Are high-tech home irrigation systems worth it?

Last month we addressed how smart technology additions to your home can boost its value and make it more appealing to potential tenants or buyers.

This was talking broadly about in-home gadgets like smart air-conditioning, smart security systems or appliances like fridges or TVs. Did you know though, that you can get smart technology for your yard too?

The most popular such technology is smart home irrigation systems, or smart irrigation controllers.

As we near the summer months, these systems could become an important part of the ecosystem that is your house. 

What are smart irrigation systems? 

Smart irrigation systems typically involve more than one item, but revolve around a sprinkler system that you don't need to turn on manually. Instead, it has sprinklers that are connected to smart controllers (either a physical panel or mobile app) that can run automatically. Depending on the system, these sprinklers can either be timed or, in the case of the more advanced systems, take in weather data to automatically turn on and off depending on what the weather is doing. 

These products can be particularly useful for people who want a cost-effective way to manage their gardens but either don't know the optimal way to do so or face water restrictions. According to online survey research collected from Orbit Irrigation, 77% of people drastically underestimate how much water they need to adequately maintain their yards, and in the case of New South Wales there are currently water restrictions in place due to drought anyway. 

There are three basic types of smart irrigation systems:

  • Drip systems: pipes that 'drip' just the right amount of water to vegetables, pot plants, trees and shrubs
  • Microspray systems: the most popular system, microspray systems spray water in a quarter circle, half-circle or full circle. 
  • Pop-up sprinklers: sprinklers that can emerge from the ground and provide an even spread of water. 



A microspray system. Source: Mitre 10.

By using a smart irrigation system you can save three things: time, money and plants. 

  • You can save time by automating the work needed to maintain a healthy landscape 
  • You can save money through more efficient water use, and therefore reduced water bills
  • You can save your plants (or just make them healthier) since they'll receive a consistent amount of water that allows for strong growth,

Can they save you money? 

Well first thing's first, they can definitely save you water, which usually translates to saving money. The West Australian Government ran a trial in 2015-16 in 60 households and found those who used smart irrigation controllers averaged a reduction of up to 15% in water use in a year. This is equal to two backyard swimming pools or 95,000 Litres, and given the average water bill in Australia is around $600 per year (Australian Bureau of Statistics), users of smart irrigation tech could shave about $90 off their annual water bills. 

Given the length of a standard home loan is 30 years, this means savings of nearly $3,000, which is usually more than they cost to install. To top it all off, up to 600 West Australian homeowners can get a $200 rebate on the purchase and installation of a waterwise weather-smart irrigation controller.

West Australian Water Minister Dave Kelly said irrigation systems are one way to help preserve some of the 40% of household water that typically gets used on gardens.

"By using smarter sprinkler technology that doesn't just 'set and forget', but considers how much water the garden needs depending on the weather that week, households can save water and reduce their water bills,” he said.

"Weather-smart controllers are especially effective during spring and autumn when weather can be more unpredictable.”

So in short, yes, smart irrigation systems can save you money over a mid-long term time frame. Combine one of these with these other smart technologies and habitsto potentially shave hundreds of dollars off your annual energy bills. 

What are some popular products? 

Speaking to Irrigation Australia, Donn Mann, specification manager and public agency account manager with Rain Bird said smart irrigation controllers are becoming more popular thanks to accompanying mobile apps. 

“One of the challenges with irrigation is, traditionally, you had to be in front of the controller in order to know if there’s anything going on,” Mann said.

“But now with phone apps and other things, you have remote access to it wherever you are. So, people are way more in touch with what’s happening with the irrigation system.”

If you're looking for trusted providers of smart irrigation systems, here are a few of the more well-known ones:

  • Rain Bird - a popular product is the ESP-RZXe Smart Residential Irrigation System
  • Hunter - a popular product is the X-Core Smart Residential Irrigation System
  • Hydrawise - a popular product is the HC Smart Residential System 
  • Orbit - a popular product is the B-Hyve Wi-Fi Tap Timer
  • Galcon - a popular product is the 9001 Bluetooth Tap Timer
  • Rachio - a popular product is the Smart Sprinkler Controller, which works with Amazon Alexa. 

What do smart irrigation systems cost? 

The cost of such systems varies wildly depending on the vendor and the standard of the equipment you're buying, but you usually can't buy one on a watertight budget. A good smart controller will usually set you back a couple of hundred at least, with more expensive models costing even more. 

Some example prices we found include: 

  • The Weathermatic Smartline Control ($350)
  • The Weathermatic Smartline Weather Station ($500) 
  • The Enki Dripline Brown ($250)

You'll also need to pay a one-off fee to have them installed: According to Airtasker, Irrigation System Installation prices can cost more than $200 in certain cities. Of course you can always DIY install yourself, but unless you know what you're doing, it's probably best to leave it to a pro. 

 Area   Price List 
 Brisbane   $55 to $65 
 Gold Coast   $50 to $60 
 North Sydney    $97 to $112 
 Melbourne   $129 to $204 
 Perth   $70 to $125 
 Adelaide   $150 
 Canberra   $260+ 
 
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