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After two super-dry California winter months here in California, I’m really impressed with the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller (Generation 2), and believe it’s an excellent upgrade to existing sprinkler clocks for homes with an in-ground sprinkler system. The controller has a white plastic removable cover with a round cutout that exposes an interesting stylized status wheel. Under the cover are two buttons used to manually select zones and start or stop watering, along with sprinkler configuration tools and a wiring hub. The controller comes in an 8-zone configuration for $199.99 and a 16-zone configuration for $249.99 (you can add a second device to control additional zones).

A smart sprinkler controller will save water and help you remain in compliance with your city’s watering regulations. The Rachio automatically responds to real-time local weather conditions and forecasts, meaning it will adjust your watering schedule as needed. No more watering in the rain! The Rachio provides control of your sprinklers from anywhere in the world through its intuitive app.

The controller is relatively easy to install using the instruction guide (Internet connectivity is required). I took a picture of the wiring on my existing controller so I could match each Rachio wire to its correct zone. After unplugging and removing the old controller and disconnecting the four zone wires and the single common wire, I mounted the Rachio controller to my garage wall and attached the zone and common wires to their appropriate numbered terminals using the quick release push tabs. Next, I plugged in the AC adapter, replaced the controller cover, and launched the app, which I had downloaded for free from Apple’s App Store.

Rachio can be controlled with voice commands through both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. This means you don’t have to pull out your phone to control your sprinklers — just ask Google or Alexa to do it for you. Rachio lets you fine-tune your sprinkler system with advanced settings if you’d like, but I prefer the automatic settings that take into account the current weather forecast. There is a catch, however — if your Internet is down, the controller will run Rachio’s preprogrammed schedules. You won’t be able to use the app or mobile device to adjust the schedules until Internet access is restored to the connector, and automatic weather adjustments won’t work during that time either.

With the Rachio, you won’t have to think about modifying your lawn watering schedule due to changing weather conditions, and I love how I can closely monitor my daily, monthly, and yearly water usage. As with most connected devices, you’ll pay more for the Rachio than you would for a traditional offline sprinkler controller, but I believe it’s tremendously valuable to have easy control of my sprinkler through a really well-designed app, along with alerts/notifications that tell me what’s happening with my sprinkler system at all times.

– Larry Barrows