Review: Rachio's iPhone-connected Smart Sprinkler Controller is efficient, easy to use

Posted:
in iPhone edited June 2016
With summer in full swing, scorching temperatures can wreak havoc on even the greenest of lawns. Rachio's second generation Smart Sprinkler Controller is designed to save you time and money by automating your existing sprinkler system with support for up to 16 zones.




Design



Upon opening the frustration-free packaging, the system itself is relatively small (9.25" x 5.625" x 1.625") with the wiring harness located under a plastic cover. Included in the box is the cover, base, power adapter and mounting hardware (four screws with anchors to be exact). You'll also need a Phillips screwdriver and wire strippers, and depending on your setup, a hammer and drill for drywall installs.

The included instruction booklet recommends taking photos of your old controller's wiring to aid in installing the Rachio controller, which is a handy tip to avoid unnecessary confusion once you're ready to connect the common wires. Advanced instructions are also included for those with more complex systems, including a master valve, pump start relay, hydraulic indexing valve and sensors.

Regarding the install location, the controller can be set up inside or outdoors (the latter requiring an optional weatherproof enclosure). However, since communication takes place over a 2.4GHz dedicated or dual-band Wi-Fi connection, you'll need to be in close proximity to a 2.4GHz router, which can be frustrating if your sprinkler controller is on the other side of the house. The lack of 5GHz support is definitely a downside.

Rachio Gen 2 Sprinkler Controller Review


Usage



Once the proper equipment is in place, though, launching the application and getting connected is quite easy. To use the iOS version of the app, you'll need a device running iOS 9.3 or later. Users can also log in via a web browser to utilize the same features found in the app.

From the dashboard, you can create fixed or flexible watering schedules, as well as zones configured with vegetation, soil type, sun exposure and more. Overall, the interface is intuitive with a variety of useful stats, such as number of gallons used versus number of gallons saved. However, the system doesn't support HomeKit at this time -- and whether it will in the future remains to be seen.

Rachio Smart Sprinkler App


Features



As noted above, the app allows for advanced customization through the creation of individual zones and schedules. With flexible scheduling enabled, the Rachio controller will automatically calculate how much water is needed based on soil moisture and local climate in order to minimize runoff.

Rachio's Weather Intelligence system can also incorporate your local forecast to automatically adjust the schedule so your yard isn't watered before, during or after it rains - or even when the temperature dips too low. This helps reduce cost and eliminate waste. If there's a Wi-Fi or power outage, the controller will also utilize the last saved schedule received from the Rachio Cloud until an update can be downloaded.

In addition to customized scheduling options, the app contains a variety of settings in the Alerts and Notifications area. If the status of the controller changes or a scheduled watering time is skipped due to weather, you can receive an email or notification through your Apple device for enhanced control.

Conclusion



The Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller offers advanced capabilities with an easy-to-use interface. The Weather Intelligence tool and cross-device support make it easy to overlook the lack of HomeKit and 5GHz capabilities. Overall, Rachio's second-gen controller is a top contender to manage a sprinkler system.

Score: 4.5 out of 5



Pros:

  • Easy to install
  • Simplified maintenance
  • App is updated regularly with new features based on user feedback
  • Active community
  • Advanced customization


Cons:

  • Controller can't connect to 5GHz networks
  • Doesn't support Apple HomeKit at this time


Where to buy



The 16-zone Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller is available for $248.93 at Amazon.com or $249.99 at Best Buy.

Disclosure: Review sample was provided by the manufacturer. AppleInsider may receive commission from the links used in the "Where to buy" section.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    rob53rob53 Posts: 1,452member
    Sounds like a decent product but obviously too expensive for something that most people set or change s couple times a year. The hardware driving this probably cost no more than $40 (yes I can guess like everyone else).
    Laurenty
  • Reply 2 of 14
    saltyzipsaltyzip Posts: 64member
    Why wasn't android mentioned in the product review, you'd think from the heading and article content the smart sprinkler is an iOS exclusive?

    A lot of people own iPads and Android phones, hopefully this is just an omission and not Android discrimination.

