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Digital Irrigation Heads

Mar 01, 2019
Video Length:  1:07:13
Presented By:  Shane Dyer
Digital spray heads provide a new way of distributing water across a landscape by eliminating the need for head-to-head coverage. Find out how digital heads function, which landscape areas to incorporate them into, how they can be programmed to spray complex shapes, and why they reduce water consumption. You'll learn all about what digital heads mean for landscape and irrigation planning, including why they require less pipe and how the integrated software cuts down on labor costs.

Webinar Contents:

Note: The following catalog of content covered in this webinar is time stamped to allow you to follow along or skip to sections of the video that are relevant to your questions. You can also search for content on this page using the FIND command in your browser (CTRL + F in Windows, Command + F in Mac OS.)

  • Intro/TOC
  • Benefits of Digital Sprinkler Systems
  • Designing with Digital Heads
  • Digital heads Case Study from Oklahoma Gardening Television
  • Conclusions and Questions

0:00 – 2:54: Intro/TOC

2:55 – 37:11: Benefits of Digital Sprinkler Systems

Irrigation waste is a big problem. In the U.S. alone, 4 to 5 billion gallons of water are wasted daily because of inefficient and outdated sprinkler technology, per the EPA. Irrigation accounts for the largest use of water in the home on average.


Overspray photo examples (3:37)


Why mechanical sprinklers are the problem (3:55):

  • Decades-old technology
  • Crude mechanical patterning, arcs only
  • Overlapping stays cause wet and dry spots


Waste you can’t see: overwatering (4:40)


Software-printed water (5:50)


Video example of a digital head in action (6:40)


Components of a digital sprinkler system (7:24):

  • Hybrid Wi-Fi controller
  • One digital head per zone
  • low-voltage wire
  • Flow sensor tracks all flow


Software-controlled shapes for precision spraying (8:30)

  • One head per zone
  • Any shape
  • Software controls precipitation rate


What you need to know for design (10:18)

  • 5- to 35-foot variable flow
  • Head waters evenly from 0 feet to varying distances from head, 5 to 35 feet
  • Connectis directly to 1-foot mainline
  • Valve-in-head
  • Controller supports traditional drip and spray for hybrid systems


System requirements (11:42)

  • 40 to 80 PSI (any constant pressure within this range)
  • 8- to 10-GPM flow
  • Non-municipal water sources with particulates (sand, grit) require a 250-micron filter (similar to drip systems)
  • Well systems require a constant pressure pump or regulated constant pressure supply, such as with a pressure regulator


Any line-of-sight design shape (12:20)

  • 427 map points
  • Approximately 6-inch increments radially at 35 inches
  • Approximately 6-inch distance


Variable head placement: Line of sight within throw distance (13:10)

  • Software “connects the dots”
  • “Prints water” in a straight line between points
  • Heads may be placed on zone edges



Conventional irrigation system (40 heads, 1,500 feet of pipe) vs. digital system (5 heads, 200 feet of pipe) (14:14)



Question: What does a digital sprinkler head cost? (15:35)

Answer: Each head will cost about $200 as of 2019.



Question: How does the cost of a digital system compare with that of a conventional system? (16:10)

Answer: Digital equipment costs more, but the installation labor costs about 1/3 of putting in a conventional system. Residential jobs will cost about $1,000 more for a digital system on average. For commercial applications, it becomes almost cost equivalent.


Question: What are the dimensions of the digital sprinkler body? (17:40)

Answer: Each digital head is 11 inches tall with a bottom diameter of 5 inches. It will pop up 5 inches, giving it a total height of 16 inches.


Digital irrigation changes everything (19:40)

  • Simplifies design
  • Simplifies installation
  • Standardizes installation

P.S.: Smart controllers are not digital irrigation.


