If you have an inground sprinkler system and don’t have a smart controller, your sprinklers could end up watering at the same time it’s raining. With a smart sprinkler controller, this issue won’t come up.
These WiFi-based controllers interact with weather data to adjust watering schedules, so your lawn is never overwatered or underwatered. Additionally, you can turn the water on or off from your smartphone while away, and you can monitor water usage, too.
The best sprinkler controller will depend on your existing watering setup and lawn specifics. Ahead, learn how to shop for a smart controller and find out why the following seven sprinkler controllers are good options for most homeowners.
- BEST OVERALL: Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller
- RUNNER UP: Netro Smart Sprinkler Controller
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Orbit 21004 B-hyve Smart Sprinkler Controller
- BEST HOSE-BASED: LinkTap G2 Smart Sprinkler Controller
- BEST TOUCH SCREEN: RainMachine Pro-16 Touch Irrigation Controller
- BEST INDOOR: Orbit 57946 B-hyve Indoor/Outdoor Smart Controller
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Smart Sprinkler Controller
In the same way that having an automated lawn mower will save you from time spent maintaining your lawn, a smart controller will make effective watering decisions, so you can spend more time doing the things you enjoy.
If you have an underground sprinkler system, it’s likely set up in zones to ensure that there’s sufficient water pressure to lift the sprinkler heads in a specific area of your lawn, one zone at a time. The larger the yard, the more zones. A smart controller will accommodate a specific number of zones, anywhere from about 2 to 16. You can usually find a zone setup diagram on the inside of your existing watering system control box.
Smart sprinkler controllers come with apps you download to your smartphone or another digital device. Some sync with smart home systems such as Amazon’s Alexa, which lets the user turn the water on or off via voice control. You can configure most from either a smart device or directly on the unit itself.
For a smart sprinkler controller to work, your home must have WiFi. The controller syncs with your home’s router. Different controllers are also compatible with various smart home systems, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, Wink, and Samsung SmartThings. So if you have an existing smart home system, consider a compatible controller.
With many of today’s smart controllers, you won’t have to worry about changing the watering schedule during times of heavy rain or drought. Smart sprinkler controllers automatically download weather data in your area by using your zip code and adjusting the watering schedule depending on the weather.
For example, suppose you configure your controller to water all parts of the lawn with 1 inch of water per week, and it rains ½ an inch. In that case, the controller will automatically adjust the watering schedule to provide an additional ½ an inch rather than a whole inch that week.
Many smart controllers come with the ability to notify the user in case a problem arises, such as a water shutoff; a faulty valve that’s keeping the system from turning on or off; or excessive water flow, which could indicate a broken sprinkler head. Some apps can be configured to send text messages or audio alerts to your smartphone, while others emit an audible signal to alert anyone in the yard.
EPA WaterSense Certification
To conserve water, look for a smart sprinkler controller that comes with the WaterSense label, which means the controller meets EPA standards for conserving a maximum amount of water without underwatering. In addition to utilizing information about the weather and rainfall in your area, the controller will also monitor your community’s watering ordinances during a drought, so you won’t violate any watering rules.
Many smart sprinkler controller units are installed on the exterior of your home. Others have the option of being installed on an interior wall, such as a garage or foyer wall, so you can check the controller without having to go outdoors. The controller often pairs with an inground sprinkler system, but different models will also pair with a drip-irrigation system or even a garden hose.
Mounting is relatively simple, as the new smart controller works in conjunction with the existing controller. You’ll download the supporting app first, which will walk you through the rest of the setup process. Access to an electrical outlet to power the controller will be required, or the unit will need to be directly wired into your home’s electrical system. The latter requires an electrician to run the line.
Our Top Picks
To qualify as a top pick, a smart sprinkler controller must be capable of handling the existing watering zones in your yard. And it should have an app that’s simple to understand and will allow you to configure the controller and then relax and let the controller do all the rest. The following seven smart sprinkler controllers will work in various watering situations, and one will likely match your lawn’s watering requirements.
The Weather Intelligence Plus feature on the Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller comes with local weather integration to make watering your yard more efficient. An intuitive downloadable app makes setup a snap, and it will control up to eight watering zones.
From your smart device, you’ll be able to see your estimated outdoor water usage and configure watering schedules. You can also fine-tune the schedules by entering the type of grass being grown, soil type, and even how much sun exposure a specific zone receives.
- Includes local weather integration
- Easy setup with intuitive app
- Controls up to eight watering zones
- View and manage water usage through app
- Users should monitor smart scheduling functions
Bearing the EPA WaterSense label, the Netro Smart Sprinkler Controller ensures compliance with local watering ordinances while using local weather information and statistics to conserve up to 50 percent more water. It comes with lifetime cloud service, and you can access the data via your smart device or even from a web browser.
Depending on your lawn’s actual water needs, the Netro controller will adjust watering schedules to ensure a lush, healthy yard. This smart sprinkler controller will handle up to six separate watering zones.