    To educate those interested, the rachio smart sprinkler can be used on
    iOS 9.0+ and Android 4.0+. Web also available on most browsers. Mobile app is required to connect the controller to Wi-Fi.
  • Reply 3 of 14
    I have had a Rachio for about a year. It was easy to install and works great. In addition to the features described in this review, the app allows you to select the type of sprinkler head, type of soil and the steepness of your lawn in each zone so that your system runs most efficiently and prevents run-off. The linkage to local weather also works well to prevent unnecessary watering. I have saved money, and water, net of the Rachio's cost. If your home's irrigation system has it's own meter (mine does not), then the Rachio may make you eligible for a rate discount too.
  • Reply 4 of 14
    tzeshantzeshan Posts: 1,248member
    I use WeMo to control the sprinkler with my iPhone.  It costed less than $50.  
  • Reply 5 of 14
    dhowsedhowse Posts: 1member
    Wemo doesn't make a sprinkler controller according to their webpage.
  • Reply 6 of 14
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,003member
    Score is too high.... should be 3/5 for lacking connection to an existing Wifi network and lack of HomeKit support. They seem to have spent unnecessary engineering time working around these existing solutions that only served to raise the cost of the device? Correct me if I'm wrong about this viewpoint.
    lolliver
  • Reply 7 of 14
    tzeshantzeshan Posts: 1,248member
    dhowse said:
    Wemo doesn't make a sprinkler controller according to their webpage.
    The WeMo app becomes a sprinkler controller.  
  • Reply 8 of 14
    tzeshan said:
    The WeMo app becomes a sprinkler controller.  
    A one zone sprinkler controller. The Rachio comes in two models, 8 and 16 zones. Doing a ghetto one-zone watering system with a WeMo is a clever idea that can save you a few bucks, but if you have a few zones it's not just completely impractical but also more expensive.
    The Rachio also gives you really cool features such as turning off or increasing watering based on weather data for your zip code.
    jbdragon
  • Reply 9 of 14
    2.4Ghz has a longer range than 5Ghz which would be ideal in this case since the controller will likely be far away from your router. 
    Also 5Ghz provides faster speeds which would be completely useless for a sprinkler controller. The device only needs the connection to download weather data and configuration, not stream HD video. 
  • Reply 10 of 14
    rob53 said:
    Sounds like a decent product but obviously too expensive for something that most people set or change s couple times a year. The hardware driving this probably cost no more than $40 (yes I can guess like everyone else).
    I agree that it's a bit overpriced. I'd get one if it was $99-$149 tops. 
  • Reply 11 of 14
    grangerfxgrangerfx Posts: 326member
    These are worthless if they don't come with a flow meter to detect when your sprinkler system springs a leak. Anyone with sprinklers and drip irrigation knows what happens when the system leaks. It costs lots of money and makes a big mess. It can happen when you are away from your home and go on for days. A smart irrigation system needs a way to detect unusual flow rates and turn off the system and alert the user.
  • Reply 12 of 14
    welshdogwelshdog Posts: 1,379member
    I got a 16 zone model in May from Amazon. There was a bundle deal to get the controller and a $50 gift gard. So I got the unit for $200 after you subtract the $50. I don't think this was a promoted deal, so it may pop up randomly. So far, I like the Rachio a lot. It is a huge step up from the simple timer based 8 zone controller I had previously. I have it tied (via Internet) to my weather station so it knows the temperature, wind and rain for my immediate locale and makes changes to the watering times accordingly. Most of my zones are drip emitter or micro sprinkler. Normally the Rachio expects to see one nozzle type per zone - like a lawn sprinkler head which the user specifies. Rachio lets you build a "custom nozzle" for a zone that gives you (and it) more precise control over the amount of water applied. Since my zones are mixture of nozzles, this feature helps. I also really like having remote control via my iPhone so when I am working on a zone I can easily turn it on and off as needed.
  • Reply 13 of 14
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 1,159member
    rob53 said:
    Sounds like a decent product but obviously too expensive for something that most people set or change s couple times a year. The hardware driving this probably cost no more than $40 (yes I can guess like everyone else).
    It's not the set or change a couple times a year. It's adjusting the watering to the settings you have and the weather reports it's getting so it's always changing. I have a older setup. It's a TORO unit, not that fancy, but it has a port on the side to add a module to it. This is what came with my house when I got it though the system wasn't working and half the sprinklers were broken. I was able to get a wireless Weather station type Module for it. You plug it into your computer with a USB cable, run the software and then set it up for type of grass, slope, type of sprinklers, etc. Enter you Zip code so it knows your area, then you bring it to the Toro main unit, plug it, hit the button and it dumps the program into the Toro main unit. Makes it easy to set the time also. The other part you mount on your house outside where it can get the temp and know if it's raining and it reports this info and will adjust watering time. So you have the normal 100% watering, but on really hot days it works up into 190%, or on cool days, it can drop down to 50%. So my grass will get watered at 6AM, and if it's into the 110% or more, it'll go through each zone normal, and then go back and do each zone again for the longer period. Which makes sense, allowing the water a chance to soak in before spraying more once again. But it's a older system, so I'm looking at a 8 zone Rachios at some point maybe. I think it could tie into my own home weather station Data also. The point is, it's a sprinkler system. You should haven't to play around with it more then a couple times a year at most. It's the controller that's handling the work and watering the lawn as needed. Not under watering or over watering on a set same amount scheduled like in the old days with a simple dumb timer. Where you're grass is getting watered that you're paying for even when the rain is coming down hard. I can easily notice on my water bill how much water is being used for the month. It goes up higher in the summer and drops down quite a bit the rest of the time.
    welshdog
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