Best Sprinkler Controllers
Owning a high-quality sprinkler system is just the first step for homeowners looking for the most efficient lawn irrigation possible. The next step, and, presumably, the reason why you are here today, is to then invest in a sprinkler controller. Now, this is not merely just a handheld device that allows you to manually control the water flow. No, this is essentially the brains behind the entire system as it can allow you to set watering schedules. But, as you will see, there are certain models that will offer superior technology and functionality. Even though these come at a price, they will be worth it as, in the long run, they will pay themselves off with the water you will save.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 13 hrs of research
It will adapt to your lawn
Works with both Alexa and Google Home
You can create a Custom Run schedule
Top 10 Picks
It will adapt to your lawn
Works with both Alexa and Google Home
You can create a Custom Run schedule
The app can be buggy
This is one of the more compelling units in the entire world that much is for sure. On top of being able to stop and start individual zones, the system also adapts to your lawn for the most efficient watering possible.Read more
What is nice is this system can adapt to your lawn as you can input your plant types and sun exposure. In addition, you can create a Custom Run schedule for individual zones.
Thanks to Rachio Weather Intelligence technology, this system can use comprehensive weather data to adjust to your irrigation schedule. In the long run, this can reduce your water bill up to 50 percent.
On top of working with your smartphone, tablet, and other smart devices, this can also work in conjunction with Google Home and Amazon Alexa.
Ease of Use
As some buyers have alluded to, the app that this works with can be buggy at times. Also, the quick install guide is missing some information to make the interface easier to navigate.
This is promised to be easy to install and you can even do it yourself. Adding on to this is the fact that it can operate from negative four degrees to 140 degrees.
In terms of functionality and technology, it really does not get much better than this. When using the app, though, just be prepared to deal with some glitches from time to time.
2. Netro Smart
Creates and adjusts to your lawn
It will learn from your interactions
Can program up to 12 zones
It schedules all the watering back-to-back without any rest time
This is one of the cleaner systems in the world today. What we mean by clean is the Netro app will actually learn from your interactions and build a personalized schedule for you to simplify the experience.Read more
First off, this system will dynamically create and adjust your watering schedule to adapt to your current crops and plants. Also, this will also alert you to any water restrictions in your area.
Thanks to the advanced water-saving technologies such as historical statistics and weather forecasting, this can save up to 50 percent on your outdoor water usage.
With built-in Wi-Fi (2.4 gigahertz), you can control this system with the use of either your Android (5.0+) or iOS (8.3+) device.
Ease of Use
Not only is the interface nice and clean but it is also self-learning. What this means is it will learn from your interactions and build a personalized schedule for your lawn and garden.
No professionals will be required to install this system. In fact, it can be done in as little as 15 minutes (if you have a decent idea of what you are doing).
In this modern world, technology continues to become smarter. Of all the units on this list, this is arguably the smartest. On top of its self-learning system, it also fully automatic.
3. RainMachine Touch
Uses information from weather data sources
Can be operated a plethora of ways
The average individual can wrap their head around this
The sleek design leaves little room for cable management
RainMachine has a couple of superb sprinkler controllers and their Touch HD-12 is their best. Taking a look at the stunning interface alone, it is not difficult to see why.Read more
RainMachine designed their system with a ton of versatility. First off, there are many modes such as even/odd day mode, cycle and soak, and station delay. Secondly, they can be run in parallel or one at a time.
The Touch HD-12 can work in conjunction with multiple weather data sources such as Wunderground, NOAA and METNO. This will ensure that when rainfall is imminent, the system will save water.
You can gain access to programming this unit through your iOS or Android device, via your PC or even with voice activation software such as Alexa.
Ease of Use
Even if you did not want to function this via the app, the unit itself has a stunning interface. With a bright 6.5-inch touchscreen display, programming can be done straight from your fingertips.
As for installation, one of the primary issues with the sleek design at play here is the lack of cable management choices. There really is no place to hide any extra wires that you will have.
