Taking care of the garden with lawn and flowers, a vegetable garden, or maybe an orchard requires commitment and dedication. It is known, water is fundamental for the health of the green space. Setting up an irrigation system helps water the plants faster and without waste.
Think about how long it would take you to give water to plants with a hose or worse, with a watering can. These are solutions valid for a few meters of garden, small flower beds, or a few pots, but when you need a lot of water, it is better to set up an irrigation system.
This system can be simple in the sense that just connect it to the water dispenser. In this case, you will only have to worry about opening and closing the tap, but who has a green thumb knows that it is often necessary to water in certain time slots, for example, early in the morning, before sunrise or in the evening.
In order not to be tied to time constraints, a programmable irrigation control unit can be installed. We immediately anticipate two models from our selection: the labor Aquauno does not require the connection of electrical cables for installation as it is battery operated while the Orbit Pocket Star Ultima offers very versatile programming.
TOP 8 Best Control Units for Irrigation – Ranking In 2020
We have organized the ECUs selected by us according to a ranking and written a review for each model based on the opinions expressed by consumers. All this will be of great help in deciding which irrigation control unit to buy.
In this regard, if you want to know where to buy the units selected by us at low prices, you can refer to the links that you find under each article. Don’t forget to compare the prices.
The Orbit Smart Indoor/Outdoor Sprinkler Controller is one of the best-selling models. The reasons for this success in terms of sales, in our opinion, are to be found in its simplicity. Simplicity that concerns both installation and use. Add to this also that it is a fairly cheap unit.
We said about the installation: there are no cables to connect, the power supply is provided by a 9 V battery sufficient to last a whole season, for example, the whole summer. Aquauno hooks up to the tap but beware of the fittings and seals because they are unreliable and more people have experienced water leaks.
If you have a way, replace them with something better. Intuitive to use, given that there are two buttons: green is used to start the program, red to set the end of the programmed irrigation.
The maximum time is one hour, and only one watering can be scheduled per day. This was considered a limit by users. We must also point out that, in many cases, consumers found the garden or terrace flooded due to frequent malfunctions that did not block the water supply after 60 minutes.
The Aquauno control unit is very simple to install; no cable connection is required as it works on battery power, and you just need to attach it to the tap.
The control unit’s use is very simple since there are only two buttons, the green one to start programming and the red one to set the maximum program time.
The price plays to the advantage of this article: it is an economic unit. Therefore you can buy it light-heartedly.
Users have complained about the limits of the program: only one irrigation can be set per day and for no more than 60 minutes.
The quality of the fittings and seals leaves a lot to be desired, given that in many cases, there have been water leaks.
The control unit is too susceptible to damage: more people have happened that it no longer works after a few weeks or worse, the water is not shut off, with consequent flooding.
Rank #2: Orbit 94876 Pocket Star Ultima
The Orbit, irrigation control unit allows you to program the irrigation system in a few moments. It has six stations. Installation is simple: there are few cables to be connected, and there is a buffer battery that stores programming data. About the latter, it is very simple.
The first time you turn on, using the large knob and the buttons, you will need to set the time and date and the watering start time and duration. You can then set the days during which to water. All settings are easily visible on display.
This is as regards the basic functions, but the programming is quite versatile so much so you can choose to water the even or odd days, postpone the irrigation from 24 to 78 hours and manually irrigate. It is an indoor unit, so it cannot be left outdoors at the mercy of the weather as water would damage it.
It is widely believed among users that this unit has a very good quality/price ratio, which makes it preferable to other models.
It is simple to set up, but it is also very versatile with many possibilities, such as choosing to water on even or odd days, postpone irrigation, and so on.
The presence of a backup battery means that, in the event of a blackout, the programming data will not be lost.
The control unit can only be installed indoors, in other words, sufficiently protected from bad weather.
Now even the control units are smart; therefore, it seemed right for us to present you a model with integrated Wi-Fi and compatible with Google Home. Not surprisingly, the choice fell on Netro, a six-zone smart control unit with a good quality/price ratio. The configuration of this Rain Bird ST8I-WIFI 8 Station WiFi Timer is automatic.
The main advantage of Netro is that it allows you to save on water consumption; in fact, it is equipped with highly performing irrigation algorithms: irrigation occurs only when evaporation is minimal. Another very interesting thing is the constantly updated library of plants. Based on this information, Netro offers personalized irrigation programs taking into account the needs of the different plants in the garden.
However, the weather station disappoints: the forecasts are inaccurate with the serious risk of not watering the lawn because maybe rain is expected. Then you can’t even see the shadow of water. The self-learning function allows the control unit to create customized programs. Some stability problems have been encountered for Wi-Fi. Also, the 5 GHz signal is not supported.
Using the Netro control unit results in a good water-saving: irrigation occurs only during the day when evaporation is minimal.
The control unit is compatible with Google Home, so ask the virtual assistant to start or stop irrigation.
A constantly updated database of plants allows the control unit to customize the irrigation programs.
It is better not to rely on the weather data received from the control unit, these are not very reliable, and the risk is not to water the garden because the rain is wrongly predicted.
