Conserving water and the money in your pocket are two very good reasons why you might look into getting a rain sensor. They are relatively inexpensive, easy to use and can help you finetune your irrigation schedule perfectly.
This kind of sensor is usually fairly simple – it measures how much precipitation has fallen in any given period and can cut off your sprinkler system when enough rain has fallen. This prevents your garden getting washed out and saves you water.
|#1. Toro Wired Rain Sensor|
Our Best Pick
|#2. Hunter Sprinkler Rain-Clik System|
|#3. Orbit Hard Wired Sensor|
|#4. Mini-Click Rain Sensor|
|#5. The Rain Bird |
How Does it Work?
When a predetermined amount of water hits the sensor, it causes a break in the electrical circuit of the sensor. The electricity to the pumps and the sprinkler valves is cut off so they cannot function.
It is a simple system. It doesn’t measure humidity or anything like that, and it won’t connect up to the internet and access the latest weather information like the more complete controllers do, but it is effective.
Installing the Sensor
Finding the right spot is critical. The sensor must be out in the open so that it is fully exposed to any rainfall. That means not placing it under roofs, trees, etc. that could interfere with the way it operates.
It also means being smart about where you put it. Putting it in the middle of the open field that you are going to irrigate is not the smartest move. It should be somewhere that it can be rained on but not watered by your irrigation system.
Most people clip them on to the edge of a gutter or to the eaves of the house. Your choice depends on how big an area you want to monitor and what you have available to you.
With the wired options, you will need to consider safety more carefully when you install them. You would not, for example, want to run the wire over the lawn where it could be mowed over. You would also not want to place it somewhere that it could trip someone up.
If you are installing it on your roof, running the wire up behind a drainpipe makes a lot of sense. You would then secure it in place so that it stays put and hidden behind the drainpipe.
Aside from that, the type of sensor will determine where you place it. If you have a wired sensor, for example, it will need to be near the electronic controller for the sprinkler. The closer it is to the controller, the better.
Most models that you find nowadays have two wires that need to be connected. One runs through to the rain sensor for the sprinkler controller. The other must be run through to the common terminal.
If you are going to DIY this one, you need to make sure that you read the instructions for the rain sensor and the sprinkler controller through carefully, so that you do not make errors when connecting them.
If you are not sure about what you are doing, it is a good idea to get a professional in to help you. It will cost a bit more than doing it yourself, but at least it will save you a lot of potential frustration. A general handyman will usually be able to do the job at a reasonable price.
A wireless sensor works in a similar manner except that you wire a receiver into your sprinkler controller instead of the actual sensor itself. The sensor can be placed anywhere within range and transmits a cut-off signal when it is full. The receiver then breaks the circuit.
With this kind of setup, it is important to find out what the optimal range of the sensor is. With many options, the range is around 500 feet. It may pay to bring it in closer, so the battery does not have to do as much work transmitting the signal.
Types of Rain Sensor
A lot of sensors feature a collection device or cup that is connected to a metal strip that closes the circuit. When there is enough water in the cup, it gets heavier and causes the strip to lift. This breaks the circuit and sets off the chain reaction that switches off the sprinkler.
What is problematic about this type is that you need to check on the cup often. The water itself is not a problem – it will evaporate eventually – but water might not be the only thing to land up in the cup.
Leaves and other debris can blow in and way it down. You can cover the top with some kind of mesh to prevent debris actually falling into the cup, but it’s no guarantee it will stay clear. You could have a lizard lounging on it, and this might also break the circuit.
The more modern versions of this technology don’t make use of any form of cup but rather a disk made out of cork. When it rains, the cork expands, and this activates a pressure switch. This, in turn, breaks the circuit and cuts off the power.
These are more reliable than the cup method because they are not weight sensitive but rather water sensitive. When the cork dries out, everything returns to normal again.
Of course, the cork does have a slight downside as well – it will eventually perish and need to be replaced. Replacing the cork is not that big of a deal when you compared to having to fish dead leaves out of the cup version or having to shoo off lizards.
Why Use Rain Sensors?
When considering rain sensors, people are faced with the choice of a simple rain sensor or a more sophisticated sprinkler controller system. The best-case scenario is to have both working in tandem.
The problem often experienced with controller systems is that they rely on external data to determine whether or not to water. They’ll connect into several different weather forecasting services to make the determination about the weather conditions.
It works really well, if the weatherman gives an accurate forecast for the day. Unfortunately, they are not always spot on with their predictions. How many times have you had to wait out a cloudburst that seemed to come from nowhere?
