Best Sprinkler Controllers of 2020

best sprinkler controller

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Struggling to keep your lawn green and healthy? Perhaps you’ve got a garden that needs watering regularly, but you’re so pressed for time that it’s beginning to wilt. It’s a familiar story, but modern technology has the answer. A sprinkler controller puts you back in power – it offers the ability to control when and how long your lawn or garden is watered, and to do so without having to take time out of your already busy day. Of course, it can be challenging to decide between the best sprinkler controllers on the market. These options are so much more advanced than the basic dial timers of yesteryear. They’re computerized, Wi-Fi connected, and app-controlled. They can be customized to almost any need, as well. Not sure which option is best suited to your needs? Have no fear. We’ll walk you through detailed sprinkler controller reviews to help you find the perfect choice for your lawn or garden, as well as your budget. We’ll even wrap up with a brief buying guide that spells out the most critical considerations when making a purchase.

The Best Sprinkler Controllers of 2020

 NameAutomatic Weather Adjustment# of Custom Zones/StationsSmart Hub IntegrationWi-Fi IndependentIndoor or Outdoor Installation 
Rachio Smart Sprinkler ControllerYes8Yes – All popular modelsNo – requires 2.4 GHz connectionEitherCHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Orbit 57950 B-hyve Sprinkler ControllerYes12Yes – AlexaYes – timer control is availableEitherCHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler ControllerYes8Yes – All popular modelsYes – timer control is availableEitherCHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Netro Smart Sprinkler ControllerNo6Yes – Alexa and Google HomeNo – Wi-Fi is required for operationIndoor onlyCHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Rain Bird SST600INLimited6NoYes – Does not connect to Wi-FiIndoor onlyCHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Orbit B-hyve 57915 Smart Sprinkler ControllerYes4Yes – AlexaYes – Manual override is availableIndoor onlyCHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
RainMachine Pro-16 Sprinkler ControllerYes16NoYes – Time control is availableIndoor onlyCHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
Aeon Matrix Yardian Smart Sprinkler ControllersYes8Yes – Alexa and Google HomeNo – Wi-Fi control onlyIndoor or outdoorCHECK PRICE ON AMAZON
As you can see from our sprinkler controller comparison above, there’s a wide range of options out there. Of course, they’re far from being identical, so we’ll dive into some deeper sprinkler controller reviews to help ensure you are able to make the most informed decision for your watering needs.

Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller

One of several Rachio models to make our list, the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller offers quite a few benefits. It covers 8 zones and each is customizable to meet specific needs. This is the second generation Rachio design, as well, and it offers real-time weather updates based on actual conditions at your property. This helps you avoid watering during the rain, but it also helps combat things like drought, heat, and can even adapt to watering bans.

Another interesting thing about this particular sprinkler controller is that you can program in specifics about your watering needs. This includes plant type and sun exposure. The system can even detect leaks and alert you to problems. It is EPA WaterSense certified, and the manufacturer claims that you can save up to 50% on your watering bill. Note that some water companies will also offer a rebate on the installation of this unit (check with your local utility company).

You’ll also find that this sprinkler controller is very easy to use. It even integrates with Alexa and Google Home for voice control. However, note that it does not work with 5 GHz networks – it requires 2.4 GHz. It also does not operate if the Wi-Fi is down or if the power is out.

Pros:

● Control up to 8 zones (or 16 with the upgraded model)
● Compatible with smart home hubs like Amazon Alexa
● EPA WaterSense certified
● Real-time weather adjustments

Cons:

● Requires 2.4 GHz connection
● Does not work if Wi-Fi is down

Orbit 57950 B-hyve Smart Sprinkler Controller

Another brand with multiple entries on our best sprinkler controller list, the 57950 B-hyve is simple to use, powerful, and easy to install. It offers control over 12 different zones and can be accessed via the smartphone app (both iOS and Android).

You’ll find multiple ways to program this controller, as well. You can program it like a regular timer, right from the hub. You can also use your smartphone app or a web browser to program it. However, it’s also possible to simply allow the real-time weather sensor to control your watering needs based on that.

Like the previous sprinkler controller, the Orbit model is also EPA WeatherSense certified. It can be installed indoors or outdoors, too, which allows you to suit your installation needs perfectly. Finally, it is also compatible with both Amazon Alexa and Google Home.

Pros:

● Integration with home smart hubs like Amazon Alexa
● Multiple programming options
● Timer works even if Wi-Fi is out
● EPA WaterSense certified
● Real-time condition-based watering capable

Cons:

● Some customers find the app difficult to use
● Follows weather conditions based on NOAA forecasts for your zip code, not from site-installed sensors

Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller

The second Rachio system to make our list, this is the company’s third-generation and is the most evolved, although it is more expensive than the second-generation controller that took our top rank. You’ll find that this controller offers a wide range of benefits, including the ability to cover up to 8 zones and save up to 50% on your garden watering-related costs.

