Best Automatic Irrigation Controllers in 2020



Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller, Works with Alexa, 8 Zone Review:


This is my first Rachio product and I purchased on the advise of my next door neighbor and brother whom both own previous versions. I am glad I took their advice as this controller is nothing short of awesome. It is well constructed, has easy to understand instructions, was very easy to install, and the app for your smart phone is very well designed and thought out.

I've been using this device for about three weeks now and I am very happy with the results. The device is hyper intelligent and will run as automated or as manual as you prefer. You can run it every day exactly when you want to, or you can set it up to monitor the weather conditions in your area and allow it to determine when and how much to water. I have a personal weather station on top of my house and I have connected my Rachio to the weather data received by my PWS. Smart watering is based on actual rain fall amounts at my house and not for some remote weather station miles away from me.

It is obvious Rachio has done their homework and have produced a high quality device that works extremely well. The app is equally amazing and you can run everything from the phone app or from the controller itself. At a glance you can verify if the system is on-line and connected to wi-fi and if it is actively watering a zone. This unit supports up to 8 zones. I only have 6 so I have disabled the last two from my setup. If you have an Amazon Echo you can control everything through that device but if you use HomeKit like me, that functionality is waiting in the wings. I am hopeful that feature is added soon, but honestly, the controller is already so automated there's really not much advantage to the voice controlled aspect anyway. Highly recommend this unit. I am thoroughly impressed and pleased with my purchase.



Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller, 8 Zone 2nd Generation, Works with Amazon Alexa Review:


A lot of home automation solutions have "green" subtext of saving money because of adding more controls to ensure that use is when needed. Lawn sprinklers is actually the first generation of home controls... before the Z-Wave and Wi-Fi... watering lawns on a timer that will adhere to a 7x24 plan. Rachio makes this level of control the entry level, adding many more levels of water management that it almost seems like you have your own groundskeeper monitoring the weather forecast, evaluating what type of soil, runoff, and plants/grass. If we could possibly ignore the web and phone interface, just the feature of skipping watering when there's going to be a rainstorm, or a frost, is priceless. Well I guess not... You certainly can put a price on how much you save.

This is my second Rachio Iro. I purchased the 1st generation Rachio 8-zone for my last house and it was a champ. The only thing that I didn't like and was frankly, maddening... was the blink method of pairing the 1st gen to your Wi-Fi SSID. In fact, after many attempts of blink pairing, both my Rachio 1st gen and my Samsung S5 flew across the room. I eventually hid in a dark room, hid under a Harry Potter invisibility cloak, and paired it up. The resulting awesome watering made me completely forget about the blink pain... until dredging up the horrible memories for your benefit... thanks for that...

In my new house, the existing Hunter HRC 9-zone controller was ok, but how could I live with a Hunter fixed schedule controller after having an internet "cloud" irrigation solution... The Rachio Iro 2nd Gen 16 zone arrived before the irrigation was needed in Ohio. 1st glance... It's much bigger than a 1st gen, and the shape is similar to the spot that the Hunter left on the wall. No repainting needed... nice. This new controller has a cover instead of an install plate. I was happy to see that there was no blink sensor and that Rachio invested in wireless setup with RF.

I used my cell to take a picture of my existing Hunter HRC's wires ensuring that the colors and their termination was easily visible in the picture. Unscrewed all of the wire terminals and tossed the Hunter into the trash. I couldn't bear the thought of someone buying it used and missing the water saving opportunity of a cloud irrigation controller. The Iro was secured into place quickly with 4 screws... I'm sure two would have been fine, but there were more holes, more screws, and my Ryobi drill was barely used. Since I wouldn't need it again for this simple install... It was put away soon after.

