This summer has been a scorcher by any standards. I’ve lived in inland Southern California for my entire life, so that could be said for most of the summers I can recall, but it sure seems like every year is more sweltering than the last (thanks global warming). As with several drought-stricken cities in sunny SoCal, my city imposed pretty strict regulations on which days per week I can water my grass, as well as hours that I can water between — still with a mandatory reduction in usage of 22 percent from what I used in 2013.
But guess what I didn’t have in 2013? Grass. I didn’t have many shrubs either. So now more than ever I need to use my water extremely carefully, and ensure that I am maximizing the efficiency of what I do use- this is where Blossom’s smart sprinkler controllers come in.
Preface: What does a smart sprinkler controller do?
In short, it has adaptive scheduling features that deliver the exact amount of water that the plants need as the current situation dictates, without manual adjustment or excess waste. The static analog and scheduled sprinkler systems that we all know are designed to deliver a set amount of water to the ground, regardless of a little thing called evapotranspiration.
Without getting into too much detail, evapotranspiration (ET) is the amount of water that evaporates from the soil into the atmosphere, via the ground and plants. Smart controllers update the watering patterns to help mitigate this loss, while conserving water when it isn’t needed as much.
A closer look at smart watering
Blossom has both 8-zone and 12-zone systems, and really most homes won’t need more than an 8-zone unit unless you have a pretty large property, or a garden with many different watering needs. The Xona scheduling is the star of the Blossom show, where you plug in your landscape information — the type of vegetation, whether or not the soil gets rainfall, soak schedule preference, etc. — and it does the rest. Using real-time, localized weather analytics it gathers in the cloud from the National Weather Service (NWS) and Forecast.IO, Xona takes into account your input settings and adjusts the smart schedule to tailor your water consumption per day to counteract the ET, down to the individual zone.
Xona technology uses past rainfall (or lack thereof if it was predicted) in addition to predictive rainfall to determine the minimum amount of water that can be used to maintain the proper soil moisture level on an adaptive schedule, so you don’t get duped by faulty precipitation forecasts.
How does it work?
- Connect the device to your Wi-Fi network
- Connect to the Blossom Wi-Fi to input a code, and establish a connection
- Plug in your wires. The controller runs an auto-check to verify which stations are connected, and sends a signal to the valve to ensure they are able to receive control communication. Once you connect the system you could technically just walk away and be done with it, but that would limit the overall effectiveness.
- Set up your zone characteristics
- Everything you need is found in the app, no extra interface on the unit, no fancy screen, no unnecessary materials (this isn’t one of the devices that gets many of eyes on it, so it doesn’t need to be flashy, right?).
If you are looking for something that has a touchscreen interface and more of an aesthetic appeal at a higher price point, check out the Rain Machine 12-zone review.
The Blossom app- how does it perform?
The app is pretty lean, clean, and straight-forward. Navigation throughout it is very logical, and there are a few different options for you to choose from when you get into the app, which I will get into more detail about below. You can set a standard schedule by day, run the sprinklers manually, engage the smart features, set up the zones, and view the next/most recent watering events.
Setting up zones
This is an important element in the overall capabilities of the controller, because you are fine-tuning the details of your system. What type of vegetation you have, water emitter type, zone name, whether or not you want a soak cycle, if your zone gets rainfall- all of these parameters go into the calculation of the smart setting duration. You can even set up the zones to operate on individual intervals, so some could be “smart” while others are fixed.
Setting up a schedule
Pretty simple this one, where you can set the days of operation by zone, not by either schedule A or B which I think is neat. You can schedule the system to run at a specific time before/after sunrise or sunset, or if you prefer a standard time you could do that as well.
This is most basic feature, but honestly one that is just awesome to have. Ready for it? On or off. Anyone who has worked on a sprinkler system knows if you want to test them to see if your new valve is working or if your tweaks are hitting the right areas or even if the new heads are performing properly, you need to turn the system on and off. The biggest pain is heading back to the garage to flip the manual controls on, jog back to the component in question to check it, and then go back to the controller to turn it off. This is easy, immediate, and makes so much sense.
Smart watering mode
We now have a pretty good idea of what the smart watering mode can do, but there is still room for further alteration. If you want, you can make adjustments to the schedule so that it is wetter or drier within the calculated schedule depending on other factors (maybe you have tropical plants that like to be saturated).
Upgrades in beta
After using the app for a little while I had a few improvements I thought would make the user experience better, so I reached out to Blossom to share my upgrades to their system. Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed when they shot back a response that their in-development app updates had resolved all the ideas that I had for improvement. Shucks.
A few of the new features coming out at the end of this month promise to improve the watering event history for the past week, alert messages when a zone was skipped due to rain, upgraded interface, and greater visibility on a per zone basis for scheduling.
Who is this smart sprinkler controller for?
I can hear the nay-sayers out there, screaming that it isn’t necessary and you can get a regular controller for $26. And I hear you, and yes that is true. True in the same way that people used to stand in the front lawn with a hose before sprinkler lines and those basic controllers were around, but it’s all about forward progress and becoming more efficient with everything that you can control.
I like the features of having my controller automatically adjust based on the weather. I also appreciate the utilitarian design of this unit; no fluff, no extra cost for the housing, no fancy touchscreen display (while the screen on RainMachine’s 12-zone is very cool, it isn’t for everyone) or anything that adds unnecessary cost without function.
If I normally set my timer for 10 minutes standard per station, and I am only allowed to water Monday, Wednesday, Friday, I have only a few options when we hit consecutive 100 degree days (as we have several times this summer). I either, one, manually adjust to water longer for the timeframe to balance it out, and remember to change the schedule back when the temperature drops. Two, hit the zones individually with a hose or three, Let my grass dry out.
The solution is smart water usage, and as we go into the new age of tech with more control and connectivity than ever before we can utilize this to better manage our resources.
What tricks do you have for conserving water?