Smart sprinkler controllers can save you money on your water bill. But to find the best smart sprinkler controller, you’ll have to compare Rachio vs RainMachine vs Skydrop.
Rachio vs RainMachine vs Skydrop
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All devices include detailed watering reports to see how much you watered and when, along with custom watering options for each zone.
Offers kits for 8 or 16 zones Manual buttons available for physical controls
Offers kits for 8, 12, or 16 zones
Schedule directly on screen with the HD touchscreen models, or using the app
LED illuminated touch keys for easy scheduling on the device
Offers kits for 8 or 16 zonesLCD screen available on the device Schedule directly on the device with a spinning jog dial
Winner: RainMachine Touch HD
Sometimes things are just easier without your smart phone. Maybe your phone is charging upstairs and you just want to quickly adjust the sprinklers before you forget. On Rachio, that’s difficult since the controls are under the cover, with just a few buttons available. Skydrop has controls, but it’s also a little difficult to use since it requires a spinning dial.
RainMachine wins this one for their illuminated touch keys and HD touchscreen that makes it easy to schedule either on the device or on your phone.
All three controllers between Rachio vs RainMachine vs Skydrop use weather data to automatically adjust your watering schedule. The controllers may also qualify for a rebate with your local water company, depending on where you live. All three controllers allow you to input soil, slope, and shade factors to improve watering.
EPA WaterSense certified
Claims 50% savings
Checks with NOAA and several other weather services to know when to water based on forecasts, lets you select a nearby weather station
Flex scheduling automatically adjusts your watering based on the weather. However, it can be buggy and lead to over-consuming water if not monitored
EPA WaterSense certifiedClaims 80% savings Integrates with Netatmo Personal Weather Stations for extremely accurate weather data. You can track the weather in your own backyard, and adjust watering schedules accordingly. Works with WUnderground weather API for hyperlocal, accurate forecasts Connects with NOAA weather service and others several times per day to keep your system accurately watered. Adjustable sensitivity for schedule changes based on weather
EPA WaterSense certified (makes it easier to get rebates)Customize your watering based on how much you want to save
Hyper-local, real-time weathering data
Smart watering automatically adjusts your watering based on the weather. However, just like Rachio, it can be buggy and lead to over-consuming water if not monitoredClaims 35% savings
Winner: Tie between RainMachine and Rachio
This category is too close to call, since both Rachio and RainMachine have great water savings. Rachio has the added benefit of Flex Scheduling, as long as it’s working correctly.. RainMachine’s big plus is that it works with Netatmo personal weather stations, and it also has a higher estimate of water savings.
All devices in Rachio vs RainMachine vs Skydrop fall under the Works with Nest platform to send reports to Nest. If Nest Protect detects a fire, each controller will turn on the sprinklers. This will water your property to prevent the fire from spreading.
“Most connected sprinkler controller”Works with Alexa and Google Home for voice control
Has IFTTT integration, allowing you to automate your sprinklers with certain rules
Also works with: SmartThings, Control4, Wink, Crestron, Nexia. We tested it with SmartThings and found it easy to setup and use with our other SmartThings devices.
Works with Alexa
Also works with: Netatmo, Wink, SmartThings
IFTTT integrationNo integration other devices, except those that connect through IFTTT (i.e. Philips Hue, Nest, and others)
Rachio calls itself the most connected smart sprinkler, and it’s not a lie. The device works with many smart home systems and can be automated with IFTTT triggers and Alexa or Google Home voice commands. It’s on the cutting edge for smart home integration, making it a great choice if you want to design a whole smart home system. RainMachine is a close second, but it still works with less devices than Rachio.
The iOS and Android apps for Rachio vs RainMachine vs Skydrop continue to be updated and enhanced. Almost all have had updates within the last month, the exception being Rachio’s iOS app.
Each company is known for strong customer service, offering live phone support 6 or 7 days per week. The controllers can be managed from within your web browser or smart phone apps, with real-time notifications of your yard’s watering patterns. You can also name zones within all of the apps, making it easier to tell them apart.
If the Internet goes down, all three controllers will still work even without WiFi. They either continue their previously established schedules or enter a backup schedule designed for Internet outages.
Data is stored in the cloud using Amazon Web Services (AWS)
Improved set up with 2nd generation, just hold your smart phone near the device and enter the serial number to link up
Allows you to share access with irrigation professionals or family
Offers a trial of the app on their website
Made in the USA
Doesn’t come with set up tools
Cloud independent – this allows you to store your data locally and not depend on another company’s servers Open source code, allowing for more and more functionality down the road. If you’re a developer, you can write your own Python code for RainMachine. Offers location-specific water savings calculator on their website based on the past 365 days of weather and water usage. In other words: you can find out how much you would have saved for the past year if you had RainMachine. Comes with a template and small screwdriver for easy set up Bigger learning curve for software, not as easy to use Made in China
Allows you to share access with irrigation professionals or family members
Made in the USAApp offers basic features and is glitchy
Winner: RainMachine Touch HD
While Rachio does have some enticing features like offering access to other users, RainMachine just has to win this category. Here’s why: if Rachio goes out of business, your device is a very fancy looking brick, leaving you forced to go back to your old-school sprinkler controller.
But RainMachine functions even if the WiFi is down. It stores the information, including your password, locally, making it both secure and protected in case anything ever happens to RainMachine as a company. In other words, your device will always work. The open source code also sets RainMachine apart because it shows that more functionality will be coming.
Quick Note about Outdoor Enclosures & Rain Sensors
Each of these three smart sprinkler controllers in Rachio vs RainMachine vs Skydrop have outdoor enclosures. These protect the electronics from rain, wind, and sun damage if you need to use them outdoors. Here are links to the enclosures if you need one for your controllers:
- Skydrop Outdoor Enclosure
- Rachio Outdoor Enclosure
- RainMachine Orbit Outdoor Enclosure– since this has a touchscreen, even within the box it still needs shelter from direct sunlight and needs to avoid moisture accumulation such as condensation. May not work in very humid environments
Similarly, each device for Rachio vs RainMachine vs Skydrop works with compatible rain sensors. These serve as a back-up if Mother Nature has a surprise downpour that isn’t part of the forecast. For more information, head to these three links:
Well, it’s a tough choice, but we have to choose a favorite. And the overall winner of Rachio vs RainMachine vs Skydrop is…
We can’t ignore RainMachine’s awesome features. It is completely independent from the cloud, so you know it will always work. Its open source code makes it super smart, and it integrates with (almost) everything you would need like IFTTT and Alexa. It’s also EPA WaterSense certified and can be scheduled manually on the device to help you save cash.
Rachio is a very close second place! Especially if you want a device that’s ultra easy to use and set up with other smart home gadgets. We tested Rachio hands-on and were very impressed with how reliable and easy to use it was. It is also a much better option for outdoor use. While it depends on the cloud, Rachio is a solid company and you shouldn’t have any concerns purchasing their device for controlling your sprinklers for years to come.
Skydrop has similar features to Rachio and works well for many customers. It also has the lowest price tag by far, while still offering most of the advanced features you need. As they add more smart home integration and continue to update their software, Skydrop will continue to capture budget-minded customers in this market.
There’s your roundup of Rachio vs RainMachine vs Skydrop. For more details on devices that can work with your smart home, use our 30-second Smart Home Solver tool to see which devices work with Alexa, Google Home, and more.
Editor’s Note: We originally published this in June 2016. Our writers updated it to stay current and accurate.