Weather-Based Irrigation Controllers FAQs – English – SoCal Water$mart
Weather-Based Irrigation Controllers FAQs

What are weather-based irrigation controllers?

Weather-based irrigation controllers (WBICs), also known as “smart sprinkler controllers,” allow for more accurate, customized irrigation by automatically adjusting your landscape’s irrigation schedule and water use in response to changing conditions. State-of-the-art WBIC technology allows you to tailor your irrigation schedule to meet your landscape’s specific design, soil conditions and plant types, while also responding to local changing weather conditions.

How do WBICs save water?

Weather, humidity, sunlight, plant type, local climate, and other factors influence how much and how often it is necessary to properly irrigate a landscape. Depending on these factors, it may actually require less water than you think to achieve the same healthy, beautiful results! WBIC technology customizes when and how much your landscape is watered which can help save water and reduce unnecessary use.

Which WBIC models qualify for SoCal Water$mart rebates?

Only WBICs listed on the EPA WaterSense list qualify for SoCal Water$mart rebates. Click here for a list of qualifying product models. *Please note: Add-on devices qualify only if packaged and sold as a combined unit with a pre-approved controller on the program list.

Where can I buy a qualified WBIC?

EPA WaterSense Certified WBICs are available through your qualified landscape contractor and also at your location irrigation supply outlet or garden store.

How many stations can a WBIC have and be eligible for the program?

Eligible devices will be rebated only for active stations. Active stations are those that are physically connected to an in-use irrigation system.

I already have an irrigation timer–isn’t that saving enough water?

Standard irrigation timers are useful for scheduling when and how long your landscape is irrigated. However, unlike weather-based irrigation controllers, they don’t self-adjust for seasonal or current weather conditions, nor do they react to leaks or other problems that may exist. These factors often contribute to wasteful over-watering if left unchecked.

Why should I consider a qualified landscape contractor to install WBICs?

A contractor certified by the Irrigation Association (IA), California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA), and/or who is partnering with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) WaterSense program has earned the necessary qualifications to properly install water-saving irrigation systems. Not only do these contractors have the technical expertise to guide you to achieve and maintain a healthy landscape, their know-how will help you optimize water use on your property.

Where can I find a qualified landscape contractor?

You can find a list of qualified contractors by visiting any of these organizations’ websites:

What should I expect from a qualified contractor?

Qualified contractors are equipped with the knowledge and experience to evaluate a site’s conditions and to prepare irrigation specifications that meet the landscape’s exact needs. Well-qualified professionals should meet the following requirements (at a minimum):

  • California State Contractors license (required by law)
  • Proof of insurance– Worker’s compensation, general liability, and automobile (all required by law)
  • Active business license (required by law)
  • Professional certification– Look for certification and/or membership through reputable organizations such as Irrigation Association or California Landscape Contractors Association
  • Evidence of professional knowledge and safety training

Other important indicators of a well-qualified contractor include:

  • Professional demeanor and appearance
  • High quality of customer service
  • Positive references
  • Excellent work portfolio

What do I need to know in order to install the controller myself?

First and foremost, read the user’s manual! Understanding the controller’s features is a must in order to install it properly and capture optimal water savings. Once you have familiarized yourself with the controller’s features and you are ready to program the settings, you will need to have site-specific information on-hand, such as:

  • Landscape conditions–
    • Plant type(s)
    • Soil type
    • Root depth
  • Controller and station information–
    • Precipitation rate (inches/hour) to determine station runtime– How quickly does your landscape absorb water?
    • Slope of the landscape– This affects the precipitation rate outlined above
    • Areas that are exposed to sun and/or wind

Properly installing your WBIC will be a complicated process. To guarantee performance, SoCal Water$mart recommends that you hire a qualified and certified landscape irrigation contractor to install it for you or commit to learning how to set up the specific controller that you select.

Isn’t reducing the amount of water bad for my landscape?

Reducing the amount of water used to irrigate your landscape could actually be beneficial, depending on your landscape’s needs. A healthy, beautiful landscape is determined by a variety of factors, such as weather conditions, humidity, sunlight, and plant type. Just as importantly, water loss experienced through plant and soil evaporation (called evapotranspiration, or ET) can affect these needs. Because many basic irrigation systems do not take complex weather conditions and plant needs into account, they often over-compensate. What may result is drastic over-watering. With some plant types, such as grass, when you reduce over-watering, it may actually slow down the growth so that you don’t have to mow or trim as frequently, while maintaining the healthy color and fullness that you want on your property.

I installed a qualified controller, but I now see brown patches. Why would that happen?

It is likely that the brown patches are appearing because of uneven water spray from your sprinkler system, misdirected flow, and/or missing/poorly placed sprinkler heads. Conduct a basic equipment check to look for broken sprinkler heads which may be contributing to the problem. You may also need to adjust the spacing between sprinkler heads or the direction of the spray to close any gaps where the brown patches appear. After making the necessary changes to the sprinkler heads, you may need to make a few adjustments to the controller to make sure the problem has been addressed.

My city has watering restrictions, can I make sure my WBIC doesn’t water on those days?

Some cities will exempt WBICs from watering schedules because of the customized watering schedule inherent to the product’s design, but several models also allow programming that will prevent watering on specific days as a preventive measure. To find out if your WBIC has this programming, consult the user’s manual.