Daily lawn sprinkling is the key to its and its owner’s exemplarity. If you are too lazy to hold the hose, a sprinkler controller will save your lawn as some of them can be controller even while you’re commuting to work! Today we’ll try to understand how these devices work and will choose the best controllers in two categories: conventional sprinkler controllers which are classic devices for controlling irrigation and Wi-Fi sprinkler controllers which are modified and allow you to flexibly configure your sprinkler from any location with a smart phone. The items match any budget as their price range from $65 to $279.
Let’s first find out what a sprinkler controller is, how it works and what features are most important for them.
What You Will Learn from This Guide:
What is a sprinkler controller?
First and foremost, it is an opportunity to acquire a beautiful lawn that will never turn yellow or drown in the puddles of mud due the owner’s amateurism. A person who only knows hearsay about gardening and does not spend enough time watering the beds, is unlikely to bother with calculating the intensity of manual irrigation for maximizing the lawn’s growth. Once you’ve connected a small box to the irrigation system, you will get a real robot gardener who takes care of the lawn and watering regimes, your job is only to configure it properly!
What is the irrigation controller use?
- Drying no longer threatens your lawn. Once you’ve invested into an expensive lawn, you can quickly ruin it by watering it insufficiently or merely forgetting to water it.
- It saves your water bill. Overwatering does not simply entail a local lawn flood, but can also lead to having some very unpleasant figures in the water bill. Controllers will minimize your costs.
- You can schedule watering for the best time. Any professional gardener will attest that it’s best to water the lawn early in the morning. However, few are able to wake up at 5-6 a.m., especially during the weekend. Hot areas require the lawns to be watered several times a day, and you’ll hardly be able to leave your job for that. An irrigation controller permits scheduling the watering down to a minute for many days in advance taking into consideration weather and soil conditions.
- You can control it remotely. Science fiction came true! If we’re talking about a Wi-Fi sprinkler controller, you’ll be able to control the device even while you’re on a vacation thousands of miles away from home and customize its functionality.
How does a sprinkler controller work?
- Any controller is supplied with at least two watering modes: a basic daily one and a customizable one. The latter allows for advanced configuration of not only the timing but also of different yard areas irrigation. For example, the base $62 model is designed for 9 zones. This is especially important for owners of the flower beds as often different plants require different watering patterns.
- You only set it once! This is the rule by which most sprinkler controllers owners live. In case of a regular lawn, 2-3 programs (namely, a standard one, a drought one and a rainy season one) will suffice. The irrigation is scheduled down to a minute many weeks ahead so you’ll be able to configure a 100% correct type of irrigation for any kind of weather. Make sure you always test your settings and their functionality for a few minutes!
- Weather sync allows adjusting irrigation in accordance with the changing weather. All modern Wi-Fi sprinklers are equipped with such an option, while some more obsolete products aren’t, their set mode of performance doesn’t adjust to the weather conditions.
Surprisingly, the automated irrigation systems (especially the top ones) are exemplary in terms of being a useful gadget. Their ratings never fall below 4.5 stars and the feedback is consistently positive. What is the reason for that? Well, some of the causes are easy operation, low prices, and high use for lazy and cost-savvy customers. Let’s move on to our rating where you’ll be able to choose a sprinkler to buy for your lawn to the envy of your neighbors!
First, let us focus on the regular classic sprinklers controllers, used by your parents. They are hung indoors or outdoors, and with their help, you can customize the watering. But they are not equipped with the remote access option, so all the setup is done through the main panel. We have selected 2 items with 9 and 12 irrigation zones respectively for you. However, if you want to live the “I, Robot" movie and have a real "smart home" at your disposal, scroll down to the Wi-Fi sprinkler controllers review.
Rain Bird SST900IN Simple to Set Indoor Timer, 9-Zone – The Best Affordable 9 Zone Sprinkler Controller
This is a classic inexpensive ~$73.99 9-zone option with the high 4.7 stars out of 5 rating. The competitive edge of this model is its convenient and intuitive interface. Yes, it lacks portable gadget sync, but for this price it is certain must have for any one owning a lawn!
Irrigation can be configured in 9 zones with up to 4 cycles daily which is more than enough even in arid areas. How does it work? Suppose, your back yard lawn requires less watering because of the shade or plants’ peculiarities while the roadside lawn should be watered three times a day.
This is not a problem! In the zones A and B the sprinkler will switch on every day at sunrise and in the zone C it will run three times a day: early in the morning, at noon and at sunset. As a result, you’ll have a green lawn, without having to spend even a minute actually irrigating.
The case of the device is quite robust as it can be installed both indoors and outdoors. Dirt and moisture won’t do harm to it unless you forget to firmly shut the rear door.
If 9 irrigation zones are not enough for you, check out the next item!
Rain Bird SST1200OUT Simple To Set Indoor/Outdoor Timer, 12-Zone – A Must-Have Sprinkler Controller For Large Lawns
This is a ~$95.82 12-zones controller with the high4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com. We should note that the previous model’s 9 zones are often insufficient for large gardens and lawns, so it is reasonable to buy a device on the basis of "zoning" the area to be irrigated. That means you’ll have one controller for the backyard, another one for the lawn and a third one for the alleys. If 9 zones are too few and 18 are too many, check out the halfway option with 12 zones.
