Even for those in the know, choosing the best sprinkler controllers can be problematic. There is such a wide range to choose from – how do you know which is best for you?
We’ve taken some of the guess-work out of the equation for you by combing through all the reviews and products out there. We now present our 5 best smart WiFi irrigation sprinkler controller reviews.
|#1. Blossom 7 |
Our Best Pick
|#2. The Smart Sprinkler Controller from Rachio|
|#3. The RainMachine Touch|
|High||12 or 16||No||Yes|
|#4. The Orbit Offering|
|#5. The Netro Smart |
What are WiFi Sprinkler Controllers?
Simply put, these controllers help you manage your irrigation system. It helps you turn your sprinklers on or off from the comfort of your living room. Maybe you meant to do it before you left for work but got side-tracked. No problem, just log in at work and get the system going.
That’s only a little bit of what these systems can do, though. They can also help you put irrigation on auto-pilot. Set the system to automatically water the garden once a week, or as often as you like, and you can be as hands-off as you want to.
But that is not all these systems can do. You can get those that are nothing more than timers, or more complex “smart” models. These dial into local weather services to check what the prevailing forecast is and set the watering schedule accordingly.
Won’t This Waste Water?
That is a big worry for many people. What happens if it rains just before the sprinklers are set to go off? Won’t a huge chunk of water be wasted as a result? Actually, having a system like this in place can save water.
These smart little controllers often contain sensors that can detect rainfall or moisture levels in the soil. If it rains, these sensors will pick it up and turn the irrigation off accordingly. So, instead of hoping that you remember to reset it, leave it in the hands of these capable little machines.
What You Should Look Out For
There are sprinkler controller systems that are fairly simple, and there are those that look like they came from the deck of the Starship Enterprise. Before you start shopping, you need to go and look at the sprinkler system you already have.
Some of these controllers will work with generic equipment, but most of them have to be used in conjunction with a specialized sprinkler system. A system that is a fair bit more advanced than your typical hose pipe attached to a sprayer.
So yes, it could mean that you will need to buy the sprinkler system as well. If that is the case, and you have a large or unusually-shaped garden, it might be worthwhile to call in a landscaper to help with the installation.
That said, if you are fairly handy, these systems are not that hard to put in place. The main difference with these is that they are connected to a dedicated water supply and have valves, etc. to help control the flow of water.
It’s About Control
When it comes to choosing the actual controller, the control panel is the most important thing to consider. Can you use it with or without an app? You ideally want a system that can be used both ways.
Say, for example, you have someone who comes in to tidy the garden on a weekly basis, it would be useful for them to have access to the readouts that the controller produces. You are not, however, likely to want to leave your phone with them for the whole day.
It is also a good idea to be able to access the system manually in case something goes wrong with your phone or tablet.
Start out smartly by looking for a system that has the controls and a display on the device itself. If you see nothing other than an On/Off light, it must be used with an app and you should probably keep looking.
Where Is It Being Mounted
Don’t assume that it can be mounted anywhere. Not all units are made to be weatherproof. If you are mounting your unit outside, you will need to get one that is weatherproof or look at getting a separate weatherproof enclosure to protect it.
The next thing to consider is how close it is to the water supply it will be drawing from and how easily accessible it is if you need to get to it.
The units are relatively streamlined, but you don’t want them front and center interfering with your garden’s aesthetic appeal. By the same token, though, you also do not want to have to go bashing through bushes or trampling your garden to get to the unit.
Find a place that is easy to get to but where the unit can still be unobtrusive. It is also a good idea to keep it in an area that is clear of debris. Under a big tree is a bad idea because falling leaves could obscure the controls and make it difficult to get to.
The unit might also be damaged if something like a heavy tree branch falls on it, so you do need to take that into account as well.
How Often Do You Want to Water?
The more flexibility you want in the watering schedule, the more complex the controller will need to be. With some, you can set it for once a week, and that’s about as much control as you have.
