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Bottom Line

After going through an intensive research process to narrow down our short list of top products in this space, we tested Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller to be sure that it’s worthy of our recommendation. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter and test to verify manufacturer claims.

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Buying guide for best smart sprinkler controllers

Keeping the flowers beautiful and the grass green is something nearly every homeowner tries to accomplish. It can be challenging in the hot summers with old-fashioned irrigation system timers. They run regardless of the weather – even if it’s pouring rain – which can be a waste of energy and resources.

Designed to give you remote access via smartphone to your sprinkler system, a smart sprinkler controller can help you easily control the amount of water you use on your yard.

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Smart sprinkler controllers can potentially eliminate needless watering by up to 50%.

Two types of smart sprinkler controllers

All smart sprinkler controllers are designed to give you some kind of interface with an app on your smartphone. These apps allow you to easily control your watering system from anywhere. You can change the watering amounts or times in the middle of the day, track how much water you use, and adjust the schedule as you see fit.

Below, we explore the two basic types of smart sprinkler controllers on the market today.

Type one: wifi-enabled smart sprinkler controller with app

Basic smart sprinkler controllers turn any irrigation system into a device you can control from a smartphone app or with your Amazon Alexa. They’re a major step up from the timer-driven models most homeowners use. You can easily adjust zone watering and also track how much water and time your system is using.

Type two: WaterSense-certified smart sprinkler controller

The WaterSense program is an EPA-approved program that helps consumers improve water efficiency. If you’re interested in conserving water, a WaterSense-certified smart sprinkler controller is the best route to take.

Controllers that are certified by the WaterSense program provide you with system access via a smartphone app, but the device is designed to work more like a thermostat than a pre-set timer system. It’s a completely “smart” system that can sense when your lawn needs water by checking the weather forecast and, in some cases, checking ground moisture.

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Expert Tip
Check with your utility company to see if a rebate is offered in your area for the use of a smart sprinkler controller.

Yard customization features

A smart sprinkler controller can customize the amount of water received by various zones in your yard. The controller determines the ideal watering amount for each zone based on factors such as the following.

  • Slope of the terrain

  • Shade cover

  • Type of plants

  • Soil type

For example, a particular zone of your yard might need less water than another zone because there is more clay in the soil. Clay is known for its water-retaining properties.

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Did you know?
Many smart sprinkler controllers use in-ground moisture information to help with watering schedules. However, in-ground moisture sensing devices are often sold separately.

Device compatibility

Smart sprinkler controllers are made to be compatible with your devices. Many are designed with specific voice commands that work with controllers like Amazon Echo and Amazon Alexa. Even low-end ones made to hook up to a hose are designed for use with downloadable apps for your smartphone.

The app function allows you to see how much water your lawn is getting zone by zone. You can control it yourself or can choose a system with a WaterSense design that uses WiFi to check the forecast.

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Did you know?
If you install your smart sprinkler controller far from your router, you risk losing your connection in bad weather.

Smart sprinkler controller prices

  • Under $100: In this price range, you’ll find low-end smart sprinkler controllers that can be hooked up to a hose sprinkling system. The sprinkler has a shutoff valve in the system to give you control over watering from your smartphone or other internet-capable devices.
  • $100 to $200: This price range is the starting point for in-ground watering system smart sprinkler controllers. Some show you the weather forecast and record when you last watered, but items at this level will not generally adjust watering to the rain automatically.
  • $200 to $300: Higher-end models are easier to use and have a better interface with slicker graphics. They also allow you to control a higher number of zones, check the forecast, and adjust watering accordingly. They will work with water sensors to prevent overwatering in cooler weather and can alert you to freeze warnings. You can control more stations individually in your yard, too. At this higher price point, you may also get an interior wall mount control in addition to the control on your phone app.
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Expert Tip
Many smart sprinkler controllers offer similar features, but since this is a new technology, it may pay off in the long run to go for a high-end model. These better controllers offer a much greater ability to save water.


  • Place the outside sensor portion of your smart sprinkler system in an area that reflects the general sun exposure of your entire lawn.

  • Keep your smart sprinkler within range of your WiFi router. Otherwise, it will not work properly.

  • Are you interested in water conservation? A smart sprinkler controller with “WaterSense” EPA certification is your best bet. WaterSense models actually control the watering based on the weather.

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One of the best things about a smart sprinkler controller is the ability to forget about it. Once the system is set up, you can let it run and rest assured your lawn is getting the water it needs and not one drop more.


Q. What exactly does a smart sprinkler controller do?
Smart sprinkler controllers have a WiFi-enabled sensor unit you install in your yard. The unit controls your irrigation system, giving you the ability to make watering adjustments from your smartphone based on the weather. Some smart sprinkler controllers make the adjustments themselves; others require a manual override.

Q. Can I use a smart sprinkler controller on my manual lawn sprinkler?
In some cases, yes. You do not necessarily have to have an in-ground irrigation system to benefit from a smart sprinkler controller. Some smart sprinkler controllers are made to hook up to your water line and control the water flow. These will allow you to use the smart technology with any sprinkling system.

Q. Can I install a smart sprinkler controller myself?
High-end models often require hardwiring to your existing pump house system; you may want to hire a professional to complete this task. Low-end models, particularly those designed to work with hoses, are easy to install; simply plug and go. Most homeowners feel comfortable installing this type of smart sprinkler controller themselves.

Q. How many stations can a smart sprinkler controller support?
This number varies by system. Eight stations can be supported by many systems. Higher-end models can be expanded to support up to 20 or more zones.

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