Watering your lawn is something you’re forced to do if you want to keep your grass healthy and green throughout the summer. This is where having a sprinkler system can be a huge benefit, as it allows you to handle the task automatically.
However, a sprinkler system is nothing without a sprinkler controller, and it’s important to carefully consider your choices to ensure you choose a controller that fits your sprinkler system and your needs.
How Does a Sprinkler Controller Work?
Also known as a sprinkler timer, the sprinkler controller is the most important part of an automatic irrigation system, as the controller is responsible for turning each zone of the sprinkler system on and off automatically. Without a controller, you’d be forced to turn your sprinkler system on and off and switch between zones by hand, which can present all sorts of problems should you be out of town for a few days.
Sprinkler controllers contain a circuit board that activates an electronic valve in order to allow water to flow into the specific zone. Each zone in the system has its own valve, and you can set the system so that each zone is activated in sequence to water the entire lawn over the course of a few hours.
With the controller, you can set the time and specific watering program for each zone. After the set amount of time has lapsed, the controller turns off the power to the zone to stop the flow of water and then activates the electricity to open up the valve and thus water the next zone.
Classic Sprinkler Controllers
In the past, the vast majority of sprinkler controllers were either basic electromechanical models or electronic models. Electromechanical controllers are by far the simplest type, which work by either turning dials or flipping a switch to turn the system on and off. These systems are very reliable and have the advantage of being unaffected by power outages, but they’re generally not recommended as they don’t allow you to set independent watering requirements for various zones.
Electronic controllers are the more common type of timer, and these timers have the advantage of allowing you to program different watering requirements for each zone. With this type of controller, you can vary the frequency or length of the watering to accommodate for differences in drainage, soil condition and sun exposure. These timers also typically feature a rain delay function that allows you to stop the program whenever rain is expected to avoid overwatering.
With these classic electronic timers, everything is set directly from the controller panel. Unfortunately, this has the drawback of making it impossible to adjust your watering programs and schedules when you’re away. For this reason, more and more homeowners are beginning to turn towards Wi-Fi controllers or so-called smart sprinkler controllers.
Wi-Fi Sprinkler Controllers
Wi-Fi controllers have a number of major advantages in that they can be controlled directly through an app on your smartphone. These systems connect to your home Wi-Fi network, which allows you to set and adjust the programs from anywhere in the world.
Compared to the small display and buttons on a classic controller, programming and adjusting your sprinkler system via your computer or smartphone is generally far easier and more intuitive.
These smart controllers also allow you to take advantage of automatic weather adjustments, which has been shown to be a major help in lowering your water bills. However, you need to be aware that these systems will only work when your Wi-Fi network is working, and you won’t be able to program the control or take advantage of the automatic weather adjustments if your local network is down.
What to Look for in a Sprinkler Controller
When looking for a sprinkler controller, no matter whether you’re in the market for a classic controller or a smart controller, it’s essential that you focus on quality. There are a huge number of controllers on the market, but not all of them are worth the materials they’re made of. Buying a high-quality controller will allow you to remain confident that your sprinkler system will continue to function properly whenever you’re away from home, which should allow you to maintain a healthy lawn.
Sprinkler controllers are designed with a specific number of zones, and it’s important that you choose a controller that fits your specific sprinkler system. Obviously, a controller than only has six or eight zones won’t do you much good if your irrigation system is divided into 10 zones.
If you’re in the market for a Wi-Fi controller, you’ll have the option to choose a controller that can only be programmed through the accompanying app or one that also features a back-up screen to allow you to also program it directly from the controller itself.
There is no doubt that using a sprinkler controller is something every homeowner should consider. Statistics from the EPA show that using an automatic sprinkler controller can cut down on your water usage by approximately 50 percent, while installing an EPA WaterSense approved controller saves the average home nearly 8,800 gallons of water per year. Nonetheless, it’s still essential that you choose the right sprinkler controller for your system in order to fully take advantage of these water-saving benefits.
Our Sprinkler Controller Reviews
#1 – Rachio Smart WiFi Sprinkler Controller
The Rachio sprinkler controller allows over 100 different voice commands to ensure your yard receive enough water even in your absence. The best thing about this sprinkler timer is that you can customize it to your yard’s specifications with terms like sun exposure and soil and plant type.