Even without your smartphone, this is one of the best systems in the world. This is thanks to the advanced software and the bright and colorful user interface of the base unit.
4. Aeon Matrix Yardian
Equipped with surge protection technology
Will work temporarily when the internet goes down
Also works as a surveillance
The master valve requires separate connections that this lacks
What is intriguing about this next model is that on top of providing smart irrigation, it also is designed with a built-in surveillance camera. Plus, it will even function for a bit even when the internet goes down.Read more
Past the aforementioned built-in surveillance camera, you can remove the guesswork in your watering schedule with the Smart Program. Of course, you can customize the options with the Manual Program, as well.
This is WaterSense certified and gathers weather information from local weather data and forecasts. Subsequently, this will save you from using too much water.
In addition to working with IFTTT, this is also compatible with Alexa allowing you to use voice activation to operate the system.
Ease of Use
The interface of this unit is the app’s as the base unit is sleek and display-less. As for the app, it has not garnered too much negative reception, which is positive.
Although the installation is quite simple, it is worth noting that the master valve and rain sensor do require separate connections that this system actually lacks.
In spite of the fact that you may need to make some additional investments to get this to work in your home, it is one of the fancier units available with both smart irrigation and surveillance.
5. Orbit B-hyve
Comes in a weather-resistant case
Works with Alexa
It is WaterSense approved and certified
Can take many steps to function correctly
As other users have noted, while it can take a few steps to get there, the B-Hyve is one of the smarter units available. Additionally, it comes with a weather-resistant case for outdoor installation.Read more
The Weather Sense technology of the B-Hyve will base your watering on factors such as soil type, slope, sun/shade, and live weather feeds. It will then automatically adjust the watering.
To ensure this will save you both water usage and energy, this has been WaterSense approved and certified. As mentioned, it also uses live weather feeds to adjust the watering.
The devices this can be used with are nearly endless. In addition to Android and iOS compatibility, this also works in conjunction with Alexa and offers you full voice control.
Ease of Use
Admittedly, the interface of the base unit is a bit outdated. However, again, it seems to be a common issue amongst consumers that there are several steps to get through to get it to work.
Let’s just say that as good as this system is, it is going to require some patience. As previous buyers have alluded to, several steps may be needed for the B-Hyve to function properly.
6. RainMachine Mini-8
WaterSense Certified for efficiency
Gathers data from weather sources
The dashboard displays everything you need
A little too complicated to program
Connecting to Wi-Fi can be a pain
There is a bit of a drop-off here, rating-wise, but it is not necessarily indicative of the quality. Instead, it just comes down to the Mini-8 being a little bit too overcomplicated to program.Read more
If you tend to obsess over the smaller details, you can look at detailed weekly, monthly, and yearly graphs. Also, you can see everything you need straight from the dashboard.
To calculate the right amount of water for your lawn to save on water, this system uses weather forecasts from NetAtmo, Wunderground, Metno, Forecast.io, and NOAA.GOV.
When RainMachine claims that their Mini-8 can be used anywhere in the world, they are not kidding. It can be used with a smart device and your PC or laptop (with any modern internet browser).
Ease of Use
The app itself is too complex for its own good, let’s say that. But, the base unit actually sports white LED illuminated touch keys and can allow you to stop or start a program or zone.
While the physical set up is not much of an issue, connecting to your Wi-Fi can be. What does not help is the fact that there is a lack of instructions in regard to setting up an account for remote access.
If the last unit required patience, then this requires the patience of Albert Einstein. While this is a bit of an exaggeration, if you can live with it, you really can enjoy a highly functional and sleek design.
7. NxEco Smart Irrigation
There are eight, 12 and 36 zone options available
Can be controlled several ways
Uses smart technology to cut down on water
A few buyers note that there can be Wi-Fi connectivity issues
Some sprinkler controllers are so dependent on the accompanying app that it makes programming without it impossible. However, that is not the case with this next system (even though you can use your smartphone).Read more
There are multiple zone options you can choose from (eight, 12 and 36, to be exact). No matter, though, individual smart watering can be achieved via each zone that is set up.
