Sprinkler Timer?

I need to replace an old sprinkler timer, and my nerd tendencies have me thinking about a smart/app-connected timer. A quick scan of HomeKit compatible timers didn’t look too promising, but it was just a quick look.

Location of the current timer makes it difficult to access the controls or see the screen, so it would be nice to control with my iPhone. I would love to pull the old one out and wire up a new one without having to mess with valves or plumbing. Is there such thing? What are you all using these days?

I have not used one myself, Would Eve Aqua do the job for you?

I decided to replace my working Rainbird with a smart sprinkler controller while listening to MPU 622. I went to guest Shane’s YouTube channel and settled on a Yardian smart sprinkler controller. That was the easy part.

My first Yardian install didn’t work at all. It couldn’t pass a self-test. It turned out that was because my sprinkler water is from a well and requires a pump relay connection. Yardian told me they had to redesign their board to boost some signal to work properly with a pump relay. They sent me a replacement unit. That unit would at least self-test.

After physically installing the new Yardian, you have to install the device through their app on the 2.4 GHz frequency. It took me a while to get the controller to connect, but it finally did. I also had to seek Yardian’s support a couple of times because the instruction/installation manual’s electric connection diagram did not always match my existing wiring. They were very helpful ensuring I had the controller wired correctly.

After setup, I tried to turn on some zones to test, but only a few of the sprinkler zones would come on, and those were intermittent. It didn’t matter if the test was through the app or manually from the controller. This was not a problem with the Rainbird.

Thinking it was the Yardian unit, I bought a Rachio3 through Amazon. That didn’t work. I then bought an Orbit B-hyve from Home Depot. That didn’t work either. Same problem: only a few of the sprinkler zones would come on, and those were intermittent. So, I reinstalled the Yardian and returned the others for a refund. One thing to keep in mind, as you chose a controller, is the number of zones you have. I have 12 zones and controllers for that number were not always available.

Since I had now gone through three controllers with the same result, I called in a professional sprinkler system company. They diagnosed the problem initially as a couple of bad valve solenoids. They replaced them but they had the same problem as I did. They then tested the wiring to the valves and determined that the wiring was bad. Luckily for me, the owner of the sprinkler system company is a family acquaintance and he was doing the work, so I felt that I was getting reliable information. But, the wiring was adequate and working with the not smart Rainbird controller. Neither the sprinkler system company nor I tried to figure out why the wiring was OK with one controller and not the others. I had determined to use a smart controller and needed to make it work. So, all 12 zone’s wiring was replaced.

Finally, after a lot of time and money, everything worked. I have enjoyed the ability to control individual zones remotely or set up entire watering cycles. I will say that the ability of the controller to smartly water your lawn only when it needs it, depends upon an accurate weather forecast. I found the weather service Yardian uses to be inaccurate for my area. That’s not surprising. I use five weather apps on my iPhone to get a general consensus of what the weather will be. None of them are reliably accurate enough.

I also tried installing a couple of different rain sensors, but could not get them to communicate with this controller. Or any controller I’ve used. Ever. But, I’m still happy I converted to a smart system. There were just a lot of problems I wasn’t expecting since I started with a fully functional system.

And one last thing. I control the Yardian through its app. I was unable to get it to work consistently through the Home app. That was before iOS 16. I haven’t tried in iOS 16.

Hope this helps. It’s more than a recommendation because I wanted to outline some of the problems I encountered. I will also add that after examining the Rachio and its app, I found little difference between it and the Yardian. I’d guess they they have the same genesis. The NY Times WireCutter has a recommendations page that may be helpful.

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My house came with an irrigation system driven by an ancient Toro controller that was a pain to program and operate. Replaced it with a Rachio controller I got on a Woot deal. It has paid for itself in water savings. Easy install and programming. Once setup it just runs and adjusts the watering schedule depending on the weather and season.

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We have a Rainbird controller and added on their LNK WiFi Module. We’ve had no problems, and it’s easy to use their app to change the programming.

We eliminated the second controller in the backyard by adding it to the Rainbird controller.

We have it mounted at the very far end of the garage. I added an extra Eero in the dining room, which is the closest room to it, and haven’t had any connection problems.

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I have had 2 B-hyve controllers for 2 years. There were available at Home Depot. They can only be run from your phone. The cost was competitive to manual timers.

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Thanks for these great replies. Super helpful. Seems like app-driven without homekit will be the way to go. I’ll report back after some more research.

I installed a RainMachine at my mother’s house in 2018 (along with an electronic value) and it’s been completely reliable since.

I can access it from an iOS app or log into the device via RainMachine’s Web site. The device gets the weather over the Internet each day to determine whether or not it needs to run the watering programs, saving significant water usage over a mechanical system.

So I’ve found no need to further automate it. Very pleased.