The Best Sprinkler Controllers for Lawn Care

Having a lawn is better when maintenance is easy and less water is wasted. Our recommendations for the best sprinkler controllers can help eliminate the guesswork.

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The Best Sprinkler Controller Options

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When life gets busy, lawn maintenance is just one more thing on the laundry list of to-dos we often struggle to squeeze into our day. Smart sprinkler controllers take the guesswork out of watering the lawn and garden, freeing up time for more pressing homeowner matters.

You’ve likely seen pop-up sprinkler heads watering a lawn or garden bed during heavy rainfall. In the past, those irrigation systems have often been controlled by old-school plastic timers and dials that keep them on a schedule no matter the weather. Schedules can certainly be helpful for busy or forgetful homeowners, but today’s technology has increased efficiency and ease of operation through the introduction of smarter sprinkler control systems.

With these intuitive controls, watering is as easy as pressing a button on your phone or tablet from the comfort of your recliner. Modern irrigation systems allow you to customize when, where, and how often you water. The best sprinkler controller options even consider weather reports and adjust the schedule based on current or expected precipitation. Not only does a sprinkler control system save you time, but it also can save you money by conserving water, which is especially important in drought-prone areas.

If you’re looking to simplify your routine and save water, this smart gadget may just be for you. Start your shopping by weighing these important features, then see five which five models make our list of recommendations for maintaining a smart and lush lawn and garden.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Orbit B-hyve Smart Indoor/Outdoor Sprinkler Controller
  2. BEST FOR SMALL YARDS: Rain Bird Smart Indoor/Outdoor Sprinkler/Irrigation System Timer/Controller
  3. BEST VALUE: Netro Smart Sprinkler Controller
  4. EASIEST TO USE: Blossom Wi-Fi Smart Water Controller
  5. UPGRADE PICK: Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller
The Best Sprinkler Controller Options

Photo: depositphotos.com

Key Shopping Considerations for Sprinkler Controllers

Compatibility with Sprinkler Parts

Smart sprinkler controllers usually install easily and jibe with existing in-ground wired sprinkler systems, as long as they are attached to an AC power supply. You’ll need to plug the system control into an outlet or have it hardwired into your electrical system. The controllers do not work well with battery-powered systems or hose timers. Like your smartphone or smart thermostat, the smart sprinkler controller needs access to your home’s WiFi network so it can access weather reports and analyze precipitation data to determine when and how often to open the sprinkler valves.

Zones

Sprinkler control systems operate in zones. The bigger the property, the more watering zones or stations it will have. Most smart systems can control two to 16 zones. Each zone has sprinkler heads and underground pipework containing valves that open and close when triggered by the smart sprinkler controller. The right controller for your landscape should be able to power at least as many zones as you have on your property. If you think you’ll be adding zones in the future, select a controller with more zones than you currently have. To determine your current number of zones, remove the control panel on your existing system to see which zones have been wired into the system. You also can run a test on your system that will cycle through each zone. When a zone is activated, the sprinkler heads in only that area will emit water. Make a rough diagram of your landscape, numbering each section with its corresponding zone until you’ve tested your entire landscape.

Ease of Installation

Designed to replace your wired in-ground sprinkler system, smart systems are relatively easy to install as long as they’re properly located. Most have controllers for indoor or outdoor mounting. Indoor systems have a plug-in cord with an external transformer that needs to operate from a sheltered area away from the weather, like in a garage or shed, or on a covered patio. Outdoor-mounted sprinkler systems are built to withstand the elements. With these models, the transformer rests inside a weather-resistant housing and is hardwired into your home’s electrical system. Use the designated app to connect the installed system to your WiFi and you’re ready to go.

EPA WaterSense Certification

Through a partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), products that are proven to conserve water, energy, and money by a certified third-party testing agency are eligible to receive the WaterSense label. A certified WaterSense smart sprinkler system sweetens the deal by monitoring local watering ordinances in low-precipitation areas to ensure that homeowners avoid fines for violating water usage rules. According to the EPA, consumers have saved approximately $32.6 billion in water and energy bills since the program’s inception in 2006.

