Best Smart Sprinkler Controllers

automatic sprinklers watering lawn

Creating a schedule for an irrigation system that doesn’t waste water can be a major headache. Fortunately, determining the best schedule for your irrigation system has never been easier. There are several viable options for controlling your irrigation system, each with slight differences than the next. Greeniq, Rachio and Spruce all use smart technology to make your system more efficient and dependable. Find out which home irrigation controller is best for you.

Primary purposeControls irrigationControls irrigationControls irrigation
Purchase price$249$249 (8 zones), $299 (16 zones)$149.99
Monthly feeNoNoNo
Mobile appiOS, AndroidiOS, AndroidiOS, Android
Web appWindows (PC) and MacWindows (PC) and Macnone
Works with IFTTTYesYesYes
Works with Nest ProtectNoYesNo
Compatible devicesFlower Power, Koubachi, Netatmo Weather Station, Netatmo Rain Gauge, Flow Meter, Garden Lighting, TORO®Nest Protect, Netatmo, Toro, Wink, Control4, Crestron, Nexia Home Intelligence, MuzzleySmartThings
Battery operated / battery backupNoNoYes
Operating temp-20° to 55° C (-4° to 131° F)-35° to 60° C (-31° to 140° F)-17° to TBA ° C (0° to TBA° F)
Weather resistantYesYes (with $49 waterproof enclosure)No
Irrigation zones6 irrigation zones8 or 16 irrigation zones16 irrigation zones
Communication10/100BASE-T, Wi-FiWi-FiSmartThings, Wi-Fi
Buy nowOn AmazonOn AmazonOn Amazon

What irrigation systems do

Old-school irrigation systems require you to set a watering schedule and stick to it. Weather plays a huge part in your irrigation schedule, but using a pre-set schedule doesn’t account for any weather patterns. There are so many factors to consider when you want what’s best for your garden and your water bill, and figuring it out on your own is a big job. You end up wasting money and resources. If it rains, you need to manually shut off the system or allow it to run automatically, wasting water. With the traditional irrigation schedule, watering your yard is a guessing game.

GreenIQ, Rachio and Spruce all make your irrigation system into a science. By monitoring the weather and moisture in the soil, the three programs allow you to water your garden when you need it, and skip the water when you don’t. They take all of the available data into consideration and create the most efficient watering schedule for your yard.

Everything is split into zones, allowing you to have different settings for each different zone. Spruce has 16 zones, GreenIQ has 6 zones and Rachio has 8 or 16-zone options. One area of your yard might require more frequent watering because of a difference in soil, and another might require less watering because it contains hardy plants. Splitting your yard into zones fixes this problem.

Best of all, they can all be controlled at the push of a button. Rachio and GreenIQ can be controlled from any computer, iOS or Android device via an app and Spruce can be controlled from the SmartThings App on any Android or iOS device. You can be as involved, or as lazy as you want. When you’re away from home, you can be confident that your yard isn’t being flooded by an over-zealous sprinkler.

How irrigation systems work

The irrigation controllers work in similar ways, with only a few differences. The Spruce controller is connected to your sprinkler wiring. Although the controller isn’t weatherproof, you can install it outdoors if you have an outdoor timer box and a power source.

After it’s installed, it connects to SmartThings—which requires the purchase of a $99 hub. Then, Spruce uses weather data to create a watering schedule. You can input your own requirements as well, or you can manually control the system on the SmartThings App.

GreenIQ is a hub, too. It can go directly in your garden (it’s water and weatherproof) and connects with your sprinkler wires and your home’s Wi-Fi. Using information from the closest weather station and any requirements you have, the hub calculates the best watering schedule for your yard. It can also be controlled by you from your web browser or from the app or a web browser.

Rachio is a hub, as well, and it can be installed indoors or outdoors. Outdoor installation is more difficult and you need to purchase a weatherproof cover for it. Once it’s installed, the controller connects to Wi-Fi using something called Blink Up. It’s an easy process—you install the Rachio app on your phone or tablet and hold it in front of the controller.

After Wi-Fi is connected, Rachio receives weather data and creates a watering schedule based on calculations and your needs. Like GreenIQ, you can choose your own settings on the app or from the web browser.

Useful smart garden features

GreenIQ can control the lighting in your garden, based on sunrise and sunset times. It also has the ability to work with several other useful products. You can pair your hub with the Flower Power Bluetooth sensor or Koubachi to optimize your watering schedule based on soil moisture, use the Netatmo weather station to get even more frequent weather updates or use IFTTT to create your own irrigation rules. The hub is compatible with a few other cool gadgets, so check out the chart above for all of the details.

Rachio has a long list of compatible devices too. One of the most interesting (and potentially life-saving) features is the ability to integrate with Nest Protect. If you ever have a fire in your home, your sprinklers can be set to respond to the alert from Nest Protect. By running your sprinklers when there is even a minor fire, you can prevent more serious damage.

Rachio also works with some soil sensors, rain sensors, personal weather stations and Netatmo. Using soil moisture data or real-time weather data can make your irrigation system even more efficient. It also works with Control4, a home automation system. IFTTT capable Rachio gives you ultimate control.

Spruce makes their own moisture sensors, which can be bought alone or as a bundle with the controller. Because it’s connected with SmartThings, you can integrate it with your other smart home devices. It also works with IFTTT, allowing you to set even more rules.

Water conservation is one of the main reasons to get any of these controllers, so they all have features that focus on conservation. Rachio does daily water use and daily water time reports, monthly reports and also tells you your year-to-date water savings. GreenIQ generates a monthly report that reveals your water and electricity savings. Spruce tells you your watering times and watering events per week, so you can look back and analyze your data.

Scheduling options

All of the controllers have similar scheduling options. You can opt for flexible, sensor and weather-dependent scheduling, or choose a rigid schedule. You can set start and end times, specific days of the week, and the system will run based upon how frequently you want it to run. Of course, you can take the hands-off approach and let the controllers figure out the watering schedule for you.

Final thoughts

Watering your yard is a science, and Rachio, GreenIQ and Spruce do the work for you. Although all three controllers have a lot in common, it comes down to what you want. Spruce is the cheapest, but is also the most limited when it comes to extra features. If you’re looking for the most water and energy savings, you need a controller that is compatible with as many devices as possible. Rachio works with the most accessories, giving it ultimate efficiency. With the same price tag as GreenIQ, it’s the better value. It is currently our top pick for the smart home garden and can be purchased on Amazon.