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I used to dread futzing with my sprinkler system. The onboard controls were clunky, and it required regular tweaking to keep up with the seasons — or external accessories like rain sensors to avoid watering the lawn on days that were already wet. Much like smart thermostats, smart locks and other home tech, though, a new controller can make the entire process easier and automated — but navigating your options can get overwhelming.
A smart sprinkler controller allows you to adjust your lawn watering schedules from an app on your phone, using a more intuitive and streamlined interface than any onboard buttons could hope to give you. You’ll also get connected to local weather stations so your sprinklers won’t run if rain is expected, and you can even set it to automatically adjust your schedule as the seasons change. (Being able to run a cycle with your voice using Alexa or Google Assistant is nice, too.) In other words, you can automate the entire watering process, increasing the efficacy of each drop that hits your lawn, as well as save money with a smart system that reduces water waste. To give you an idea of the best smart sprinkler controllers out there, we compiled some of the top options.
Best overall smart sprinkler controller: Rachio
Rachio’s 3rd generation controller is widely regarded as the best smart sprinkler timer thanks to its easy setup, fantastic app and myriad of smart scheduling options. It uses a system called Weather Intelligence Plus to get finely-tuned weather reporting for rain, wind and freeze skips in your specific location. It also integrates with a number of other smart home products. You can hook it up to your existing system and run it as-is or buy a number of other Rachio add-ons like a flow meter or lawn treatments. It’s available in both 8-zone and 16-zone variations, so you can pick the right one for your sprinkler system and lawn size — just know you’ll need a weatherproof enclosure if you plan on putting it outside.
Best mid-range sprinkler controller: Rachio
If you want something a bit less expensive than the Rachio 3, the company’s Rachio 3e gets you most of the goodies in a more affordable package. The Rachio 3e only comes in an 8-zone model and loses a few advanced features like Flex Daily schedules, Apple Homekit support, a yard mapper and the hyperlocal Weather Intelligence Plus feature — though you can still connect to a local weather tower for good-enough forecasts.
Best touch-screen smart sprinkler controller: RainMachine
The RainMachine Touch HD (available in 12-zone and 16-zone models) has a more modern touch screen interface that allows for more advanced onboard controls when an app isn’t an option. It also relies on the internet less than other controllers, using internal storage to manage your sprinklers and only connecting to the internet for weather data. (Other controllers, like Rachio, will still run on your schedule if you lose internet connectivity but you won’t be able to adjust them.) Its app isn’t as good as Rachio’s, though, and its smarts aren’t quite as advanced — but for most people, it’ll still do an admirable job.
Best smart sprinkler with local control: Orbit
If you like the idea of being able to control your sprinkler system without a constant internet connection but don't need the expensive touch controls of the RainMachine, look at Orbit's new B-hyve XR (8-zone or 16-zone). This rugged controller can be set up inside or out, has a few buttons on the front for basic on-device controls, and is loaded with smarts that can run over a Bluetooth connection to your phone if your internet is spotty.
Best sprinkler controller with onboard buttons: Orbit
While Rachio’s offerings have some limited button controls, Orbit’s B-Hyve timer has an LCD screen and old-school buttons that yard care veterans will find familiar. Available in 6-zone and 12-zone models, the Orbit B-Hyve can handle the basics of smart sprinkler controls, like automatic schedules and recommendations based on weather. It does not, however, integrate with as many other smart home products, and many reviewers find its software clunkier than Rachio’s — though that may be a fair sacrifice given its lower cost (especially considering it comes bundled with a weatherproof box).
Best affordable smart sprinkler system: Orbit
If you’re on a strict budget and don’t need onboard controls, Orbit’s 4-zone and 8-zone indoor controllers cost less than their larger, more feature-filled brethren. The app is the same as Orbit’s more expensive offering. If you want to put it outside, though, you’ll need to buy an outdoor enclosure separately.
Best affordable sprinkler for Wyze owners: Wyze
If you haven't heard of Wyze yet, you're missing out on some of the best affordable smart home tech out there. Wyze's new sprinkler controller comes at a similar price to Orbit's offering, with the advantage of using an app you might already have if you use other Wyze products. It can also integrate with your Wyze cams to show your yard, but doesn't work with Alexa or Google Assistant. In addition, it does require a $10 annual subscription for some of its smarter features after the first year.
Best smart sprinkler for hose systems: Orbit
Finally, if you don't have an in-ground sprinkler system, you don't have to give up on your dream of smart tech everywhere. Orbit also makes a B-hyve smart timer for your house, allowing you to get the intelligent watering of a smart system with your drip line or hose-based sprinklers.