Bruce owns a small farm and loves to grill since his early childhood. He’s a professional cook, but hiking and enjoying the great outdoors is his no less favorite part of life.
Last updated: January 19, 2021
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When it comes to helping the planet by conserving water, saving money on your water bills, and also saving the time and effort of manually watering your grass and plants, buying one of the best sprinkler controllers is a must. If you have invested quite a bit of time into your garden already, you can save precious time of watering your plants and repurposing that to another area of your garden that needs your attention.
In this guide, we’ll present to you our top ten picks. To choose them, we’ve done the work for you by reviewing over 35 different sprinkler controllers available on the market right now. Our favorite one was our Editor’s Choice, the Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller, thanks to its compatibility with a bevy of current electronic products, its clean display, and the ability to support both 2.4 and 5 GHz Wi-Fi. Apart from our Editor’s Choice, we’ll also explore nine other sprinkler controllers and tell you all the things that are great about them.
In our review of these sprinkler controllers, we’ll evaluate each product based on a number of important factors. These include the number of zones they support, Wi-Fi connection, compatibility with apps and devices, indoor/outdoor use, dimensions, and warranty. We’ve spent 65 hours for this researched and visited official websites, asked experts to help us, and checked customers’ feedback to make sure you will find the product of the highest quality. After our product reviews, we’ll then turn our attention to the buying guide section of this article, where we’ll go into much more detail about sprinkler controllers. Finally, we’ll present to you our top three choices for the best sprinkler controllers.
"An impressive device that comes with a durable weatherproof case, making it a fantastic outdoor option. Its Weather Sense technology provides proper watering based on the terrain type and weather forecasts."
"For larger gardens, you can go for this sprinkler controller with 16-zone coverage. It boasts a user-friendly interface, customizable watering with multiple parameters, and supports Amazon Alexa and Google Home."
"For those who worry about their plants getting too much water, you can rest assured with this sprinkler controller with overwatering protection. It is also quite durable and compatible with most devices."
The overall best sprinkler controller is our Editor’s Choice, the Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller. While it can be on the pricey side for some people, we think that if you want supreme quality, you need to look no further than the Rachio 3 that easily supports 8 zones and comes with a 2-year warranty.
Like most smart sprinkler controllers, this one easily connects to your home’s Wi-Fi and does so using either the 2.4 or 5 GHz bandwidth options. The connection to Wi-Fi enables it to check your local weather station to see what the forecast looks like and adjust your sprinkler’s schedule on the fly. Furthermore, you also connect it to the sensors and program it to water your lawn when it deems it necessary to do so. It also boasts compatibility with your favorite smart-home applications such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home and even comes with its very own mobile app, which you can use to program your sprinkler’s schedule and control it.
A downside to it is that the enclosure is not weather-resistant, so it is probably best to keep it inside your house unless you purchase a more weather-resistant enclosure for this unit. Overall, a terrific buy, and one that will save you heaps of money and time in the long run.
Next up on our list of the best sprinkler controllers, we have our top choice for Best Value, the Orbit B-hyve 8-Station Smart Wi-Fi Indoor Timer. The Orbit B-hyve packs a lot of punch into this budget controller, and it starts with its 8-zone control, which is more than enough for a standard-size garden.
It supports 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi connection, and in times, when your Wi-Fi is acting spotty, and the signal keeps getting disconnected, you can connect to the Orbit B-hyve through Bluetooth so that you can always make some adjustments. It comes with its very own mobile app as well, which is supported on most Android and Apple mobile phones. You can also control it with the Amazon Alexa smart home hub that allows you to operate four custom watering programs, which you can then manually override when you leave unexpectedly for a long period.
While the mobile app and the controller itself are fairly intuitive, if you have any tech-related issues, you’ll have to contact Orbit’s customer support team, but unfortunately, they are only available on the weekdays during business hours if you wish to speak with someone.
What we liked:
Compatible with mobile devices
Can create four custom watering programs
Can use Bluetooth as a backup in case Wi-Fi goes down
Our choice for the Best Indoor Controller is the Sprinkl Control SR-400. This unit covers a whopping 16 zones so that all areas of your big garden are watered properly.
Like most controllers, this one by Sprinkl has a Wi-Fi feature and uses it to connect with its own mobile app. With the mobile app, you can automate your watering schedules by adding new programs and change existing ones all from the comfort of your Android or Apple device. It even supports the Amazon Alexa smart home hub for extra convenience. This particular device is meant to be installed in a nice and dry indoor setting. Its Sprinkl sensors do all the work for you as they are able to measure in-soil moisture levels and then transmits that data to the controller in real-time.
While many users are generally happy with this product, there are some complaints that it’s too expensive for what you get, and it does not come with the Sprinkl sensors in the bundle.
