A smart sprinkler controller is one of the easiest ways to revive your lawn or garden for warmer weather, offering modern convenience for fully automating your in-ground irrigation system. A smart controller works with your existing sprinkler system to automatically water the grass based on local weather conditions, giving your grass the right amount to drink every time. Other benefits like remote access via the device's companion app and voice control with popular smart assistants like Alexa and Google give you even more ways to help your garden grow.
After testing out the top-rated remote irrigation systems, we found that the Rachio 3(available at Amazon for $179.99) is the best smart sprinkler controller because It’s simple to use and is loaded with instinctive watering features. For something cheaper, the Netro Sprite Smart Sprinkler Controller(available on Amazon) is a value-packed choice. However, there are plenty of other great sprinkler controllers on our list for you to choose from.
These are the best smart sprinkler controllers we tested, ranked in order:
Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller
Netro Sprite Smart Sprinkler Controller
Wyze Sprinkler Controller
Orbit B-hyve Wi-Fi Sprinkler Timer
Scotts Miracle-Gro Smart Watering Controller
BlueSpray Wireless Irrigation Controller
Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller
The second-generation Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller is currently topping our list because it offers a ton of easy-to-use options and isn't intimidating to install.
The model we tested offers control over eight zones (sometimes called "stations"), though there's an additional model that supports up to twice that. Smart home junkies will appreciate the integrations with Nest, Alexa, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings, and Apple HomeKit. There's even a host of IFTTT recipes available to customize your sprinkler even further.
The Rachio app has a busy interface, but it's easy to navigate. By uploading photos and entering details about things like soils and sunlight, you can then set a custom schedule, or have the Rachio app figure one out based on the details you entered.
When we let the Rachio 3 set the watering schedule, we chose the Flexible Daily schedule option, which uses public weather data to determine soil moisture depending on the questions you answered. There are additional features like Weather Intelligence, which enables the ability to automatically skip a session if rain or excessive wind is underway; and Smart Cycle, which splits watering times into shorter, more frequent cycles to prevent runoff. For more accurate results, you can choose to sync the Rachio 3 with a personal weather station, like the Netatmo.
The Rachio 3 offers the most features while still being easy enough for anyone to use. Serious gardening hobbyists will like the Rachio 3 for its fine-tuned smart scheduling and robust automation abilities.
High on our list is the Netro Sprite, a fully automatic Wi-Fi-enabled smart sprinkler controller. The Sprite doesn’t require you to use up one of the included six or 12 stations (control zones) to be dedicated to a master valve like most others. Using one of your stations for the master valve leaves you with one less station to use for watering, so we appreciate the inclusion of an extra station for this purpose. It also works with Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can use voice control as a hands-free way to manage your sprinkler system.
Like most of the controllers we tested, the Sprite gathers local weather data from sources like Weather Underground, NOAA, and The Weather Channel, and asks for information specific to your lawn (like soil type, plant type, and amount of sun and shade) as you go through the app setup. The yard data combined with the local weather information make it a very smart little controller that will create a custom schedule based on recent rain as well as forecast precipitation. The EPA WaterSense certified controller's self-learning features build a custom watering schedule for your yard, taking into account local watering restrictions and rules.
The Netro Sprite setup procedure is simple and intuitive. The app walks you through most of the setup, and both Android and iOS apps worked flawlessly both over Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz connection required) and remotely.
Two things kept it from being our top pick: It is intended for indoor installation, so if your control box is outside, you will need to purchase a protective cover. The second issue is that the Sprite is fully controlled by the app, meaning there is no way to program it without your phone. That might be an issue for the less tech-savvy or your sprinkler maintenance person, but frankly, we did not miss this capability in the least. The app itself is pleasant to use, and it works with Alexa and Google Assistant, so we weren’t bothered by the lack of other control options.
The testing in this guide was done by Nick Woodard, a tech freelancer with experience reviewing everything from soundbars to smart floodlight cameras, Perry Taylor, a midwestern homeowner who has been caring for lawns his adult life through the drastic weather changes he sees in Missouri, and Florence Ion, a tech reviewer with a decade of experience.
Smart sprinkler controllers are great because not only do they control how much water goes into your yard, they allow you to configure the water supply based on what you’re growing.
A worthy intelligent irrigation system controller should be able to water between six and 16 zones. It should be WaterSense-certified, which means it meets the EPA's requirements for water efficiency. It should be controllable through an app for Android and iOS and provide configurable options for smart watering schedules based on landscaping, vegetation, and the weather forecast. It should also have a backup option for when the internet goes down, offer some smart-home integration by way of a hub or a digital assistant, and be well-built so that it can live outside the house.
