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Lawn Sprinklers Smart Enough Not To Go Off In The Rain

Skydrop’s Internet-enabled sprinkler controllers adjust their own watering schedules based on weather forecasts.

Lawn Sprinklers Smart Enough Not To Go Off In The Rain
[Image: Flickr user woodleywonderworks]

Everyone’s seen automatic lawn sprinklers watering the lawn on a rainy day. It’s funny, as long as you’re not the one paying the water bill.

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The trouble is that most sprinkler systems just run basic timers, so unless someone’s home to override the default settings, they’ll happily pump out water in the middle of a storm. And even for homeowners who keep a careful eye on the weather report, sprinkler controllers can be difficult to configure, and it’s often hard to calculate exactly how much water a section of lawn needs on a given day, says Skydrop cofounder Clark Endrizzi.

Skydrop makes Wi-Fi-enabled smart sprinkler controllers that automatically pull in online weather report data to help them decide when to turn on and when to stay off, conserving water.

“My frustration just originated with my own experience with my own sprinkler controller,” says Endrizzi. “I pay for my water like a lot of people, and so it’s an expensive thing that I have to pay monthly for, and I went and talked to three different contractors wondering how should I be watering my lawn and how can I do it most efficiently, and I got three different answers.”

Skydrop’s configuration panels, which the company says will begin shipping in mid-August, couple live, zip code-level data about precipitation and temperature with user-provided information about sprinklers and soil to keep grass properly watered and not over-saturated, he says.

“Where the real savings come through is on that day-by-day, season-by-season basis,” he says. “Utah, where we are based, is a very dry state. In May, we just happened to have this crazy spell of rain, so my Skydrop didn’t have to water for three weeks.”

And if users want to override Skydrop’s recommendations for any reason, they can set custom schedules either directly on the control panel or configure their sprinklers remotely through a mobile or desktop browser, he says.

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“We give our users as much or as little control as they want,” he says. “If you happen to be seeding or something like that, it needs to be watered four or five times a day, that’s where you might set up a custom schedule or something like that.”

Unlike some Internet-based smart sprinkler systems like those from Droplet, Skydrop’s systems are designed as drop-in replacements for existing sprinkler controllers. And, since the controllers pull weather information from Skydrop’s cloud servers, not from clouds in the sky, there’s no need to install weather monitoring equipment, according to the company website.

Endrizzi says it’s an exciting time for garden automation in general, with more digital tools coming on the market to tell homeowners when to put down seeds and when to fertilize their plants.

“This is a huge area where it’s ripe for innovation,” he says. “You look at places like California where it’s like 95% dry. There’s some major things that can be solved in this space in terms of water use and water conservation.”

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