TECHNOLOGY PROFILE - IRRIGATION
Helping irrigation professionals and consumers understand water effectiveness and efficiency.
By SEAN O'KEEFE
THE FUNDAMENTAL FLUID OF LIFE, water is both a vital resource and a delicate challenge. Within the realm of homeownership, we use water in many ways, both inside and out. Like many of the products or services associated with our living environments, in irrigation homeowners face an almost overwhelming myriad of choices. When it comes to watering our lawns and landscapes it can be difficult to know what is wise and what is wasteful. Rick Hall wants to help homeowners and green professionals sort it all out.
“For most homes, the lawn and landscaping make an important first impression,” says Hall, who is the Market Development Director for K-Rain®. Hall sees his role as an important link between the K-Rain product engineering team and the information coming from professional installers and distributors in the field. “What I love about my job is our dedication to helping irrigation professionals and consumers understand water effectiveness and efficiency to the benefit of both and for the good of the environment.”
"Our most advanced smart systems integrate Weather IQ technology that draws on local weather data to bypass scheduled irrigation during wet conditions."Rick Hall
Market Development Director
K-Rain is the fourth largest manufacturer of irrigation products in the world and has long been on the leading edge of product development in both rotor and nozzle engineering. Founded in 1972 by Carl Kah, Jr., after nearly 50 years of developing better irrigation technology, K-Rain persists in the pursuit of improved performance in watering the landscapes that enliven our lives. The company holds more than 100 patents specific to the irrigation industry, including the three-spring reversing mechanism still used today in most gear-driven sprinklers.
“K-Rain has always been an engineering-driven company in an industry that has continually faced new challenges in meeting water needs,” shares Hall of his 30 years in irrigation management. Of course, many homeowners want the greenest lawn on their block. Just as importantly, the green professionals who sell and service irrigation systems also want to provide the most value to their customers. Factor in population growth and ever-increasing regulatory involvement from all levels of government, and the challenges of water use for landscaping put more pressure on choice than the lawn might merit. “Our everyday objective is to make things better for landscape professionals and consumers.”
Hall points out that outside of the irrigation industry when most people think of a sprinkler system their only concerns are the vitality of their landscape and the cost of keeping it that way. Many homeowners fail to appreciate that grasses, plants and trees of all sorts have different water requirements. The old-school logic of simply keeping everything wet is both insufficient and inefficient.
“There are a lot of factors that go into how much water the landscape needs. Most lawns and commercial landscapes do not need the same amount of water everywhere,” says Hall. Considerations include the site’s soil conditions, the types of vegetation used throughout the yard, and climatic changes that not only differ from place to place but also seasonally, and in some cases, from year to year.
“The loose, sandy soils of coastal areas allow water to run right through, while places with dense, clay-laden soils need time for water to soak in to be effective,” continues Hall. His advice is not to think of irrigation as a one-size-fits-all equation. He explains that typically, irrigation supplements natural rain in one of two ways. Micro-irrigation strategies, or drip systems, deliver water to a specific point of source in the landscape, while spray irrigation strategies throw water over a broad surface area. “Understanding the difference goes beyond water conservation. In certain species of plants or trees, overwatering can be just as detrimental as underwatering.”
The K-Rain solution is Intelligent Flow Technology, which provides quick and easy matched precipitation. A matched precipitation rate means that all the sprinkler heads in a given area apply water proportionately. A zone should have uniform distribution of water across the zone regardless of its shape or size. Uniform distribution across zones eliminates dry spots or overwatering. The Flow Control RPS 75i sprinkler spray body combines precise engineering and extensive field testing to make adjusting both throw distance and water volume as simple as turning a dial.
“The difference between the K-Rain Intelligent Flow Technology and other systems is that while other modern sprinkler heads allow the spray distance to be adjusted, they still deliver the same volume of water,” says Hall. “Our RPS 75i is the only rotor of its type to regulate flow and distance proportionately and simultaneously. When paired with a smart irrigation controller, homeowners have a virtually autonomous irrigation system that thinks for you and adjusts as needed.”
An irrigation controller is essentially a timer that can be set to operate both sprinklers and drip irrigation systems based on specific days, times and frequencies depending on need. From the simple functionality of a preset timer to feature-packed options, the suite of controllers offered by K-Rain make total system management easy to understand and program. Controllers can support a varying number of watering zones, and some models support Bluetooth or Wi-Fi-enabled connectivity or advanced 2-wire decoder control. The K-Rain Pro EX 2.0 Wi-Fi Irrigation Controller is a professional-grade device that can be modulated through a smartphone, tablet or web browser, easily and securely from anywhere in the world.
“Our most advanced smart systems also integrate Weather IQ technology that draws on data from the local weather conditions to bypass scheduled irrigation during wet conditions,” shares Hall. “This keeps the system from watering when it is raining. It also collects the data to give users a complete picture of how much water is being used, where and when.”
With a flow meter integrated into the system, users can be alerted if there is a high flow situation. If an irrigation line is damaged and leaking, the controllers monitoring the flow can detect the break and shut the system down before the homeowner may even be aware there is an issue.
“The residential and commercial irrigation industry draws on the learned expertise of others in agriculture, in plumbing, electrical and mechanical engineering, hydraulics and water resources to create our industry,” says Hall. “We sell our products through both retail and wholesale supply chains, which have differing levels of need when it comes to product support.”
Retail-level products sold through big-box stores like Home Depot or Lowe's are designed for DIY installation. Here ease of installation, durability and simple product instructions are vital to a positive user experience for a non-professional workforce. On the wholesale side, irrigation systems are sold and installed by green industry professionals, who have a firm grasp on process but are reluctant to work with anything that feels experimental.
“Green industry professionals do not want to be the guinea pig. All K-Rain products undergo rigorous third-party testing to assure they perform as intended,” Hall says. “Whether you intend to do it yourself or hire a professional, the most important thing is to make sure the system you are installing is designed specifically for the landscape you are watering.”
When evaluating an irrigation contractor’s bid, homeowners should understand that the lowest price is not typically an indicator of the best value.
Hall points out that, especially in the arena of professionally installed systems, there can be a lot of variability in price and performance. When evaluating an irrigation contractor’s bid, homeowners should understand that the lowest price is not typically an indicator of the best value. A well-designed irrigation system must consider site specifics like the various types of vegetation in the yard, soil types, climatic conditions, and even ground slopes in right-fitting a solution. While one bid may be several hundred dollars higher than another, overwatering any area of a landscape will not only cost more in the long-term related to the water bill but can kill the very plants the user intends to nurture.
“In my experience, K-Rain and several of our competitors are all making very durable, effective water delivery devices,” finishes Hall succinctly. “Ultimately, the difference in these systems comes down to features. A good irrigation design matches the user’s needs with the green space they are cultivating. Like most wise decisions, in water matters, the differences are in the details.”