There's so much more to a great yard than just mowing the lawn.

Get a Rain Sensor

July is the month for summer vacations. Trips to the mountains, visits with relatives and out of state vacations fill space on our calendars. It’s a good time to take a break from yard work. But what can we do to make sure our landscapes are okay while we’re away?

One of the best things you can do before you leave is to install a rain sensor on your automatic sprinkler system. Automatic sprinkler systems are absolutely wonderful. They alleviate the endless burden of watering by hand or hose-end sprinkler. Plus, you can go on an extended vacation and come back to a healthy, green landscape.

Keep in mind, however, mid-summer is also the season for afternoon thunderstorms. It can be a problem when your sprinkler system starts running during the middle of a rain storm. Not only is it wasteful, it’s embarrassing. Nothing irritates neighbors more than seeing a resident using more than their fair share of a limited resource.

Is it possible to take advantage of the convenience of an automatic sprinkler system without the water waste? You bet. That’s when a rain sensor becomes a magical solution.

A rain sensor is simply a device that shuts off an automatic sprinkler system when a certain amount of rainfall occurs. It has a sensor that you install in an open area of your yard. Then, it connects back to your irrigation controller or “clock.”

The outside sensor contains wafers. If the wafers become wet during a rain, they swell and interrupt the electrical signal from the irrigation controller to the valves. The sprinklers cannot water until the wafers dry out. No more watering after an afternoon thunderstorm.

The nice thing is, you can set the shut-off threshold to your liking so your system will still run if we only get an insignificant sprinkling.

The end result is you save money on your water bill. Why pay for water when it’s been provided by Mother Nature for free? In addition, you never get labeled as a “water waster” since your sprinklers are always suspended after a rain storm.

Interested in getting one? Before you go to the store, note that rain sensors are fairly inexpensive (about $25-75) and come in two options: wired and wireless.

The wired models are cheaper, but they’re more of a hassle to install. Wired models have a wire (obviously) that carries the electrical signal between the sensor and the irrigation controller. It can be a pain to route the wire from outside your house all the way to the controller.

To keep things as simple as possible, I prefer the wireless models. Since there’s no wire to hassle with, they’re much easier to install. You simply mount the sensor in your yard, set up the receiver on your irrigation controller and make sure the two are talking to each other.

Rain sensors are so useful that many cities are requiring them on any new sprinkler system. Furthermore, many Front Range water providers offer rebates for rain sensors, so it may be a very affordable purchase in the long run. Not only do you get the immediate savings of the rebate, but you save money on your water bill over the long term.

So before you embark on your summer vacation, do yourself a favor. Go get a rain sensor, install it and apply for a rebate from your water provide (if applicable). Not only will your landscape still be beautiful when you return, you’ll save money on your water bill.

Here’s a good introductory FAQ video from Hunter on wired rain sensors and wireless sensors.

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