This sprinkler controller is compatible with both iOS and Android devices (via native apps) and can be programmed through a web browser, too. It features advanced watering skip capabilities that help ensure you don’t water during the rain, during freezes, during high wind situations, and more. You can also access information about your water use. The Smart Schedule feature allows you to create a tailored watering plan based on your plant and soil types, too.

The Rachio 3 is compatible with all popular smart home hubs, including Amazon Alexa and Google Home, but also Nest, and many others. Finally, it’s also WeatherSense certified, so it may be possible to get a rebate from your water provider.

Pros:

● Custom programming capable
● Freeze, wind, rain, and other skip options
● WeatherSense certified
● Works indoors or outdoors

Cons:

● More expensive than other options
● Only uses 2.4 GHz
● No ethernet port

Netro Smart Sprinkler Controller

The fourth entry on our list of the best sprinkler controllers for 2019 comes from Netro. It shares a lot of similarities with the previous two controllers we covered, but there are a few differences. This controllers offers 6 zones and is compatible with Alexa. There is an app available for both iOS and Android devices, and it can also be accessed via a web browser.

Like the previous two sprinkler controllers, the Netro model is EPA WaterSense certified and promises to reduce your watering related usage costs by 50%. It can also provide customized watering based on weather forecasts and historical information for your area. Netro also offers compliance with watering bans, but note that this is zip code based. It’s also possible to program in plant, soil, and sprinkler system information to further customize operation.

However, there are a few drawbacks to this sprinkler controller. For instance, it requires a 2.4 GHz connection and cannot work with 5 GHz. It is also only installable inside.

Pros:

● More affordable than some other sprinkler controllers
● EPA WeatherSense certified
● Alerts you to watering restrictions
● Compatible with Alexa

Cons:

● Only capable of using 2.4 GHz
● Indoor use only

Rain Bird SST600IN Sprinkler Controller

For those looking for a sprinkler controller that’s a little more “old school”, the Rain Bird SST600IN certainly fits the bill. It delivers plenty of capabilities but doesn’t tie you to your Wi-Fi the way some other controllers do.

This sprinkler controller offers up to 6 customizable zones and can be programmed very easily from the panel itself. The case is sealed to prevent moisture and dust intrusion (but is not waterproof). You can also easily adjust the watering time to match heat, cool, rain, and other weather conditions.

Note that this sprinkler controller does not connect to your Wi-Fi at all. As such, it is only programmable through the controller interface and not via an app or web browser. However, that also means that it remains operable even if you experience a Wi-Fi outage.

Other important capabilities of this controller include the ability to schedule zones by sprinkler type, plant type, landscape, and duration, the ability to manually override timers and, and a manual rain delay function. Note that this controller is only designed to be installed indoors.

Pros:

● One of the more affordable sprinkler controllers on the market
● No cloud security concerns
● Easy programming capabilities

Cons:

● Not Internet-connected
● Not usable through a smart home hub

Orbit B-hyve 57915 Smart Sprinkler Controller

The second Orbit model to make our list, the B-hyve 57915 is an affordable smart sprinkler controller that offers the ability to handle up to 4 zones/stations. It is fully Wi-Fi enabled and offers connectivity through an iOS app, an Android app, and through web browsers.

This controller also features WeatherSense functionality, which automatically detects current weather conditions and adjusts your watering schedule and duration to match. It is EPA WaterSense certified, and also SWAT certified. There’s also a manual override capability so you can stop watering without having to use an app. However, you cannot program it without an app or web browser.

Pros:

● In-depth programming possible, including plant and soil type/information
● Manual override available
● Compatible with Alexa

Cons:

● Indoor installation only
● No manual programming capabilities

RainMachine Pro-16 Sprinkler Controller

With the ability to handle up to 16 zones, this is one of the best sprinkler controllers to hit our list. It also includes a wide range of additional features and capabilities to make your life simpler and to reduce your water waste. The RainMachine Pro-16 offers free weather data pulled from NOAA, METNO, or Open Weather Map, as well.

This sprinkler controller could-independent operation, which means that even if your Wi-Fi is down, it will still work. It controls not just the 16 available zones, but also the master valve. You’ll also be able to gain information about rainfall and water flow.

The large touchscreen is easy to use and allows you to program the unit directly. You can also program it through an app or via a web browser. It is compatible with Alexa, too. Note that this is the only sprinkler controller on our list to offer both wireless and ethernet connectivity.

Pros:

● Control of up to 16 zones plus the master valve
● Wireless and ethernet connectivity
● Color touchscreen
● Cloud independent operation

Cons:

● Cost
● Indoor only

Aeon Matrix Yardian Smart Sprinkler Controller

For those looking for a yard sprinkler controller with a difference, the Yardian from Aeon Matrix might be the ideal choice. It manages to combine 8 zones of control with Alexa compatibility and EPA WaterSense certification, but also allows you to add an HD security camera to the mix for protection and water savings.

Like several other sprinkler controllers on our list, the Yardian also offers real-time weather monitoring and control over your schedule. It works with Alexa and Google Home (but no others as yet) and offers you information about zone water flow to help you keep tabs on your system’s operation and condition.

