ago

Your articles and contents are encouraging.
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Alex R.
.2 years ago

The writer understand better the mind of people what they want to learn through their writing therefore this article is outstanding. Thanks!!!

more pic here

Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago


Arifiana Wijayanti

well, sounds helpful :)
thanks, but i have no problem about lawn-watering, because i collect water i used to wash vegetables and other groceries and use it to watering my plants

Masha Samoilova
Past Member 7 years ago

I never water, but the tree's help cool things down

K s Goh
KS Goh7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G7 years ago

Probably should, still hand watering!

Annmari Lundin
Annmari L7 years ago

Having a garden with a variety of plants and flowers, a lawn with lots of different species, like red and white clover and other wild flowers, makes your garden one h**l of an envy by your neighbors! You will have butterflies and bees and other insects beautifying your garden and pollinate your fruit trees. Who needs irrigation when there are such peaceful practices as a water can, now and then?

Laura M.
Past Member 7 years ago

My parents have a similar system, in that there is no installed system so they assess (based on the same conditions as the smart system would) whether or not to water and if so how much.
I should also mention that they don't water the lawns per se, just the gardens, fern beds, and azalea bushes.
i, personally, want to learn more about xeriscaping!