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SkyDrop Irrigation System

Irrigation Systems - SkyDrop Review

By Tobias RobertsRise Writer
Mar 13, 2019

It may seem a little early in the year to begin talking about lawns, but spring is around the corner, and we should start seeing green in many areas soon. Now is an excellent time to start planning for landscape renovations to help save homeowners time and money.

It is estimated that U.S. homeowners use around 9 billion gallons of water for outdoor use every day on a national level. While some of that goes to washing cars and filling up pools, the vast majority of our outdoor water use is used for irrigating our lawns and gardens. While we like our green lawns and pretty flower gardens in front of our homes, not all homeowners have the time, energy, and responsibility to commit to regular watering schedules. 

Automated sprinkler systems and more efficient irrigation technology like IrriGreen have become more common. However, there is still an enormous amount of water wasted because these systems continue to spread water over lawns shortly after precipitation has occurred.  Some experts believe that up to half of the water used for irrigation is wasted due to evaporation or through inefficient and ineffective irrigation practices. That waste represents an opportunity to save water and save money without sacrificing those beautiful lawns and gardens.

The SkyDrop Irrigation System is a unique piece of smart home technology that can help to reduce water usage for lawn and garden irrigation radically. This review of the SkyDrop Irrigation System and its top competitors will offer an in-depth analysis of the advantages and potential drawbacks of these smart irrigation systems. 

Irrigation System
Photo Credit: SkyDrop

What is the SkyDrop Irrigation System? 

Automated sprinkler systems allow homeowners to avoid the hassle of changing their sprinklers daily. They also prevent watering during the heat of the afternoon when evaporation rates are at their highest; the SkyDrop Irrigation System brings an element of smart technology to the task of watering lawns and gardens. This smart irrigation system can connect with local weather forecasts through your home´s Wi-Fi system can learn when to irrigate your yard depending on your local weather conditions. If your local radar expects a hard rainfall within a couple of hours, the SkyDrop will not turn on and thus can avoid saturating your soil with water that would otherwise be provided free by nature. 

The SkyDrop also includes a series of sensors that detect and determine the water content of the soil in your yard. Even when these sensors detect abnormally dry and thirsty soil, the sprinklers will still not turn on if your weather forecasts detect rain showers in the near future. 

The SkyDrop Irrigation System allows homeowners to set up several “watering zones” across their property, depending on the type of vegetation planted, the microclimates that exist in your yard, the kind of soil that you have, and the corresponding specific watering needs.

For example, let’s imagine a homeowner looking to implement a water-smart landscape in her front yard focused on xeriscaping with drought-tolerant native vegetation while building a system of raised beds in the backyard for growing organic, heirloom vegetables. The watering needs for those two micro-regions in her yard would be vastly different. With SkyDrop smart irrigation technology, she could determine and automate precisely how much water was needed in each of these other spaces. 

During setup, you tell the SkyDrop:

  • What types of vegetation are in each of the zones around your yard (including grass, shrubs, trees, etc.)
  • The types of sprinklers you use (including spray and drip irrigation options)
  • How much shade exists in certain parts of your yard, and the amount of slope where irrigation occurs.

With this information, the SkyDrop comes up with a personalized watering schedule for your yard combined with the constant flow of information from local hourly weather updates. For homeowners that want a bit more control, you can also override these recommendations and create your customized watering schedule. 

The SkyDrop can also be controlled remotely from anywhere in the world with a Wi-Fi connection. Instead of entrusting the watering schedule of your precious flower garden to a teenage neighbor, this system allows you to stay on top of your local weather conditions even when you are traveling. The SkyDrop also comes with a simple to use LCD panel and jog dial controller and can connect to other smart home systems. 

Costs and Benefits of the SkyDrop Irrigation System 

By utilizing smart technology to avoid unnecessary watering when local weather conditions expected precipitation, the SkyDrop can drastically cut down on your household water usage. The company claims that you can expect to use up to 50 percent less water for your regular irrigation needs. The SkyDrop has been awarded the EPAs WaterSense® Certification, which guarantees a minimum of 20% water usage reduction.

