Best Smart Irrigation Systems

Updated September 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

18 Models Considered
9 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
344 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best smart irrigation systems

Last Updated September 2019

If you’re serious about the health of your lawn, a smart irrigation system might be right for you. Smart irrigation systems utilize a combination of advanced sprinklers and intelligent irrigation controllers to automatically adjust the watering of your lawn to optimal levels. These controllers regulate when and for how long your sprinklers run. When programmed properly, smart irrigation systems can be much more efficient than manual sprinklers.

How are these systems more efficient? For one thing, you can save money. With a smart system, water output automatically adjusts itself based on weather and soil conditions. In turn, this can reduce your water bill. You can also save time with a smart irrigation system. Once the system is set up, you don’t have to spend much time tending to your lawn’s irrigation.

A smart irrigation system is incredibly convenient, as it can adapt to seasonal weather changes with little reprogramming. It’s ideal for complying with any local watering restrictions, and it’s a nice-to-have for people who frequently travel. Read on to learn more about how to choose the right smart irrigation system for your property.

Routinely check your sprinklers to make sure everything is working properly. Torn lines, faulty nozzles, and clogged heads can damage your landscape and increase your water bill before you know it.

Types of smart irrigation systems

There are two main types of smart irrigation systems: weather-based systems and soil moisture-based systems. The type that’s right for you depends on several factors, including the weather patterns in your area and the landscape of your property.

Weather-based smart irrigation systems

Weather-based smart irrigation systems, also called ET-based systems, rely on outside data or local weather patterns to make adjustments. These systems include weather sensors that monitor conditions such as temperature, rainfall, and solar radiation. This data may be gathered on your property or from a remote site.

These systems take advantage of three different types of technology: signal-based controllers, historic ET controllers, and on-site weather measurement controllers.

  • Signal-based controllers use publicly available meteorological data to dictate watering patterns. The data is sent via a wireless WiFi connection.
  • Historic ET controllers use pre-programmed data as a base value, or curve. The information is based on historic water use in different areas of the property. The curve can be adjusted to meet specific requirements.
  • On-site weather measurement controllers use weather data collected on the property to continuously calculate measurements and adjust watering.

Soil moisture-based smart irrigation systems

Soil moisture systems use sensors to monitor moisture content in the soil; watering is adjusted accordingly. Many of these sensors can be added to an existing traditional controller. There are two main types of soil sensor-based irrigation systems: suspended cycle irrigation systems and water-on-demand irrigation systems.

  • Suspended cycle irrigation systems function much like the traditional timer controllers. They have watering schedules, start and stop times, and set durations. The main difference is that the system is designed to stop when there is enough moisture in the soil.
  • Water-on-demand irrigation doesn’t utilize duration data. It operates based on start times and which days to water. All that is required is basic upper and lower threshold data, which controls watering when moisture levels fall outside of those values.

A note about other components and zoning

Sensors and controllers are the main parts of a smart irrigation system, but other factors should also be considered to make the most out of their benefits. Using water-efficient sprinkler heads and nozzles ensures that the landscape is being treated evenly and there isn’t any excess waste.

It’s also important to consider that not all areas of your property will require the same amount of water. Establishing landscape beds in areas separate from your grass helps to properly segment your area for efficient watering. Experts will agree that zoning is an important aspect to consider for smart irrigation efficiency.

EXPERT TIP

It's a good idea to begin watering early in the morning, especially in hot climates. This is generally when temperatures are cool and the wind is calm.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Mobile control

Many modern smart irrigation systems can be controlled remotely from a mobile device. You can download an app for your Android or Apple device or access control via a web browser. These features can be used alongside other systems (like video monitoring) for added convenience.

Voice control

With the growing popularity of voice-activated devices like Amazon Alexa, it’s no surprise that some companies have added it to their smart irrigation systems. These advanced voice-activated systems not only utilize smart adjustments based on weather, but they also allow users to control their sprinkler systems with easy commands such as “Alexa, turn on my lawn.”

Touchscreen

While basic smart systems utilize mobile devices for a more detailed view of settings and data, there are touchscreen controllers put that information directly on the controller screen. These devices work exceptionally well in dark spaces like garages and sheds.

DID YOU KNOW?

Drip irrigation applies water directly to the roots at low volume. This is a great way to reduce evaporation or runoff and keep weeds from growing.

Smart irrigation system prices

Inexpensive

The least-expense smart systems cost roughly $100 to $150. These systems feature the basic components of any smart irrigation system, such as WiFi and mobile phone connectivity. The main factor that keeps costs low for these systems is a simplistic controller interface. These devices don’t usually have touchscreens, and users will likely need an external device to access detailed information.

Mid-level

Mid-level irrigation systems blend basic smart technology, like weather monitoring and wireless connectivity, with advanced technologies like touchscreens and voice control. They tend to pull weather data from more locations to deliver more precise information. These systems may cost anywhere from $150 to $200.

Expensive

The most expensive smart irrigation systems cost $200 or more. These systems typically offer the most compatibility with other applications. They may be installed on top of current systems to bring a modern touch to traditional systems.

EXPERT TIP

To optimize your irrigation setup, make sure your sprinkler heads are adjusted properly to avoid watering sidewalks and driveways.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • It’s highly recommended that consumers pair their smart irrigation system with water-efficient sprinkler heads or nozzles. Many of these nozzles feature thicker water streams that are wind resistant and deliver a more uniform distribution of water.
  • Keep your home technology updated in order to maximize the efficiency of your smart irrigation system. Usually, these updates happen automatically, but it’s still a good idea to keep track of software and system updates every month.
  • Outside of watering, try to control foot traffic in relevant areas and keep pests at bay. Although your smart system will automatically make adjustments, the goal is to be efficient and keep costs down.

Other products we considered

We came across several systems that didn’t quite make our final list but are still top-notch and worth a look. The RainMachine Pro-8 creates a smart irrigation system that can connect via WiFi and Ethernet. The great part about this controller is that it’s cloud independent, which means that personal irrigation data is stored locally. If the WiFi goes down, stored data still allows the system to work. Like other advanced controllers from RainMachine, it features a touchscreen interface and is compatible with Amazon Alexa for voice-activated control.

The Rachio 3 is an advanced sprinkler controller that we value for its Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility. It’s also great for consumers who want to add a modern advanced controller to their current sprinkler system. You can program and control your sprinklers from a smartphone or tablet and also take advantage of the system’s Rachio Weather Intelligence Plus integration, which automatically adjusts the irrigation schedule based on weather forecasts in your location.

Zone your yard intelligently. This basically means that you should grow plants with similar water requirements in the same area.

FAQ

Q. How much water can a smart irrigation system save?
A.
Studies have suggested that most smart controllers users conserve up to 20%, and sometimes even 30%, of the water that they would have used with a traditional controller. This can be significant, especially in regions where 70% of household water use occurs outdoors.

Q. Is it best to hire a professional to install my system?
A.
Smart irrigation systems vary in complexity. Depending on the setup, installation may require some basic electrical or lawncare knowledge. If you choose to hire someone, make sure they are licensed.

Q. Can a lawn be too big or too small for a smart irrigation system?
A.
Not exactly. Keep in mind that zoning is important. Your smart irrigation system will adjust to the needs of your property, so as long as you organize and zone your property correctly, an irrigation system should adjust accordingly and take care of the rest.

The team that worked on this review
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Taji
    Taji
    Writer

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