Irrigation Control thoughts?

Hello all. I would really like to get a smart irrigation controller, mostly for the tie-in to weather so it turns itself off if watering isn’t needed. Both the Rachio and RainMachine have a lot of positive reviews … and negative reviews. Given the negative reviews I’m wondering if it’s really worth blowing $200+ for a device that may be no better than the $50 “dumb” unit I can pick up at Home Depot. So I thought I’d come here for advice. What are your experiences? Does anyone have information that would make it really obvious that the smart controllers are no good or, conversely, that they rock?

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I had a Rain Bird “dumb” controller for years and it worked well. I upgraded to the Rachio 3 “smart” controller for one reason - I could stop or discontinue watering if it were raining/going to rain and I was away from home. However, the Rachio weather monitoring actually works very well. I get notifications if the weather indicates rain and the Rachio is cancelling my watering schedule for the next day. I don’t have to do anything to pause or skip. It does it itself. If I do WANT to water, then I just open the app and tell it to continue with the current schedule. I love the Rachio. I love the ease of setup and I love the app. I would purchase it again.

With that said, one could just purchase a much cheaper smart plug and use that to turn on/off a dumb controller. I did that for a short period of time with my Rain Bird.


i really like my rachio gen 2

If you want to control your sprinkler system based on inground sensors that determine how wet the soil itself is, then you need a smart system.

If you just want a timer and maybe add some filters based on the weather report, then you can use a dumb electronic water valve and just plug it into a smart plug.

So different people will have different needs. :sunglasses:

You can see what other people have done by going to the quick browse lists in the community – created wiki, looking down near the bottom of that page for the project reports section, and then choosing the “irrigation“ list. :umbrella:

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Thanks for the replies; the Rachio is very tempting but I don’t like the lack of local control … the thing I really like about the RainMachine is that you have full control from the unit so if the internets aren’t working or I just want to use it locally, I can. Anyone have any experience w/this controller?

The Rachio 3 does have local control right on the unit. Also, if the internet is down, then it will execute the programmed schedule. If your wifi is working, then I THINK you can connect directly and control it. Not sure if you need cloud service to use the app. That is something I will need to investigate.

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I’d prefer full control including programming on the unit. Aside from that the Rachio looks great.

How often is your internet out for days at a time where it would impact the health of your vegetation?

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Obviously that’s not really an issue … right now. Nevertheless, could happen. So, all my smart devices have full local control.

We have very localized weather (could be pouring rain 1/2 a mile away, and dry at my house), so I really like the Rachio integration with PWS. I have my PWS at a distance of “0.01 miles” from my controller, so the weather skip functionality functionality is finally useful! I thought I’d develop all sorts of custom automations, but the system really pretty much does it all for me. (Yay and boo.) I have virtually no internet outages, so the worries about inaccessibility are a non-issue.

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Funny … I see you are from CO as well. Longmont here. Exact same issues. So, yeah, I need very localized weather response!

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What PWS are you using @rahlvers? I’m in Parker and was thinking about getting something for more localized info. Currently using a station 4.5 miles away.

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I’ve got the Ambient Weather WS-2902. The only thing that I don’t get properly is wind, as I have it ground/tripod mounted. But I have ponderosa pines that would block very accurate measurements anyway because, well, it’s a forest. (Black Forest for those not from the area.)

You can find my PWS here:


The Rachio and RainMachine are as far as I can see good solutions. Unfortunately neither does a proper job of selling their products to the European market. The Rachio 3 is technically speaking illegal to use in Europe in its current form.

Does anyone have any experience of Gardena smart irrigation products? They at least are officially sold in the UK and Europe.

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Another less expensive option might be the Orbit B-Hyve. It is considered a smart irrigation controller too, it monitors the weather and delays irrigation if rain is in the forecast. If the rain quantity isn’t sufficient it will adjust it’s Smart Watering feature run time to give your lawn the amount of water it needs based on the type of sprinkler heads you have. I’m happy with mine and although I believe it can be integrated with ST, I haven’t seen the need to do so. I got a six station one an year ago for about $120 CAD.


I found the custom device handler and smartapp github page

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Per one of the other posts above, because of where I live I need hyper-local weather information. I looked at the Orbit and I don’t think it can do this. I think I’m going to pull the trigger on the RainMachine - I really like the interface on the unit and the ability to have full local control if you want/need it.

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I made my own with a NodeMCU flashed with Tasmota. I haven’t added moisture sensors yet, but I can.

I have a RainMachine and I like it quite a bit. Having the display is handy as I don’t always want to pull out my phone to control it. It also lets the maintenance people run it without my supervision (start up, blowouts, etc).

The app can connect directly to the controller without internet but there is also a cloud proxy for when you’re not on the same network.

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Thanks for that @Dianoga. I just pulled the trigger. If I remember I’ll report back on what I think of it, in case that’s useful to anyone. :slight_smile:

So I got my RainMachine installed and set up. Installation is easy, no surprise there. I like the app, it did take a bit to get it all figured out and the main screen is kinda busy, but once you know where to find stuff it’s pretty straightforward. I love the look of the unit and the ability to control everything from there if you don’t want to mess w/the app. Only complaint so far is that it seems like the touch screen is not super responsive … frequently have to tap it twice to get it to respond. Not sure how much I’ll use it since you can do everything from the app or a browser. I’ll post back in a week or two about how it does using weather data to manage the watering.

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