Home Tip Tuesday: Pros and Cons of Automated Irrigation

Determine if an automated sprinkler system is right for you.

Watering your yard is like walking a tightrope. Balance is everything. For healthy plants and lawns, it's best not to over or under water your landscape.

Balancing daily life is another important concern. Toting a garden hose and sprinkler head around the yard every 20 minutes for hours may not be how you want to spend your free time.

An automatic irrigation system with pop-up sprinklers for overhead watering can solve both problems if programmed correctly. Yet before installing one, it pays to understand the pros and cons of this investment in home improvement.

Saves Time. Depending on the size of your yard and dryness of the local climate, it may consume numerous hours several days a week to manually water a yard. An automated system avoids this problem and times zone changes for you. If you're trying to accomplish other tasks and must stop periodically to move the hose, your work is continuously interrupted.  
Avoids Awkward Equipment. Although it's possible to trip on a pop-up sprinkler head, a garden hose snaking around the yard is more of a hazard.

Uniformly Waters Large Areas. Drip irrigation works well for small yards and, like overhead systems, can be zoned for automatic watering. But a zoned overhead system provides more force for rapid, even water delivery water over large areas such as turf.

Sets Time and Direction. Programmable controls allow you to divide your yard into zones and set days, times of day and lengths of time for watering. You can conserve water by irrigating when evaporation is minimal -- early in the morning or late at night. The controls also make it possible to adjust the angle and direction of the spray so you aren't irrigating tarmac and sidewalks.

Can Be Costly. It's relatively expensive to install an overhead automated system. House Logic estimates that, in 2017, the average cost nationwide for installation on a quarter acre lot is $3,000 to $4,000. 

Disturbs Plantings. Another cost to consider is replacement of turf and plants that get damaged when the underground portion of the system is installed. 

Requires Sensors to Avoid Overwatering. Unless an automatic system is equipped with water sensors, it won't know to shut off when soil is saturated or rain is falling. Of course, if you have a smart system connected to the Internet, you may be able to turn off the system remotely.

Waters Foliage. Fungal infections, such as mildew, spread more easily with overhead irrigation. This is especially true for plants that are closely spaced and watered at night when sunshine can't dry foliage.

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