That’s where a simple rain sensor can come in handy. It measures actual precipitation, not expected precipitation. It will work for you twenty-four hours a day, all year-round. So, if it suddenly starts raining when you are away or at work, you are covered.
It is a great way to make sure that your garden gets the right amount of water, without any going to waste.
You can take a simple step towards being an eco-warrior by simply saving more water. You are simply making the best use of resources.
Of course, eco-warriors don’t do good deeds for accolades or reward. But there is a very real financial motive here too. You save money on water used, on the power not wasted and also not having to fork out money for replacing plants.
Your controller and irrigation system will also only be used as necessary, and this will extend their lifespan as well.
So, it is clear that a having a rain sensor is a good idea, but there are so many on the market that choosing the right one can be difficult. We have gone through thousands of reviews and chosen our top 5 best wireless rain freeze sensors for sprinkler and irrigation systems.
#1. The Rain Bird
This is a very popular option. It is easy to set up and easy to use. It is wireless, so you just need to connect up the receiver. The advantage of going wireless is that you have a lot more freedom in where you put the sensor.
For example, you could clip it onto the edge of the roof or rain gutter to keep it out of the way. It will clip securely into place so that it won’t be blown off the roof easily.
The Rain Bird is durable and unobtrusive in design. It works well and emits a good signal strength. It measures rain, sleet, and snow and comes in at a very favorable price point.
It is one of our favorites. The only drawbacks are that you will have to look at replacing the battery from time to time and that you need to buy the weatherproof container separately.
#2. Hunter Sprinkler Rain-Clik System
This can be set to be very highly sensitive to rain so that you can cut off the irrigation at the very first hint of rain if you like. It can be mounted on the side of the house, gutters or eaves. It can be installed anywhere as long as the surface it is mounted against is flat.
The price point here is good, and you get an excellent warranty on workmanship defects. Some users have said that the system might glitch on rare occasions, not sending the shut-off signal in time.
These instances were rare, and I am inclined to wonder if they weren’t more as a result of incorrect installation, but I still need to let you know that it might happen.
#3. Orbit Hard Wired Sensor
If you cannot be bothered with clambering onto your roof to change batteries every few years, this might be the right option for you. It can be installed up to thirty feet from your controller – that is the length of the wire that it comes with.
You have a choice of five settings and can be mounted in three different ways, offering you a range of customization options that are particularly useful. It has a rain and freeze sensor that is helpful if you live in a colder region.
It is made of quality materials and certainly built to last. On the downside, the price is higher than the others on this list. It is not for those on a very tight budget.
#4. Mini-Click Rain Sensor
This is simply stylish and comes in with good features at a fair price. It will work with most brands of controllers and is easy enough to install. It has a pared-down look that helps it to blend in better with the scenery and is not as bulky as some of the other options.
The five-year warranty makes it more appealing.
Users have generally liked this product and found that it doesn’t produce as many false shutdowns as other similar products. Some users did find that it failed in some instances, though.
#5. Toro Wired Rain Sensor
This is the most reliable of the options rated here, and users found that it was very effective. It can be wired into any standard sprinkler controller and so is pretty easy to install.
It comes with a patented Quick Clip bracket that cuts installation significantly and ensures that it is very secure against your gutter. It can be placed up to 25 feet away from the controller and offers an adjustable rain sensitivity setting.
You can choose to have it kick in anywhere between one-eighth of an inch and one inch of rainfall.
The system is simple to use and will not interfere with your current controller’s programming unless it rains.
On the downside, the wire could be longer. 25 feet is an okay length – 30 feet would be a lot better.
Whether to choose a wireless option, or a wired one, is up to your personal preferences. Wired connections do not require batteries and so are something of a set and forget option.
On the downside, there are limitations on where they can be placed. You will also need to find a way to run the wire so that it is out of the way and inconspicuous – something that is more difficult if you are attaching it to the roof, for example.
The wireless versions look cleaner and allow you more options in terms of position. They do tend to be pricier, and you are going to have to replace the battery every few years or so.
Whichever you choose, though, the benefits outweigh the negatives. You cannot go wrong with any of the options that I have reviewed today. Look forward to a great looking garden, and lower water bills and then pat yourself on the back for being an eco-warrior.
For my money, the Toro comes out tops, even though the wire is not quite as long as I would have liked it to be. It is reliable, is easy to use and simple to install.