I took a look at all of the zone wire leads and trimmed a few of them down to expose less conductor. Using my cell, I pressed the main valve and two commons into the C and MC accordingly. Following the colors from my cell picture, I pressed in the 9 zones... Simple... 5 minutes. Plugging in the Iro to the wall and controller, I used the cell application to register the controller. Because I have a Main Valve in my system, I opened the settings and advanced and checked the main valve on the Rachio app. I then had to go find the cover of the Hunter, because I forgot to get the zone labels... another quick phone picture and the Hunter cover was back in the trash.

This isn't my first Rachio Iro rodeo, so defining each zone with the name, type of irrigation heads, what is being watered (flowers, shrubs, grass, etc.), slope, soil type... pretty simple. While turning on each zone manually to test that they trigger, I took a picture of the good aqua shot, and updated the zone with the picture. Now my OCD kicks in and I use a soil moisture hydrometerDr.Meter® Moisture Sensor Meter, Soil Water Monitor, Hydrometer for Gardening, Farming, Indoor/Outdoor Use (4-in-1 Advanced Version) to put in an initial setting for the zone as well as use a laser to measure the area of the zone Laser Distance Meter, Handheld Range Finder Measure with LCD Backlight Display, Area/Volume/Distance/Pythagoras Calculation, Self-Calibration Rangefinder, Tape Measure 0.05 to 40m(0.16 to 131ft). My need for accuracy resolved, I go inside and find a comfy chair and login to rachio.com to setup my watering programs.

Since my front yard gets a ton of sun and my backyard is a forested preserve, I setup two programs. There will be times that I'll want to water the front without the back, so keeping them on separate programs makes disabling the backyard program a simple switch. My municipal water only allows watering on 3 days of the week depending on your street address, astrological sign, and great grandmother's maiden name (the one you liked). I use the "fixed days" feature or risk fines from the aqua police. Even though the flexible daily or flexible monthly schedule may be the most effective for water savings and ensuring watering is only when needed, limiting to 3 days a week still gives the Iro opportunity to skip and change watering duration based on weather data and seasonal impacts.

I forgot to tell you that while I reconnected the rain sensor from the hunter, it was flapping activated/deactivated continuously. So I disabled it. It's 12 years old and probably fouled -- until I get a ladder up there to clean it, I'll leave it disabled... Then again... I'm not sure I really need my own rain sensor if I'm using a nearby weather station less than a mile away. So the old sensor may just be taken down -- how can it be more accurate than a local internet available weather station?

Both the shocking nature of seeing how many gallons are really used when you are watering, and the gratification of how much you are saving when the Iro skips, easily justifies the purchase of this controller. Other features that seem to just make sense are the cycle approach to watering and the newly added manual controls on the Rachio Iro. When watering, your Iro will break a 15-minute watering session into multiples - so instead of watering a zone for 15 minutes, it will water it for 5 minutes, go to the next zone, finish all zones, then start another cycle that will water the zone another 5 minutes... going through all zones... finally completing a 3rd cycle to finish. This minimizes oversaturation and runoff, allowing the water that you are spraying to soak in, using less total water for the same impact. awesome!

Now the Rachio app allows you to setup a guest to operate your system manually, or additional admin users to add or change your programming. If you are owner and have someone who is Rachio capable and maintains your property, these options will fit your specific need. But if you just want the guy that is fixing the last spray head that you destroyed with the lawn edger, he can turn on and off a zone by cycling through the manual controls on the panel itself... nice upgrade from 1st gen.

Integration? Well if you're the type that wants to add more controls and automation to your irrigation system. Odds are you will consider other automation in your house. Right now, your Iro will integrate with Nest Protect 2.0 sensors. So that if you have a fire, nest will tell your Iro to cycle through all of your zones continuously to create a moisture barrier to help prevent fires from spreading. I'm sure that if you just ran out of a house fire, some spraying water may also be able to cool you down fast or put out your clothes when you stop-drop-and-roll. We hope to never use these type of integrations, but they would be great if they work as advertised. I don't have Nest, but use MiCasaVerdi's Vera Plus home controller. The Rachio API is published and available, but there currently isn't an app developed for the Vera MiOS. I hope that there's future integration there.