The irrigation performance is identical to the previous model as you program 4 one-time watering for 7 days with the most flexible combination of these options when setting up. The only thing that can cause problems is that you will have to spend more time on the setup due to the increase in the number of zones. Is that a real issue? Not at all, we believe. To sum up, it is a must have for large lawns owners.
We’ll start our review with a $195 universal bestseller before moving on the smartest and fanciest one which costs $279 and will take care of your lawn, keeping track of the slightest weather and temperature changes better than a human gardener. And in the end, we will present you most cut-rate option in this category for $94.
Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller, Works with Alexa, 8 Zone 2nd Generation – #1 Best Seller in Automatic Irrigation Controllers
Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller, Works with Alexa, 8 Zone 2nd Generation
✔ Most 5-star ratings
✔ Adapts to your lawn
✔ Rain and wind skips
✔ Save water, save money
✔ Best-in-class customer support
We’ll start with the #1 Best Seller in the Automatic Irrigation Controllers category on Amazon.com for ~$169.27. It’s way ahead of other controllers in the same category (1900 units). What caused the success? Firstly, it is owed to a truly modern design. Here we have a modern white case which is not overloaded with unnecessary buttons. The entire control is done from a smart phone or another portable gadget. Note the «2nd generation» phrase in the name of the gadget, which means this product is the successor of the first controller of the company, similar to it in terms of functionality but much larger.
Transfer of the control to mobile gadgets made everything even more intuitive. Previously there were 8 zones on the control panel, any you had to remember or write down on a piece of paper where each area was actually located. Now, you have to simply rename Zone 1 as “The Grass Yard” and you will never get confused while setting up the irrigation. You may read nearly 1000 customers’ reviews on Amazon.com about making the control even easier.
Weather response is yet another attractive aspect. If it starts raining, the system will automatically turn off the sprinklers. Also, the settings allow controlling the switching period after a certain time after the rain or if the temperature changes. You won’t have to dig into the settings long as the system is synchronized with the weather services and will autonomously adjust the mode. Make sure you a stable internet connection and do not forget to pay the service provider in advance if you are away from home for a long time so that the control system is connected to the network too.
The Rachio controllers line is available in two options: an 8 zone one ($169) and a 16 zone one ($228). The prices are well superior to the prices of the controllers without Wi-Fi, but the performance is definitely worth it.Best quotes from reviews
RainMachine Touch HD-12 Smart WiFi Irrigation Controller,2nd Generation – The Most Advanced and Precise Touch Screen Product
This advanced RainMachine model lays special emphasis on the exact synching with the weather and the automatic creation of irrigation modes with a focus on weather forecast. This is the highest-tech model in our review as it is not only controlled with mobile devices, but also uses touchpad instead of the usual knobs and sliders. That is why its price of ~$239 is justified.
The panel displays all the relevant information, i.e. the humidity, the weather and irrigation need. The previous model is still inferior to it in terms of functionality due to lack of touch controls: after all, it simplifies the job when the owner is at home.
You can configure irrigation even for a lifetime ahead: you can disable watering in winter, automate the hottest months, and voila you’ll have a green lawn without making too many efforts.
The number of zones available is satisfactory as the $239.00 model disposes of 12 zones while the $279 one has as many as 16 zones! Its rating is as high, it is 4.5 stars. The choice is definitely not a cheap one, but the connoisseurs of high-precision smart equipment will go crazy about it.
If you’re looking for something simpler and cheaper and still equipped with Wi-Fi, you are likely to be interested in the following option.
Orbit 57946 B-hyve Indoor/Outdoor 6-Station Smart WiFi Sprinkler System Controller – A Cut-Rate Wi-Fi Option
This is the only cheap and functional Wi-Fi product available on the market within the price range of ~$94.99 (6 zones) to $115.48 (12 zones). Its exterior is, of course, less sophisticated, as the screen is monochrome, and the whole design looks pretty harsh. But the durable case fits not only unpretentious watering settings (amount of water, frequency of irrigation, water-saving mode) for 6 or 12 zones, but also features smart synchronizing with the weather forecast. The water-saving mode will allow you to manually set the threshold for the water flow which is a great feature for those who like to save money.
Orbit Sprinkler Controller can also be controlled from a smart phone or any other portable device. The idea is the same: you rename the zones, manually set the timer, and enjoy a green lawn.
This is a reasonably-priced option, the "low cost" of which is visible only through the design. As for the functionality, it is vast enough and convenient, and the rating is similar to the top items’ one, it is 4.3 stars out of 5. You’ll hardly controllers with remote access on the market for a cheaper price.Best quotes from reviews
Like always, to facilitate the comparison, we’ve drawn up a chart below:
Irrigation Controllers Comparison Chart
|Model||Watering Zones||Weather Device Sync||Smart Phone Control||Price|
Rain Bird SST900IN Simple to Set Indoor Timer, 9-Zone
Rain Bird SST1200OUT Simple To Set Indoor/Outdoor Timer, 12-Zone
Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller, 8 Zone 2nd Generation
RainMachine Touch HD-12 Smart WiFi Irrigation Controller,2nd Generation
Orbit 57946 B-hyve Indoor/Outdoor 6-Station Smart WiFi Sprinkler System Controller
Keep your lawn green and stay up to date with modern technology by using irrigation controllers! If you need to control microclimate bearing in mind the weather forecast along with irrigation, choose a weather gadget from our review of 9 best weather stations.