For many smart home devices, deciding whether or not you need them is a matter of preference. I understand if you’d rather get up and flip off a light switch instead of pulling out your phone and doing the same thing with an app. But a handful of categories offer so many benefits, that they’re worth the upgrade for all — think smart thermostats and their energy savings along with their significant improvements to ease-of-use.
I’m here to tell you that smart sprinklers belong in the no-brainer category of smart home upgrades. Seriously. Smart sprinklers might not be anywhere near the top of your list when you think of connected devices, but if you have an in-ground sprinkler system, you need one. Here are six reasons why.
This part’s obvious. Like most connected devices, you can control smart sprinklers with an app. Smart sprinklers are designed to replace the existing sprinkler controller for your in-ground sprinkler system. Some can screw onto an ordinary faucet, and I quite liked the Orbit B-hyve Faucet Timer, but you’ll get the most benefit from a smart sprinkler if it’s powering the existing watering system that covers your yard. Replacing an existing controller is usually easy enough. Then you just need to use the app to connect your new smart sprinkler to Wi-Fi and you’re up and running.
The apps for the Rachio Smart Sprinkler (both the second- and third-gen sprinklers) and the Orbit B-hyve are particularly intuitive. You can set up schedules, see a watering calendar, and turn your sprinklers on or off with the push of a button.
All of these app-enabled features are a significant upgrade from walking to the shed and fussing with the tedious buttons and knobs of old-school controllers.
The app’s an even bigger upgrade when it’s raining. Instead of heading out into the elements yourself to reach your shed and flip off your sprinkler, or deciding you don’t want to bother and letting the water go to waste, you can quickly shut them off with the app. With the best smart sprinklers, you won’t even have to do that.
Most smart sprinklers monitor the weather for you, so they’ll automatically be on top of the fact that it’s raining and you won’t see your sprinklers start running in the first place. They’re generally aware of rain in the forecast, and they’ll adapt your watering schedule accordingly.
In fact, not only will your smart sprinkler adapt your schedule to the weather before you even need to think about it, but they can also set up your whole watering schedule for you from scratch.
Many of the best smart sprinklers offer a variety of scheduling options. My favorite is Rachio’s approach, which ranges all the way from fully autonomous to moderate and predictable smarts to letting you handle everything.
With both Rachio and Orbit, you can tell the app about your yard, and then you can let it decide when it’s best to water and for how long. Even with these fully autonomous schedules, you can block off days if you have local watering restrictions, and the app will work the schedule around those limits. You don’t have to think about when it would be best to water and how often. The app will handle it all and water when necessary.
Smarter than you
You might want to listen to your smart sprinkler’s advice, even if you do traditionally like to set your sprinkler schedule. Smart sprinklers use a variety of metrics to determine how fast the water will evaporate from your soil given the info you tell it about your yard. They can break up watering times into smaller segments automatically to help the water soak in and reduce run-off. They can automatically calculate how to fit all of this in before sunrise and adapt the schedule as that time changes over the course of a season.
At least when it comes to how best to water your lawn, your smart sprinkler is likely smarter than you — unless you’re a gardening or lawn expert. If so, you’ll be happy to know that the best of the bunch also allow you to finely tune the details of your yard such as root depth, the precise area of your zones and inches of water delivered per hour. Your smart sprinkler can be your lawn care expert, or it can collaborate with you if you are one.
All of the smarts, scheduling, and weather awareness add up to the biggest reason to upgrade to a smart sprinkler — it’ll save water and in turn save you money on your water bill. Smart sprinklers can cost anywhere from $100 to $280, but they’re likely to pay you back over the course of the next couple of summers.
Most are certified by the EPA’s Watersense program, which allows you to get rebates on your utility bill for using a smart sprinkler. The EPA gives those rebates because all of the smarts — from calculating how quickly water evaporates to monitoring when it’s going to rain — help smart sprinklers keep your lawn healthy with less water wasted in the process.
The practical advantages of saving water while spending less time fussing with your sprinkler comprise the main reasons to upgrade your old controller to an internet connected option, but smart sprinklers can be fun too. If you want to show off to your guests, try a voice-powered waterworks show.
Rachio works with both Amazon’s assistant Alexa, so you can control it with smart speakers like the Amazon Echo. Rachio also works with Google’s Alexa competitor called Google Assistant, so you can control your sprinklers by talking to your Google Home as well. Orbit’s smart sprinklers also work with both popular digital assistants, so you can start or stop your various zones with a voice command.
Which sprinklers do we recommend?
Part of the reason I’m so enthused about smart sprinklers is that a couple of options stand out as highly competent connected gadgets. The second-gen Rachio smart sprinkler is my current favorite at $200 for an eight-zone sprinkler and $250 for 16 zones. Rachio offers the most scheduling options of the bunch and has an intuitive app that mixes a simple setup with detailed control options if you want them.
The third-gen Rachio is a great option too if you want to integrate your sprinkler with a flow meter to detect leaks. It’s only $30 more. If you want a great budget option, the Orbit B-Hyve is only $100 for six zones and $120 for 12. The six-zone controller is £150 in the UK and AU$320 in Australia. Orbit’s sprinkler doesn’t have quite the flexibility of Rachio, but it’s almost as smart for a lot less.