Getting tired of babysitting your water sprinkler system? It gets a little tiresome to always have to pay attention to your sprinklers, particularly in these dry times we’ve been having.
There’s an easier way to handle this while taking advantage of local weather conditions to get more accurate watering. And lower water usage bills.
In this article, we’re going to review three popular Wifi sprinkler controllers. These units will allow you to control your system over your smart phone, a tablet or even your PC.
What better way to control your system rather than having to continually head to the garage, crawl under the porch or head down into the basement?
Quick NavigationBest sprinkler Controller Ratings:What Is a Sprinkler Controller?Is It Easy to Install?Do They Work If the Power Goes Down?Why Install a Drip Irrigation System?Is the Controller All You Have to Purchase or Do You Have to Buy All New Sprinkler Head?How Strong Must the Wi-Fi Signal Be at the Controller?#1: Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller – Gen. 2 #2: RainMachine Touch HD-12#3: Orbit 57950 B-Hyve SmartWhat Unit Do We Think Is Best Sprinkler Controller?
Best sprinkler Controller Ratings:
#1: Rachio Smart
#2: RainMachine HD-12
#3: Orbit B-hyve
What Is a Wifi Sprinkler Controller?
A sprinkler controller is a device that allows you to program and automatically run the water sprinkler system at your home. You’re able to choose particular times and areas of your yard to get watering.
On the market today are two types. The old manual style that’s been around for years and a newer model that uses Wi-Fi and your home network for remote control.
Is It Easy to Install?
The units in this review are all easy to install. It’s just a matter of drilling the holes for the mounting screws, mounting the unit and connecting the wires.
It should be noted though that some are little easier to mount than others and some have better instructions and templates to help make a more secure mount.
You can choose an expert installation from as little as $100.
Do They Work If the Power Goes Down?
The units have a battery backup that will help keep the settings that you’ve programmed in. However, without power, your sprinkler system won’t run.
Why Install a Drip Irrigation System?
Drip irrigation gives you an easy way to control the amount of water that goes on smaller areas and avoids the problem of flooding.
A drip irrigation system is ideal if you’re watering smaller areas like gardens, flowerbeds, container plants, trees, or groundcover. It’s especially good for desert landscaping.
Is the Controller All You Have to Purchase or Do You Have to Buy All New Sprinkler Head?
The wireless sprinkler controller is all you need to connect to your system. If you are mounting outside, two of the units below will need an optional outdoor box.
How Strong Must the Wi-Fi Signal Be at the Controller?
Strong enough to let the sprinkler controller communicate with your network. So, the closer the controller can be to the wireless source the better.
Next, take into consideration how many walls and other obstructions the signal has to pass through. The fewer the better.
How many other devices are operating on the same 2.4 GHz channel? If you have more than a couple, the interference may be too great for the outdoor mounted controller.
A Wi-Fi extender boosts the signal and will help with the above issues. They’re available at Amazon right here.
Note: these controllers all communicate on the 2.4 GHz band. If you’re running a 5 GHz home network, they won’t work.
A couple of the manufacturers have suggested setting up a guest network on an available 2.4 GHz band.
Onward with the reviews…
#1: Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller – Gen. 2
The Rachio unit is a good-looking unit and the body is pretty solid. It is available in both 8 zone and 16 zone configurations. Using WaterSense technology, it’s designed to help make yard watering easy and a lot less expensive.
Let’s take a closer look in this Rachio mini review.
· WaterSense technology
· Smartphone app allows you to control it from anywhere
· Works with Amazon’s Alexa giving you voice control over your watering system
· Operates with or without a WiFi signal
· Control box connections might be too small for wire gauge
· Hanger type mounting
· No API if one prefers to create their own app. No IFTTT integration
The Rachio is EPA WaterSense Certified and you could get a rebate if your county or city is eligible and the water company is participating.
It has five predrilled screw holes for mounting. One reviewer used the two center holes and felt it made for a pretty solid installation. Others used all 5 holes without problem.
The Rachio is not waterproof or water resistant but you can buy an outside enclosure. This is the one made by Rachio and it’s available on Amazon.
Installation is generally pretty quick like the two smart water controllers reviewed above. They have a lot of similarities except for one big one.
The wiring comes in from behind on the Rachio rather than the front. So make sure to take this into account when you plan out the mounting location.
Also be aware, some readers say that the wires are little tough to get attached to the connection block. It tends to be a little stiff and you need to use a screwdriver (and a little force) on the slot to get it to open.