How digital sprinklers save water: no overlap, no overspray, no waste (22:22)


Digital sprinklers are CIT validated (23:30)

  • Equivalent soil moisture using 40% fewer gallons of water
  • Good operational efficiency
  • One digital head versus six to nine mechanical heads


Software simplifying irrigation (24:54)

  • Irrigation is complicated.
    • Thousands of SKUs
    • Labor-intensive installation
  • Digital sprinklers simplify and standardize.
    • One head per zone
    • Software does the rest


Real-life results in Twin Falls, ID (26:22)

"High-efficiency" mechanical system replaced by digital system

  • 2016: 38 MP rotors, 70% uniformity with Rachio smart controller
  • 2017: Sprinkler system incorporating only 5 digital heads and only 200 feet of pipe


Home leveraged as test bed for water-saving technology (27:17)


2017 results: 81,000 gallons saved vs. MP rotors (5,500-square-foot lawn) (28:30)


IrriGreen digital sprinklers: simpler system – faster installation (29:00)


Question: Is the wiring for digital heads similar to the wiring in a conventional irrigation system? (32:50)

Answer: No, it’s different. The low-voltage wiring required for a digital system is not compatible with a conventional controller.


Question: How do these heads connect to 1-inch PVC main? (33:30)

Answer: Every head is packaged with a length of flexible male pipe that connects to the mainline. You don’t have to worry about minute mechanical adjustment – you just need to make sure the head is fixed in position. The software takes care of the rest.


Question: What about spray shadows created by tree trunks, signs, etc.? (34:54)

Answer: You can place the heads strategically, and you don’t have to have perfectly square zones. You can also draw the shape around a tree trunk, which will stop the head from spraying the trunk and prevent fungus on the trunk. Digital heads also tolerate hybrid systems, meaning you can incorporate one or two conventional spray heads into your system to account for issues like this one, if needed.


Question: Does the system allow you to set minimum and maximum precipitation rates for each head? (36:30)

Answer: Yes. You’ll set the number of inches of water you want to put down in each zone.

37:12 – 47:34: Designing with Digital Heads

Design rules for any zone shape (37:12):

1. Place head to reach farthest corner: 25 to 35 feet (verify the PSI before placing the heads) (37:12)

  • Maximum programmable throw by design pressure:
    • 40 PSI: 25 feet
    • 50 PSI: 27.5 feet
    • 60 PSI: 30 feet
    • 70 PSI: 32.5 feet
    • 80 PSI: 35 feet



    2. Place head 5 feet or more from nearest edge, or along edge (38:30)

    • Variable head placement – up to 200 square feet of coverage per head
    • For narrow zones less than 10 feet wide, place head along an edge and program in a 180-degree pattern.


    How to map a zone: Point, shoot click (39:13)

    Set map points to outline the zone. The system will “connect the dots.”


    1. Click Rotate to turn head.

    • 437 rotation positions
    • Every 0.8 degrees


    2. Click +/- to set distance.

    • Approximately 6-inch increments (5 to 30 feet)
    • Distances are approximate


    3. Click Insert to create map point.

    • 50 map points available.


    Zone map with position table (40:55)

    • Map points appear on zone map.
      • First and last map point automatically connected.
    • Map points are listed in position table.
      • Scroll position table to locate and edit map points.

      • Create points close together for curves.

    Note: The app saves zone maps continuously.


    Set inches of water for each zone (42:02)

    0.55 inches is applied evenly per revolution.


    • Click EcoZone. Popup menu appears.
    • Select precipitation per watering event – increments of 0.55 inches
    • App calculates and displays total inches and run time


    Google Earth estimate: 2 heads (43:27)


    Google Earth example: 16 heads (44:03)


    Project drawing with 98 mechanical heads (44:08)


    Project drawing with 23 IrriGreen heads (44:35)


    Elimination of plastic sprinklers and pipe, plus overlap (45:05)


    Conventional vs. digital comparison (45:34)



    Mechanical heads:

    • Head-to-head coverage
    • Dozens of heads, lots of pipe
    • Match heads for precipitation rates
    • Mechanical adjustments
    • 50% waste by overlap and overspray

    Digital heads:

    • One head per zone. Any shape.
    • 80% less heads and pipe
    • Software-controlled precipitation
    • Precise mobile app mapping
    • No overlap/overspray stops waste



