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You are here: Home > Sprinkler School™ > Parts and Components > Controllers or Timers and Remotes > What Is An Irrigation Controller
What Is An Irrigation Controller?

Sprinkler Timer Overview

What timers are and how they work

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Sprinkler timers (also called controllers), are exactly what they sound like – a device that controls when your sprinklers turn on and how long they run for. They are essentially the brain of your sprinkler system. Sprinkler timers send electric signals to the valves, which regulate the flow of water to the sprinkler system. The electric signals sent to the valves tell them to open or close, which allows water through and runs the sprinklers.

There are varying degrees of complexity in sprinkler timers. The simplest designs allow you to control small areas of sprinklers and don’t have as many programming features. More complex controllers can control larger areas with more sprinklers and have advanced programming options, such as flow monitoring (the controller monitors the flow of individual sprinkler heads and adjusts incorrect flows) and separate programs for individual stations. Other optional features are rain sensors, solar power, remote control compatibility, and PC compatibility (allows you to control and check on your sprinkler system from your PC).

Sprinkler timers come in mechanical, semi-electronic, and fully electronic designs, although fully mechanical controllers are somewhat out-dated, and rarely used. Semi-electronic, or electromechanical sprinkler timers use an electric clock and gears to activate irrigation zones, while fully electronic timers use circuits to run the clock/timer, memory, and control functions. Fully electronic timers offer a wide range of features, but are more sensitive to power fluctuations and may require a surge protector. Electromechanical timers are very reliable and not as sensitive to power fluctuations, but do not offer as many special features.

Although sprinkler timers are fairly maintenance-free, you may wish to upgrade your timer, or install additional parts or features. Such upgrades and installations are very simple and easy, and can be done by either the homeowner or an irrigation professional.

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