Other benefits and capabilities here include HD live streaming, motion detection alerts from the camera, free cloud storage (24 hours) of video, and motion repellent technology.

Pros:

● Compatible with smart home hubs
● Controls up to 8 zones
● Indoor or outdoor installation
● You can add security camera coverage

Cons:

● Cost
● Only 8 zones

There you have them – eight of the best sprinkler controllers on the market. Whether you’re looking for a way to keep your yard lush and green all year, or you want to control the irrigation of both lawn and gardens, there’s a simple way to do it.

However, if you have never purchased or used a sprinkler controller before, chances are good that you have some questions about the features and capabilities on offer. Our buyer’s guide below will help you understand your most important considerations when making a purchase.

Sprinkler Controllers: A Buying Guide

If you have never owned a sprinkler controller before, you’ll need to know a few of the most important things to look for when buying one. This is particularly important when it comes to smart controllers that connect to your home’s Wi-Fi. Below, we’ll briefly run through some of the most important things to consider before you make a buying decision.

App Control

If you’re interested in the benefits that modern technology can bring to your lawn and garden watering, then you’ll definitely want to make sure that the controller you buy has a remote control app to use. Most of the controllers we reviewed had both an iOS and an Android app, so you can control them from anywhere in the world that you have a data connection. That’s ideal for when you’re on vacation, or even when you’re at the office and need to check on your system.

Web Interface

While the ability to control your sprinkler system from your phone or tablet is convenient, you cannot count on always having a device with you. You’ll want to make sure that the sprinkler controller you buy can be accessed by a web browser, so you can log into it from your PC, laptop, or your work computer if necessary.

Ease of Programming

When we talk about programming the sprinkler controller, it really applies to several things. These are broken down below.

Programming Details: How many zones does the controller cover? What programming capabilities does it offer? How much can you customize the watering schedule to match your needs, USDA hardiness zone/weather, plant types, and soil type?

Methods: Can you program the sprinkler controller from the app? What about from a web interface? Do both methods offer the same degree of control or customization?

Manual: Many of the sprinkler controllers we covered in our best-of list are lacking when it comes to manual control. Only a few models allow you to program your system directly through the module itself. Most require you to use an app or the web interface.

Related: Best Lawn Edger

sprinkler controllers in Action

 

Internet Dependent

Internet connectivity is great. It ensures that you’re able to monitor and control your system from anywhere, at any time. However, it’s not so great when the Internet goes out. You’ll notice that even some of the best sprinkler controllers that we reviewed are not programmable when the Internet is out. Some of them don’t even work if there’s no Internet. Others run on a pure timer-only basis when the Internet is out and cannot be programmed, customized, or controlled if you do not have Wi-Fi. If your Internet connection is pretty reliable, then this may not be a big deal. However, if you live in an area where connectivity is poor or have a provider that experiences regular outages, this should be an important consideration.

Smart Watering

You’ll have noticed that many of the sprinkler controllers on our best-of list were smart in that they offered the ability to automatically start or stop watering based on local weather conditions. This allows you to irrigate your lawn or garden without having to do anything in terms of programming. The system will handle it on its own. However, understand that these capabilities vary dramatically from system to system.

Some systems include sensors that must be installed in your yard. These detect sunshine, moisture, temperature fluctuations, wind, and more. Based on that input, the system automatically decides whether to water or not. Other systems pull weather and climate data from sources like NOAA or The National Weather Service, and base their operation on that information, rather than actual conditions at your property.

Home Hub Connectivity

Hand in hand with smart watering capabilities comes integration with your home hub. If the ability to control your sprinklers by voice is important to you, make sure that your system supports integration with Alexa or Google Home. Note that some systems integrate with a wider range of home hubs, as well, which may be of benefit if you want to go with something other than Amazon or Google.

Ability to Save Water and Money

The control offered over your sprinkler system is just one reason to invest in this technology. Many people also do so to help save money and reduce their water usage. Smart water usage is actually one of the most important benefits of sprinkler controllers, particularly in areas where water is scarce. Look for a system that is WaterSense certified.

The WaterSense logo means that the controller complies with US EPA mandates and falls within the organization’s guidelines for water consumption and control. Many water companies will offer a cash rebate for installing this type of controller, further helping you to offset your costs. However, not all controllers are WaterSense certified. The ones on our list that are have been noted as such, making it simpler to find the right option.

Expandability

Each of the sprinkler controllers on our best-of list is rated for a specific number of zones. That’s great if you only have four, eight, 12, or 16 zones, but what if your needs change? You may expand your irrigation system, or you might find that you need to downsize it at some point. Make sure that the sprinkler controller that you choose is able to handle the number of zones you ultimately have, or can be connected to other controllers to handle a larger network of sprinklers.

In Conclusion

Ultimately, it has never been easier to control your lawn or garden sprinkler system. Whether you have a suburban yard that needs to be maintained, or you’re watering a larger property including both lawns and gardens, there’s a controller out there that will help you save time, money, hassle, and more.