The setup of the Rachio smart controller is pretty easy as well. It does require that you have your smart phone available with the app installed. This is so you can hook up to the smart controller then connect to the wireless network.
Once you’ve got that connectivity set up, it’s just a matter of choosing each zone and entering in the rest of the information about your yard.
It’s this information coupled with the weather information that helps make the Rachio so effective.
The Rachio also allows you to find a local personal weather station rather than relying on the NOAA. This way you can get more accurate microclimate weather conditions.
Check how to install and set it up here:
When you’re doing the initial setup of the Rachio on your smart phone, it will take you through each of the zones of your yard and ask pertinent questions for each zone.
It will ask about soil type, what you’ve got growing, slope and several other items. This customization really helps to make it more accurate when it combines with weather sensing ability.
For the Geeks
Rachio also offers an open API that you can use to create your own watering application. Though most users find the current application to be pretty useful and loaded with good information.
You also have service integration with a system called IFTTT. This allows you to create your own mini applets which are controlled by events.
For example, if it’s a cloudy day and you don’t want your Rachio to water, you can have the weather forecast trigger IFTTT which will then communicate with the Rachio and tell it to turn off watering for the day.
Or, if the temperature happens to get too hot, you can have that condition trigger IFTTT to communicate with the Rachio and turn on watering.
What Are the Differences Between the Gen 1 and the Gen 2?
Rachio listened to their customers and integrated several new and desired features into the Generation 2:
· The wiring bay is larger to allow you to fit larger gauge wires.
· The unit itself is smaller.
· The Generation 2 is moved to a single plate design that allows for multi-meter testing.
· The connection protocol is different because an app is used to control the connection to your Wi-Fi.
· The ability to do some manual adjustments has been added.
The Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller Gen 2 is a great performer and easily integrates with multiple sources of weather information. It’s easy to install and set up with a responsive app.
1,186 users give the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller a 4.7 out of five star rating.
The Rachio is our number one choice because it will give you more for your money.
#1: Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller
- WaterSense Technology
- Works with Alexa
#2: RainMachine Touch HD-12
If you’re looking for a wifi sprinkler controller that looks as good as it works, the RainMachine Touch HD–12 is a perfect choice. Good looks and a lot of functionality are all bundled into a small package that’s easily installed and programmed.
In addition, the RainMachine is EPA WaterSense Certified which, if your city or county participates in the EPA program, can earn you a rebate on the cost of the unit. In addition, you can get more savings from the built-in smart watering that takes advantage of the weather services of the NOAA.
· Easy to install and program
· Easy to use app that allows you to connect from anywhere
· Open API if you’d like to create your own app
· EPA WaterSense Certified which may help you qualify for a rebate
· Bright 6.5 inch color touchscreen display
· Odd app uses off brand coloring
· No warning if you have overlapping schedules
- Not waterproof – needs a separately purchased case
The Touch HD-12 is EPA WaterSense Certified and you may be eligible for a rebate. Check with you city or county water department to see if they participate in the program.
The RainMachine comes with a small screwdriver and a handy hole template to help you with the install. As with most Wi-Fi units, it’s pretty easy to hook up to the current system wiring.
The unit can control up to 12 zones. It’s not expandable, so if you need more, you’ll want to consider a different controller.
The Touch HD-12 isn’t waterproof, but a user was able to mount it inside an Orbit lockbox. This makes it water resistant and lockable. The box can be found on Amazon by clicking here.
Installation is pretty easy, just line up your template where you want to hang the controller, mark the hole slots with a Sharpie, and then drill the screw holes. Once you get the Rain Machine mounted, it’s a simple matter to connect the wires because they connect from the front.
Once you get the mounting and wiring done, the setup and programming is pretty easy as well. Users have found the technology to be pretty intuitive. Follow the set up wizard to get it connected to your Wi-Fi network.
Since the Touch has a really responsive touchscreen, you can also do the set up and programming from the front screen. The screen is also convenient in case you’re caught outside without your phone.
Getting your watering schedule programmed was considered by most users to be a pretty easy task. If you had a zone that needed its own special schedule, you can set it up on its own program.
The Cycle and Soak selection will allow you to do multiple waterings in order to avoid water runoff. It works by taking a total number of watering minutes and dividing that up into a user-defined number of watering times.
The installation and set-up are explained here:
The smart phone app and the web app are very well-designed and deliver a lot of useful information. In addition, you’re able to control different RainMachine systems other than your own home system. This makes it pretty convenient if you’re in charge of different lawn areas.
