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 $199.99) 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
Orbit B-Hyve XR Smart Sprinkler Timer
Wyze Sprinkler Controller
Eve Aqua Smart Sprinkler Controller
Rain Bird ST8I-2.0
Scotts Miracle-Gro Smart Watering 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 Orbit B-Hyve XR has a useful app that optimizes performance and is one of the only controllers in our guide that can control a wired, multi-zone sprinkler system while being subjected to the elements, thanks to its built-in waterproof case. Plus, while this isn’t exactly a measurable feature, this thing just looks like it means business.
The app’s home screen shows your current scheduled programs, with buttons that allow you to set a rain delay (which temporarily pauses watering for a specified amount of time), and to immediately jumpstart a manual watering session. The B-Hyve also features WeatherSense Technology, which essentially means that the controller will tailor your watering schedule to the upcoming weather in your area. If your town experiences a significant rainfall, the B-Hyve will automatically shut off any zones that may have been running and instinctively recalculate the amount of watering your grass will need moving forward.
Perhaps the best aspect of the B-Hyve, aside from its compatibility with Alexa, is that none of the stellar features it offers are hidden behind a paid subscription plan. The automatic rain delays, smart scheduling, and more are all features that are included right out of the box. That, in conjunction with an easy-to-use app and a simple install bolstered by a true, weatherproof controller, is exactly why the B-Hyve stands tall as one of the best of the bunch.
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.
Everything about the Hunter HC-600i, from its wildly simple setup to its elegantly-designed app, is meant to help you get the most out of your sprinkler system. Admittedly, some of the app’s adjustable settings may be a bit more involved than some folks may have bargained for. But for the most part, the HC-600i is filled to the brim with tools to help keep your grass green and your water bill low.
After getting the wiring squared away and going through the roughly five-minute (or less) installation process, the HC-600i’s accompanying app presents you with a robust, useful home dashboard. There are options to view your last run as well as your next, plus the ability to pause or play each of your zones. The dashboard is rounded out by an observation tab that shows recent temperatures and rainfall, as well as a tab displaying the overall status of the controller.
Elsewhere in the app, you can tap into multiple, more advanced features for the controller. Hunter’s Predictive Watering Adjustments let you manage your watering based on upcoming weather forecasts. The same adjustments as available for other weather characteristics, like wind speed and rainfall.
These are more intricate settings, of course, and they may not be worth tampering with for many lawns owners. But if you like to tinker, the HC-600i is more than willing to let you.
The HC-600i isn’t weatherproof and is meant to be mounted indoors. So, if your sprinkler controller is located on the outside of your house, you will need to invest in some sort of weatherproofing housing or materials.
The Netro Spark 8 is a sleek smart sprinkler controller with impressive features to match. It offers several different control zones (eight), smart scheduling that takes into account local weather, and the ability to adjust each setting on the fly from your smartphone. Unlike many of its competitors, though, the Netro Spark offers compatibility with smart assistants like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, as well as IFTTT.
While it does look sharp, the Spark 8 doesn’t feel quite as exquisite to the touch. In fact, it’s closer to the cheap side of things than not. That doesn’t stop it from having a perfectly functional display, with an analog clock-style display up top and three icons across the bottom. Through those buttons, you can select a zone, how long you’d like to water that zone, and the on/off switch for your sprinklers.
The home screen of the app delivers a pleasant snapshot of your yard and the environment it’s in. You can see current weather conditions, a five-day forecast of the week ahead, and a recap of your last water cycle alongside a look at when your sprinklers are set to spring into action again.
The Netro 8’s Smartzone functionality is dependent on not just your local weather, but local watering regulations as well. Depending on how much you need to water your lawn to keep things lush, this may or may not be an issue. The same goes for the optional Netro Whisperer, a plant sensor that will boost the Netro Spark's capabilities but is an additional cost. Still, even without the add-on and the inherited local oversight of your watering practices, the Netro Spark 8 packs a unique feature set with solid performance to boot.
The Eve Aqua is a unique addition to this roundup, for multiple reasons. First, it only works strictly with hose-based systems, as opposed to a more traditional wired sprinkler system. Second, it’s the only controller on this list that works exclusively with Apple products.
The good news is, if you fit into the very niche community that lives at the intersection of Apple and hose controllers, then the Eve Aqua is an excellent choice. It seamlessly works with Siri and Apple Home, and offers many of the perks that most other competitors boast. You can have the Eve operate on an autonomous schedule, adjust those schedules away from your home to meet specific watering needs, and keep track of just how much water your garden is consuming. Plus, in something of a rare occurrence for smart sprinkler controllers, the Eve Aqua has an IPX4 weather-resistance rating to protect it from the elements. The very nature of the device sort of demands that protection at the minimum, but it’s still nice to see a sprinkler controller with some degree of water resistance.
The catch, of course, is that the Eve Aqua is a very targeted product. It makes the most sense for someone who regularly waters a garden that doesn’t already have irrigation lines, or for someone who needs to water a part of their yard that their regular sprinklers aren’t quite reaching. If you have a standard sprinkler system with multiple zones that you’re hoping to make smart, the Eve Aqua just isn’t built to make that happen, no matter how much it sets itself apart from the masses.
Of all the smart sprinkler controllers in our guide, the Rain Bird ST-8 is the one that most resembles the current controller overseeing your sprinkler system. But don’t let the rather mundane, retro aesthetic fool you. The ST-8 has a plethora of modern features that gives it a seat at the smart controller table, including oft-coveted support for Alexa. More notably, it offers automatic adjustments that adapt your sprinkler schedule based on factors such as the season you’re in, the local weather, temperature and current humidity.
Other somewhat standard, but essential features include the ST-8’s ability to operate up to eight zones individually or altogether, as well as manual control over when and how long you want to run your sprinklers from just about anywhere in the world, as long as you have Wi-Fi. Rain Bird was also thoughtful enough to include a battery-operated manual backup interface in case you lose power or Wi-Fi, allowing your sprinkler controller to keep an eye on things without skipping a beat.
The Achilles Heel of the Rain Bird ST-8, at least in the minds of some prospective buyers, is that it doesn’t stand out in one particular category. It has all the tools needed to competently run the show when it comes to your yard. It just doesn’t have a particular “it” factor that makes it a must-have compared to other selections throughout this roundup.
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.
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 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, we 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.
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.
Finally, most of the smart sprinklers we tested are certified by the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program. Why does this matter? Well, depending on where you live, you may be eligible for a rebate for buying one that monitors the weather and, ultimately, uses less water to make your lawn look good. That puts more cash back in your pocket, making a smart sprinkler worth the investment.
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.
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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