I’ve been using the Rachio Generation 2 WiFi sprinkler controller for the past few weeks and it lives up to the hype of being the most full-featured and polished offering in the market. It waters 16 zones and is controlled from anywhere on the web or with a smartphone app.
The second-generation Rachio hit Amazon in early February and it immediately became the #1 best seller in the automatic irrigation controller category. It also came along with a string of of 5-star reviews from beta testers. I was very surprised that the device could take the #1 spot on the day of its release. Rachio owns this category.
- Top-tier experience throughout
- EPA WaterSense certified = $$ rebates $$
- Made in the USA
- Top selling unit, won’t be abandoned
- Geeky features like open API and IFTTT integrations
- Wiring took some muscle
- Plastic cover is a little flimsy
- No cheaper/smaller zone alternative, yet
The Rachio is EPA WaterSense certified, so you may be able to get a sizable rebate when you purchase this unit. Residents of my county are eligible for a 50% rebate if they jump through the water company’s hoops. You need someone to come out and take a survey of your landscape before you install the controller. You also need 4 zones running on at least 1,000 square feet of landscape. There are a few other caveats, but for $125 or more, it may be worth it.
The Rachio unit looks sleek, especially when the blue LED is illuminating my dark garage. When I mounted the device to my wall it really felt sturdy and solid, which wasn’t the case with other sprinkler controllers.
The plastic cover to the device feels a little flimsy, but it looks nice enough.
The Rachio is designed and manufactured in Colorado, how cool is that?
The install went as swiftly as any other smart sprinkler controller. They’re all pretty similar, except I got tripped up on a few things with the Rachio. I routed the cables on the outside of the device accidentally, so I had to disconnect them and start from scratch.
I also had a hard time pushing my wires into the Rachio. Maybe it was because I had the identifying stickers in my way, but it felt tougher than any other unit I’ve tested.
Otherwise it was smooth and simple to get the hardware mounted and wired up.
The setup was quite easy as well, definitely the easiest of any smart sprinkler controller I’ve tested so far. Rachio requires you to have a smartphone and once you download the app it gets itself set up on your wireless network and then synced by inputting a serial number into the app.
From there you start setting up your zones, and this is where the Rachio really gets smart. You go through a step-by-step process identifying what’s growing in the zone, soil type, amount of sunlight, type of sprinklers and slope. This info, along with the weather forecast, gives Rachio the data it needs to calculate your watering schedule.
This smart schedule is what I’m the most excited about. I don’t want to worry about this stuff any more. If I’m buying a smart sprinkler controller, I’m expecting it to figure out the watering schedule for me. Sure, I can hop in and make changes if I want, but I really want to set it and forget it with supreme confidence that my yard is getting the water it needs.
The official weather station for my house was a little too far away and is a different microclimate than my area. So I found a personal weather station that was about a mile from my own house and set that as my weather source. Rachio warns you that using a weather station attached to some random person’s house might be a bad idea, but I went to the pwsweather.com page for the station and it looked like it was showing good data.
How cool is it that some random dude set up a weather station for the fun of it and I can use that info?
The Rachio Generation 2 really shines when you get into the app (and website) and start digging around. You get information overload in the best sense. I think anyone who gets a WiFi sprinkler controller has to be a little geeky to begin with, so the charts and graphs of data and all the customizations are more signal than noise.
Check out this graph of the current state of my front lawn. It shows that the moisture level has been slowly depleting since the recent rainfall:
I may not understand evapotranspiration, but I don’t have to! Rachio takes care of it for me. The Rachio algorithm seems to be pretty spot on, as I have a PlantLink soil sensor in the ground and it is reporting very similar soil saturation and watering recommendations as the Rachio — and the Rachio is really just guessing.
The app offers everything you would expect: run zones manually, rename zones, set photos for zones, see upcoming watering, see past watering, and so much more. It’s an excellent experience.
Rachio is very geeky at heart, and it doesn’t disappoint in the geekiness department. The app itself includes tons of charts and graphs and info, and all of that info is available to you through the Rachio API as raw data. If you want to integrate Rachio controls or data into another app or website it’s all here for you.
For people that aren’t as tech savvy, you can use IFTTT integrations with Rachio to come up with all kinds of interesting combinations. If you want to get an email every time watering starts, you can do that. You can even have your smart lights turn to purple when watering starts. It’s really up to your imagination and the number of smart things you have connected.
The Rachio Generation 2 smart sprinkler controller is the class of the field. It will save water, save you money and save your mind. Once you go through the easy setup, you just forget it and let it run. The Rachio gives you so much interesting data and is completely transparent and customizable if you want to take full control.
I had a tough time coming up with criticisms of the Rachio. The 16 zone unit is probably overkill for most residential yards and there’s no current-generation alternative that has less zones and costs less. So you may be waiting around for a while for that device, as it hasn’t been announced.Check it out on Amazon