The best smart sprinkler controller
Technology has made inroads into many aspects of everyday life, and taking care of your lawn or garden is no different.
When you use smart sprinkler controllers, you'll be able to automate watering of your plants. And we mean fully automate. Not only will a smart sprinkler controller water the plants, but it also may be able to determine the best time to add water, based on weather conditions.
You can use the sprinkler controller's app to change the watering schedule through your smartphone. You can apply as much or as little manual control to the system as you like. Our favorite unit is the RainMachine Forecast Sprinkler. It has a great looking touchscreen interface, making it easy to use.
Considerations when choosing smart sprinkler controllers
When shopping for a smart sprinkler controller, you will have two primary configurations available.
The most basic smart sprinkler controller will work over the WiFi connection in your home. It will connect to an in-ground sprinkler system or a garden hose.
It takes the simple timer that you would connect to the system and adds the ability to turn on the water remotely through a smartphone app or touchscreen display.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitors the WaterSense program, which regulates water efficiency. A smart sprinkler controller with WaterSense regulates water usage, too. Some WaterSense controllers claim to reduce water usage by up to 80%.
This type of smart sprinkler controller will monitor the weather and determine exactly when watering is needed. Some systems may even monitor the moisture in the ground. You also can make manual changes to the watering system schedule on the smartphone app.
We've collected a list of the features you may want to have in your smart sprinkler controller. Think about which of the following features will match your watering needs.
Device usage: All smart sprinkler controllers will run from a smartphone, as long as the controller is connected to WiFi. Depending on the model, you can give voice commands to a personal assistant device and operate the controller, too.
Display screen: If your smart sprinkler controller has a display screen, you can control the system from it. You'll just need to place this screen in an area that's protected from the weather, unless you purchase a protective case.
Moisture sensing: As an add-on component, you sometimes can add a moisture sensing stake to the system. This allows the controller to precisely measure the moisture in the soil before adding more water.
Ground conditions: A smart sprinkler controller will measure the ground in the area being watered. Understanding hours of shade, terrain slope, and soil types helps the controller deliver the proper amount of water.
Zones: Each controller will be able to operate a certain number of zones. Using more zones in the controller will deliver greater water efficiency throughout the garden or lawn. However, a controller that supports more zones will cost more.
Smart sprinkler controllers are not inexpensive pieces of equipment. You can pay $200 to $300 for a model with a touch screen display and the ability to control a dozen or more zones. For a slightly less sophisticated unit, you can pay between $100 and $200. Simple controllers that allow you to use a smartphone to control water through a garden hose will cost less than $100.
Q. How difficult is installing a smart sprinkler controller?
A. Installation challenges depend on the complexity of the system you've purchased. Basic systems are simple plug-and-play installations. More complex systems require hard-wiring to the existing automatic sprinkler system. This may force you to hire an electrician.
Q. Can I override the smart sprinkler system if needed?
A. Sure. Commonly, systems will run automatically, controlling the water flow. However, if you feel you need to add some water to the lawn or garden, you can just override the system.
Smart sprinkler controllers we recommend
Best of the best: RainMachine Forecast Sprinkler
Our take: Touchscreen base unit and well-designed app create a product that's easy to use. It has a modern design that's compatible with Amazon Alexa.
What we like: Uses a series of graphs to help users understand the data. Uses multiple weather forecasts to determine water usage.
What we dislike: This model is expensive. It may have more features than some users need.
Best bang for the buck: Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller
Our take: Considering its excellent list of features, this sprinkler controller is available at a desirable price point.
What we like: Adjusts water usage based on large amounts of weather data. Installation and operation are extremely easy.
What we dislike: Not made for outdoor mounting, unless you buy the protective case separately.
Choice 3: Orbit B-Hyve Smart Sprinkler Controller
Our take: Will stand up to rugged weather conditions outdoors without failing, all while delivering an excellent value.
What we like: Extremely easy to use. Relies on a large amount of local weather data to deliver just the right amount of water.
What we dislike: Design isn't all that appealing. Making a WiFi connection can be a challenge.
Kyle Schurman is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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