- Smart control of up to six watering zones
- EPA WaterSense certification
- Incorporates local weather information and watering ordinances
- Includes lifetime cloud service
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy the convenience of a smart sprinkler controller. The Orbit 21004 B-hyve Smart Sprinkler is designed for use with a traditional hose. While it controls only a single hose, you can attach a multiple-faucet sillcock to your exterior faucet and add an Orbit controller to each head for more watering options.
This affordable controller is also WeatherSense certified, so it will adjust watering to suit your area’s current weather conditions as well as gather information about local watering ordinances. You can also configure the app to consider soil type, grass type, and site conditions, such as whether your yard slopes. Monitor your water usage and receive alerts on a smart device.
- Affordable controller for a single hose/sprinkler
- WeatherSense certified to adjust for weather
- Easy to install onto hose
- Monitor water usage with app
- Controls only one hose (zone)
If watering with a standard garden hose, check out the multifunction LinkTap G2 Smart Sprinkler Controller that adjusts watering time based on current weather data. It will alert you if a problem occurs, such as the unit falling, a water shutoff, or a broken valve allowing water to flood out. You can also configure the app to send an email alert to a family member or neighbor when out of town.
The intuitive app makes setup easy, and you’ll be able to see 90 days of water usage. You can also enter your per-gallon rate from your water bills to see how much money is being saved while watering.
- In-hose water controller
- Adjusts watering based on weather data
- Alerts users to problems
- Easy to install onto hose
- Can start only through app
- Pricey for single-hose control only
For an easy-to-use controller with a responsive touch-screen display, the RainMachine Pro-16 Cloud Independent Irrigation Controller comes with a large, color touch-screen display that allows you to view water usage and set a schedule right from the unit, as well as from your smart device. Just flip open the RainMachine controller’s cover to see the upcoming watering schedule based on your area’s weather forecast.
The 16-zone RainMachine is WaterSense certified, so you can rest assured you’re conserving as much water as possible while your lawn still gets enough to stay lush and green. The controller is compatible with Alexa and can gather weather data from your choice of national weather stations or even your own private weather station, plus save your data locally.
- Large color touch-screen display
- 16-zone control
- Gathers weather data and stores data locally
- WaterSense certified
- Not compatible with all smart-home systems
- Expensive for landscapes with only a few zones
If you want to mount a controller unit indoors, consider the Orbit Indoor/Outdoor Smart Sprinkler Controller since it doesn’t need to be mounted right by the watering system. Instead, you can mount it inside a garage or inside a back or side door where you can view the screen and program the unit without going outdoors.
The Orbit offers all the same perks as other smart controllers, including the ability to regulate watering cycles based on current weather data in your area. It is also WeatherSense certified for conserving as much water as possible. Program the controller remotely via the smartphone app or from the controller unit and receive alerts both on the unit and on your smart device.
- Mounts indoors or outdoors
- Regulates watering cycles based on weather
- EPA WaterSense certified
- Users can control from app or unit
- App not as intuitive as some
- More difficult to install
A smart sprinkler controller can help save water and plants! The Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller is our top pick as a multipurpose smart controller for up to eight watering zones. The Netro Smart Sprinkler Controller runs a close second and includes lifetime cloud service.
How We Chose the Best Smart Sprinkler Controllers
We analyzed several features of smart sprinkler controllers for this curated list of top picks. We considered the number of zones a controller could manage and whether the controller was suited for indoor and outdoor use. We also looked at smart scheduling, notifications, and how many smart-home systems are compatible with the controller. We looked at on-device and app controls and finally, we noted when a controller included the EPA WaterSense label, indicating its water-saving capability.
The Advantages of Owning a Smart Sprinkler Controller
Before buying a smart sprinkler controller, consider some of its advantages. The controller will allow you to:
- Regulate watering schedules based on rainfall and other weather conditions.
- Keep your lawn on its watering schedule even when you’re away.
- Monitor your water usage and, with a capable model, even see how much you’re spending on water.
If this is the first smart sprinkler controller you’ve shopped for, you likely have some questions.
Q. How does a smart sprinkler controller work?
The controller attaches to your existing in-ground watering system and syncs with your home’s WiFi. It will download weather data to adjust watering schedules, so you don’t overwater or underwater.
Q. Can a smart sprinkler controller save you money?
By adjusting watering schedules to local weather and rainfall data, you won’t be overwatering, which can save you money on your water bill.
Q. How many sprinkler heads can you put in one zone?
The number of sprinkler heads per zone depends on the size of the zone and the water pressure at the outside faucet. A professional installer should install an inground watering system.
Q. Should I run sprinklers every day?
Most lawns require an average of 1 inch of water per week, and it’s usually healthier for the grass to water once deeply rather than watering a lesser amount daily.
Q. How long does a smart sprinkler controller last?
While manufacturer warranties vary from around one to three years, a high-quality smart sprinkler controller should last at least five years or longer.
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