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Gardeners and homeowners are peering out from behind the drapes and planning ahead for a spring spent planting, redesigning or cleaning up
Top of the feature list for smart home gardeners will be automatic sprinkler system controllers that can give each area the right amount of water, while saving water if there’s lots of rain about.
There are many smart controller systems on the market, all offering broadly the same features, but some are smarter, or more rugged than others.
Basically they replace whatever original dumb controller you have and create a number of zones for different watering requirements, depending on how many sprinklers you have.
Contents (Jump to)
Key Features of the Rachio
- Smart Mobile Control: The Rachio is one of the larger model smart sprinkler controllers at over 7-inches square. It replaces your old controller and hooks up to your WiFi via some Blink Up instructions, since it has no control panel of its own. You use your phone to send it a series of light pulses to the box and then control it through the smartphone app.
- Terrain Variability: The app allows the user to enter a host of variables for each zone including soil type, vegetation, slope angle, level of sun exposure, and nozzle types in the sprinklers.
- Custom Weather Data: Users can then pick from national or local weather stations to get the most accurate weather data available.
- EPA WaterSense Certified: The Rachio should be able to help make water savings over time, as it adjusts based on the weather and seasonality. It won’t stop during a downpour, it is not that smart, but will help your water bill and is EPA WaterSense Certified.
- Different Price Points: The Rachio Smart Sprinkler controllers MSRP starts around $250 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here). There is an additional cost for a waterproof enclosure, if needed. The base model supports up to eight zones, while a higher-rated edition supports up to 16 zones.
Update: If you loved Rachio before, then you would have more reasons to love the third-generation Rachio Smart Sprinkler System. Read here!
Key Features Skydrop
- Flexible Zones: The basic Skydrop controller can control eight different sprinkler zones, with support for up to 16, if needed. That means it can manage your hanging baskets, lawns and other
- Also Has Terrain Variability: Similar to the Rachio, the Skydrop has the standard variables for soil type, vegetation, slope, etc…
- Intuitive and Smart Interface: The gorgeous looking and hi-tech looking controller unit features a WiFi unit, LCD, jog dial controller to take charge of the settings. The control screen can display the weather forecast and the status of each zone.
- Smart Soil Watering Tech: Once installed, you can tell the Skydrop about the types of soil you have, the watering needs of each zone and your timings. Then, let it manage your watering in accordance with the local weather and watering laws, or you can use it in manual mode to trigger sprinklers if things need an extra soaking.
- Easy to Read Controls: Once installed, the glowing jog dial ring on the controller is used to navigate the menus. The ring itself shows green for standby mode, blue for watering, yellow for no network and red for an error.
- Smart App Control: You can monitor the app via smartphone or browser. The system uses Weather Underground to pull local weather reports based on your zip code and smart cloud software to figure out the needs of your garden.
Pros and Cons
- Pro – Integration: The Rachio can integrate with Nest, Wink, Control4, IFTTT and other smart home systems for extra control, a big plus for the Rachio.
- Pro – Better App: The recently updated app is more useful than most and gets very good ratings.
- Pro – Better Reports: It can also provide feedback in the form of Rachio Water Reports that show how much water is used and saved.
- Pro – Personal Weather Station: The PWS is an excellent little feature that pulls from Weather Underground for data. If you are in an area with neighbors that are part of the network, you can tap into their monitoring system (often more accurate – and localized – than other weather sources).
- Con – Weatherproof Box Not Included: On the negative side, this box should be weatherproof from the off, and not have an extra case as a $49 option, since most sprinkler controls do live outside.
- Con – Depends on Rachio Servers: It is also dependent on Rachio’s servers for data, and will default to a previous schedule if it can’t access them.
- Con – Not as Many App Updates: The Skydrop app hasn’t been updated in three months which is always something of a worry. UPDATE: This isn’t emblematic of a problem, but – in my experience – a company that upgrades their systems frequently is iterating faster in their product development life-cycle.
- Pro – Integrates Well with Nest: However, if you have a Nest device in the house, then it can send its data to the Nest Home Report, helping to build up your household energy usage profile.
- Con – Not Always Smart Enough to Stop Watering During Rain: As with all these devices they are not yet smart enough to stop providing water when it is, or was recently raining in some situations.
- Con – No Touchscreen: While the Skydrop controller looks hi-tech, the screen isn’t a touch model, which is rather disappointing and the jog controller is oversensitive and not particularly durable to the touch. If you like using the app and don’t want/need a touchscreen, this – of course – doesn’t matter.
- Pro – Good Customer Support: If you do have problems, their customer support seems keen to help, but having a better product would avoid users have to reach out to them in the first place.
- Con – Still Reliant on Cloud Services: Both devices rely on cloud services, which if unavailable means your system will be running on old information and slowly become out of date, so pray your choice of system never goes bust.
Final Look – Skydrop vs Rachi0
|Zones||Up to 16
|8, up to 16|
|Dimensions||2.25” x 7.25” x 7.25”||3.4” x 9.7” x 1.9”|
|OS support||iOS, Android, Browser
|Price||8-zone (For the latest prices and discounts, check here)
waterproof enclosure (For the latest prices and discounts, check here)
|8-zone (For the latest prices and discounts, check here)
waterproof enclosure (For the latest prices and discounts, check here)
Final Call – Which to Go With?
Both of these watering smart aids can help benefit your lawns, rockeries and other areas, through water management.
In hardware terms, the Rachio is marginally less expensive and has a better app and cloud service. It seems more flexible when it comes to sensing and water management.
It will take some extensive testing to find out which is truly the better value, so check back for an update next summer (and feel free to share your comments).
Otherwise, they will both do the job, but users will have to check the software meets their specific needs, which will vary depending on their needs. .
Unlike the Rachio, the Skydrop certainly looks more like a smart home product, and something that looks cool in the home, if you can
install it inside.
However, its reliance on smart software and weather forecasts often seems to put it at odds with the reality of your conditions and your lawn.
Yes, there are manual overrides, but the claims based on technology are what sell it to people who would rather not have to be checking their systems every day. This puts the Skydrop in the category of products that one user may consider brilliant, while another may consider it useless.
Bottom Line: As an entry level user, I’d stick with the Rachio until the Skydrop can fully catch up. You can (For the latest prices and discounts, check here).
How does Rachio compare to other sprinkler systems?
- RainMachine vs Rachio vs Skydrop vs Hydrawise Review
- Blossom vs Rachio Smart Sprinklers
- Rain Bird vs Rachio Smart Sprinkler Systems
Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn’t have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!