Lawn sprinklers are essential if you want to keep your grass and garden lush and healthy, but they can also be a hassle to set up and turn on and off everyday. Sprinkler timers and controllers are designed to take care of that job for you, and can also add an impressive amount of customization to your irrigation system. Keep in mind that the controllers will need to be wired to your existing system, so if you’re not comfortable working with live wiring, you should always hire a professional to do the job correctly and safely.
What to Consider
The first thing you should take into account when choosing a sprinkler timer or controller is how much functionality you’re looking to get from it. If you just need to turn your sprinklers on and off a couple times a day, then a basic timer should be fine. But if you want a little more customization and control—and you already have an irrigation system set up to connect to—you might want to opt for a dedicated sprinkler controller. Controllers can be mounted indoors, and some can even be controlled with a mobile app, making them even more convenient.
How We Selected
Although timers and controllers work in different ways, they’re equally useful depending on the user, which is why we decided to include a variety of both kinds in our list. We also used our landscaping experience to select from brands that we have come to trust, which is why Orbit models take up so many spots. We also made sure to include a mechanical timer option, perfect for those who aren’t comfortable with programming digital tools or using Wi-Fi apps. Our picks cover a range of prices, so regardless of your budget, you should hopefully find an option that works for you.
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Best Overall Controller
Orbit 57900 Sprinkler Timer, 12-Station
Designed to control an impressive 12 sprinkler stations, this Orbit model would be a perfect fit for those with a lot of grass to maintain. Its impressive functionality allows you to really dial in the settings and timing of all your sprinklers, thanks to three program options and 12 start times.
For an additional cost, you can also connect a standalone rain sensor to the unit, making it even more effective. Since it will prevent wasting water on rainy days, this extra investment could pay for itself in the right climate. Its heavy-duty lockbox exterior also prevents tampering or weather damage.
- Can be mounted inside or outside
- Simple to install
- Affordable price
Best Two-Outlet Timer
Orbit 58910 Sprinkler Timer, 2-Outlet
The low price and straightforward operation of this timer make it a great choice for those just starting out, or who don’t want to deal with complicated instructions. Its rotating wheel and easy to read titles let you easily adjust the timer settings, and the raised rubber buttons are comfortable to press.
Also, just because it’s hooked up to your spigot doesn’t mean you’re committed to your programmed schedule. A convenient manual button lets you override the system if you need to use the faucet for another use, like washing the car or spraying down your trash cans.
- Two outlets
- Simple to install
- Single outlet can only control one sprinkler
Best Timer for Large Lawns
Melnor 65036-AMZ Sprinkler Timer, 4-Zone
With four outlet valves, this Melnor sprinkler timer is well-suited for those with extra-large areas to cover. Each valve can be programmed independently as well, so you can use a variety of sprinklers and spray settings to really customize your irrigation setup.
It also includes five filter washers to prevent buildup or clogs in the machine, reducing the chance of any damage to the internal components. The 7-year limited warranty of this machine is also a great perk, and should give you some added peace of mind if you’re nervous about the price.
- Simple to program
- Rain delay feature saves water
- Metal faucet connector
Most Versatile Timer
Orbit 56082 Sprinkler Timer, 3-Outlet
The rain delay setting on this timer is one of our favorite features, allowing you to pause the operation for up to 3 days, after which it will automatically revert back to the pre-programmed schedule.
The unit is a bit bulky, but this does allow for the oversized numbers on the LCD screen, making it easy to monitor without having to bend all the way over. Its running time can be set to as little as one minute and as long as four hours, and the three outlets make it suitable for a range of lawn sizes.
- Large dial is simple to use
- Unit can be paused for manual watering
Best Mechanical Option
Orbit 62034 Mechanical Sprinkler Timer
Without any electrical components or batteries to worry about, this mechanical Orbit model provides a durability and reliability that digital models sometimes lack. It won’t start automatically every day like most other models — it operates essentially like an egg timer — but if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of complicated programming this could be worth it.
It doesn’t have some of the flexibility or customization offered by the other options on our list, but this could be a great fit for someone looking for a simple, no-frills timer. At $13, it’s also one of the cheapest options out there.
- Can be set from 15-120 minutes
- Manual override setting
- Compact size
Best Voice Controlled Device
Orbit 57946 Smart Sprinkler Controller, 6-Zone
This Orbit controller uses the B-hyve app to allow for an impressive amount of control, and used in conjunction with an Alexa device, can even be used with voice commands. By connecting to your home Wi-Fi, it can also access local weather reports as well as historical rainfall patterns, using that information to maximize efficiency and reduce water waste.
The iPhone app also allows you to control your sprinkler system from anywhere in the world, as well as monitor the system for any issues. Its lockable cabinet also prevents anyone from tampering with your system preferences.
- Works with Android or iPhone devices
- Can be used with up to 6 watering zones
- May be too complex for some to operate
Best Indoor Controller
Hunter XC600i Sprinkler Controller, 6-Station
This multifunctional controller is capable of controlling six stations, with up to four start times and three individual programs for each one. If you’re interested in increasing its efficiency even more, you can sync this controller to separate tools — like a weather sensor — that makes it even more intuitive that typical models.
Although it must be purchased separately, this controller is also compatible with a remote control, a device that some might find preferable to an app on their mobile device. Its seasonal adjustment settings also increase its efficiency, allowing you to create a long-term watering schedule.
- Run times up to four hours
- Dial is easy to use
Best Low-Budget Timer
RAINPOINT Digital Sprinkler Timer
If you don’t have the budget for higher-end models, but still want a decent amount of functionality in your timer, this Rainpoint model could be a great choice. In addition to basic timer settings, it also features a rain-delay function, and a manual-use setting that allows you to override the system at any time.
It also has several features designed to increase its lifespan, including a rubber gasket to prevent moisture from affecting the battery, and a filter screen to prevent damaging debris from entering the unit.
It does require two AAA batteries that you’ll need to purchase separately, so keep that in mind.
- Large LCD screen
- Digital battery-level gauge
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