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Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller | full review 2022

 Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller | Here's everything you need to know


Rachio 3 review

This is the most adaptable and user-friendly smart controller for your irrigation system in the yard or garden.


Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, IFTTT, Samsung SmartThings

Rachio 3 Review

The Rachio 3 is the most versatile and complete smart sprinkler controller we evaluated, with the best balance of set-and-forget convenience and maximum control when you need it. The Rachio 3 can figure out when, where, and for how long to water your garden on its own thanks to its simple scheduling choices that use hyperlocal, internet-delivered weather information. If rain, cold temperatures, or strong winds are expected, it can let you run the show while automatically adapting to save water.

The WaterSense-certified Rachio 3 is our top option since it was the most accurate controller in our tests. It comes in eight and sixteen-zone variants. (A 12-zone Rachio 3 model is available only at Costco; it's a Costco exclusive and is identical to the conventional Rachio 3 in every way but the amount of zones covered.) Its Weather Intelligence Plus (WIP) service generates a hyperlocal forecast based on local weather reports, satellite, radar, and atmospheric flight data, as well as other climate sources, and it proved to be very accurate in our testing; for example, the Rachio 3 correctly predicted that it would not rain in our test garden on a day when the software for every other controller predicted it would. This accuracy has continued to make the Rachio 3 the most effective controller we've evaluated in our long-term testing. We've seen other controllers set rain delays based on expected events that never materialised, and the Rachio 3 has never been deceived by the  meteorologist in the same way.

WIP is only accessible on Rachio 3. The Rachio 3e, like the other controllers we tested, uses normal weather forecasts from local weather stations. According to specialists we spoke with, the only other viable option to acquire this level of exact hyperlocal forecasting is to buy and install a personal weather station, which range in price from $150 to several thousand dollars and require constant upkeep to be accurate. The Rachio 3e, on the other hand, is a great choice if you don't need more than eight zones, HomeKit integration, or this type of hyperlocal forecasting (either because you already have a weather station or because you live in an area with more predictable weather patterns than coastal South Carolina), and it saves you $80.

The Rachio 3 has more integrations than any other smart controller we tested, including Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Control4, Google Assistant, IFTTT, Nexia, SmartThings, Wink, and Xfinity. We discovered that some of these connectors provided significant benefit and weren't merely gimmicks during our testing. When your hands are coated in muck, voice control using Amazon Alexa, Apple's Siri, or Google Assistant, for example, allows you to turn the sprinklers on and off or start a zone for a specific number of minutes. The wording can get a bit clunky (for instance, “Alexa, ask Rachio to start zone four for 15 minutes” or “Alexa, ask Rachio to stop watering”), leaving lots of room for miscommunication. We found the HomeKit integration to be the most seamless—if you’re in the yard with your iPhone or Apple Watch, a quick “Hey Siri, stop watering” will shut down your system.

 The Rachio 3 can be used as a security tool (for example, turning on the sprinklers if an exterior camera detects motion in a certain zone) or a measure of extra convenience when paired with a SmartThings or other smart-home hub (say, shutting the sprinklers off when the front door opens). Sprinkler controllers cannot yet be added to HomeKit Automations or Scenes. We had the most fun with the IFTTT integration: we created an applet that activated the sprinklers for five minutes in the "chickens" zone anytime the temperature surpassed 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The chickens in our coop got a great, cold shower from this.

The Rachio 3's app was the most user-friendly and quick of those we evaluated. The controller status, forecast, previous run and next run, and a visual of how much water has been used versus saved are all displayed on the main page (an estimate). It also has a convenient Quick Run button, and when a zone is running, a pause button appears—which is excellent when you want to take a shower and need more water pressure, or when you're dining al fresco and don't want to take a shower. (Thrive, Rachio's new lawn-care subscription service, has its own tab on the app.) However, because this is a premium upgrade that isn't required for the device to function, we haven't tried it.)