As with most other units on this list, this is WaterSense labeled and also uses daily weather-based adjustments to ensure the most efficient irrigation possible.
There is a multitude of manners in which you can operate this system. While you can opt to use the device itself, you can also use your smartphone or even with an Alexa-enabled device.
Ease of Use
Some users may even prefer operating this via the base unit due to the well thought-out interface. All the functions and features can be programmed straight from the unit itself, which is a nice touch.
As for installation, this includes both a rain sensor port and also a USB port. Also, there is an Ethernet port if you wanted to use a direct internet connection.
For the consumers who do not want to be glued to their smartphone when operating their sprinkler controller, this model is an excellent choice. Just have some patience when connecting via Wi-Fi, if you do.
8. Blossom 7
The watering amount for each zone can be adjusted
Can be installed in as little as 15 minutes
It is Wi-Fi enabled
Software issues have been documented
As compared to some of the other systems on this list, this is one of the best bangs for your buck choices available. However, some notable issues with some of the software features bring it down a bit.Read more
There is certainly not a lack of features here, such as each zone being able to be programmed based on layout and vegetation. But, as mentioned, several consumers have reported performance issues with the software.
This is yet another model that gathers current and local weather forecasts from multiple weather services. Again, this only helps you in the long run as it can better optimize your watering schedule.
Despite the smaller price tag, this does actually integrate Wi-Fi technology. Due to this, it can be functioned via your tablet or smartphone device.
Ease of Use
The base unit really does not sport an interface and instead, the app does. Thankfully, it is a clean and user-centric dashboard that makes operation easier (software issues can arise, though).
Blossom promises that installation can take as little as 15 minutes. The reason for this is you can use existing wiring, sprinklers and valves.
If not for the software issues that have been documented, this system could have easily landed higher on this list. For the price, it is hard to argue with the results, though.
9. Rain Bird
The interface is large and easy to read
Schedules can be customized for different areas
Features a sealed case
Overall, the hardware for installation is cheap
Not everyone owns a smartphone; despite what the modern world will have you believe. For those who do not, this system from Rain Bird is nice as it does not require the use of one.Read more
While you can set each of the six zones independently, you actually can’t water them all at the same time, which is a bit unfortunate.
If there was some integrated weather information, you would end up saving a little bit more on water. As it sits, though, you must manually account for rainfall.
For this model, it appears that its main base of operation is the unit itself. In other words, you are not allowed to operate it via an external device such as your smartphone.
Ease of Use
One thing is certain; the interface on this unit (while not stunning) is well-designed. It provides you with everything you need to program it to your preferences.
Despite including a transformer and a six-foot power cord, the connection design of this unit is flawed. First off, the connection to the terminal board is cheap and secondly, the connectors for the wires fall off too easily.
This is far from the most technologically advanced system in the world, let’s just say that. Still, this is a very solid cheaper solution that can work as an excellent starter model.
10. Hunter X-Core
Installation and operation are simple
Can be converted into a smart system
Compatible with Hunter remotes
It is an entry-level design
Make no mistake about it; this last entry is an entry-level system. Hunter makes that perfectly clear so if you are looking to take off the training wheels, you may want to skip right past this model.Read more
While you can control up to six stations with three programs each, it is a bit frustrating that you can’t simply press a button to have the whole cycle water through.
Once you plug in the Solar Sync ET sensor, this system will then gain access to the weather. Without this sensor, though, this is not considered a smart controller.
What is nice is the X-Core is compatible with Hunter remotes and this can allow for wireless activation of irrigation.
Ease of Use
When you open this unit up, you will gain access to the interface. The large dial and clearly-identifiable labels, in addition to the small digital screen, makes for somewhat simple operation.
Hunter designed their X-Core with ease of installation and maintenance in mind.