This is one of the best cloud automations for your house. I've recommended to friends who have installed and become water savers. My parents have one installed... and I seriously recommend that you pick one up. If it’s too expensive for you... look for a warehouse deal, used, etc. These are great and you will recover your investment...



Rain Bird CP100 In-Line Automatic Sprinkler Valve, 1" Threaded Female x Female Review:


PROS:
* Standard valve can be installed new or used for repair parts

CONS:
* None

I have a preexisting RainBird system with 8 zones. It's a bit older, so the valves have been failing. Expect lifetime to be 10-15 years on these. I've had some fail because the rubber diaphragm went soft or tore. I had some with a failed solenoid.

It's easier and cheaper to just buy the whole valve, and use it to replace the top half of the installed valve.

Repair is pretty simple. Turn off the water. Remove the 6 screws on old and new. Move the diaphragm, spring, and top cap with solenoid over to the valve body that's leaking or shorted. Use grease caps or waterproof splices to splice the wires in. There is no polarity to worry about, but make sure the wire junctions are well protected. There are plenty of videos online with more details. It takes about 15 minutes with hand tools, or about half that if you have a powered screwdriver. This is for the 6-screw type, not the jar-cap type.

Also, know that the 3/4" and the 1" valves are the same internally. If you're repairing, either will be fine. The only difference is the pipe attachment size.



Rain Bird SST1200OUT Simple-to-Set Indoor Sprinkler Controller Outdoor Irrigation Timer 12-Station Review:


My Toro Greenskeeper got zapped by lightning on the AC. Just sodded lawn and needed replacement overnight. This SST900IN is very easy to install. If replacing a timer, label all wires before removing old unit. After mounting new timer, it took 2 minutes from start to testing zones. I just need to add new rain sensor and put the cover on. It took only 3 minutes to program all zones. This is really nice! All zones came ready to connect. There are no additional zone modules to buy. PS, comes equipped with surge protection!



Orbit 57894 4-Station Outdoor Swing Panel Sprinkler System Timer Review:


It is amazing what this clock does for the low cost. I bought the 12 station unit, replacing an old unit that cost close to $1000 and this unit, at around $70, does essentially everything the old clock did at a fraction of the cost.

There is one peculiarity about this clock, noted by several other reviewers as a problem which, apparently, they did not fully understand. These other reviewers say these units do not keep good time, losing minutes over the course of just a few days. In fact, one reviewer returned a clock for this reason and then complained that the replacement was just as poor a time keeper. I thought this at first, myself, until I did some investigation and ran some tests on my unit.

In fact, the clock keeps excellent time, at least my unit does. However, when you turn the programming wheel through the "Set Time" setting, which you may well do to reach any of the other setting positions, the clock resets to the current time, with the seconds rounded to zero. So, if you are setting other things in the clock, and you spin the programming wheel counter clockwise (from the Auto position, where it most likely lives most of the time, through the Set Time position) to get to what you want, you will be effectively setting the clock back 0 - 59 seconds each time. This can very quickly make it appear that the unit is losing time, especially when the unit is new and you are programming and reprogramming it frequently. So, just spin the programming wheel in the direction to avoid going through the Set Time position, presumably clockwise from the Auto position to the setting you want and in the reverse direction to get back to Auto when you are done, to avoid this problem.

Now I would not argue that the clock should not be changed by just passing through the Set Time position, without Enter being pressed, so this is a fault in the logic of the system, but it is easy enough to avoid the appearance of poor time keeping if you understand this particularity.



Orbit 57946 B-hyve Smart Indoor/Outdoor 6-Station WiFi Sprinkler System Controller, Compatible with Alexa Review:


Having an old Rain Bird Analog rotary controller, I was looking to upgrade to a modern WiFi Controller so I would no longer be running down the basement to turn on and off the Rain Delay. I was keeping an eye on a competing product to this, but wasn't crazy about the competitors' $200.00 price tag. So when this Orbit Controller came to market with the same features at half the price, it immediately had my attention.

