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Have you spent a lot of money and time on your garden, flowers, and lawn only to have them wither away due to the challenging task of keeping them watered regularly? If you’re at work all day and you’re always on the go, how do you keep up with watering your yard? This can be especially challenging if you live in an area where water is restricted at certain times during the summer.
Well, thanks to the advancements in smart home technologies, you can manage and control irrigating your lawn from anywhere at any time. If this sounds like it’s something you can use, then a smart sprinkler system from Rain Bird or Rachio might be right up your alley.
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What is a Smart Sprinkler System and How Does It Work?
A smart sprinkler system uses a wifi-enabled controller that connects to your already existing sprinkler system. With the controller, you are able to program, control, and monitor your watering cycle so you can determine how specific areas in your garden and yard are watered. If you want to, you can set up the controller so that it does the programming for you.
The beautiful thing about a smart sprinkler system is that once you have, it set up, installed, and programmed, you can use it to get real-time updates on your phone. As with any smart device, some products and controllers will work better than others. You may also discover that some systems offer more features and more customizable options.
Important Sprinkler Control Factors to Consider
Before you run off and buy the first smart sprinkler system you read about online, there are a few things you might want to consider.
While cost may not be the driving factor behind which smart sprinkler system you buy, it should be something you at least give a little thought. The best smart sprinkler system isn’t always the most expensive. Plus, instead of overpaying for features you’ll never use, purchase a system that fits with your needs.
Smart sprinkler systems offer a wide variety of features, and it’s essential that you determine which ones work best for your yard. For instance, some systems can self-program based on weather forecast, soil and plant types, exposure to the sun, and the slope of your yard. You can find a very sophisticated system that uses advanced algorithms to determine how your lawn should be watered.
Location for Your Controller
Some sensors have to be mounted in specific areas. If you don’t want the wireless sprinkler controller mounted in your home, then it would make sense to look for a unit that you can put outdoors.
While these may not be as critical as the other items, you may still want to consider a system with specific certifications. The EPA WaterSense and Smart Water Application Technologies certifications can make a big difference in the type of system you select.
Systems with EPA WaterSense certifications meet the EPA standards for water performance and efficiency, while the Smart Water Application Technologies certification ensures quality performance in irrigation products.
Rachio Smart Sprinkler System
Rachio’s smart sprinkler system might be the most recognizable name on the market, and for a good reason. This system helps save money by managing water used on your lawn more efficiently while making your yard look good. Additionally, the Rachio system is EPA WaterSense certified, so you know your water is being put to good use.
Rachio says its installation and setup process takes thirty minutes, but bear in mind that all smart sprinkler systems say their setup takes roughly the same amount of time to put together. The amount of time it takes depends entirely on how complicated your system is. How many zones will you need? How many controllers? What is your comfortability with wiring?
Apparently, more zones and more controllers will take more time. If you’re comfortable installing a light fixture, you’ll have no problem with installing a Rachio controller. On the other hand, if you aren’t familiar with this type of process, just follow the instructions as closely as possible, and you can still set it up on your own.
Make sure you take a picture of the wiring of your current setup before you get too far in the process. It’s one of the most critical steps to take. As long as you have a picture, you have a reference point you can always return to if things get too complicated. Be sure you can clearly identify each wire.
Make sure your controller is close enough to an outlet to get power, and that you have reliable internet connectivity; otherwise, your connected device isn’t going to be available when you need it most. If you decide you want to install your controller outdoors, Rachio has a waterproof box you can use. You just have to make sure that it’s close to an outlet so it can be plugged in.
Once you’re comfortable with your pictures, unmount the old controller and mount the new one. Be sure to connect the wires to the correct ports for the appropriate zones. Pay close attention to the setup instructions, and they will guide you through the wiring process. When everything is in place, connect the power and download the mobile application.
After you have the app installed, open it up and let it guide you through setting up your zones. It’s an easy and straightforward process. All you need to do is follow the steps exactly as the app instructs, and you should have no problems. If you do, Rachio has a fantastic support team ready to help you.
When you have your zones up and working correctly, you’ll want to set up a profile for each one. Just like setting them up, creating a profile for your zones is simple. It will ask the type of vegetation you’re watering (trees, shrubs, grass), how much exposure to the sun it gets, what type of soil, and the slope of your lawn.
Once you finish setting up the profile for all your zones, be sure to disable the remaining zones that you aren’t going to use. Doing this will ensure that you’ll have an easier time controlling your zones later on within the app.
The next step is the last one: setting up a schedule for watering your lawn. Your mobile app will guide you through each zone you selected and ask you to choose a schedule type. You can set the start date and the time of day you want it to begin watering. If you don’t have a schedule in mind, or want to use the recommendation of Rachio, you can choose the “As Needed” option.
The app also offers a pair of smart features to help you with water efficiency and saving money on your bills: weather intelligence and smart cycle. Rachio has these features turned on by default, so if you decide you don’t want or need them, you’ll have to turn them off manually. The recommendation is to keep them on, as they are key features the controller can utilize when watering your yard.