The software sends regular and consistent messages to your smartphone and email, the most important of which is a warning that the sprinklers are about to turn on, which is given a few seconds before they do; this indication prevented us from soaking some guests unexpectedly. The app also lets you know when it's offline, which is important since with a device that's so easy to set and forget, you might not notice until your garden is damaged if it loses power. Furthermore, you may grant access to a landscaper via the app, with or without time constraints, so that they can maintain the system without your presence. You can also choose a different weather station or link to a personal weather station, such as a Netatmo, and define an optional delay between zones (for example, to allow a well to replenish). An instructive water-usage panel displays a monthly and daily estimate of how much water the system applied to each zone. Rachio claims that the Yard Map feature enhances water-usage reporting by allowing you to design virtual boundaries for each zone in your yard and specify how many sprinkler heads are in each zone and where they are located. In addition, a good web gateway allows you to tweak your system's settings from the convenience of a larger screen.

The Rachio app offers a helpful water-usage screen that shows how much water the system applied to each zone on a monthly and daily basis. You can use the Yard Mapping function to define virtual boundaries for each zone and mark the locations of sprinkler heads. 

The Rachio 3 is an elegant white box with a long, blue LED light strip that is a major boost from the aesthetics of a basic electronic timer. On the outside of the device, basic onboard controls—to trigger each zone for three minutes—are available, and the wiring is easily accessible thanks to a magnetic cover.

Using our system's existing wiring and three mounting screws, we were able to easily install the Rachio 3 in our tests. We spent approximately 30 minutes getting everything set up, which included having the app lead us through taking images and answering questions about each zone, which included everything from plant and soil kinds to slope, sun exposure, and nozzle-head types. It also checked that each zone was operational, which is a valuable function for folks who aren't familiar with sprinkler system programming.

All of the smart sprinkler controllers we evaluated are designed to use the same cables as non-smart controllers, making the transition from a traditional controller simple.

You have two options for watering schedules after setting up the Rachio 3: you may design a regular time-based schedule or have the device produce one for you. Both modes allow you to enter watering limits if your area has them, and both techniques can be used in conjunction with the Weather Intelligence Plus feature, which allows the system to adjust its watering based on local conditions.

We used the Flexible Daily option on the Rachio 3 to set our timetable, which updates every day based on the predicted soil moisture. This is the least predictable option: you can't choose which days or how long the sprinklers run, but you can set them to start or stop at a specified hour or at sunset/sunrise. This option gives the greatest potential water savings at the expense of dependability.We enabled all of the smart features available, including Smart Cycle, a cycle-and-soak feature that divides watering into multiple shorter cycles to prevent runoff, and Weather Intelligence, which includes climate skip (watering times skipped based on recent, past, and future weather conditions), rain skip (skipping watering before or after rain), and freeze skip (preventing watering when a ground freeze is expected, so your plants don't freeze).

The Rachio 3 watered for 43 minutes to nearly four hours in the early morning hours on days when it was planned, stopping as asked before sunrise. Not every zone was active at all times, and it wasn't active every day. It would skip waterings for two to three days surrounding a rain event if rain was projected, depending on how much rain was expected. Due to rain, the sprinklers were turned off for a week in certain circumstances. We utilised less water with the Rachio 3 than we would have with our prior system (which was set to run every other day, for a total of 180 minutes a week, regardless of weather). When we observed our neighbor's sprinklers go off right before a rainfall, we felt a twinge of eco-smugness.

This varies from the RainMachine Touch HD, our runner-up, which executes a scheduled programme that you establish by default but reduces the quantity of water it consumes (in some circumstances to none) based on the weather and projected soil moisture. Both approaches reach the same end goal of conserving water while keeping your lawn healthy, but the RainMachine offers only that option. In contrast, with the Rachio 3, you can employ either option or choose to plan your vegetable garden and flower beds on a fixed timetable while leaving your lawn on a flexible schedule. The Rachio 3 and the RainMachine Touch HD both apply a similar amount of water in the end, but they do so in different ways.