Rain Sensor Rebate FAQs
A rain sensor, also called a rain shut-off device or a rain switch, is a small device that turns off an automatic lawn irrigation system when it rains. Mounted in an open outdoor area and wired or wirelessly-connected to your automatic lawn irrigation system, a rain sensor can significantly reduce your water bill while conserving municipal drinking water.
For this rebate, we require that your rain sensor halt irrigation after a 1/4 inch of rain. Some rain sensors have a function to turn off within the first few minutes of rainfall. The total amount of rain will determine how long your system will stay off. The rain sensor may shut your system off for one to several days after a rainfall, depending on a number of factors such as the amount of rain and the sensor’s exposure to wind and sun.
Disks, Dishes, & Buckets, Oh My!
Most rain sensors employ water-absorbing expansion disks that swell in the presence of rain – similar to a sponge – and after a certain amount of rainfall, depress an electrical switch, thereby bypassing the regular cycle of irrigation and turning off your automatic irrigation system. The disks shrink as they dry, until they release from the electrical switch, restoring the normal cycle of your irrigation system. Rain sensors with expansion disks are the most popular type because they are highly reliable and require little maintenance.
Other rain sensors on the market that will qualify for this rebate use a water collection dish, tipping bucket, or conductance probe to detect rainfall via water weight or electrical conductivity. Rain sensors measuring water weight or conductivity may require more maintenance to remove dirt and debris, which can alter weight or conductance and foul the device.
To qualify for this rebate, you must be a JCSA water customer, and your rain sensor must be a retrofit to a lawn irrigation system that was installed without a rain sensor before March 8, 2005.
Saving You Money
By shutting off your irrigation, a rain sensor can reduce your monthly water and electricity bills.
For example, if your system irrigates half an acre and is set to apply half an inch of water per cycle, 6,788 gallons are applied per cycle. Assuming your household is in the 3rd Block within James City Service Authority’s Residential Water Retail Service Rates, your savings will be about $60 every time the sensor eliminates an irrigation event. Rain sensors typically cost $25 to $50 with $100 for installation, so after our $50 rebate and the elimination of two irrigation events, your rain sensor has more than paid for itself!
Conserving Municipal Water
By preventing unnecessary irrigation after rain events, rain sensors help ensure water availability for emergencies, such as firefighting, especially during the peak summer months.
Prolonging the Life of Your Irrigation System
A rain sensor can reduce wear to your system because it runs only when necessary.
Reducing Nutrient Loss & Disease Damage
Over-watering causes nutrients to wash away from turf, requiring increased applications of fertilizer. It also retards deep root growth and increases lawn susceptibility to disease. In fact, over-watering has been called the most common cause of disease in turf.
Protecting Our Waterways & Groundwater
By minimizing wasteful runoff, you reduce the amount of pollution and debris such as pet waste, motor oil, fertilizer, pesticides, litter, and sediment that reach our waterways. Using a rain sensor also reduces percolation of irrigation water that carries pollutants from lawn and garden care, such as fertilizers and herbicides, into our groundwater.
What are some things I’ll need to consider before installing a rain sensor and applying for this rebate?
Am I Eligible for the Rain Sensor Rebate?
To qualify for this rebate, you must be a JCSA water customer, and your rain sensor must be a retrofit to a lawn irrigation system that was installed without a rain sensor before March 8, 2005. You must also set your rain sensor so that the irrigation system will shut off after a ¼ inch of rain or less has fallen.
James City County Ordinance Number 116A-36 requires that all irrigation systems installed in the County and supplied water by the JCSA on or after March 8, 2005 must have a rain sensor set to a ¼ inch or less. Please see the ordinance text (pdf) for details. Irrigation systems installed before March 8, 2005 are not required by Ordinance to have rain sensors, but we encourage those homeowners to buy and install one and receive our rebate.
Will my rain sensor affect the sprinkler schedule of my automatic irrigation system?
No. The rain sensor temporarily interrupts the automatic irrigation system’s programmed cycle until the detection device dries. One to several days after the rainfall, the irrigation system’s automatic timer will come back online and its regular schedule will resume.
Where should rain sensors be placed?
They should be mounted in an open area outdoors, above ground in an unobstructed location that is well-suited for gauging rain. See the manufacturer’s specifications for details.
Rain sensors are easy to install. Do-it-yourselfers should check local hardware and gardening stores, including the stores listed below. Otherwise, contact your local irrigation specialist or see the next question, below.
Nature’s Choice Landscape, LLC
P.O. Box 249, Lightfoot, VA 23090
6700 Mooretown Road, Williamsburg VA 23188
Lowe’s Home Improvement
801 E Rochambeau Drive, Williamsburg, VA 23188
The JCSA does not endorse specific brands, products, contractors, or companies. List does not denote preference. If you notice that our list is out of date, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 253-6859. JCSA reserves the right to control web content.
The following are contractors that install rain sensors. This list is accurate to the best of our knowledge but is subject to change.
Mid Atlantic Enterprise, Inc.
203 Bethune Drive
Williamsburg, VA 23185
Precipitation Unlimited, Inc.
300 Commerce Circle, Suite E, Yorktown, VA 23693
National Turf & Irrigation
11843 Tugboat Lane, Newport News, VA 23606
113 Winders Lane, Yorktown, VA 23692
April Showers, Inc.
P.O. Box 1068, Yorktown, VA 23692
Nature’s Choice Landscape, LLC
P.O. Box 249, Lightfoot, VA 23090
Irrigation Concepts, LLC
3320 John Tree Hill Rd, Powhatan, VA 23139
The JCSA does not endorse specific brands, products, contractors, or companies. List does not denote preference. If you notice that our list is out of date, please email email@example.com or call us at 259-5416. JCSA reserves the right to control web content.
In order to save additional water:
- Consider landscaping techniques from our Let’s Be Water Smart program including lawn care calendars, guides, suggested plants, and water-thrifty tips under “Resources."
- If you plan to install a new toilet, make it a high-efficiency toilet! Look for the EPA’s new WaterSense label and visit their website when shopping for high-efficiency toilets, (Check our WaterSense High-Efficiency Toilet Rebate to see if you are eligible.), landscape irrigation services, irrigation control technologies, showerheads, and more!
- Check out our other rebates.
Water Smart landscaping works great in conjunction with other stormwater management and low impact development features, such as green roofs, rain gardens, porous pavement, and proper retention pond maintenance.
See the PRIDE (Protecting Resources in Delicate Environments) website for information about:
- Turf Love, a partner program with the Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener volunteers to teach homeowners how to produce healthy turf while reducing the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides,
- Simple tips to protect our waterways, and
- A primer on rain gardens (.pdf), which are gardens developed in low-lying areas where drainage collects, so that your stormwater runoff helps your garden grow instead of hurting your local waterways.