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Smart irrigation controllers act like a thermostat for your sprinkler system to automatically tailor watering schedules and run times on sprinklers or drip systems. Conventional controllers irrigate using a controller with a clock and a preset schedule.

There are two basic types of smart irrigation controllers, weather‐based and soil‐moisture based. Soil-based controllers use real‐time measurements such as weather information and site conditions such as soil type, plant type, and slope. Weather-based controllers regularly receive the data from local weather stations via the internet.

Below are some frequently asked questions about smart controllers:

Smart controllers are exempt from the City of Sacramento’s watering schedule. How do I get my exemption?

If you already have a EPA WaterSense controller, then contact us at 916‐808‐5605 to schedule a visit to verify it is programmed correctly. If you plan to apply for a smart controller rebate, it's important to know the rebate is not retroactive and you will need to schedule a pre-inspection with City staff before proceeding.

Can I program my smart controller to run during the day?

No. If you have a EPA WaterSense-certified weather-based smart controller, City Department of Utilities staff will need to verify that it is scheduled and operating correctly. Once reviewed and approved by City staff, you may water with a smart controller any day of the week, but only before 10 a.m. and after 7 p.m.

Can I program smart controller to run every day?

Smart controllers tailor watering schedules to actual site conditions and meet plant needs. If programmed correctly, smart controllers will help you maintain a healthy landscape by providing the right amount of water without the need to water every day.

In addition, deeper and less frequent irrigation is recommended for your lawns and plants to encourage deep root growth and to avoid overwatering, which is a common cause of plant death.

Smart controllers will water more frequently and longer during heat waves or dry conditions. 

Do I need to purchase a new controller to make it “smart?"

Some controllers can become smart by purchasing the appropriate add‐on or plug‐in device, however it depends on the device you own. The older the controller, the less likely it can use an add‐on or plug‐in device. Consult the list online and research whether the device is compatible with your irrigation controller.

Can I manually operate smart controller? Can it be overridden?

Yes. Most smart controllers have a test feature that will allow you to manually operate or override the programming to make sure there are no breaks, obstructions or misaligned sprinkler heads.

Do I have to have a smart phone to operate my smart controller?

Not all smart controllers need a smart phone. Most of them can be accessed via a website, so check into it before you make your purchase.

Where can I purchase a smart controller?

After looking over the EPA WaterSense qualified list of irrigation controllers, you can shop online, at your local hardware store, or at your local irrigation supply store. Some plant nurseries also sell smart controllers

How much do they cost?

Smart controllers are about $300 on average. The City offers a rebate up to $400.

Is my irrigation controller "smart" if I install a rain sensor?

No. It will shut off your irrigation when there is measurable rain, but it will not adjust the watering times for the seasons.

Is my irrigation controller smart if I only install a soil‐moisture sensor?

No. Soil moisture sensors only work to tell you the soil conditions around that sensor or sensors. They can work well in conjunction with smart controllers, but many smart controllers factor in the soil type and are not compatible with soil moisture sensors. Check with the manufacturer.

How much water can I save?

Replacing a standard clock-timer with a WaterSense-labeled smart controller can save an average home 13,500 gallons of water annually.