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My recent move out to the suburbs meant inheriting an in-ground sprinkler system, which was great — except for the ancient controller to which it was connected. Despite religiously following the instruction manual and “programming” it through a variety of tiny buttons — not unlike a vintage 1980s VCR — the thing would still fire the sprinkler heads at completely random times. I couldn’t figure it out — the clock was correct, the watering times were correct, but the actual sprinklers would turn on three or four hours later. I was resigned to running it manually during the day, and losing some of the water to the sun’s evaporation.
Enter the Rachio 3. I purchased it during the July Prime Day earlier this year, and it’s far and away the best smart home experience I’ve had in years. It took less than an hour to install — connecting to all the wiring of the previous controller — but oh, what a difference. Instead of punching an endless series of buttons and knobs, I now just use the Rachio app on my phone or iPad. The sprinklers now correctly run in the pre-dawn hours, and the system even uses local weather reports to suggest skipping sessions on those days when it’s recently rained. (It’s compatible with hardwired water sensors, too.) If and when I want to change the schedule or do a manual run, I just whip out my phone and touch the screen. (It’s also Alexa and Google Assistant compatible, if you want to go the voice-control route.)
The Rachio 3 comes in three versions: 4-zone, 8-zone and 16-zone. All three are currently discounted for Prime Day, and while they’re not quite as affordable as the previous Prime Day, they range between 15% to 26% off the usual list price, so the entry-level buy-in is about $128. There’s no subscription to worry about, either — just make sure the installation site has Wi-Fi covearge. But if you have an integrated sprinkler system, this is an easy recommendation. Need a second opinion? My colleague Jared DiPane , too.