    IrriGreen digital heads benefits (47:05):

    • Up to 50% less water
    • Less labor – installs 2 to 2x faster
    • Simplifies design
    • Monitors actual water usage
    • Creates actual water budget/plan


    47:35 – 53:30: Digital heads Case Study from Oklahoma Gardening Television

    53:30 – end: Conclusions and Questions

    Question: Are there plans in place to offer higher pop-up heads? (54:00)

    Answer: Yes, there are plans for a higher pop-up head. Also, keep in mind that as long as you keep the current heads free of tall shrubs blocking their spray, the 45-degree spray angle should allow the spray to reach any plants within its reach that you need to irrigate. Also keep in mind that you can bury the heads a few inches for a shorter pop-up.


    Question: Can rain and moisture sensors be connected with this type of system? (55:15)

    Answer: Absolutely. They can connect to the controller.


    Question: Can these heads operate at a flood of less than 8 to 10 GPM? (53:45)

    Answer: It will depend on the exact situation and the available pressure. In general, they will not operate well at a flow rate below 7 GPM.


    Question: What is the life of one of these heads? How do you calculate the flow analysis? (56:13)

    Answer: These heads should provide about 15 years of service, and the motors should last about 10 years. The system comes with a 3-year warranty. As for flow calculations, the system provides a range from 2 gallons per minute (while throwing 5 feet) to 8 gallons per minute (while throwing 35 feet). Note that this range is not linear – it’s a radial calculation.


    Question: How successful is this system at delivering water to multiple levels of shrubs and garden beds? (58:00)

    Answer: Multi-level planting is a somewhat new development for IrriGreen at webinar time. If you have an application where you need to do multi-level gardening, you can email Shane at, and he will put you get in touch with the right people who can help you answer this question.


    Question: What if the head malfunctions and the point settings are lost? (58:36)

    Answer: The heads all have their own junction boxes and connectors, so it’s easy to replace them. The mapping points are saved in the system, but you’re still better off re-mapping each time you replace a head. Re-mapping should take only 5 minutes once you’re done it a few times. (It will take a bit longer the first few times as you get used to it.)


    Question: Do the heads need to be adjusted regularly to ensure accuracy? (1:00:10)

    Answer: No. The head itself won’t have any moving parts (other than the sealed area that contains the motors) and won’t require adjustment. The only maintenance would take place in the event of a problem such as a line not being blown out correctly. In this case, you can unscrew the head to access a screen below that you can easily clean out.


    Question: Can these systems be winterized? Can they be blown out without damaging the system? (1:00:45)

    Answer: Yes. The controller has a special button for blowouts. You can blow it out as you would any conventional system. You’ll need to enter blowout mode on the controller before blowing it out. Otherwise, the valves will be closed and the blowout won’t be successful.


    Question: Will the system read elevation changes? (1:00:16)

    Answer: Yes. You can control the head to spray at different elevated points. If the system is on a slope, you would then mount the head at the same angle as the slope. In addition, this technology is a great way to prevent runoff on sloped planting areas.


    Question: How many digital heads can the controller handle? (1:02:50)

    The current controller (as of webinar time) can handle 8 digital heads. The systems are expandable, so you can add controllers as needed. A new controller coming out in summer 2019 will be able to handle 24 digital heads. Remember: Each digital head is the equivalent of about 9 mechanical heads.


    Question: Are you able to offer these services based on projected water savings? (1:03:35)

    Answer: Yes. The system will record how much water is used for each watering event, and you can use the CIT study to calculate how much water you’d have to put down with an equivalent mechanical system. It’s possible to show how much water the system saves per month, and the cost savings. For a typical home in a high-water-cost area, these systems can save between $600 and $1,200 per year.


    Question: Can the heads only tie to a 1-inch mainline? (1:04:50)

    Answer: They can run off of a larger mainline, but a 1-inch mainline is recommended at minimum. 


    Question: Is the system set up for homeowners to install on their own? (1:05:30)

    Answer: As of webinar time, it requires professional installation.

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