Setup takes a few hours to complete, but once it is, you should have all your zones working. Then you need to let Rachio do what it was made to do: deliver a gorgeous, luscious lawn, help conserve water, and save you money.
You have the ability to control your Rachio smart sprinkler system through either the smartphone app or through a smart home system or smart assistant. You can use your Google Home or Amazon Echo to control the system. You can also use SmartThings, Nest, Nexia, Wink, and a few other smart home systems as well.
How does Rachio compare to other sprinkler systems?
- Blossom vs Rachio Smart Sprinklers
- RainMachine vs Rachio vs Skydrop vs Hydrawise Review
- Rachio vs Skydrop
From an overall perspective, setting up the Rachio smart sprinkler system isn’t as intimidating as you might think. There are plenty of tools available to guide you through the installation process if needed. It would be nice to see some more details addressed, like master valve/pump information and how to handle multiple nozzles in one zone, but otherwise, the system is fantastic.
Rachio might be the best connected smart sprinkler system on the market today, and as we noted, it’s easy to integrate into your already existing smart home setup. If you have a sprinkler system already in place, give it a nice upgrade by installing the Rachio smart sprinkler system.
Read all about the Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller Review!
Rain Bird is a company known for its outdoor watering offerings. It offers valve boxes, sprinkler heads, and a variety of other equipment used for your lawn or garden. Rain Bird also offers a bevy of smart sprinkler controllers with wifi connectivity.
The Rain Bird smart sprinkler system includes eight-zones and comes in two options: one for mounting inside, and one for outside. The ST8I and ST8O are the same Rain Bird systems aside from one needs to stay internal, and one is weatherproof.
All of the controllers Rain Bird provides offer a complete collection of controls with are built into the equipment itself. The controllers include an LCD panel with a few buttons that provide full power over your manual or scheduled water cycles.
Unfortunately, the hardware setup for the Rain Bird smart sprinkler system is a little more complicated than it is for the Rachio. This is mostly because the AC adapter that comes with the system doesn’t plug into an outlet. Instead, two bare-wire leads have to be connected to posts.
Additionally, the sprinkler leads also attach with connectors that need to be screwed in. Be sure to run all the wires through the porthole in the center to keep your connection clean and mess-free. However, the Rain Bird smart sprinkler system does come with two AA batteries you can use for backup power purposes.
Once you have your Rain Bird connected, you can download the mobile app to finish the setup process. Follow the instructions provide to connect the system to your wifi network, which gives you the ability to control it remotely.
Each time you launch the mobile app, it connects to your Rain Bird system to confirm settings are stored and updated on the controller. This does take a little time and can be irritating if the only thing you want to do is check on your watering schedule or initiate a watering cycle.
One smart feature that Rain Bird does not include that many other smart sprinklers offer is a recommendation on when to run a watering cycle based on the environment and forecast. Instead of providing a guess, the system has you determine the best time to run a period, and how long to run each zone.
The Rain Bird does include an option to adjust your water depending on the season so you’ll be able to reduce watering based on the time of year. You can set the Rain Bird smart sprinkler system to skip watering when it’s raining, but in order to do so, you’ll need to have a rain sensor wired to the controller.
Rain Bird’s mobile app offers a robust, full-featured calendar that lets you look forward up to a month. It also lets you look back at your watering information for up to one full week. Unfortunately, anything beyond seven days is deleted. It would be nice to be able to view more history, but this is what Rain Bird offers at this time.
Something important you may want to note is that the Rain Bird smart sprinkler system does not offer push updates to alert you when watering cycles take place by default. You can change these settings in the menu of the mobile application, just keep in mind that if you turn them all on, you’ll get notifications when adjustments are made, when the unit connects or disconnects from your network, or when a watering cycle has completed. You do not, however, receive a notification for when a watering cycle begins.
The Rain Bird smart sprinkler system is designed to control and manage multiple devices from on smartphone. This is a nice feature since some sprinkler systems require you to use separate accounts if you require more than one controller. Rain Bird offers a solid system that will get your yard, garden, and flower bed watered. It does have a few drawbacks, like a challenging installation process, but overall Rain Bird is a good option for a smart sprinkler system.
Here’s a high-level overview of how the Rain Bird and Rachio smart sprinkler systems stack up against one another:
|Mobile App||iOS and Android||iOS and Android|
|Works with Nest||Yes||No|
|Works with IFTTT||Yes||No|
|Number of Zones||8 Zones||8 Zones|
|Wifi Support||2.4 and 5 GHz||2.4 GHz|
Watering your yard requires hard work and attention to detail, things that Rachio and Rain Bird can do for you. Both controllers have some features in common, so it really boils down to which one makes more sense for you and your needs. Rain Bird is a solid option, and you won’t regret going with it as your smart sprinkler system. However, Rachio offers plenty of features and is compatible with many devices, which can really help when you need to keep tabs on your water usage.
Looking for more smart irrigation systems? Check out our Best Smart Irrigation Systems and Sprinkler Controllers article and get the best out there today!
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!