Monday, August 3, 2009

Mayhem on Main Street - The controller from outer space

The city of Amarillo is giving rebates up to $50 per water customer to people who buy controllers that turn their sprinkler system off when it's raining or near freezing, but Tom Ash thinks that's a "baby step."

Ash is the director of conservation for HydroPoint, a company that offers more than just a puny rain/freeze controller. They can input what plants you're growing, the slope of the yard, how much exposure to the sun there is, the soil type. Then the controller crunches the data to calculate the most efficient irrigation schedule for you.

But wait. There's more.

Just picture all the information flying through space from Earth to satellite to Earth to satellite to Earth as HydroPoint constantly collects information from the National Weather Service, other government weather observatories and private weather stations. They do some kind of way-too-complicated number work and figure out the evaporation and transpiration rates in the "micro zone" your yard is in. (That means how much water vapor is going back into the air and how much the plants are releasing in the surrounding half square mile.)

All that figuring goes into tweaking the irrigation schedule that is transmitted by satellite to the controller.

There is a monthly fee for all this high-tech aid, but Ash says you save water, but also energy to pump the water. Then there's the carbon dioxide that would have been created by the Harrington Power Station while Xcel Energy to makes the electricity to power the pumps that move the water for the house that Jack built.

Let's see, that's a win, win, lose...well, good thing I'm not doing all this high-concept calculating.

I don't know if it works, but it is an interesting idea.

Oh yeah, and you can wire a "baby-step" rain sensor in for an extra charge.

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