The controller has an easy-to-manage system that easily connects to your web device. It saves up to 50% of your water bill, therefore, making it ideal and economical even when you are working on a low budget. Additionally, this system prevents excessive watering by ensuring that you plant gets the required amount of water to thrive.
It automatically skips specific watering schedules by rain prediction to ensure your plant is safe. It can also adjust the schedules depending on the local weather readings to ensure your lawn maintains a green image. With this system, you can control the watering process of your yard even when you are away for a vacation or at work.
- WaterSense certified technology
- Connects with local weather forecast
- Saves up to 50% of water bill
- Provides your plant with required water to thrive without a drop more
- Adjusts watering schedules
- Slightly more expensive compared to others on the market
#2 – RainMachine WiFi Irrigation Controller
The RainMachine sprinkler controller gives you full control in the way your plant develops from the start. You can control the watering process of your yard remotely, therefore, you won’t have to miss going for a vacation to attend your yard.
It has an easy control and connects settings with your smartphone or any other web device. Additionally, it connects with the local weather forecast to ensure you don’t water your plant when it’s raining, therefore, saving you a fortune in water bills.
Another bonus for using this irrigation controller is that even when the internet is down, it will still function by switching to weather statistics history automatically. It connects with the best and most accurate weather readings for the benefits of your plants.
- Easy to connect and control from any screen
- Operates even when the internet goes down
- Accommodates simultaneous commands and overlapping schedules
- When you don’t have a strong internet connection, it will fail to tell when it rains
#3 – Orbit B-hyve Smart WiFi Sprinkler System Controller
Orbit B-hyve sprinkler controller gives you advanced and accurate weather forecast readings to ensure your plants receives the required amount of water. With this sprinkler system, you will save not only money, but also water and time.
It has the WaterSense technology, therefore, it will always skip a schedule whenever rain is predicted in the forecast. Additionally, this sprinkler is fully functioned with an Android smartphone or other web devices, and it allows you control even when you’re away from home.
It’s also easy to install and use, which makes it the best for replacement or new installation for your yard. It allows different voice commands, so it can be operated by anyone within your household.
- Easy to install and operate
- Connects with local weather forecast
- Adjusts schedules when it predicts rain
- Saves time, money and water
- Only works with 2.5 GHz WiFi connection
#4 – Rain Bird SST900I Indoor Timer
With Rain Bird SST900I sprinkler timer, you won’t have to keep making changes to the new settings every time you want to use the controller, which is unlike most of the controllers in the market.
It stores all your setting in its permanent memory and will keep replaying everything. You can, therefore, customize and set you watering needs permanently, depending on the unique needs of your landscape. This will increase the health of your plants and reduce the amount of water you use.
Its simple to set timer makes this sprinkler controller system efficient as it stops watering when it’s raining to conserve water. You can set the watering for each zone independently to allow all zones to get their watering needs met effectively. It has a surge protection that keeps it protected from power surges and lightning, ensuring that the system is always safe.
- Doesn’t require batteries
- Displays the next watering session
- Can water multiple zones per day
- Easy to use interface
- Doesn’t hold individual zone watering information
#5 – BlueSpray BSC16i Smart WiFi Sprinkler Controller Timer
The BlueSpray BSC16i comes with a water saving feature. When it’s raining a lot, this sprinkler controller system will suspend watering. It also comes with automatic seasonal adjustments that are adjusted depending on what season of the year it is. The flow sensor makes it easy for you to know whether there is a leakage and where it is.
The interface is user-friendly and comes with many visual representations of your property and the areas that the system waters frequently. You also get to use it with up to 64 zones. The master valve can be configured for each zone separately, allowing you to have different areas getting their different watering needs met.
You also have a history report of the water usage in your home. These logs will tell you which areas were watered and for how long, allowing you to know which sections still need attention. You can also set it to automatically close the garage door at certain times during the day.
- Easy to use interface
- Can work on any platform
- You don’t have to install an app
- Can accommodate 64 zones
- Setting up the system is tedious
- The schedules must remain simple, or you will have problems with the system