While the X-Core is not going to blow you away with its technical prowess or overwhelming features, it is a nice entry-level unit that can provide consistent and reliable irrigation.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
At the end of the day, sprinkler controllers live and die with their software. There are certainly a plethora of vital considerations and features but it all starts with the software. When assessing the software, there are many important features to look for. But, arguably the most important is the number of programs and zones available. Starting with the zones, if you have a larger yard or have multiple areas in your lawn that need to be watered, you may need to go with more zones (and the opposite is true if you have a smaller yard). But, programs are just as vital as if you need certain areas of your lawn to be watered differently than others, you will need more than one. In this case, look for units that offer at least two or more.
There are also other software features that you can keep an eye on. For instance, how about scheduling? This allows you to set the duration of the watering, how frequently an area should be watered and various other factors. Also, something as simple as a manual start mode can be ideal if you want to begin the cycle without affecting the programmed start time.
Here, we focused on how efficient the device is in saving water. This really leads right off of what was just discussed and truthfully, could be considered an extension. For those of you who are looking to save as much water as possible, you may want to invest in specific models. It is impossible to rely on yourself to account for rainfall and other factors as you can’t predict when it will happen. But, what if the system could gather weather data from sources to see if there was rainfall imminent? As you have seen throughout this guide thus far, a lot of the top models do just this. With integrated technology, some units will gather data from commercial weather services such as Wunderground and NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). As sprinklers do not need to be run when it rains, this will save you from wasting unnecessary water.
Along the same line as this, you can also look for a rain sensor. As it sounds, with this sensor a system will be able to detect when it rains. When the precipitation is sufficient enough, this will lead the system to quit watering.
It is quite amazing how technology continues to grow and this is evident when you look at the design of most modern sprinkler controllers. You see, most of them will now be designed with Wi-Fi technology and this enables them to sync to a plethora of different devices. This adds to the convenience, of course, and makes it possible to operate and program them from a suitable range. Whether you have a computer or smart device, with integrated Wi-Fi technology, you will be able to program the controller right from the comfort of your couch.
Of course, this will also require a stable internet connection and router on your part (unless you hook up an Ethernet cable to the controller if it has the port). Most of the time, the communication protocol will be Wi-Fi but if it happens to be something else such as Bluetooth, then your other device will also need the technology enabled. Also, some units will be programmed to accept voice commands via an Alexa device.
Ease of Use
User Interface and Complexity
Depending on the model you invest in, the user interface may either be the accompanying app or the device itself. Of course, there are also systems out there that have a suitable app and a base with a programmable interface. Either way, you go, there are a few factors to consider. For starters, you want the interface to be crisp and easy to view. If the base is the main interface, ensure that the dials, buttons, and digital screen are all easy to view and easy to program. Speaking of easy to program, this brings us to point number two. Anytime you are dealing with programming, intuitiveness will be your best friend. Even with adequate directions, some software can be downright unbearable to navigate through.
Especially if you are using an app, ensure that the software is not hammered down with glitches and that it is at least bearable to operate. The best way to do this is to glance through user feedback as consumers are very good at expressing how they feel (one way or another) in regard to the complexity.
Ease of Installation
Last but not least, let’s talk about installation. It is important to note that while some models will be suitable for outdoor installation, most will probably be better suited indoors. The manufacturer will make it very clear if their system is only suitable for indoor use, so do not concern yourself with that. Most indoor controllers will simply need to be plugged into a 110-volt outlet (which should be standard in your home) as they should come with an external transformer to convert the voltage. As for where you install them, you can do so in a covered patio, garage, shed, or any other area that provides convenient access.
In regard to outdoor models, they will typically need to be hardwired as the electrical connection will need to be protected against the weather. But, there may be times where the system merely comes in a weather-resistant case.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Even with a great irrigation system, you will still need to check your sprinklers regularly. Make sure that they are spraying evenly and are not damaged or clogged. A clogged sprinkler will over water certain areas and under water others. You can typically just clean the head, but if the piece needs to be replaced, it is important to match the brand of the sprinkler for best performance.
