In order to save money and have control over my house when I am out and about, I have been installing several internet-connected objects. The latest IoT device should help me save money on my water bill through smart watering practices.
Every house in our neighborhood is required to have a sprinkler system to at least cover the front lawn and I paid the minor cost to also have one installed in the backyard. In my experiences, sprinkler systems are the most efficient way to keep lawns healthy, while also conserving water. The builder installed a Rainbird controller system with 20 different options around the dial.
The Rainbird is not a bad system, but does require lots of spins of the dial and physical presence at the controller. Last year when I used this system, my sprinkler would turn on when it was raining, miss watering on days when it was hot, and require that I give specific directions to my wife on what to do when I was traveling out of town (if I remembered the sprinkler was even on).
I purchased a Blossom Smart Watering Controller for $149, regular price is $199, back in January during some special pre-launch event. It arrived last week and I just finished installing, setting up, and performing some initial tests.
Hardware and installation: The Blossom arrived in a colorful blue and white box with the Blossom Controller, Blossom Bracket, wall screws and plastic sheetrock anchors, ethernet cord, Blossom Bridge, and wire labels.
The easy to read Quick Start Guide (pdf) walks you through setup and installation in a total of 15 steps, seven of them are for the account and smartphone setup.
I have a SmartThings network of devices, Nest, and Dropcams installed in my house for smartphone control of several aspects. These all require a reliable and far-reaching WiFi network. Thankfully, the Blossom is connected to the internet through the Blossom Bridge and Powerline technology so that your electrical outlet is the conduit for the internet connection. You can also use WiFi, but given the distance from my garage wall to my router I am very pleased with the Powerline option.
The front was removed from my old Rainbird controller and I took a photo of the zone connections. Blossom provides numbered stickers for you to attach to zone wires and then you can completely remove your old controller.
Mount the Blossom Bracket to the wall using the included four screws and the anchors, if needed. I mounted mine on a stud on the inside garage wall so used two anchors. You can also install your Blossom outside as it is IP54 weather resistant.
After mounting the Blossom Bracket, connect the sprinkler zone wires, place the Blossom Controller over the Bracket, and plug in the Controller. The rest of the setup occurs on your smartphone or tablet. I was able to install the Blossom system in about 10 minutes.
Smartphone software: After you plug in the Blossom you will see a bright LED on the front of it pulsating in green. Walk through the account setup using the iOS or Android app to create a Blossom account. One of the last steps is to enter the specific device code for your Blossom so that a connection to your account is made.
After you have your Blossom associated with your account, the first step in the Blossom app is to set up your zones. You can name them whatever you want and even take a photo of the zone. You then have toggles for smart watering and gets rainfall (in case you have a flower zone under cover or something).
Smart watering is where the Blossom should shine as it automatically builds a watering schedule based on your location, weather patterns, and vegetation. You toggle on smart watering and then select a water amount. I'm not quite sure what the water amount slider defines and am trying to find out more about this option.
If you don't trust or like what the smart watering system is doing, you can toggle it off and select how many minutes you want to water each zone. This is how my Rainbird worked, but having smartphone control is better.
For each zone, you also select if you have shrubs, flower beds, or grass. One of my zones is mainly for a flower bed while the other two are all grass. The Blossom supports up to 12 zones. I recommend you test each zone to ensure you have your wires connected properly.
You also select what type of sprinkler heads you have in that zone; sprinklers, bubblers, or drip lines.
Once all of your zones are setup, you then can go in and view/edit your watering schedule. You can go through each day of the week and select to have the sprinkler system activate so many hours before or after sunrise and sunset. You can also enter a specific time of day to start the sprinkler. I haven't yet found a way to water for a short amount of time more than once a day, but the smart watering toggle may take care of that.
The smartphone app looks great and is easy to use. There is even a single tap button where you can manually turn on your sprinklers right from your phone. This may be a fun parlor trick to show my neighbors. I look forward to testing out the smart watering technology as that is where I think I will see the most benefit of the Blossom system.
If your internet connection goes down, the Blossom will use your previous week's standard watering schedule until your connection comes back online. Blossom will also contact you if your system is offline for an extended period of time.
Initial impressions: It was much easier to setup than I thought it would be and with just three sprinkler zones there weren't many wires I had to work with. The software application is also very easy to use and I feel I have much more control over my sprinkler system now.
Blossom states they gather weather data from multiple sources and the real test of the system will be to see how well the smart watering works at keeping my yard irrigated while also saving me money.
Blossom states that up to 60 percent of our water bills can be spent on irrigation. In the summer, especially in a hot summer like last year, my water bill can triple. Blossom states you can see savings up to 30 percent with its system, while also conserving water and helping the environment.
I should be able to easily recover the $149 cost of the Blossom in just the first year of usage while also having a healthier lawn and conserving water.