Watering your yard can be a time consuming chore.  Even with the plethora of irrigation and sprinkler systems, many of them are not efficient.  Automated models can over water, there hasn’t been a consideration for natural rainfall and maintenance can be an issue.

Throughout their span in the world of landscaping, sprinkler control mechanisms have been a bunch of clunky choices.  Most have a basic rotary dial, an array of switches and possibly a basic LCD monitor.

Changes are coming more frequently now with the introduction of smart sprinkler controllers.  The updates are emerging from startups that are looking to bring systems into the 21st century and venerable companies that modernized their gear with more sophisticated mechanisms.

Here’s a recap of a couple options that offer refined choices to optimize you watering efforts.

Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller (Generation 2)

In this niche there’s not a lot of competition.  Rachio’s new Gen 2 controller offers the widest assortment of features and it delivers ease of use.

Don’t be asking about hardware because there are not any external controls.  The process is administered via a clever mobile app. That’s why it falls into the “smart” category.  The weather intelligence feature will reduce watering when Mother Nature is providing the moisture – performance is really top-notch.  You can choose from an 8-zone or a 16-zone model. Maybe the best feature is the broad integration system which allows your unit to interface with Nest, Alexa, Wink and Nexia devices.  This is a deeper offering than other smart watering apps available today.

Orbit B-hyve WiFi Sprinkler System Controller

Orbit is not a startup but rather has been in the business for over forty years.  Their new B-hyve is a solid smart advancement to their sprinkler product line.

The unit is a bit of behemoth and depending on the model chosen offers a function for six or twelve zones.  The smart watering suggestions are average but you can easily make changes via their reliable app. The B-hyve onboard controls come duly loaded letting you manage programs or employ manual watering times without the aid of the app.  Maybe the best feature is affordability – the 6-zone model comes in around $100.

Tips for Smart Shopping

Current sprinkler system:

You won’t find many smart irrigation products designed to work with garden hoses or off-the-rack systems, many are manufactured with compatibility in mind.  They will work with a traditional irrigation controller which connects to a water supply and includes automated valves and tubing which controls the water flow.

Installing a traditional sprinkler system is a big project and will require the expertise of a professional.  You can, however, step up to a smart controller with relative ease.

Control choices:

Maybe the single most important decision to consider for a controllers is choosing one with (or without) manual controls.  This choice is valuable if you want to give a landscape service access to the controller. Without on-device controls there is no indication of activity other than maybe a status light.  Choosing no manual control will obviously require a mobile app.

Mounting location:

If mounting outside a weather proof enclosure will be required for the system.  Some manufacturers sell separate indoor/outdoor options. Others offer an enclosure as an add-on purchase.

Zone requirements:

In irrigation jargon, the zone is an area which will be controlled by a water valve and appropriate tubing.  Four valves equals four zones. The controller will need to have the capacity to handle zone requirements. Eight zones is typical and some systems will handle up to 16 zones.

Scheduling:

What do you envision as your watering needs?  Not all controllers will be able to manage complex schedules so be diligent about reviewing options.  Some of the “smarter” controllers can import any watering restrictions in place for your zip code to ensure you are in compliance with local regulations.

“Smart” scheduling:

Several of the smart watering products boast they can recognize local environment conditions to deliver optimal water delivery.  Research indicates that these features are not exceptionally accurate and may over water. There are options though that offer to skip watering if there is rain.  This is one of the few solid smart schedule features.

If you are ready to step up your sprinkler system, a “smart” product could be a terrific option for you.  Due of a bit of research, or talk with a local landscape professional to get their opinion on smart products that are good for your landscape needs.