By helping to avoid excess watering when rain events are expected, the SkyDrop can also help homeowners prevent erosion and soil loss on their property. Although we depend on fertile topsoil for our survival, the world loses an estimated 24 tons of topsoil through erosion and runoff every year. Stormwater runoff from yards and gardens can cause several types of dangerous chemicals to enter local watersheds, and smart irrigation practices can help to limit this type of runoff by avoiding the saturation of the soil.

What’s the payback? Let’s do the math. A SkyDrop smart sprinkler controller starts at $180. The average US homeowner uses 35,040 gallons of water each year for outdoor water use, the majority of which goes towards watering lawns and gardens. The average cost of municipal water is about $1.50 per 1,000 gallons. Supposing a 50 percent reduction in irrigation needs, homeowners could potentially be looking at $25 or more in savings each year. With these assumptions and low cost-per-gallon water prices, the controller would pay for itself in 7.2 years.

While that’s not a huge financial win, water prices could increase. And, as global warming continues to disrupt climate patterns and cause lengthier droughts, state and local watering restrictions and the corresponding fines should only become more commonplace. If you forget to turn off your automated sprinkler system during a ban on lawn irrigation, you might be looking at a hefty fine of up to $500. The SkyDrop can help you avoid these fines by avoiding irrigation when it is simply not necessary.

Because the SkyDrop allows homeowners to divide their land up into several watering zones, it makes it easy for people with a green thumb to move beyond the monocultures of green grass that have come to define most American yards. By programming different areas of your property for different watering schedules, homeowners can experiment with more sustainable, healthy, and ecologically resilient landscaping strategies. Not only will this protect the health of your family through minimizing reliance on herbicides and other dangerous lawn chemicals, but you can also create a habitat for birds and other wildlife and encourage bees and other insects to take up residence around your home. The SkyDrop lets you divide your property into eight zones, though that can be expandable to 16 zones for larger yards and gardens with more diverse vegetation and watering requirements.

A Few Drawbacks

One possible drawback of the SkyDrop Irrigation System is that it depends on the real-time forecast of local weather stations. In some areas, especially for homes in isolated, rural areas, the nearest weather station might be dozens of miles away. Weather and climate patterns can vary significantly in the span of only a few miles, and this could potentially cause problems. While the SkyDrop might be detecting a rainstorm through your local weather station, the actual weather at your home might be sunny and clear skies. For this reason, the SkyDrop is usually best for homeowners in urban or suburban areas or in areas where weather stations are more closely located.

The SkyDrop's LCD is not a touch screen which seems a bit odd in a world where touch screens are everywhere, from our phones, our smart thermostats, and everything in between. (Perhaps the next version will be upgraded to a touch screen!)

A Few Competitors

The SkyDrop Irrigation System isn’t the only smart irrigation system that syncs with local weather forecasts. Below, we look at some of the pros and cons and significant differences between The Rachio and the RainMachine, two of its main competitors.

The Rachio

The Rachio is very similar to the SkyDrop in its functions and its price. The main difference is that whereas the SkyDrop only supports Amazon Alexa, IFTTT, and Nest, the Rachio is much friendlier to third-party integration. It supports virtually every smart home system. Like SkyDrop, Rachio offers a web application at app.rach.io.

The RainMachine

The main difference between the SkyDrop and the RainMachine is that the RainMachine allows homeowners to choose between 8, 12, and 16 watering zones. It also has a touchscreen LCD. Other than that, the functions are essentially the same.

In terms of price, all three options are similar to the SkyDrop ranging from $180 to $250 (two different models), the Rachio 3 starting at $229, and the RainMachine starting at $239 for the Touch HD option.

Bottom Line

Smart irrigation technology, like many other smart home features, is continuing to develop and emerge. While all of these products represent a significant improvement over simple automated sprinklers, we expect future developments and innovations even further to improve the efficiency of your household irrigation needs. These technologies can save time and money—both valuable commodities—and are essential components of more sustainable homes.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-07-10T05:32:40+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.