How To Choose an Automatic Sprinkler System Design

Control how much water your lawn and garden get with the efficiency of an irrigation timer

Choose an Automatic Sprinkler System Design

Irrigation timers allow you to program a number of variables into your automatic irrigation system, including which zones receive water and when, and which days your lawn is watered. 

Timers range from simple devices to advanced computers, so there are plenty of options to consider.

This guide highlights the different types of irrigation timers, along with program options and efficiency tips.

Irrigation Timer Types

There are three basic types of irrigation timers: mechanical, electronic and hybrid timers.  

  • Basic mechanical timers must be set manually, but are very economical.
  • Electronic timers provide more options and features and can be controlled remotely from a computer or smartphone, allowing you to make adjustments in real time when the weather changes.
  • Some electronic timers can control both regular and drip irrigation systems.
  • Hybrids combine features of both with convenient controls and easy-to-read inputs.
  • Hybrids feature digital readouts and easy-to-use sliders for setting water duration.
  • Be sure to monitor your lawn closely and make adjustments when needed with mechanical timers.

Zones and Programs

Irrigation systems run to a set number of zones, so make sure to get one that can control the number of zones in your lawn.  

  • A single valve works with a group of sprinkler heads to comprise a zone.
  • Programs are watering schedules, which determine when, how frequently and how long your system is activated.
  • Single program timers water all zones on the same day and are best for basic watering.
  • Multiple programs cycle through specific zones to ensure adequate watering.

Efficiency Options

To make your watering experience more convenient, choose a timer with options such as a sunlight sensor, built-in calendar and more.  

  • If your timer is outdoors, shield it from the elements with a weather-resistant cabinet.
  • A skip button allows you to skip watering a zone so you don’t have to reprogram the entire system.
  • An interval feature allows you to set the number of days between watering.
  • A built-in calendar lets you choose which days of the week you want to water.
  • Sunlight sensors adjust water levels to compensate for evaporation on hot days, while moisture sensors shut down the watering on rainy days.
  • Rain delay buttons let you turn off the system during storms for more efficiency.
  • An odd/even setting is helpful for areas of the country where watering is restricted.
  • A battery backup saves your settings during power outages, or if the primary battery dies, saving you from having to reprogram your settings.
  • A 15-second delay gives valves ample time to close before opening the next zone’s valve.