We tested each controller for several days, taking many screenshots and noting whether the smart watering schedule aligned with the actual forecast. We kept track of the vegetation to watch for any plants that were affected by the smart forecasting water schedules. We also evaluated general operability, and whether the sprinkler system remained responsive and sent out notifications even while we were miles away from home. And with every unit, I determined whether the setup process would work for those who might be tech-averse.
What You Should Know About Smart Sprinkler Controllers
Sprinkler controllers don't control the flow of water. They automate the task of opening and closing individual valves, like a traditional electronic or manual sprinkler controller. What makes them "smart" is their ability to connect to the internet for weather data, create custom schedules, and send you notifications. They’re also good if you have a lawn you want to put on autopilot so that it doesn’t brownout. There are also smart hose timers, which work similarly to smart sprinkler controllers, but are meant be used with garden hoses instead of in-ground irrigation systems.
Smart controllers work best with wired sprinkler controllers and are not recommended for use with battery-powered controllers. For best results, you'll want to install the sprinkler controller near a covered outlet (under an awning is fine) and within range of your home's Wi-Fi network. You'll also want to mount it away from the ground to prevent critters from taking over—the Orbit B-hyve, for instance, comes with an external covering, and almost immediately after we installed it, it became inhabited by a black widow spider.
Your results will vary with features like smart watering, as it depends entirely on the climate in your region and what you have growing. Most sprinkler controllers ask for your home address during setup so that they can best determine the forecast to avoid overwatering. We didn't always find that to be the case, however, and still ended up using the manual scheduling function. It should also be noted that smart watering algorithms are better tuned for sprawling lawns rather than a medium-sized planter box.
Can a Smart Sprinkler Controller Help Save Money on Your Water Bill?
It's possible. Most of the smart sprinklers we tested allow you to create a watering schedule, so you can set the sprinkler to water your lawn on a certain day and time. This gives you complete control over the amount of water your smart sprinkler is using, which can help you avoid spending money on water when you don't have to. If you decide you don't want to water your grass on a given day, altering the schedule is as easy as using the device's companion app. The feature is helpful if you’re away from home and want to make changes to your current sprinkler schedule—or you simply want the convenience of setting it from your couch.
And with additional features like weather intelligence, our top pick, the Rachio 3, can also help save you money on your water bills by automatically skipping a session if rain or excessive wind is underway. However, most smart sprinklers can check the weather and make adjustments to watering schedules as needed, saving you money.
There’s always a potential privacy risk involved when you use internet-connected devices at home. To help safeguard your smart home, there are some steps you can take. First, look for devices that offer two-factor authentication, which sends a code to your mobile device to verify it’s you. That way, if someone tries to hack into your account, you will receive an alert and can quickly take care of the problem. Many devices also allow you to activate email or other push notifications in the settings to alert you if someone has logged on.
Additionally, make sure to use a unique, strong password composed of multiple characters, numbers, and letters for each of your smart home accounts. Data breaches feel like the norm as of late, making it all the more important to use different passwords across multiple websites and apps.
The Wyze Sprinkler Controller is full of customizable and intuitive features that water your yard efficiently, helping to keep the grass green while saving you money. We spent nearly a year using the Wyze Sprinkler Controller before writing our review, and after nearly 365 days of hands-on experience, the device is one of the best smart sprinkler controllers you can buy if you want to automate your lawn care.
Controls for each of the eight watering zones can be set up in the Wyze app. This is where you can set fixed watering schedules or opt to automatically run the sprinklers on an as-needed basis (based on local weather data). You can also set certain weather conditions that prompt Wyze to skip watering, such as temperature, wind speed, rainfall, and saturation levels. During our tests, the water automation features went off without a hitch every time.
The downside is that some of these features, like smart schedules and weather skips, are only available with a Wyze Sprinkler Plus subscription. The plan is $10 annually, which is a small price to pay for automatic watering, but still an extra to consider.
We experienced one instance where the controller inexplicably lost power, but Wyze built in a fail safe that runs the sprinklers on the last recorded schedule before things went dark. This makes it easy to check in on the status of your yard—even during a Wi-Fi or power outage.
One other downside to consider: The controller is not weatherproof, so you need to purchase a Wyze Sprinkler Controller Outdoor Box or place it indoors to avoid damage from the elements.
Outside of its waterproofing deficiencies and its complete lack of smart assistant integration of any kind, the Wyze Sprinkler Controller stands out as an ideal component to automate your in-ground sprinkler system on the cheap.
The B-hyve Wi-Fi sprinkler is Orbit's initial venture into the smart sprinkler realm, though the company has been in this business for 40 years. Its sprinkler controller is an affordable choice as long as you don't mind the bulky, industrial design. It's available with support for six or 12 zones.
