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Rachio's second-gen smart sprinkler controller is still a must-have for homeowners

There are many shameful things that can happen to a homeowner. Your car rolling out of the garage and into your neighbor's azalea is one. The sewer pipe getting crushed on Mother's Day (and on a Sunday no less, and quite possibly as you're headed out for a few days of meetings in a Miami mansion is another.

(Yes, these things might or might not have happened to me at some point. Use your best judgment.)

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One thing I've managed to avoid for a few years, though, is watering the grass while it's raining out. That's not just a Florida thing, either. Dumb timers are dumb. Smart sprinklers are better.

So a few years ago Rachio sent me one of their first-generation smart sprinkler controllers. And the original Iro has served me well. Now it's time to update, and Rachio sent over the current generation of its controller. The second gen starts at $199 for an 8-zone model, or you can get a 16-zoner for $50 more. There's also a $29 waterproof enclosure if you need to mount things outside.

Even in its initial form, Rachio wasn't just a timer that you can control from your phone. It goes a good bit further. It pulls in local weather information to tell if it's going to rain, and whether a watering cycle should be skipped. You can input soil type for more precise watering.

Rachio water savings

And ultimately it should save you from wasting water — and that means you'll be wasting less money.

Installation will vary depending on your setup, of course. Mine's pretty simple, though. The controller is on a wall in my garage, just within range of my wireless router. (That part's important, of course. If you don't have a Wifi connection in the garage, you'll need to adjust.) From there it's just a matter of popping off the old controller, screwing the new one into the wall, and reattaching the wires. Rachio's quick-start guide does a good job walking you through things if needed. But really this is basic homeowner stuff.

From there you'll setup through the app. (It's available on Android (opens in new tab) and on iOS (opens in new tab), of course.) That part's been greatly improved since the first generation controller. The other major upgrade is the addition of manual controls, which was definitely needed.

After that you set zones and times and what not, and that's that. If you need to adjust, you can do so in the app, or from the Rachio website.

Or if you're feeling a little extra cheeky, yes, it'll work with Amazon Alexa, as well as with the Google Assistant. (The latter is buried under More Settings -> Services and not under the higher-level Home Control.)

You can be as hands-off as you like here. I generally just let the system take care of things, at least at the start of the season. If I think the lawn needs more water, I'll adjust. But the best part is that I don't have to worry about watering my lawn with my own money while it's getting a good drink for free.

And especially here in Florida, that pays for itself pretty fast.

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  • I bought one of these last year, and it is definitely a must have. I love the automatic rain skips based on local weather data, it it makes tweaking zone durations and watering schedules so simple. No more messing with dip switches and small LCD screens.
  • I bought one a year ago and had to return it. It was problematic and I couldn't get it to work consistently. It was then that I realize that whenever I have problems with my sprinkler controller I just text my gardener to fix it. He couldn't help with the Rachio so I went back to my old Toro controller.
  • My 1st Gen Rachio easily paid for itself during the first watering season. The ability to walk around the yard turning on/off sprinklers while attempting to repair them seems simple but in reality is a big deal when you don't have to run back to your garage every time you want to shut something off or turn it on.
  • Hunter's pro HC is better
  • Worth noting- some states, like California, offer refunds/incentives for switching to controllers that automatically adjust to rain etc. My Rachio was basically free because of this. If you're at all curious about this, check with your water department to see if they're offering rebates. It's worth the money on its own, but it's even better when it's free.
  • Yep up to $300 in Santa Clara, so free. I just started the process (need to send in photos of my existing unit).
  • There is never a "need" to water a lawn. Grass is designed to cope with drought and regrow. Just look at the plains of Africa, where the vast grasslands appear to die off each year and grow fresh grass as soon as rains come. Watering lawns is conspicuous waste. If you don't like to see dead grass, put down gravel or bark chippings.