I tried a smart hose timer—here's how it went
With no in-ground sprinkler-system, this smart hose timer is a lifesaver for my yard
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Earlier this year, I had some landscaping work done at my home. In the weeks following the installation of my new Bahia sod, when I was soaking the new yard almost daily, I often found myself lamenting the fact that I didn’t have an in-ground sprinkler system to do the work for me. Enter the second-gen Orbit B-hyve Smart Hose Faucet Timer, an alternative to a smart sprinkler controller that attaches to a garden hose and can be controlled from your phone.
I tried out Orbit’s smart watering ecosystem to see if it could handle a basic yard on a budget. Here’s how it went.
What is the Orbit B-hyve Smart Hose Faucet Timer?
The second-generation smart hose timer is the latest smart watering device in the B-hyve line, which is manufactured by Orbit. The hose timer turns any outdoor faucet into a smart faucet, giving you the ability to control hoses and manage watering schedules from anywhere using the companion app. The remote control functionality puts the control in your pocket, helping to save you money on water bills by watering your lawn and garden more efficiently than a typical hose-and-sprinkler setup.
Unlike the first-generation hose timer, the second-generation features a display. It also offers a better Bluetooth range over the inaugural model. Additional sizes in two-zone and four-zone editions are also available for purchase.
The device comes with the Orbit B-Hyve Wi-Fi hub, which you need to operate the sprinkler. You can also connect directly to the device via Bluetooth. The model I tried included just one nozzle—it runs on two AA batteries, not included.
What we like
It offers intuitive smart watering features for thirsty grass
For most, Smart Watering will be the way to go, as B-hyve's smart hose timer adjusts in real-time to weather predictions and environmental characteristics in the area, taking the brainpower out of watering the grass.
It’s quite convenient, and I’d imagine there are lots of situations beyond everyday use where it could come in handy—even on vacation when you’re probably not paying much attention to the weather patterns back home.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Smart Watering features is the depth to which you can specify exactly what your sprinklers are watering. There are more than a dozen settings ranging from soil type (sand, clay, loam, etc.) and plant type (cool turf, warm turf, annual flowers, trees, desert plants, etc.) to typical sunlight totals and the slope of your property—and each serves a unique purpose relative to your watering plan.
Additional categories including sprinkler types and quantities, rainfall and catch-cup readings, seasonal schedule adjustments, and drought settings. So if you want to, well, get in the weeds, there are plenty of ways to do it.
The app offers useful watering insights
The B-hyve Smart Hose Faucet Timer and the companion app work together to track your watering history. I found this feature helpful because it makes it easy to go back and see how frequently I’ve been watering and how much water I’ve been using in the process.
The app shows other helpful insights like watering totals broken out by day, week, month, or year, with side-by-side comparisons illustrating cycle-over-cycle changes using bar graphs alongside the raw data. In the app, the information can also be filtered by watering program (the device can handle up to four simultaneous schedules in addition to the automated Smart Watering option) or by zone, which is more useful for those using multiple hose timers.
You can water the grass with smart assistants Alexa and Google Assistant
If you're the type who would rather control your garden hose with your voice than your phone, you'll be pleased to know that this smart hose timer works with Alexa and Google Assistant. Apple HomeKit functionality is not yet available and is "coming soon," so you can't use Siri to control hose. For a smart hose timer that works with HomeKit, check out the Eve Aqua Guard.
Using hands-free voice control via Alexa or Google Assistant, you can turn the faucet on and off with just a few spoken words. Additional voice control features like managing rain delay, watering schedules, and modes are also available with both smart assistants.
With Alexa or Google Assistant, you can use hands-free voice control to control features like rain delay and watering schedules. You can also use voice commands to change modes, like starting or stopping a watering cycle, and check in to see when your next water schedule is set to.
What we don't like
The Rain Delay feature can be finicky
Included among the smart hose timer's many features is a weather adjustments panel that allows you to tweak the thresholds that put the timer in Rain Delay mode, effectively canceling any pre-programmed sessions if rain is expected in the area. Though the setting is no doubt useful in a drier or more predictable climate, it presented some challenges where I live, in Florida, due to the erratic weather so common to our state.
The device’s Rain Delay Percentage Threshold came at a 30% chance of rain with the depth threshold set to 0.125 inches, and the app noted that a delay would not be triggered unless both requirements were met. However, I found that the typical forecast during an Orlando summer met those baselines virtually every day, regardless of whether (or how much) it ended up raining.
The option of manual watering is always available, however, I wanted to see just how much leeway the Rain Delay setting was giving itself when I had a program set to run automatically. I ultimately found that a threshold of at least 70% and an inch of rain were necessary to circumvent the Rain Delay rules and run the sprinkler as scheduled on a typical summer day in the Sunshine State. However, your results may vary depending on where you live.
The Bluetooth range is too limited for large yards
Though the Orbit B-hyve Smart Hose Faucet Timer boasts a long-range Bluetooth chip that allows for connectivity within a 500-foot line of sight, I found that range to be far more limited in practice when operating using only the Bluetooth connection.
Over a few weeks of use, I had several occasions when the Orbit B-hyve timer informed me the “device is taking too long to respond,” before canceling a command. However, if you can see the timer, you should generally be fine on Bluetooth alone.
That said, all bets are off once you’re inside the house or off-property, making the version with the Wi-Fi hub an even more worthwhile investment since it allows you to make adjustments from wherever you happen to be.
Manual adjustments are hard to make
There was one particular day during testing when I moved the sprinkler while mowing the grass, then forgot to replace it in the yard when I was done. Hours later, a scheduled session began. I’d set it to water in 12-hour increments for 10 minutes at a time—and my sprinkler started pelting the side of the house with water.
My phone wasn’t handy at the time, so I sprinted outside to shut the timer off manually and ultimately found it easier to turn off the faucet than to use the device’s manual controls, something I also experienced during my initial tinkering with the device.
After a little trial and error, I was able to shut the water off from the timer. However, the fastest and easiest route would have been to turn off the faucet. It’s not a major issue, but the current setup is by no means intuitive, which could be challenging for the tech-inept among us.
Should You Buy It?
Yes, the Orbit B-hyve Smart Hose Faucet Timer is a great alternative if you don't have an in-ground sprinkler system.
The Orbit B-hyve Smart Hose Faucet Timer is easy to set up and works well, despite a few minor limitations. If you lack an in-ground sprinkler system, then the smart hose faucet timer is a quick and workable solution. It’s also ideal if you only want to water certain areas of your lawn, like a garden, without overwatering.
Overall, the faucet timer is a more affordable alternative to in-ground sprinkler systems, which can cost thousands. If your yard only requires a simple setup and you want a reliable timer that works remotely, Orbit's smart hose timer will serve your lawn well.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.