What makes Lawn Chariot different than other landscaping services?
Nathan M. Gant
My services aren't limited to traditional lawn maintenance such as mowing, edging, trimming, aerating,
dethatching and lawn sweeping.
It also includes irrigation installs and repairs. In particular, I can help make your lawn a little
My value-added service integrates existing irrigation controllers, old or new, into a network where
water usage is metered and uploaded into streamed data by the minute, hour and day,
continuously to a cloud-based server. Upfront costs are for hardware and installation only, the basic
monitoring software is free and can be supplied by several different supporting companies.
BTW utility companies will not micro-manage your water usage, nor would they do ever do it even if they had
omnipotent powers to do all of that for everyone, all the time. Because it is all about a cash flow for them,
and it makes no difference if the individual is losing water from a broken pipe or just adding on a supplemental
water cycle for new plant material.
Valve diaphragms are similar in function to a toilet flapper in a bathroom. And if you have 6 zones in your yard, you
will likely have 6 irrigation valves for those zones, and it's not much different than having 6 bathrooms with 6
flappers. Both are made with reinforced rubber as better ones withstand chlorine, scale and hard water. An old one
tends to lose flexibility and sealing function from residual deposits. Eventually this would show up as a small leak
and extra water use.
Like an old irrigation valve, a leaking toilet flapper can waste a hundred gallons of water a day and cost
hundreds of dollars a year. See toiletflapper.org for those numbers.
By installing an irrigation meter next to an irrigation backflow valve (if you have one), you can micro-manage
your lawn's water use.
It's no business trade secret, nor should it ever be. The way it works is this: a pulse transmitter
(to measure or meter the water flow) is wired from the irrigation sub-meter and then sends this metered data
into a gateway device connected to a router inside the home.
If you don't have internet in your house, or
you're doing an installation in a remote area away from any kind of RJ45 (wired ethernet) connection, cellular
gateway versions are available and actually tend to be more popular from the vendor's overall sales.
After that, it all becomes just an issue of making the software a little more smarter once flow data
(wired or wireless) is automatically sent to a server for graphic output. The homeowner sets his or her
thresholds of water use, and text messages to any cell phone can act as alarms that are generated based on
detectable water use in excess (or lack of water use).
Below is a sample output file for some actual irrigation flow data:
Note the sudden spike of water usage on 7 Feb. It was a mystery to me and could have been from a variety of
a valve stuck on, or
someone using a water hose for a long time, or
someone adding too much time on an irrigation zone
In any case, a text alert would have been sent out if the average expected gallons were above, say
400 gallons in this example.
Imagine not worrying about leaving your house for the weekend anymore, only to face days later an expensive repair from a broken faucet,
or a flooded utility room or bathroom from a leaking fixture.
Suppose you have a dead valve, a broken sprinkler, or a leaking outdoor water line. Or someone incorrectly
programs your controller which over-waters or under-waters your lawn. A text message alert can be automatically
generated when your water use is below or above a certain threshold which would be pre-determined based on normal
runtime values of your irrigation system. Then you won't end up with a dry and dying area of your lawn, dehydrated
plants, or a water bill that mysteriously doubles or triples on your next invoice.
Micro-managing your water use for irrigation isn't really that much more work, but it might surprise you about
details that would have normally escaped you. For example, you may have an aging valve diaphragm on one irrigation
zone and it is getting stuck when another zone runs. You might one day have a broken standpipe in a hedge line
which is difficult to see, but it would definitely show up as a small spike in water use on that zone.
The installation expenses for an irrigation sub-meter in the long run can be considered as
cost-neutral savings for water which will eventually pay for the initial parts and labor.
Setting up your water use for outside irrigation and inside house, this involves a little experimentation.
You could use dual flow meters with separate pulse transmitters, one for irrigation outside the house, and a
separate flow meter for inside water use, that would be a little redundant if your water source is all metered
as city water. OTOH if you do have a separate water source for irrigation and another meter for potable water,
you either have to make a choice about which is a priority to monitor for water use, or have two separate
sub-meters to track of water use. Both would show up as 2 different pulse counters (or pulse transmitters,
same thing) in your same cloud server.
As part of an additional lawn maintenance service to your address, I can respond to your watering issues
or emergencies on a priority, on-call basis. Response is based on location.
Note: there are lately on the market some high-priced wireless or smart irrigation controllers which
are just glitzy versions of the same old-fashioned, tried and true hardwired controllers. They don't do
anything differently other than to collect online weather data such as local rainfall, humidity, wind, soil
condition, ect., to make pre-programmed decisions that calculate evapotranspiration (ET) to run irrigation.
That's all fine and well but without actual water flow being monitored and recorded, a smart controller
is dumb as a rock if one of your irrigation valves is stuck on and is running 24-7 and you're not there to
notice it. Or you accidentally cut an irrigation wire when planting a shrub, and your irrigation doesn't
run anymore. Then your lawn dries up and starts to die, but your irrigation controller is still functioning,
all is fine and well in the ET world and the fancy network controller. Except for one minor thing: it's not
putting water on your lawn.
The raison d'étre for a irrigation controller is to put water on your yard on a regular basis. Don't put
the cart before the horse: without flow data(or lack of it), how much or how little water is going on your
lawn? ET will manage your water use in a perfect world, but not in a normal way for irrigation.