Rachio has long been one of my favorite smart sprinkler controllers. This week they announced their second generation sprinkler controller, and may have just taken the top spot on my list.
Rachio accesses the latest local weather patterns through your Wi-Fi, and automatically optimizes a watering schedule to the specific needs of your yard. Also its mobile app gives you access to your sprinklers from anywhere.
On their blog, The good people at Rachio say that the highlights of the new unit include:
- Smaller, easier-to-install design. It takes up less space on your wall while allowing more space for wiring in the controller.
- Easier Wi-Fi setup. Simpler connection process that no longer requires the ‘blinkup’ protocol.
- Run zones directly from the controller. Manual access on the box for local control for you or your landscape professional, and LED lights that give a visual indication of what’s happening.
- Additional sensor ports. You can now connect rain and freeze sensors for additional data while we provide a flow sensor connection for future functionality.
- Easier diagnostics and troubleshooting. Auto-detect wiring will automatically detect when wiring for zones is connected to the controller for better diagnostics and troubleshooting. (Coming soon)
- New custom outdoor enclosure option. Custom-designed weatherproof enclosure that protects your controller in all weather situations. Hardwire option included.
While that’s all nice to hear, nothing blew my socks off until I scrolled down and discovered that Rachio now directly integrates with Amazon Echo, allowing Alexa to control your sprinklers! I feel like almost every day I’m writing about yet another thing that Alexa can do. But this isn’t about Alexa, this is about Rachio, right? So here’s the thing, it’s the integrations that separate Rachio from its competitors like RainMachine and Blossom. Until today, I wasn’t particularly impressed with the integrations, though, which is why I own a RainMachine. Previously, the most impressive integration that Rachio had was with Nest. If your Nest Protect detected a fire, it would trigger Rachio to turn on your sprinklers. Except…I specifically set up my sprinklers to NOT water the house, so in the event of a fire I’d just wind up with soaking wet firemen trying to save my house and family.
Here’s where this integration with Echo gets good. Last year I installed my RainMachine at the end of the season. As with all smart sprinkler controllers, after you initially set them up, you completely forget about them. I was having an end-of-summer barbecue in my back yard when suddenly I heard the back sprinklers coming on. I was manning the grill and my phone was inside. I had to sprint inside, unlock my phone smearing barbecue sauce all over the case, fumble around for the RainMachine app and hit the button to stop the sprinklers. A tragedy was averted with minimal damage.
Now picture the same situation with Rachio + Echo. The sprinklers start to come on and instead of chaos I just have to yell “Alexa, turn off the sprinklers.” Done.