There’s a bit of a geekiness factor to the RainMachine as well. If you’re into in technology at all, this might be of interest to you. The Rain Machine publishes a public API that a user could use to develop their own programming app.
Since some users felt the current app was dull and unappealing, they can easily create their own version.
The Rain Machine is a very attractive and well performing Wi-Fi sprinkler controller. It’s easy to install and set up with responsive apps or manually at the touchscreen.
Users find that it’s flexible too. It teams up with a drip irrigation system very well making it a great garden water timer. They give the Touch HD-12 a 4.5 out of five star rating with 615 reviews.
It only comes second because the price is higher than the Rachio but it’s a very close second.
#2: RainMachine Touch HD-12
Image Source: RainMachine.com
- Touch Screen
- Works with Alexa
RainMachine Touch HD-12
#3: Orbit 57950 B-Hyve Smart
The Orbit 57950 B-Hyve Smart is an easily installed Wi-Fi enabled sprinkler controller. Mounted to a stud or wall, it quickly connects up to your currently installed water sprinkler system.
It comes in a locked, water resistant case which allows you to mount it outdoors as well.
It Is EPA WaterSense Certified and passes SWAT testing protocols. This helps it to qualify for rebates in participating water districts.
The Wi-Fi and timer controls allow you to access and control the timer either through your home network, your smart phone or tablet as well as be able to work with it manually at the controller.
· EPA WaterSense Certified
· Has an open API and IFTTT integrations
· Use other weather stations other than NOAA
· Ability to add rain, freeze and/or flow sensors
· Connects to Amazon Alexa, Nest and other home automation systems.
· Wiring is a little clumsy
· Flimsy plastic cover
· Not weather resistant or waterproof
EPA WaterSense and SWAT certification means if this unit qualifies for rebates in participating water districts. You might save up to 50% of the unit cost.
The Orbit water timer comes in a waterproof and lockable case for outdoor mounting. There are 3 different sized knockouts on the bottom to help with hardwiring. It comes with a small screw driver to help with attaching the wires to the control block.
It’s got a large, easy to read dial and can be controlled manually if necessary. The screen is a non-touch LCD type. The power cable is permanently connected to the power block inside.
The Orbit smart sprinkler timer integrates with what Orbit calls Catch Cup technology. This allows the timer or controller to give you much better scheduling and water control results.
It’s easy to install and hooks up to your current system pretty readily. One issue a user had was that the box used a hang screw arrangement. His concern was that it might break. But, there are two additional screw holes at the bottom of the case to use. This should help with stability.
The B-Hyve smart controller can be mounted either indoors or outdoors. To be able to close and lock the box, be sure to route the wires through one of the knockouts on the bottom of the controller box.
Setup is pretty easy and straight forward. Once the app is connected to the controller, follow the wizard to set up the zones. You can add a name and picture to each zone for easier identification. Then the wizard will ask you to enter characteristics of each zone. Once setup, you’re ready to run the program.
Make sure you enter in the correct zip code or postal code for your area. WaterSense technology uses NOAA local weather information to help forecast whether your sprinklers are going to be needing to come on are not.
Here’s how to install and set it up yourself:
The sprinkler controller can be accessed from anywhere when using the app. You can control several units at a time as well. Orbit doesn’t offer an API for personal app construction nor does it support IFTTT.
With Wi-Fi and timer control you’re able to control the Orbit irrigation system from your PC, tablet or your smart phone. You can also control this manually if you should happen to find yourself at the controller without your phone.
After some initial quirks when it first came out, Orbit has ironed out any issues with updates as needed.
This is one of the newest and least expensive Wi-Fi sprinkler controllers on the market. According to users, it does a good job. It gets an average 4.5 out of 5 stars out of 266 reviews.
#3: Orbit 57950 B-Hyve Smart
- Best Value
- Works with Alexa
What’s really cool about the wireless Wi-Fi controllers is that you get a ton of information. You’ll get a lot of charts and graphs using the data that each of the controllers collects.
This is great for learning more about how to care for your lawn and garden. All of the units are easy to install and setup. They all get top ratings and user satisfaction.
Our choice is the Rachio Smart because it’s getting the best results for the price but the RainMachine Touch HD-12 is following very closely because of its touch screen control. This makes it easy if you need to allow someone else to change watering settings or if you don’t have your phone with you.
Ultimately, your choice will depend on your budget and whether you need a touch screen or not.
These units are all available on Amazon: