Are Smart Watering Systems for Commercial Landscaping Too Good to be True?

If you are like most property managers, your commercial landscaping contractor is a star, you have an easy life going from property to property, socializing with tenants who have only good things to say about their facility and who would gladly pay more rent if only you asked them to.

OK, I can almost hear the howls of dismay followed by a list of issues saying that this is nothing like what a property manager faces in the current environment!  So back to reality, property managers are under extreme pressure to contain and reduce costs but our actual point is that a GOOD commercial landscaping contractor is well placed to help on both fronts.

The biggest commercial landscaping challenges here in Phoenix are  the extremes in climate and to create a landscape that is both pleasing, cost effective and climate appropriate.  Most commercial property owners do not realize that designing a good layout and maintaining healthy plants will save them money in the long run.  Nor do they realize that over-watering and improper watering regimes are the main contributors to unhealthy plants as well as being a significant unnecessary cost.

The question is what scope exists to fix this?

Most commercial property managers are comfortable with the irrigation systems and controllers that they have been using and especially in the current economy there does not appear to be a compelling argument to spend money to fix or upgrade something that is not “broken”.  Many landscape contractors are scared to broach the subject for fear of putting the landscaping contract up for scrutiny and possibly losing the work by being undercut by some gypsy.  After all the extra money is coming out of your pocket not theirs – so why should they bring up the subject at all?

Turns out that there is a lot that can be done that will yield savings immediately, and even more that will save money going forward when it is time to extend or upgrade portions or even the whole system.

Commercial Landscaping Irrigation Industry Trends

Traditionally, irrigation systems were broken down into zones each of which is controlled by a valve.  Each valve is wired and controlled independently and each zone received the amount of water determined appropriate for that zone regardless of the actual requirements of the plants at each sprinkler head.

The complexity and extent of the traditional system’s wiring in larger commercial systems makes them very expensive and makes maintenance a significant challenge.  Given that these multi-core wires fade in color over time and are rarely marked, compounds the issue.  Generally these wires are run through the landscaping which makes them susceptible to damage, making maintenance of these systems a nightmare.

For these reasons the irrigation industry has come up with two revolutionary products:

  • Smart systems
  • 2 wire controllers

The advantages of these technologies have been recognized by landscape architects and property owners, so most new large commercial projects are specifying these systems up front.

Smart Irrigation Controllers

Most commercial landscaping comprises a diverse range of plants to create a rich diversity of textures, fragrances and colors.  Each of these elements have differing requirements and often plants get over-watered in order take account of irrigation system design flaws and to meet the needs of the least hardy of the plants in that zone.

Smart Controllers are a new generation of irrigation systems that address these issues by delivering water efficiently and effectively to your commercial landscaping.  And they are capable of automatically adjusting to a weather normalized pattern of usage, as required. This means that a smart irrigation controller will adapt to meet the actual needs of the plants in each hydra-zone effecting significant savings by minimizing runoff and optimizing water consumption.

Two Wire Controllers

Imagine that you could quickly and easily control or optimally adjust each individual sprinkler head while saving money on the wiring too?  Two wire systems make that possible.  Sound too good to be true, we assure you it is not!

With a 2 wire system each individual valve is connected to the control box by only two wires and these same two wires can feed signals to all of the valves in the system!. This is possible since the controller sends encoded messages down these wires, telling each head in the system when to run. Since the signals are encoded to trigger only a specific head it is not necessary to run individual wires to each zone, but rather wire runs can simply be extended by daisy chaining them from an existing head or they can even looped back to the controller to ensure continuity so  the system will still run even if one leg gets accidentally cut. If a wire does get cut then there are simply two wires to join  – no fussing around trying to figure out which wires in the bundle are broken and which wires in the whole mess feeds which zone!

Commercial landscaping irrigation systems tend to be large and typically on a system larger than 20 zones, the cost of the hundreds or thousands of feet of wire a conventional system uses far outweighs the cost of purchasing a decoder for each valve.

Although many do not realize it, two-wire technology can make expanding a conventional system just as easy as expanding a two-wire system. This is accomplished by transforming a small portion of the existing system into a two-wire system, and splicing off into the newly landscaped area from there. The conventional system will work seamlessly hand-in-hand with the two-wire system.

Another distinct advantage is the minimization of disruption to run new wiring. For instance, if there’s already a branch of the existing irrigation system located beyond the parking lot, you can convert that branch to two-wire technology. The system expansion can daisy chain from there, saving you the cost and hassle of having to dig up the parking lot to get wiring back to the controller.

Contact Us for information on how we might be able to save you money and give you a great looking landscape year round.