It is best to water your lawn in the morning. In the morning, the sun isn't quite as strong, there tends to be less wind, and the air is cooler. All of this leads to less evaporation. This will allow your grass to absorb more of the water and grow healthily.
Other Factors to Consider
While there are some people would prefer to stay at the house and manually control their sprinkler system, the peace of mind and time-saved that you will gain with one of these sprinkler controllers is priceless. Imagine not having to stay at home while you wait for the cycle to finish. Some of these controllers even come with an app for your smartphone, allowing you to control the system from anywhere.
Aside from the freedom and convenience that these systems provide, they also have been proven to save money over time. Some are equipped with sensors, while others are connected to local weather reports via wifi. If you looking for a product that is good for the environment, will save you money, and give you freedom, you will find it on this list.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What is a smart irrigation controller?
When you are in the market for a sprinkler controller, you will oftentimes see the world “smart” tossed around quite a bit. In the world of technology, “smart” is essentially referring to the intelligence of the system and sometimes to artificial intelligence. In this case, when you see a smart irrigation controller, it merely means that these are the models that will tailor the watering schedules to the needs of the specific landscape. These systems will use data information from weather sources, as discussed previously, to improve the efficiency of the watering. Plus, with smart designs, very little additional monitoring is going to be required on your part.
q: Why is the system watering randomly?
There is probably going to come a time where you experience issues with your system. As great as technology has become and will continue to become, it will never be foolproof because you always have to account for user error (and humans are not perfect). Whether by the engineers or by the users, issues can arise and this is quite a common one. No matter what system you end up getting, there may come a time where it begins to water your lawn randomly. But, why does this happen?
The most logical reasoning behind this occurring is if you lose power. What can happen is the clock and the day settings may get skewed. All you really need to do is double-check your settings to ensure that everything looks up to par. If not, re-program it to meet your standards.
q: What happens if the Wi-Fi connection is lost?
Some systems are predicated on Wi-Fi technology and if you invest in one like this, what happens when the internet connection goes down? Depending on the specific model, it may or may not attempt to reconnect to your network every few minutes. However, as you know, sometimes the internet can go down for several hours. In this instance, you still may not be out of luck. You see, this is where internal memory comes into play.
With enough built-in memory, the system should remember your watering schedule and should still be able to run the sprinkler when it is programmed to. Now, if the power goes out, then you are pretty much out of luck without a generator.
q: Why does the system cycle repeatedly?
Alright, so here is another troubleshooting issue that you may run into with your sprinkler controller. But, it does depend on how the system itself can be programmed. For some units, this specific issue is never going to persist. It depends if you can set up different start times for your different zones. For example, with Hunter controllers, if you have too many start times programmed then the system may malfunction. In this case, it may continue to repeat the cycle over and over.
To prevent this from happening, simply eliminate the start times and limit the number you use. Again, though, this will only be an issue with certain units.
q: How come certain zones are not being watered?
Have you ever had an issue with an appliance or device only to realize that it literally was not plugged into the wall? Do not be ashamed; everyone has experienced this at least once. From time to time, people overlook the small things and the reason this is brought up is it ties into this question. Much like one of the other questions that alluded to random watering, sometimes your unit will not water the zones you want. Always remember, nine times out of ten, it is not as if the system is malfunctioning it is that you are not programming it to do what you want.
In this case, a power outage or a temporary disconnection can cause zone settings to be changed. So, before you go and assume the worst, look at the zone settings to ensure they are correct.
q: Can you install it yourself?
This goes back to the ease of installation and the million dollar question is this, can you install one yourself? Well, this question is difficult to answer because it solely depends on your skill level. In specific, how knowledgeable you are with electricity. If you literally know nothing about it, then you may want to hire a professional to avoid injury and damage. You do not want to play around with live current kiddies, remember that.
But, most homeowners who understand their home’s electrical components should be able to install their new system in a matter of hours.