More complex models will be able to determine the optimal time of day for watering and will even be able to check online about water restrictions applicable to where you stay. It can program the system to stay off on those days.
Can it Send Notifications?
Does the system notify when it starts watering the garden, or when it finishes watering it? At the start is more useful because if there is going to be some kind of issue, it is better to be able to interrupt the watering process.
It is not essential to find a unit that notifies you when it starts to water the garden, but this is a pretty good feature to have in place.
Systems that can monitor the rainfall or the moisture in the soil can be helpful when it comes to managing your watering more effectively. Don’t get too dragged down by this kind of detail, though.
A system that does not water when it is raining is about as smart as you need it to be.
And that, in a nutshell, is what you need to look for when choosing your controller. They are relatively simple little devices – most of the time, they will be functioning as little more than a timer. Are you ready to learn about our top picks? Here they are.
#1. Blossom 7
This is a great idea if you have a larger garden or separate areas in the garden that need to be watered individually of one another. Say, for example, you have a rockery with water-wise plants, a vegetable garden, and a rose garden.
Each individual zone in the garden would require different amounts of water so you cannot just put them all on the same sprinkler system and hope for the best. The Blossom 7 can manage as many as seven separate zones, all independent of one another.
If you have more zones than that, you would have to install a second controller or look for one that can handle more zones. Some on the market can handle up to sixteen zones in total.
#2. The Smart Sprinkler Controller from Rachio
This one scores big points for the techies out there and is one of the few systems out there that will work with Alexa from Amazon.
This is a smart system in that it measures local rainfall and also humidity and then works out how often to water the garden from there.
This is the second version of the product, so a lot of the initial issues have been ironed out. The price has also come down, so that is nice as well. And, if you have ever dreamed of being a Sargent Major, this is the option for you.
It connects up with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Nest so that you can easily call out commands. Forget about clumsily typing in the schedule. Just tell it what to do, and it stands to attention.
Another nice touch here is that you are able to work out a watering plan with exact precision based on the zones in your garden and the type of soil you have.
This one is my particular favorite because of the voice control options, but it may be more advanced than some users need.
#3. The RainMachine Touch
This is a simple DIY model for those who don’t want to have to call in a landscaper. The system accesses a number of sources to get the most up to date weather reports to make your watering schedule as accurate as possible.
The advantage of this system is that you can access it from whatever web browser you like – you do not need a special app to control. So, if you are away on vacation and want to water your garden, you can do that.
The other advantage of this model is that it is highly visible. You can use the controls on the device as well as online. The interface is easy to see in the dark and easy to find through the WiFi logo that it flashes when the device is not being accessed online.
#4. The Orbit Offering
The advantage of this option is the price point. It offers you the opportunity to control 12 different zones independently of one another and packs quite a punch for the price. It has all the essential features and a few more besides.
It does have a weatherproof casing that comes standard and can be controlled on the device or online. This is a high-quality option made in the United States and is sturdy and durable.
You can be sure that it will be fine outdoors.
$5. The Netro Smart
This is a 12-zone system that is designed for optimal water use. You can use the control panel or program it via the app, depending on what is most important to you.
So, you could set the sprinklers off when waiting in line for your coffee at Starbucks, for example.
The system is able to work out the best water-saving possibilities through the use of historical and up to the minute data. It draws on several data sources to ensure that your garden gets the optimal amount of water.
This is another system that you can set and forget if you like – it will also take local water restrictions into account and implement water-saving measures as necessary.
It can be difficult to figure out how much water your garden needs and to apply water as necessary. The problem with underwatering is that the results are not always dramatic, and you might only realize that there is a problem when your plants start to die off.
It is just as dangerous to apply too much water to your plants. It makes them weaker and a lot more prone to disease. It can also be difficult to know that you are overwatering the plants unless you get out into the garden every day and check.
For most people, this is just not a practical solution, no matter how much they love gardening. With the assistance of a sprinkler controller, however, you can make watering your garden less of a hit and miss affair and get back to enjoying your garden again.
Smart controllers are smart tools for smart gardeners.