I waited a few months to let some reviews trickle in and once I felt comfortable, I went for it. It is a one piece assembly in a weatherproof box for indoor or outdoor mounting. I opted for the 6 zone controller as currently I only have 3 zones, with plans to add one more zone for a feature garden in front of my house. Ultimately, the decision was made to keep it inside where the old one was, since I had a power outlet right there. The power cord is about 6 feet long so if you need some length, no worries. Installation took all of 5 minutes. Take a photo of the old wires, which was a Green Common, and Red, White, and Blue wires for zones 1, 2, and 3, respectively. I removed the wires from the old controller with a small flathead screwdriver, unplugged the old controller, removed from the wall, and cleaned it up and put it away to keep as a "backup" since it still worked fine. I removed the old plastic anchors and screws from the wall, popped in the new ones and had the Orbit controller hung on the wall. Then I passed the wires through the grommet in the bottom of the case, and connected them to the Common, 1, 2, and 3 terminals. Couldn't have been any easier.

I didn't bother to program anything at the controller because the app was so easy. I set up a log-in with my e-mail address, connected it to my WiFi, and then I programmed a manual schedule as I don't want to use the "Smart Watering" feature. I couldn't believe how easy and fast it was. Literally, the whole process took MINUTES.

The Alexa compatibility is cool. Definitely a combination of "Wow Factor" and befuddlement from anyone around when I ask "Alexa, ask b-Hyve to water the lawn" and my sprinklers run. Nice touch, but the app control is easy as pie too. Works over a cellular connection too so if you're not home you can flip your sprinklers on anytime.

The best feature of this controller, however, is its integration with the weather forecast. It automatically schedules rain delays with ZERO input from the user. Want to override the rain delay? Simple click of ONE button when you open the app. I have mine set to run Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 3AM (don't water in the evening, you don't want root rot, and don't water when the suns up or it will evaporate!). In the 3 weeks I have had this controller, my sprinklers have only run TWICE because of the weather integration. It looks at how much rain you've gotten and is forecast, and does its thing. At this rate, it will pay for itself in one spring/summer with water savings alone. I couldn't be happier. You can set Notifications in the app to tell you when a Rain Delay is automatically set, when a Watering program has run, and a few other things. Love it! The app has a calendar in it so you can look back and see what days have been watered. You can take a picture of each zone so if you have multiple zones, you wont forget what number is what. You can also go into the app and run any zone you want for any time, great for adjusting or repairing sprinkler heads or chasing birds off the lawn! Run zone 2 for one minute, no problem. Highly recommended.



Orbit B-hyve 57915 Smart 4-Station WiFi Sprinkler System Controller, 4-Zone, Gray Review:


I ended up buying two different WiFi connected controllers, this one and a Rainbird model. I also added a rain sensor which both controllers supported. I read reviews about both controllers, some said that the Rainbird was too simple and that this B-hyve model was much better. In the end I am choosing the Rainbird but here's my thoughts on this Orbit unit;
Pros, very sophisticated, if you like going down an irrigation rabbit hole this is for you. You can select soil type, plant type, sprinkler type, enter soil moisture, slope details for each zone, photos of each zone. You can let the controller run fully auto, it will water and hold based on local weather (you enter your location and can even select local weather stations). It needs no batteries for backup, and seems very stable on my WiFi (2.4Ghz only is supported). You can calibrate the watering further by purchasing measuring cups to measure the water actually sprinkled on your zones then enter the info into the app. There is excellent manual control of each zone and it retains a history of watering events. It looks very clean and modern when installed and it's much cheaper than the RainBird.
Cons, I felt that it was pretty light duty construction wise, smallish terminal block with small screw clamps, not a deal breaker but just a bit delicate. Very minimal local control, almost no display, again not a deal breaker. External rain sensor is supported but there doesn't seem to be any indication of its status, it rained and I saw nothing indicated from the sensor (the RainBird unit clearly shows sensor status). Zone pictures are easy to capture but are quite small in the app (compared to the RainBird). This Orbit and the RainBird units both support Alexa and both units have a major flaw in their current form. The key help with making controllers easy to use is to be able to label the zones. Nobody want to remember 8 zones, much easier to see "Front Door Planter", "Rear Hillside", etc.". The apps clearly show this plus the pictures, BUT Alexa only responds to zone numbers, major fail there. If they can name lights for Alexa, they can name Zones, come on guys! This is just my opinion but I didn't like this unit's name "B-hyve", it's app icon is not intuitive that it's irrigation, and saying "Alexa, tell B-hyve to water Zone 1 for 5 minutes" doesn't work for me either.