Orbit makes another appearance on our list of the best sprinkler controllers, but this time with their B-hyve Smart Indoor/Outdoor 6-Station. Its weatherproof case allows it to be installed either indoors or outdoors and to withstand any punishment from the weather.
This B-hyve controller is similar to its cousin, with the exception that this one only supports 6 zones, which is more than fine if you have an average-sized garden. It supports 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi transmission and is compatible with a number of different devices, including most Android and Apple devices, as well as the Alexa smart home hub. This controller comes with Weather Sense technology, which provides proper watering based on the terrain of your garden. You can set your watering schedule using the mobile app or water your plants manually with the simple push of a button.
While most customers are happy with this product, much like with its 8-zone cousin, the limited customer service support is a big downside for those who need proper support.
What we liked:
Weather Sense technology adjusts water amount based on terrain
Compatible with most smart devices
Can set and control watering schedules with mobile app
The RainMachine Pro-16 is our top choice for bigger gardens. With this controller, you’re getting a massive 16-zone coverage, which can accommodate just about any sized garden.
Get up and running with this controller by using Wi-Fi, and once it is connected, you can customize your watering by plant type, soil type, slope/terrain, and sun exposure. It conserves water and adjusts water schedules by getting weather forecasts from your local weather stations. In terms of tech compatibility, it supports most Android and Apple devices, and you can also use voice commands with Amazon Alexa and Google Home to control your water schedules. It is incredibly easy to install and can only be done so indoors because its enclosure is not made of weather-resistant materials. Another fantastic advantage of this sprinkler is its very clean user interface on both the mobile app and the controller itself. The controls on the front panel make it simple to program and easy to learn as you go along.
One notable downside of this controller is the level of customer support, which is often lacking. A few people have mentioned that it was hard to reach someone from the company to solve some issues.
What we liked:
16-zone support for all-sized gardens
Custom watering by plant, soil, and terrain types
Compatible with most current mobile and smart home devices
The Netro Sprite Smart Sprinkler Controller is a beautifully-designed water-efficient unit. Like the previous controllers, this one by Netro supports 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi, and through its connectivity, you can bind it to your Android or Apple device as well as Amazon Alexa. It comes with a solid 2-year warranty and is designed for indoor or outdoor use, although if you plan on keeping it outside, you’ll need a waterproof enclosure, which this does not come with.
In terms of water efficiency, this Netro Sprite is one of the best. It can be programmed so that it is fully automatic, whereby it dynamically creates and adjusts your watering schedules that are optimal for each zone and type of plant and soil. You’ll save quite a bit on the bills thanks to this controller because it uses data from weather forecasts as well as historical info to make the right decision as to how much water your garden will need. And if you’ve ever thought of setting the limitations, you’ll be happy to know that it complies with any and all watering rules your city or district.
Among the notable complaints, some users commented that the app could be better and more intuitive.
What we liked:
Compatible with modern mobile devices
Schedule is adaptable for terrain, soil, and plants
Uses data from local weather forecasts and historical info
Thus far, we’ve seen sprinkler controllers that almost mirror each other in functionality and features, but this one is a bit different and one that we’re calling the Best Technological Controller, the Aeon Matrix Yardian Smart Sprinkler Controller with HD Camera.
As the name suggests, this is one of the best lawn sprinkler controllers because it comes equipped with a high-definition camera. With this camera, you’re able to have full surveillance access to your irrigation system so that you can check in what’s happening to your yard day and night. You can easily pair this controller to your mobile phone using their mobile app that is compatible with most Android and Apple devices, including Amazon Alexa. You’re able to automate your watering schedules with this app fully, and it also can anticipate changes in weather patterns as it connects to your local weather station. This controller can be installed indoor and can withstand the rigors of changing weather thanks to its durable exterior made of UV-stabilized, flame-retardant material. Another big tech feature with this controller is that it also has motion detection, and you can receive alerts to your phone when someone or something enters your lawn.
A common issue with this controller is that its Wi-Fi connectivity range is quite small. However, you can resolve it by adding the bridge to your system.
For those who might not be so tech-savvy or are new to the sprinkler controller game, they might feel a bit overwhelmed with some of the smart sprinkler controller options. With the Hunter Industries X-Core 8-Station Controller, they really don’t have to be intimidated by much as it’s what we’re calling the Best User-Friendly Controller.
With this no-frills controller, you’re getting one that does not connect to Wi-Fi or any smart device for that matter. Rather, you’ll actually have to program the settings you want yourself on the controller manually. It is incredibly easy to install and begin using the unit right away. An optional add-on for this product is the Hunter’s ROAM Remote Control, but it does not come with this controller, and you’ll have to purchase it separately. Another extra purchase you’ll have to make is the Solar Sync ET sensors, and with these wireless sensors, it is able to detect weather pattern changes and adjust your Hunter controller accordingly.
