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Announced in 2014, the Skydrop Smart Irrigation system combines Internet weather forecasts with a smart water delivery system to provide your plants or lawn with water when needed, and saving water when nature can provide.
Developed in Utah, it is aimed at those premises in regions where water is becoming an expensive commodity, and those in drought hit States will certainly appreciate the utility provided by Skydrop.
Retailing here, Skydrop can be managed via the home wall-mounted controller, via your smartphone or a web browser, so wherever you are in the world, you can manage your horticulture’s water supply with ease.
Does the Skydrop deliver in buckets, saving the claimed up to 50% on your water usage, or will it rain on your parade? Let’s find out with a closer look.
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Key Features of the Skydrop
The basic Skydrop controller can control eight different sprinkler zones outside your home, from hanging baskets to lawns, or garden features. It is smart enough to follow local laws and ordinances about the use of hoses and water, helping you avoid hefty fines or tutting neighbors.
- Intuitive Design: The gorgeous looking and hi-tech looking controller unit features a WiFi unit, LCD, jog dial controller and can be wired in to take control of your lawn pumps and valves, and then helps you take charge of keeping plans and lawns watered without fuss. The control screen shows you the weather forecast and the status of each zone.
- Mobile/Web App Enabled: The mobile app has had a major overhaul recently which solves some issues that users had with the Skydrop system and you can use a PC to monitor it as well. The system uses Weather Underground to pull local weather reports based on your zip code and smart software to figure out the needs of your garden.
- Calibrates to Soil Type: 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, or you can use it in manual mode to trigger sprinklers if things need an extra soaking.
Pros of the Skydrop Smart Irrigation System
Expandable to 16 Zones: Eight zones should be enough for most homes, but the Skydrop can be expanded up to 16 if you have a complex garden environment or just a large area to manage.
There’s also an enclosure for the unit if you want to install it outdoors to keep it dry and clean. Installation is guided by some hands-on YouTube videos which should be enough for most users.
Simple 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. Loss of network seems to be a common problem for some users.
Syncs with Nest: As a bonus, you can float your water usage data over to your Nest Home Report, so it can be added as part of your household energy
Cons of the Skydrop Smart Irrigation Controller System
- Takes Time to Set Up: While the Skydrop controller looks hi-tech, the screen isn’t the best and needs to be carefully installed so you can view it without straining.
- Not the Fastest Response: Also, it is not a touchscreen which seems an odd omission in these touch friendly times, and the jog dial can be rather fiddly to use due the system’s rather slow response time.
- Relies on Weather Forecast, Not Actual Weather: Another issue is that it seems to focus on weather forecasts and not actual rain in your area, so it will still try to water your lawn, even if it is tipping it down in an unexpected shower. Connecting to a Bluetooth rain sensor would seem a logical way to avoid this issue, but the makers seem convinced their smart software knows better in the long term. Another related topic is that you should note WHERE the device is pulling weather data from (usually a weather station). If you aren’t especially close (perhaps living in a more remote area), the lack of a very local weather forecast might be problematic.
- Reliant on Strong WiFi: Recent app updates and firmware fixes seem to have solved many of the connection and stability issues we were going to list in this section, so ensure you update all of your devices before becoming too frustrated. Also ensure you have a strong WiFi signal where you plan to install the Skydrop.
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.
Skydrop Alternatives to Consider
Skydrop is not he only option out there. In fact, the number of competitors in the smart sprinkler controller market is actually increasing! The following are some of the closest competitors worth considering:
The Rachio: I actually slightly prefer the Rachio over the Skydrop in most cases. It is basically identical, but offers many more actively supported integrations for various smart home systems and protocols.
It’s not longer enough just to have a great smart device; it has to “play well with others”. The Rachio accomplishes this more so than any other smart sprinkler controller on the market.
The RainMachine: I consider this one to be almost interchangeable with the Skydrop (although I DO like the Skydrop a bit more). The main difference is that it has 3 different “zone” options (8, 12, and 16) and has a true touchscreen.
LCD screens are nice, but may or may not be critical for you. The Skydrop has the jog dial (jog wheel), but this isn’t quite the same.
The Top Smart Sprinklers for 2017? I recently published a round-up article of my top recommendations for this year. You can read it here. Skydrop makes the list, but clearly isn’t the only option.
Final Recommendation – Is the Skydrop Ready for Prime Time?
The Skydrop certainly looks like a smart home product, compared to some of the lumbering, bulky, solutions already on the market. 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.
In terms of the claimed water savings, many users seem happy with the amounts their Skydrop is reducing use by, but 50% still sounds rather high, considering how scatter shot its approach can be to watering.
In my experience, it was closer to 25%, but I think this depends on your location (geographically) as well.
Certainly Skydrop seems worth a try, and I’d recommend a spring or fall purchase to test it in changeable conditions. Then, you can either keep it or return it within the 30-day product satisfaction period, depending on how you get on.
We’d hope there’s a Skydrop 2.0 in the works, with a better CPU, better WiFi radio and greater intelligence. If that ships it should be a market winner, but it is currently only a marginal improvement on non-smart watering systems.
Right now, it’s one of the better options available in the still emerging “smart irrigation” market.
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!