All in all, I wanted to like this unit but in the end I found it overly complicated and not that intuitive for me or the girls in my house, so I went back to the RainBird.



Rain-Bird Lnk Link WiFi Module Mobile Wireless Irrigation Controller Upgrade for Indoor Outdoor ESP-TM2 and ESP-Me Series Controller Sprinkler Systems Review:


This is a great addition to your rain bird and rain sensor. It makes setting and programming the rain bird easy. Also, the season adjustment feature works great in my area of Florida.

Issues: it tends to disconnect sometimes when it can’t get a signal which is due to my router is inside and my unit outside. Also, at first it was hard to find the signal of module unit to sync with WiFi. I fixed by just trying again and on 3 try it found it and I was able to connect. The app is it details as some other but it get the job done.

Tips make sure to have a rain sensor installed or you won’t be able to take advantage of smart watering to the fullest. Also, look up water tips for your area and max length recommendation for watering times. Make sure your rain sensor is set to the correct settings. Test signal strength with your cellphone to make sure you have good signal strength to your WiFi. Also, certain bands have to be closer to unit to work probably.

Now if you have rainbird esp model and the appropriate rain sensor already adding this link WiFi unit makes sense. But if your in market for a new unit try looking at the competition and price compare. The Weather information in the app is accurate for my area which is Florida.



Orbit 57860 Battery Operated Sprinkler Timer with Valve Review:


I have installed four of these valves + controllers on my property and I am planning to add another valve to one of them. They have been running flawlessly for a few months now. They solve a big problem as running wires to these location is far too difficult to be worth it. The only minor detail I would change is the flimsy design of the support bracket which puts it up on the top of the valve. These are well sealed and what I really like is the ability to take the controller unit out of the housing so it can be serviced and set. In sunny locations, I have added a wooden box over the valve unit (from IKEA) which is designed to allow me to turn the box over on top of the valve and pipes, and allow removal of the top of the box (which would normally be the bottom). This keeps the direct sun off the unit and the pipes which will otherwise degrade in the sunlight. In that case, I am not using the bracket but setting the controller housing further down in the wooden box.



MANATEE Co2 Regulator Hydroponics Emitter System with Solenoid Valve Accurate and Easy to Adjust Flow Meter Brass - Shorten up and Double Your Time for Harvesting Review:


A regulator is a must if you are going to supplement your grow with Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Without a regulator you cannot accurately control how much CO2 is let out into the room. This particular regulator uses a electronic solenoid to control flow (on/off). By plugging this regulator into a timer, the timer can then control the solenoid and allow a burst of CO2 to enter the room, at pre-determined intervals. The fitting on this regulator is designed to work with any standard 20 lbs gas tank container, or full size industrial gas tanks. You can have a greater degree of control over the gas by using the value of the gas tank in conjunction with the valve on the regulator.

PROS:
+Easy to set up, plastic washers included
+Solenoid cuts off flow 100%
+Pressure meter is easy to read
+Fine control with the regulator valve
+No leaks when installed properly (with plastic washer)
+Great float indicator of gas flow
+Sturdy construction, heavy brass fitting

CONS:
-Literally NO documentation (manufacturer assumes you know what is what)
-Solenoid can get HOT if left energized for long periods of time (30 mins+)