While many of the users are extremely happy with it, there is still a downside that you don’t get forecast updates or smart features that might look appealing for some.
The Rain Bird ST8-2.0 is another convenient controller that is perfect for indoors because of its very small size. You can put it anywhere inside your house, and its small size can go unnoticed.
While it’s indoors, it packs a mighty water punch on your lawn outdoors. It covers 8-zones and has Wi-Fi compatibility. You can easily connect your Android and Apple devices to the Rain Bird mobile app, where you can automate your watering schedule and have access to the weather forecasts so that either you or the app itself can make some adjustments. If you ever feel that the app is too tech-savvy for you, you can always manage your water settings on the controller. As soon as your watering is completed, you will be able to get notifications on your phone.
A very common complaint with this controller, unfortunately, is that the instructions are not clear enough. Therefore, it can be harder to figure out how to program it correctly. Still, after you learn the program, you will benefit from the variety of settings it provides.
For those who want all the thrill of having a smart sprinkler controller but don’t want to splurge on a fancy model, we recommend the Blossom 0080-AWICD 7-Zone Wi-Fi Sprinkler Controller.
Despite being a budget option, this controller boasts many of the features of other smart sprinkler controllers for as much as three-to-four times less in price. With this controller, you get one that covers a solid 7 zones and has Wi-Fi connectivity. Like other controllers, it is compatible with different mobile devices, as well as Amazon Alexa. It has a very clean and simplistic look to it as well, and it is meant for indoor installation. If you don’t mind its size, it is on the bigger side, but the controller itself is quite durable. You can use the Blossom mobile app to set up your preferred watering schedule easily, and the app itself even helps to prevent over-watering.
Nevertheless, there is a number of flaws with it. The Wi-Fi connection is not very strong, and the slightest blip in your signal can shut the whole controller off. A few people also noted that it could randomly reset your settings, which you’ll, unfortunately, lose.
What we liked:
Low price tag
Compatible with most devices
Automated watering schedule with Blossom mobile app
What could be better:
Weak Wi-Fi connection
Possible tech issues
Things to Consider
Now that we’ve taken a look at the ten best sprinkler controllers available on the market, it’s time to focus on the buying guide section. Here, we’ll go into more detail and discuss some of the nuances about these units. In doing so, we hope to provide you with as much information as possible so that you can make the right decision when it comes time to purchase the sprinkler controller for your gardening needs. Let’s get started!
How to pick the best sprinkler controller?
When it comes to picking the best sprinkler controller for you, there are a few features you should pay close attention to. Most of these features we’ve already touched on briefly in our product reviews, but now, we’ll explain them more in-depth. Here, we’ll take a look at the number of zones, the sprinkler controller’s connectivity with mobile devices, its compatibility with online services, whether it receives weather updates, has ports for sensors, has automated scheduling, dimensions, and pricing. Many things go into an all-around great sprinkler controller, and these are the most important factors you should evaluate when buying yours. In explaining each of these features, we hope to provide you with more knowledge and insight so that you can make an informed decision.
Number of zones
If you’re familiar with sprinkler controllers, then you’re more than familiar with what zones mean. As you may already know, not every part of your garden may be the same. There may be some grass and some plants, and thus, a zone refers to the water needs that that particular area of your garden needs. There is no such thing as a standard number when it comes to sprinkler controllers, although eight zones seem to be a popular choice among buyers. However, on our list of the best sprinkler controllers, you can see that they can range from 6-16 zones.
The bigger is your garden, the more zones a sprinkler controller should cover.
Connectivity with mobile devices
Just like with many electronic devices, the progress of technology has taken these units to the next level. Those new heights include the Wi-Fi capability, which most of these sprinkler controllers are capable of. Having this feature is essential because it means you can use your internet connection to control the water supply in your garden with a mobile app. With our Editor’s Choice, the Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller, you can even choose from either the 2.4 or 5 GHz Wi-Fi connection. The 2.4 allows for greater range while transferring smaller batches of data, whereas the 5 has a shorter range but allows for a higher volume of data to be transferred.
Compatibility with online services
The convenience doesn’t just end with Wi-Fi and mobile phone connectivity. Many of the smart sprinkler controllers now have compatibility with the best smart home devices. Some of these devices are the Google Nest, Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and more. Having this capability just provides further convenience for the user, especially if you are quite busy and want to save some time. All you have to do is to use voice commands, and let the unit do its magic. For example, the RainMachine Pro-16 can be used with Amazon Alexa or Apple HomeKit.
