Choosing a Sprinkler Timer

Your sprinkler timer is the brain that controls your irrigation system. As a homeowner, the sprinkler timer is the irrigation piece that you'll use the most. Before choosing a sprinkler timer, however, you'll need to have the design of your irrigation system in place. Once you've laid out your system, you'll have a handle on the capacity (in zones) that you'll need.

Almost by Hand
A manual timer (either battery or spring operated) will allow you to control the water flow from your outdoor faucet. Some manual timers use a valve to provide several outlets. These are great for movable outdoor systems or drip irrigation. Manual timers are cheap, but they must be monitored daily for efficient water use.

Automation to The Rescue
By far, the most popular option for sprinkler timers are automatic sprinkler timers. When choosing an automatic timer, capability, programmability and construction are important factors to consider.

Automatic sprinkler timers have a limited number of zones that they can control. The capacity of a sprinkler timer should be equal to or greater than the number of zones in your design. Extra capacity will come in handy if you add planting beds, vegetable gardens or new plants to your yard. Some timers are expandable, with add-on modules providing extra capacity.

Automatic sprinkler timers assign watering times to each zone on a fixed or varying schedule. Look for a timer that provides maximum flexibility but that is still easy to program. Your best bet is a timer that has an easy to read screen and input controls. Schedules can be stored in battery-backed memory or in non-volatile memory that will hold its data even without power.

A well-made sprinkler timer will feature sturdy construction and large, easy to handle dials or buttons. Any indicators or position markers should be clear and easy to read.
Better-constructed timers will also be water proof, allowing for indoor or outdoor set up.

Sensing a Change in The Weather
Finally, optional sensors will help your automatic sprinkler timer use water even more efficiently. A moisture sensor can detect recent or ongoing rain and skip a scheduled watering cycle. Sunlight sensors can add watering time to a cycle on hot or sunny days. These options will pay for themselves quickly in water savings and plant health.

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