Opening the Tap To Smarter Water Conserving Products

Hot new ideas for saving water without sacrificing performance

Niagara ET Controller

Let's face it, most irrigation controllers designed for residential use are not clever enough to know they shouldn't be sprinkling the lawn on a rainy day. Most of those units are merely timers, and they may be labor saving, but they sure aren't water saving.

Matt Puffer of Niagara Conservation cites studies indicating that some homes may be over-watering by as much as 55 gallons per day. That's not only bad for the lawn and garden, but it creates excess run-off that can include fertilizers and pesticides.

Niagara's new ET Controller (the ET is short for evapotranspiration) uses smart technology common to commercial irrigation controllers.

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"We've come up with a residential product in partnership with a company called HydroSaver," said Puffer. "We were able to take the features of a large commercial model that would sell for $15,000 to $20,000 and put it in a small and affordable residential 12 station model."

The system is designed to be easily programmed. The homeowner simply enters date, time, and appropriate climate zone, and that starts the ET Controller's program. "The set-up screen then walks you through a series of questions," said Puffer. "You just scroll through the choices until you see the answer you want, and move to the next. For each of the 12 stations, it asks you what the crop is, what the solar gain is - full sunlight, partial shade, whatever. Then you identify what the irrigation method is, whether it's spray, rotor, drip, etc." The information is stored in non-dynamic RAM memory, so it never loses its programming, even during a power failure. The system also includes a sensor package to adapt to the micro-climate. The controller gathers data from a solar sensor, a temperature and humidity sensor, and an electrical rain sensor.

The ET Controller is meant to sell under $250, and can be installed during new construction or as a retrofit to replace a conventional controller.

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Caroma Profile Smart

This compact toilet with integrated hand washing basin makes a lot of sense for tight spaces such as half-baths, but that's

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 just the beginning of its smart features. It's also a High Efficiency Toilet (HET) with a water conserving dual-flush mechanism (1.28 or 0.8 gal. per flush) utilizing gray water from the basin. After each flush, fresh water is directed through the faucet for hand washing before it drains into the tank to be used for the next flush. In comparison testing, this integrated unit used 70 percent less water than a conventional toilet with a separate sink. Despite the reduced water usage, its large trapway

 is virtually unblockable. The unit installs as easily as a conventional toilet. The Profile Smart received the Breakthrough Product Award from Popular Mechanics magazine.

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