The EPA says that a WaterSense controller could save the average home 8,800 gallons of water a year (PDF). Soil moisture sensors, flow meters, catch cups, and other add-ons commonly offered with a smart controller can all help fine-tune how the system reacts, but they are not essential to the core functionality of the controllers (see Soil-moisture sensors). Beyond setup, however, the app becomes a bit too simple and unintuitive. Netro has a new model, the Spark, and it is offering the Sprite for a $29.99 annual subscription option, which we do not recommend. It’s WaterSense-certified and has a compatible solar-powered soil-moisture sensor that also records temperature (this was not available for testing). The Rachio 3 used less water than we would have with our old system (which was set to run every other day, for a total of 180 minutes a week, regardless of weather). If you want a weather-resistant controller that you can install outdoors, check out this product from Rain Bird. You don't have to worry about leaving it outside since it is enclosed in a waterproof case. A feature we like is Adaptive Frequency, which skips a schedule if RainMachine’s algorithms determine it needs to water for only a few minutes and then adds those minutes to the next watering. The A, B, C, D system it uses may be familiar to irrigation experts, but it’s just a confusing holdover from basic clocks and not useful for the average homeowner. Smart controllers are for use only with underground sprinkler systems that have wired controllers; they will not work with battery-operated controllers or hose timers. Since we first started testing Yardian devices, the company has improved its hardware and software substantially. In either case, you’ll want to get a WiFi controller that includes a touch screen panel. (If your Wi-Fi goes down, they will continue to operate based on a preprogrammed schedule.) Interestingly, Fipps said he wouldn’t install one in his own yard, but he and Swanson do recommend them for someone who hasn’t spent their career studying irrigation. These integrations let you use your voice assistant of choice to start or stop watering or to start or stop a specific zone (so you can turn the sprinklers on whenever the neighbor’s dog wanders over to wee in your garden). Once everything is set up, the main screen gives you very clear notice of what state your system is in, which is something we really liked. Based on this, we evaluated how each controller responded to changes in weather during testing and whether it allowed us to select a weather station versus a data source chosen by the controller. This technology enables scheduling based on the zone and sprinkler types. According to experts we spoke with, these sensors are also not very effective in a residential setting because topsoil isn’t deep enough for accurate readings. Sprinkl Control - The Smart Sprinkler Hub - 16 Zone WiFi Smart Irrigation Controller - Weather Intellige… Some of the expensive smart watering systems, like Rachio 3, even have 16 zones. CR’s take: The Rachio 3 8ZULW-C is a solid sprinkler controller that's easy to connect to WiFi and is highly responsive to local forecasts, receiving a Very Good rating for that capability. Recommended Article: Turn Your Yard Into a Relaxing Mini Getaway. The wording can get a bit clunky, leaving lots of room for miscommunication: “Alexa, ask Rachio to start zone four for 15 minutes,” or “Alexa, ask Rachio to stop watering.” We found the HomeKit integration to be the most seamless. We really like B-hyve’s simple on-device control—its designers packed a lot of functionality into a single LED-lit button. All data is encrypted in transit and sensitive data is stored according to industry best-practices. One important thing to know: Many sprinkler controllers aren’t actually waterproof, so they need to be installed either indoors or in a protected space, or you need to buy a compatible weatherproof enclosure. The company says HomeKit compatibility is coming soon—we’ll revisit this device when that’s available. Basic onboard controls—to trigger each zone for three minutes—are accessible on the outside of the device, and a magnetic cover provides easy access to the wiring. The difference is that with RainMachine, you can add Weather Adaptive Watering to adjust that schedule based on the weather. In addition, this model has EPA WaterSense Certification to ensure sustainable water use.
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