Review: Rachio's iPhone-connected Smart Sprinkler Controller is efficient, easy to use
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- Easy to install
- Simplified maintenance
- App is updated regularly with new features based on user feedback
- Active community
- Advanced customization
- Controller can't connect to 5GHz networks
- Doesn't support Apple HomeKit at this time
Where to buy
Disclosure: Review sample was provided by the manufacturer. AppleInsider may receive commission from the links used in the "Where to buy" section.