March 23, 2005

Nifty Gadget Watch

If you live in Orange County and your house has sprinklers automatically controlled by a timer, your local water agency could be willing to pay for an upgrade to a more intelligent controller.

Our house has a timer-controlled sprinkler system, but it's not turned on very often, because it's been raining a lot lately. (This is something that doesn't bother the neighbors, whose sprinkers have come on more than once in the middle of the night during a driving rainstorm.) Even when it hasn't been raining, I think that the system's current settings are pretty wasteful -- too much water at the wrong time of the day (afternoonish). I've made a stab at changing things, but the system's purported E-Z Programming is anything but, and the manual vanished with the original homeowner.

So, the idea of getting a new controller that actually takes the weather into account -- that knows when it's raining! -- is pretty attractive, particularly if we can do it at a cut-rate price. Assuming that our rebate request goes through, I think that we'll get the WeatherSet WS8R; not only is it the cheapest out of all of the eligible systems, it's one of the only ones with an on-site weather sensor (measuring solar radiation and rainfall) built into the system!

Some of the other (much more expensive) systems base their watering patterns on historical data 'for your local area' or download weather data via satellite. If you're historically-based, what happens when you enter into an ahistorical year -- like this one, where we've had more than a year of rain in three months? Downloading your data seems equally bad; not only is it a pay service, but it's not clear how close to our area they consider 'your local area' to be. Would we be watering our lawn based on whether or not it's sunny in Burbank or Gardena? (And what happens if your data provider goes foom? Or if your check gets lost in the mail? You didn't pay -- WE KILL YOUR GRASS ... or flood your basement!)

Posted by Kevin at March 23, 2005 04:23 PM