The B-hyve's main design draw is its outdoor-friendly chassis, which comes with a keyed lock to keep the LCD control panel covered. It might seem decidedly low-tech compared to the other sprinkler controllers tested here, but the fact that you can set it up without even touching the app makes it friendly for first-timers.
Installing the B-hyve controller is easy. Instead of spring clips for connecting wires like the Rachio 3, the B-hyve uses recessed screws. After it's hooked up, you can then schedule the unit manually via the LCD panel or download the B-hyve app for more functionality, like pairing the device with your Wi-Fi network.
The B-hyve's smart watering algorithm consults the data you put in regarding the soil, the type of plants, and the amount of sun each zone receives to generate a water plan. You can also toss your zip code into the mix so that it factors in the weather. The program offered to us suggested two 10-minute watering intervals, six days a week. But our test garden couldn't go a day without it, so we turned it off completely and set a custom schedule instead.
Though it could use some aesthetic sprucing-up, the Orbit B-Hyve offers nearly as much of the same functionality as the Rachio 3 and its companion app at a fraction of the price. That makes it a solid choice for smart sprinkler controllers, especially if you like the familiarity of pressable buttons.
The Scotts Miracle-Gro smart watering controller is basically a rebranded Blossom Smart Watering controller. However, Miracle-Gro is very much its own product. Unlike the original Blossom, the casing on this device isn't made to withstand the harsh outdoors, nor does it offer the additional power line feature. Also, the power brick that's included in this particular kit is so bulky, we had to track down an extender to plug it into the outdoor outlet.
Nevertheless, the Miracle-Gro controller is easy enough for anyone to install, provided your wires are properly labeled—and if they’re not, Scotts includes a sheet of stickers precisely for labeling your sprinkler wires. Once you place the sprinkler wires in the appropriately marked spots, launch the Scotts Gro smartphone app for iOS or Android to get started.
The Scotts Miracle-Gro smart watering controller is a cinch to use, though a bit limited in functionality. You can choose between fixed- or interval-day watering schedules, and then select whether to manually set up a custom schedule or entrust the smart watering system to determine how long to water. There's also a feature that lets you "hibernate" the sprinkler system, in case there are months where you live when there's no use in watering at all. The big caveat is that the Gro Connect app doesn’t send push notifications after the system finishes watering, which makes it difficult to track whether the plants are being properly nurtured without physically checking the soil.
The Scotts Miracle-Gro smart sprinkler controller is also too barebones, even if you decide to spring the extra money for additional accessories, like the individual sensors. Its smart home skills are also limited to a few Alexa commands, which can leave home automation junkies feeling unsatisfied.
If all you need is to turn the water off and on from your smartphone, the Scotts Miracle-Gro smart sprinkler controller is worth it only if you’re a budget-conscious buyer.
The BlueSpray Wireless Irrigation Controller is unlike the other smart sprinklers we've tested—there's an archaic-looking fuse embedded into the device to help power it up. However, once you've figured out the trick to its confusing user interface, it's quite a useful sprinkler controller. Though if you're looking for something that's smart enough to integrate with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, stick with our top pick, the Rachio 3, which costs about the same.
The BlueSpray Wireless Irrigation Controller is also a pain to set up, made worse by the fact that the covering cannot withstand the outdoor elements. Setting up the individual irrigation zones requires a screwdriver to lock in the wires. There's also no easy-to-plug AC adapter included with the kit; instead, you have to take the spliced wires and connect them yourself. Fortunately, it doesn't matter which way you plug them in as long as they go into the power slot. But that's not exactly intuitive for a DIY install.
After you've hooked up the wires, it's time to connect the BlueSpray controller to your Wi-Fi network, which requires using the service switch in the bottom-left corner of the controller board. It was intimidating to use even for us.
There is no mobile app for the BlueSpray controller. Instead, there's a set of paper instructions included in the box with an IP address that you can navigate to in a desktop or mobile browser. Once there, you'll have to pore through numerous menu screens to configure anything. It's all very confusing and not easy to use in a rush. More than once, we accidentally shut off the system without realizing it wouldn't water until a few days had passed. Poor garden.
Florence Ion is a freelance journalist and prolific podcaster. She's written for Ars Technica, PC World, Android Central, The Verge, and Engadget. Her reviews and how-tos can usually be found on Lifehacker, Tom's Guide, and Reviewed. She can also be heard weekly on All About Android on the TWiT network and Material on Relay FM.
Nick Woodard is a tech journalist specializing in all things related to home theater and A/V. His background includes a solid foundation as a sports writer for multiple daily newspapers, and he enjoys hiking and mountain biking in his spare time.
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