Controls

As with any smart gadget, a smart sprinkler controller offers several ways you can communicate with the system. From a voice-controlled digital assistant to the phone app that allows you to change and adjust watering schedules with a simple swipe, the smart sprinkler controller is an intuitive device that can make all necessary adjustments to your watering schedule.

Our Top Picks for Sprinkler Controllers

If you’ve decided that a sprinkler controller is right for you, here are a few that will shave time off your home maintenance routine while keeping a little more money in your wallet.

The Best Sprinkler Controller Options: Orbit B-Hyve

Photo: amazon.com

1. BEST OVERALL: Orbit B-hyve Smart Indoor/Outdoor Sprinkler Controller

The Orbit B-Hyve can be programmed in one of two ways—through its LCD screen or via the B-Hyve app for smartphone or tablet. A keyed lock protects the control unit, making it safe for indoor and outdoor installation. Plug the unit into a nearby outlet or cut its cord for hardwire applications. The controller supports six to 12 watering zones and has the EPA WaterSense label. It offers voice-control through Amazon Alexa and can interpret the data you enter about your soil, the types of plants in each zone, and sun exposure. Enter your ZIP code to enable B-Hyve to analyze local weather reports for a tailored watering schedule.

The Best Sprinkler Controller Options: Rain Bird ST80

Photo: amazon.com

2. BEST FOR SMALL YARDS: Rain Bird Smart Indoor/Outdoor Sprinkler/Irrigation System Timer/Controller

Supporting up to eight zones, the Rain Bird ST80 is ideal for smaller landscapes and watering systems with just a few zones while still having room for additional watering stations later. The sealed controller carries a WaterSense label and can be mounted indoors or out. Rain Bird downloads weather data for your ZIP code nightly via the app and uses the data to adjust watering schedules. A wired rain sensor (sold separately) turns off water automatically during rainfall and can be mounted to a fence or other nearby structure. Adjust the schedule manually from the LCD screen on the controller, from a smartphone, or through Amazon Alexa voice command.

The Best Sprinkler Controller Options: Netro Sprite

Photo: amazon.com

3. BEST VALUE: Netro Smart Sprinkler Controller

The fully automated, cloud-based Netro controller might seem intimidating for less tech-savvy homeowners, but this intuitive little device does it all for you and is compatible with your existing in-ground sprinkler system. You must have a smartphone to program the system through the app. It supports six watering zones, is fast and easy to install, and needs an outdoor location. As is the case with other smart controllers, the Netro Sprite monitors weather reports specific to your area to determine the most efficient use of water. You also can enter more in-depth information about the plants and sun exposure in each zone. The Netro carries a WaterSense label.

The Best Sprinkler Controller Options: Blossom 0080-AWICD

Photo: amazon.com

4. EASIEST TO USE: Blossom Wi-Fi Smart Water Controller

A pretty barebones system, the Blossom is perfect for the person who simply wants to turn the sprinkler system on and off from a smartphone or tablet. This controller offers less customization than some others but includes options for fixed watering schedules, as well as interval schedules. From there you can choose watering duration manually or leave it up to the smart watering system, which analyzes weather data in your location to make those decisions through the Scotts Gro app. The app doesn’t provide data on soil saturation and you’ll have to check the area around individual plants to ensure proper watering. Blossom supports seven zones and installs indoors.

The Best Sprinkler Controller Options: Netro Sprite: Rachio 8ZULW-C

Photo: amazon.com

5. UPGRADE PICK: Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller

The Rachio 3 is on the high end of the smart sprinkler controllers ecosystem, but it’s packed with options and a user-friendly interface. It’s available in an 8-zone controller, but some gardeners might prefer the 16-zone model that allows you to customize watering schedules for foundation plantings, the lawn, and flower and vegetable beds. Mount the unit in a protected location or select the additional weatherproof enclosure (sold separately) for outdoor installation. Rachio pairs with multiple smart-home devices like Amazon Alexa, Apple Homekit, Nest, and Google Assistant. Note that you’ll need to download the Rachio app to operate the system.