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Posts Tagged ‘Smart Controllers’

“Smart” Irrigation Controllers – What You Need to Know

By: Danny Smith, Water Manager, Park West Landscape Management

With summer heat comes the responsibility of keeping your landscapes healthy and attractive. But what steps are your landscapers taking to make sure your thirsty plant palette is being satisfied? As water districts throughout the region begin rolling out tiered-rate structures for commercial landscape customers it is becoming a top priority to not only water efficiently, but to design your irrigation system to conserve water.

Why should we care so much about our water usage here in California? Because watering our landscapes, filling our pools and enjoying lavish water features account for more than 50% of all water usage in California.  Some customers will now be subject to strict tiered-rate structures. The new water rates will separate the water conscious communities from the inefficient wasteful users and will financially burden the community until the irrigation deficiencies and wasteful practices are resolved.

When it comes to your irrigation system, replacing worn leaky sprinklers is the most common practice to reduce excess run-off but may not be the best solution to obtain long-term results. For example, have you ever driven into your community and seen the irrigation running while it’s raining? Have you ever had to call your landscaper on the weekend about irrigation that will not turn off? These are common problems associated with worn irrigation controllers and their attachments.  New technology designed for the cellular communications industry is making its way into the landscape industry via “Smart” controllers. These devices will allow users to become more involved with their watering needs while staying within the budget.

Several of the top landscape equipment manufacturers such as Rain Master, WeatherTrak and Calsense have developed controllers that will not only modify their programs (watering days and station run times) on a daily basis but also apply only enough water for sufficient plant health. That means your controller will gather weather data based on your specific microclimate and just accordingly. Would you like the controller to email you and your landscaper notifications if the pre-set parameters have changed? It can do that. If you choose to add sensors such as a flow meter or master valve, you will have full control of your irrigation system including real-time water usage reports, weather data and excess usage alerts. The controllers can even determine how many days to shut down after a rainfall event and will turn on automatically before the landscape begins to show signs of stress.

Water districts such as El Toro, Moulton Niguel and Irvine Ranch have already implemented tiered-rate structures.  Depending on which water district’s website you visit, the new rate structure is designed to reward the customers with low water usage and penalize those whose water usage exceeds their monthly allocation. For most service accounts the customer is allocated irrigation water based on evapo-transpiration (a measurement calculated by relative humidity, solar radiation, rainfall and other factors) and the square feet of landscape irrigated by each water meter. If you are unsure of how your water bill is calculated or whether your property is billed based on an allocation, you can view your water bill or contact your water district. Overall, if you wish to reduce your water usage by up to 30% annually, “Smart” controllers can prove to be the best long-term solution. In addition, if you wish to have a “Smart” controller that can adjust its parameters per real-time weather data, but you choose not to run all capabilities, there are products designed specifically for your community. However, due to the complexity and endless capabilities of these “Smart” controllers, it is recommended you consult with a landscape professional to determine which controller type will be the most beneficial to the community.

This article was printed with permission from Park West Landscape.  To learn more, please visit their website at  This article was also published in the July/August 2012 issue of the OC View Magazine published by the Orange County Chapter of the Community Associations Institute.  Visit their website at




Is Your Community Prepared for Fall?

Written by Farrah Esquer, CCAM, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, President

Fall is quickly approaching and it is time to start thinking about those Fall landscape projects.  Fall brings a relief to the hot months of summer and the never-ending weeds.  Plants and weeds begin to show slower growth which cuts down the amount of time spent on pruning and pulling and allows time for more detailed, detailing and other projects.

General Maintenance

Hedge trimming that is oftentimes the most efficient way to keep up with the plant growth in the summer months can be replaced with lacing and hand-pruning of shrubs to give a more natural look.  Time can also be spent completing an irrigation audit and making the necessary adjustments to prevent overwatering and watering of hardscape.  This is also an opportune time to evaluate the irrigation system to determine if an irrigation retrofit is needed to separate plant areas from lawn areas to reduce water usage.  Laying mulch in planters and around tree bases helps to retain moisture in the ground during the Fall which allows irrigation to potentially be shut off for extended periods of time, due to the cooler weather.  Annual color at monument signs and other select areas can be replaced with Fall color in shades of orange, gold, and yellow.

Lawn Care

Fall is also the time when the summer lawns start dying out and need to be replaced with winter lawn.  This typically requires dethatching and overseeding the lawn with perennial rye.  In lieu of dethatching, aerating the lawn prior to overseeding may be an option in some circumstances.  Speak with your landscape company on whether the common area lawn can benefit from either dethatching or aerating.

Tree Trimming

Most species of trees can benefit from trimming during the cooler Fall months, especially the sap-producing trees like pine trees.  Be sure to request proposals for tree trimming in advance, if your community is not on an annual tree trimming contract and cycle.  As with shrubbery, the growth of trees slows during the Fall months which makes it an opportune time to complete lacing and trimming.  Trimming and lacing should be completed prior to the Spring when growth begins to increase rapidly and when the birds begin to build nests and lay their eggs.  Remember, many birds and nests are protected and cannot be disturbed.

Setting up an Annual Tree Trimming schedule can benefit the health of the tree and prevent hazardous situations for people and objects by preventing falling limbs.  Carrotwood trees, Ficus trees, and Coral trees should be trimmed annually.  Tristania trees and Sycamore trees can be trimmed every other year and pine trees should be laced every three years.

Happy Fall!

Thank you to Leslie Hogbin at Harvest Landscape for providing the information presented in this article.  To learn more about Harvest Landscape, visit their website at



Community Associations and Homeowners Can Conserve Water

Written by Farrah Esquer, CCAM, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, President

Did you know that May is California Water Awareness Month?  Community associations and homeowners can do their part in conserving water.  Here are a few tips to help save money by reducing water usage in your community.

1.         Have “smart” irrigation controllers installed and maintained by a landscape company that specializes in such installations and can monitor and maintain the system.  Smart irrigation     controllers utilize sensors and weather information to automatically adjust the irrigation times to reduce overwatering.  Smart irrigation controllers can also be automatically turned off during rain or when the system detects a break in the line.

2.         Have the landscape contractor perform regular inspections of the irrigation system to inspect for leaks and to prevent overwatering onto the curbs and asphalt.  Minor adjustments to the irrigation system will not only save money in water costs, but also will save money in the cost to repair and replace asphalt.  Damage from irrigation systems is a major cause of damage to the asphalt.

3.         Consider conducting an association-wide landscape renovation project to replace existing landscape material with drought-tolerant plant material and adjust the irrigation appropriately.  Your Board of Directors should also consider reducing the turf areas and converting to planters if the turf areas are not used for recreation.  Watering large turf areas can cost your association thousands of dollars in water bills.

4.         Mulch around trees and shrubs in the common area to help retain moisture in the ground and help reduce the amount of irrigation needed.

You can save money and conserve water by:

1.         Taking shorter showers.

2.         Turning off the water when brushing your teeth.

3.         Installing dual-flush toilets and high-efficiency clothes washers.

4.         Checking your toilets regularly for leaking and repair leaks immediately.

5.         Running the dishwasher only with a full load of dishes.

6.        Operating the clothes washer with only a full load of laundry.

According to the Metropolitan Water District and the Family of Southern California Water Agencies at, taking a shorter shower by one or two minutes will help you save up to five gallons of water.  Turning off the water while brushing your teeth can save you three gallons of water per day, and by running a full dishwasher and clothes washer you can save between 15 and 50 gallons of water each time.

Community associations should work with their landscape contractor to develop water saving techniques.  Homeowners can learn more at