Automatic weather updates
You really get a lot of great functions with these smart sprinkler controllers, and another one of them is the automatic weather updates. Because these devices are connected via Wi-Fi, these sprinkler controllers are able to access weather updates and use weather forecasts to control the amount of water that will go out from your lawn sprinklers. If it was raining overnight, the sensors can detect the moisture and react accordingly. It can choose not to turn on the sprinklers at all or turn them but not for a long time.
Overwatering your garden can be one of the worst things you can do for your plants and grass, and having automated weather update function is great to prevent this from happening and save you water costs as well.
If you plan to use the sensors in your garden, there’s a great benefit of doing so. The primary reason for having sensors is that they are able to detect the moisture level in your grass and soil and can tell you whether or not it needs more or less water. Many of the devices from our list, such as the Sprinkl Control SR-400, are compatible with sensors, and when they work together, they help you save time and money on water bills. However, carefully check the product description because often, the manufacturers don’t include the sensors in the package.
Another important feature of a sprinkler controller is watering scheduling. This allows you to set a specific schedule that is tailored to the needs of your garden. However, not every sprinkler controller allows you to create your own schedule as some have certain restrictions based on the area or city you live in. These controllers will ensure you are in compliance with these regulations. In any event, having the flexibility to be able to choose how often you want to water your plants is a great function to have. For instance, the Orbit B-hyve Smart Indoor/Outdoor 6-Station provides real-time updates to make sure your plants get proper watering.
Indoor vs. outdoor use
When it comes to where you should place your controller, it really depends on the one you choose to buy. Some are designed strictly for indoor use, while others offer the ability to be used both indoors and outdoors. If you are looking for a sprinkler controller for outdoor use, make sure it has a durable case to protect it from rain and other elements.
Generally speaking, the dimensions of sprinkler controllers are fairly compact, with some, like the Netro Sprite Smart Sprinkler Controller, being able to fit in the palm of your hand. There are others, however, that are nearly twice as large in the dimensions. Sprinkler controllers typically range in size from anywhere between 5-10 inches tall by 5-10 inches wide with a depth of anywhere between 1-4 inches.
In the event that your sprinkler controller malfunctions or a part becomes defective, you can take advantage of the warranty policies from the original manufacturer. All of the sprinkler controllers we reviewed come with at least a 1-year warranty plan, while some of them are offering 2-year warranties. Many customers have taken advantage of these warranty policies to replace defective parts, or they have received an entirely new sprinkler controller quite fast.
Be sure to read carefully when the warranty kicks in as some products may require you to register your controller first before being eligible for its warranty.
With such a large selection of sprinkler controllers out there on the market, it’s only natural to find a large range in prices. Thus, it really comes down to what amount you’re willing to invest in a unit. We’ve broken down some examples of the products into three different pricing categories to simplify it for you.
Lastly, in our higher-end pricing tier, we see our premium option, the Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller, that costs about $220 and offers computability with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and various mobile devices.
In the event of a power outage, the settings you have input into the sprinkler controller should be saved and restored once the power comes back on. If you are using a mobile app, your settings are automatically saved on the online server. All you need to do is to create an account to make sure the data is kept there. Even if this happens, it shouldn’t take much time to make all the adjustments once again. With some units, you can even take advantage of having manual back-ups to restore all your settings.
It can sometimes be daunting doing the installation of tech devices. However, the sprinkler controllers that we’ve reviewed are all a breeze to set up, and you can easily do it yourself. On average, it takes about 10-20 minutes to install your unit, and most devices nowadays come with setup kits. These mounting kits provide you with everything you need to install it inside or outside your house. Make sure to check the product description to find whether there is a weather-resist encasement.
The newest and more advanced sprinkler controllers, like the ones we reviewed, are equipped with smart technology, meaning that it can use the internet access to adjust the settings. This allows the controller to find the weather forecasts from your local weather station and to adapt to changing weather patterns in real-time. Thus, if you have a watering schedule set for every day of the week and the next few days’ forecast is calling for rain, the controller will not program the sprinklers to run because of the upcoming weather. This helps you tremendously in saving money on your water bill as well as it helps you from overwatering your lawn and getting excess moisture, which can be damaging to your plants and soil.
In our search for the best sprinkler controller, we identified top 3 models for different reasons.
The best overall sprinkler is also our Editor’s Choice, the Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller. This is just an all-around fantastic sprinkler controller that is compatible with the largest number of mobile and smart home hub devices. It also supports two different Wi-Fi frequencies, which is great because it allows you to choose how you wish to transmit data to your controller.
Our Best Value, the Orbit B-hyve 8-Station Smart Wi-Fi Indoor Timer is another solid all-around pick that is most notable for its shockingly low price. It also supports Wi-Fi connection, and in the event that your Wi-Fi goes down, you can use Bluetooth as a backup measure to adjust the settings.