Rain/Freeze Sensors: Facts, Fallacies, and Recommendations

freeze sensor articleA rain/freeze sensor is, as the name implies, a measuring device that detects freezing temperatures as well as rain events. A compliment to any irrigation system, this device is designed to suspend irrigation when one of these weather phenomena unfold.

Their benefits are evident in that they.

  1. Conserve water
  2. Protect plants from overwatering and damage
  3. Reduce the risk of ice developing on driveways and sidewalks.

Unfortunately, if these devices are not used properly, they can also cause severe damage and safety concerns.

To help use your rain/freeze sensor as intended and prevent landscaping or safety issues, we’ve put together these tips—facts and fallacies regarding these sensors. Here is what you need to know about your rain/freeze sensor.

Fact: Rain Sensor Installation is Mandatory

If you have a commercial property in Texas, the law dictates rain/freeze sensors must be installed and operational. Some municipalities even require an annual inspection report. In 2009, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) made sensors a requirement on every newly installed lawn sprinkler system.

Recommended: Inspections Every Year

Even if an annual inspection is not required, it’s a good idea to test sensors to determine that they are functioning correctly. Before the first cold blast descends, we recommend having your device inspected.

To test your sensor, clean out any debris formed in and around the sensors, including leaves and cobwebs that could interfere with proper functioning. Then test the sensors and check the battery according to system documentation. If you need help with testing, please let us know.

Fallacy: Sensor Location is Not a Problem

Sensors are equipped with either a small collection basin, a rain-sensing head, or hygroscopic disks that receive direct rainfall. These sensors are designed to not only trigger a change in the watering cycle (shutting it off or on, for example) but record the temperature. This makes it necessary to install them in an area where artificial temperature fluctuations are not evident. If the sensors are located under a tree or a roof’s eaves, or near a ventilation system, the device will not work properly. This issue is due to fluctuations in temperatures caused by direct sunlight versus shade conditions or artificial heat sources (like dryer vents).

Fallacy: Your Rain Sensors Will Ensure Resident Safety

Because of a sensor’s ability to suspend irrigation during freezing weather events, it can be easy to assume that water has not turned to ice on sidewalks and other walkways. Unfortunately, this assumption can turn tragic.

To ensure safety, shut the water off at the source by closing the irrigation system’s double check valve. Once the storm has passed, be sure to turn the valve back on.

View your sensors as a reinforcement to your safety standards and procedures, not as the only stop-gap.

Fact: EarthWorks is There for All Your Landscape Support Needs

If used appropriately, rain/freeze sensors can save time and money while protecting your plants from the extreme and sometimes unexpected weather conditions of a Texas winter.

At Earthworks, we are committed to supporting our clients by offering them the service they need when they need it. Our property representatives are available to check your sensor’s location for proper placement and train your maintenance personal on inspection procedures, and the steps to take should freezing weather descend. Contact us today for more information.


Value • Integrity • Service • Quality


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EarthWorks has the manpower to perform installations usually within a timely manner, even during the peak season. And with our staff resources we can prepare multiple sites for owner inspection or investor tours within a single day, even on short notice.

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