Rachio Iro Smart Sprinkler Controller
Today's smart home irrigation systems can be controlled remotely from a smartphone and can use local and national weather data to determine how often your lawn should be watered.
One such controller, the Rachio Iro ($249), even lets you use IFTTT (If This Then That) recipes to trigger or suspend watering sessions. Aesthetically, the Iro isn't much to look at, but it offers well-designed iOS and Android apps, as well as a Web-based console. It lacks onboard controls and is more expensive than a traditional sprinkler controller, but it's packed with features and works like a charm.
The controller measures 7.3 by 7.3 by 2.2 inches (HWD) and consists of a wall-mounting plate and a snap-on face that contains the controller circuitry. The face is white with a blue Rachio logo and holds three small LED indicators (Power, Wi-Fi, Status) and a power jack. You won't find a backlit jog dial or an LCD panel; in fact, the Iro doesn't offer any controls or buttons whatsoever. The only way to control it comes by way of an iOS or Android device, or a Web console.
The mounting plate contains quick connect wire receptacles for 8 watering zones, as well as connections for a master pump valve, a common wire, and rain sensors (a 16-zone version of the Iro is available for $299). The plate also holds a small level so you can mount it properly. Included in the box are mounting screws, an AC power supply, and an install guide. The Iro uses 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi (2.4GHz) to connect to your home router. Unlike the all-weather Blossom controller, the Iro must be installed indoors, unless you purchase an optional outdoor enclosure.
The Iro's iOS, Android, and Web apps are tastefully designed and easy to use. The app's opening page contains a start button and the next scheduled watering time. At the bottom of the page is a seven-day calendar with weather forecasts for each day. Scheduled watering days are circled. Tapping any day displays the schedule for each zone for that day. At the top of the page, on the left, is a tab that takes you to a page where you can add devices, assign nozzle types (fixed spray, rotary, mister, bubbler, emitter), view and edit your user profile, and access help files, FAQs, and updates.
The Iro settings page is where you go to enter your zip code (for local weather data) and set up your watering zones. Here you can name each zone and choose a type of vegetation (such as cool or warm season grass, trees, perennial, annual, or shrubs). Next, choose a soil type (loam, clay, sand, etc.), exposure (lots of sun, some shade, mostly shade), and nozzle type. You can also choose a grade for each zone (flat, slight slope, moderate, steep). Advanced zone settings include area footage, root depth, allowed depletion, and efficiency, but these are best left to professional landscapers. You can manually enter all settings for each zone or use the wizard, which walks you through each step.
The Watering Times section allows you to schedule watering sessions for each zone with a start date and time. You can choose times for each zone and have it repeat every day, every other day, or only on specific days of the month. There's a Smart Cycle setting that will adjust watering times according to the soil type to improve absorption, and a Weather Intelligence setting that examines local weather data and will skip watering sessions if rain is detected. With this setting you can assign a rain delay threshold (1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, 1 inch). The Water Restriction setting will adhere to local restrictions on when you can water your lawn.
The Iro offers extensive reporting features, including a year-to-date water usage summary, daily usage and watering times, and monthly usage and watering times. There's also a running history of daily watering sessions with data for each zone, watering times, and when the session was started and completed.