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What is a Water Timer?

J.M. Densing
J.M. Densing

A water timer is a device that controls the flow of water for garden irrigation and is a common feature of automatic sprinkler systems. Water will flow for a preset amount of time, or until a specific volume is dispensed, and then turn off. The water flow is controlled by a valve that blocks it until the desired time or conditions. There are two basic types of water timer, mechanical and digital, and both are very useful for conservation. It is important to ensure that water timers are in good operating condition, since a malfunction can result in unrestricted water flow that can cause damage as well as extra expense.

Irrigation, or supplemental watering, is required in many areas to maintain a healthy lawn and garden. A water timer can be a valuable aid to ensure that irrigation is accomplished in the most efficient way possible. This is done by limiting irrigation to the necessary amount of water for an appropriate length of time. Some types of timers allow water to flow for a set time and then turn off to prevent overwatering. Others accomplish this goal by measuring the volume of water that has passed through and shutting off the supply once the selected that amount has been dispensed.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Most types of water timer work by using a valve to block the flow of water. Once the required conditions are met, the valve opens and allows water to flow. After the predetermined length of time has elapsed, or selected volume of water has passed a sensor, the valve closes again. Some timers work automatically; they are set once and continue to operate daily unless the settings are changed. Other timer variants need to be set by hand each day.

Th two basic categories of water timer are mechanical and digital. A mechanical timer is usually placed directly on the hose and is set by hand each time it is used and doesn't need batteries or other power sources. The amount of time or volume of water is selected by turning a dial. The hose is then turned on, and the water will flow until the appropriate conditions are met and the valve shuts off. These timers are useful to prevent overwatering caused by turning on the hose and then forgetting about it.

Digital water timers are a bit more complex and usually run on battery power or get plugged into an electrical outlet. They can be set to automatically turn the water on and off at selected intervals. They are commonly used in conjunction with automatic sprinkler systems and can be programmed to water daily, several times a day, a few times a week, or other options. This type of water timer is particularly helpful if a user wants to water at optimal times of day, such as early morning, or irrigate some areas more often than others. It's important to check on the proper operation of these timers frequently, however, since malfunctions can leave the water running, thereby costing money and possibly leading to flood-type damage.

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