Smart Home

Best smart sprinkler system controllers 2021: Rachio, Rainmachine, Wyze and more

We’re well past the early stages of tech companies trying to connect every device inside our homes to the internet, converting “dumb” items into smart home products, and while you may not want a connected microwave, one item you should seriously consider is a smart sprinkler system controller.

By connecting your sprinkler system to the internet, not only can you create schedules or turn it on/off directly from your phone, but some systems will automatically create watering schedules based on your climate, weather forecast and based on which parts of your yard get more or less shade during the day.

Below we’ve rounded up four different sprinkler controllers, each with a unique approach to streamlining keeping your yard or garden lush and green.


Smarter than most

rachio-3.jpg

Image: Rachio

Zones: 8 or 16 | Smart home support: Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, Wink, Control4 and Nexia | Outdoor enclosure: $30 on Amazon | Supported weather services: National weather stations, 270,000 personal weather stations, etc. are used for Rachio’s Weather Intelligence Plus service |


Rachio’s sprinkler controllers are arguably the most popular, or at least the most commonly recommended, and for good reason. They’re easy to set up and install (as are most sprinkler controllers), but also offer wide support for smart home platforms and leverage multiple weather sources for the company’s own Weather Intelligence Plus service.

That service will proactively adjust your watering schedule once a month, and if there’s any bad weather in the forecast, it will also skip watering days to accommodate for precipitation. All of that, again, are staple features of smart sprinkler systems, but Rachio’s tech seems to be the smartest and most consistent.

Also: Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler hands-on: Intelligent watering controlled by your phone

PROS

  • Accurate weather forecasts
  • Smartly adjusts watering schedules once a month

CONS

  • Watering volume can be too extreme at times.


The touchscreen option

rainmachine.jpg

Image: Rainmachine

Zones: 8, 12, 16 | Smart home support: Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, Samsung SmartThings, Home Assistant| Outdoor enclosure: $35 on Amazon | Supported weather services: NOAA, NetAtmo, Wunderground, OpenWeatherMap + more |


The Rainmachine line of smart sprinkler systems looks unique in that all three models have a touchscreen and digital display. The Mini-8 is the most basic of the group and lacks HomeKit support. The Pro and Touch HD have larger displays and touch areas, with the Touch HD boasting a 6.5-inch display. All three models support automatically adjusting your water cycles based on local weather reports.

The Mini-8 supports up to 8 zones, the Pro offers 8 or 16 zone support and the Touch HD supports 12 or 16 zones. All three models support freeze control and heat wave protection, and support master valve automation.

One consistent complaint across reviews I’ve read about Rainmachine is that even though it supports multiple weather services for rain delays, its forecasting and watering schedules aren’t as accurate as the competition.

PROS

  • Broad support for smart home platforms
  • Takes multiple weather services into account
  • Unique design

CONS

  • Forecasting is a common complaint


The affordable option

wyze.jpg

Image: Wyze

Zones: 8 | Smart home support: Wyze app | Outdoor enclosure: $30.99 | Supported weather services: Wyze’s Sprinkler Plus Weather Service |


Wyze makes a bunch of devices that are affordably priced, so it made sense that the company developed a minimal and inexpensive smart sprinkler system controller. The oval black design is minimal, and will let you remotely control up to 8 different sprinkler zones.

For the asking price, you get one year of the company’s Sprinkler Plus Weather Service that typically costs $9.99 per year. One downside to Wyze’s offering is that it currently doesn’t support any smart home services outside of the Wyze app. So while you can still control your sprinklers from your phone, you won’t be able to ask Alexa or Google Assistant to make any adjustments.

PROS

  • Affordably priced hardware
  • One year of Sprinkler Plus Weather Service included, $10 a year afterwards
  • Minimal design

CONS

  • Weather forecast requires yearly subscription
  • No smart home support outside of Wyze app


For those with a hose-based system

eve-aqua.jpg

Image: Eve

Zones: Single | Smart home support: HomeKit | Outdoor enclosure: Designed for outdoor use | Supported weather services: Manually turn rain delay on/off via Eve app or Apple Shortcuts |


If you water your yard with a hose and more traditional sprinkler, then Eve’s Aqua is a reliable option. You connect it to your outdoor faucet, and connect the hose to Aqua.

Eve added Thread support to Aqua, allowing future integration with additional smart home platforms as Thread continues to rollout and gain traction in the marketplace. However, for now, you’ll need to use an iPhone and HomeKit in order to control it.

You can use the Eve app to turn Aqua on/off on demand, or set schedules for when it should turn on and allow water to flow. The Eve app will even calculate how much water flows through the adapter, giving you a better estimate of just how much it’s costing you to keep your yard or garden watered.

PROS

  • Modernizes an outdoor faucet
  • Support for Thread for future integrations
  • Easy installation and setup

CONS

  • No Android support right now
  • Controls a single hose/zone

Do smart sprinkler system controllers work with all sprinklers?

For the most part, yes. You’ll need access to the current controller for your sprinkler system. There should be a series of wires that run to your controller, each one controlling a valve that turns water on or off for a watering zone.

How are smart sprinkler system controllers powered?

Each controller included in this list, with the exception of the Eve Aqua, will come with a power adapter that plugs into a standard wall outlet. In other words, it’s powered just like any other gadget or device in your home.

Are smart sprinkler system controllers hackable?

Anything connected to the internet has a chance of being hacked, and smart sprinkler controllers are no different. As with any type of online account you have, it’s a good idea to pick a random and unique password — and use a password manager to remember it for you — in order to increase your account’s security.

How did we choose these controllers?

I’ve personally used several different controllers over the years. Most recently, I’ve had the Rachio 3 installed and running. Drawing from my personal experience with smart sprinkler controllers, and reading through countless reviews from fellow tech journalists as well as consumers is what ultimately lead to the devices on this list.

Which controller is right for you?

There are a few aspects of smart sprinkler controllers you should take into account when making a decision. First is your budget. Wyze’s offering is the most affordable, but also requires a yearly subscription (even though it’s only $10 a year, it’s still a reoccurring fee). More expensive controllers, such as Rachio and Rainmachine use several different services to make weather and watering adjustments, which is part of the reason they’re more expensive.

In the case of Rainmachine, its design and touchscreen integration also play a big part in its cost.

Another factor to consider is which smart home platforms you currently use, or maybe even plan on using. Rainmachine and Rachio support almost every platform, while Wyze and Eve Aqua offer limited solutions.

The number of supported zones is something to take into account, but to a lesser extent simply because most sprinkler controllers start with a minimum of eight supported zones.

rachio-3.jpg

Source: https://fire-rules.com/best-smart-sprinkler-system-controllers-2021-rachio-rainmachine-wyze-and-more/

Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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