Rank #4: RHunter Sprinkler XC800 X-Core 8-Station Outdoor Controller Timer
The Hunter Sprinkler XC800 X-Core 8-Station Outdoor Controller Timer is very simple to install and program. The user interface is intuitive, and all information is visible on the large display. Zone programming (six) allows you to assign independent programs to each sector.
It can interact with the smartphone via the app, but the Wi-Fi module must be purchased separately. We consider this choice as a negative aspect also in light of a price that, in our opinion, gives the right to claim the standard Wi-Fi. The control unit can be placed outside; in fact, it is equipped with a plastic cabinet installed on the wall.
The design is a bit spartan, but we believe it is something we can also overlook. The quality of the materials is good. In short, from a structural point of view, the control unit gives the necessary reassurances.
A versatile but above all simple device, also thanks to the very intuitive user interface.
We express our satisfaction with the quality of the materials: the control unit is solid thanks to sufficiently hard plastics.
Potentially, the control unit can be managed with the smartphone, pity that to do this, it is also necessary to buy the wireless module.
Maybe for many, it will not be a problem, but it seems appropriate to report our discontent with the design that distinguishes this unit.
Rank #5: DIG BO9D - Battery Powered Digital Hose End Irrigation Watering Timer
The DIG BO9D – Battery Powered Digital Hose End Irrigation Watering Timer is a compact and functional control unit. The user interface is very simple, and it takes very little to familiarize yourself with all the functions. The model we offer is six zones, but 2, 4, and 8 zone controllers are also available. There are three independent programs available to the user.
The DIG BO9D irrigation control unit is suitable for indoor use only. Installation does not present difficulties. The quality of the materials is quite good, but we must report that there is no Wi-Fi module, not even to be purchased separately; therefore, it is impossible to use this control unit using the smartphone.
The display, although not very large, allows an easy view of the settings and everything else. Apart from this limitation, we can say that consumers have been very happy with this model’s performance, as shown by the positive comments published online.
The control unit has a very intuitive and easily manageable interface. Customers did not find the slightest difficulty.
Although not very large, it offers good and comfortable visibility of the settings that are gradually selected.
We consider the DDC6 a robust control unit thanks to the materials it is made of: all of the good quality and reliable.
The control unit has no Wi-Fi module, and it is not even possible to add it later. Therefore it cannot be managed with the smartphone.
The Hunter Sprinkler XC800 X-Core 8-Station Outdoor Controller Timer ( 8-station version is also available) knows how to stand out with both small gardens and larger spaces. Programming takes place through a single program and is a rather simple operation to complete. There are two programs available to the user with four starts per person.
Irrigation can be selected for even or odd days. The price is very attractive. It is difficult to find anything better at these figures, at least in our opinion. The low cost, however, is reflected in the materials. It seems fragile, but we specify that we have not encountered any problems due to the structure.
The design is uncared for, this is also a consequence of the low cost that characterizes this decidedly Spartan but well-functioning model, and in the end, this is the most important thing.
The unit is cheap. Its price has meant that many decided to buy it, among other things, without being disappointed.
Simple to use:
Ease of use is another advantage of this control unit, which can be programmed using a single button.
We have more than one doubt about the quality of the materials: it is also understood from this detail that it is an economic unit.
As far as we are concerned, the control unit’s style is rejected without appeal: it is spartan, not at all refined, and cheap. Fortunately, it does not affect performance.
Installation and programming of the Gardena FlexControl are very simple. The control unit connects directly to the tap. All the selected settings can be viewed on display. Use the ring and the two buttons to set the watering start time, its duration, and frequency.
By adding a rain or soil moisture sensor, automatic irrigation stops if there is rainfall or the soil is sufficiently moist. This reduces water consumption. Attention because when the batteries are discharged, it is necessary to redo the programming.
The Gardena irrigation control unit is too sensitive to low temperatures: in case of excessive cold, it must be dismantled; otherwise, it will break. The solenoid valves are not of maximum reliability: we have news of leakage problems due precisely to these, which do not always close perfectly. In the worst cases, genuine flooding has occurred. Perhaps it is better to be present in the house when it starts operating.
The consumers with the green thumb said they were happy for the simplicity of the programming for which it is sufficient to act on the ring and two buttons.
If programming the control unit is child’s play, assembly is even easier, as there are no cables to connect, as you just need to fix it to the tap.
The control unit is very sensitive to cold; in case of very cold temperatures, it can be seriously damaged. Therefore it is good to remove the front panel in winter.
Loss of settings:
When the batteries are discharged, all the settings are lost with the consequent annoyance of having to reprogram the control unit.
The Melnor Manual Override 53015 Single-Outlet Digital Water Timer is battery powered. The model that we present is a four-station, but we inform readers that it is also available in the two and six versions. The control unit does not require particular skills to be installed. By the manufacturer’s admission, the Junior Max is fine for small gardens, so anyone who has a nice big one should look for something more suitable.
Programming is very simple. It is self-guided; an LED helps the user to complete the planning. The duration of irrigation ranges from 1 minute to 240 minutes. You can water the plants weekly, on even or odd days, or at intervals of 1 to 14 days. In short, there is great flexibility.
You can always keep an eye on the battery status thanks to the real-time charge indicator. Permanent memory lasting up to 5 years is exceptional.
Consumers did not have the slightest difficulty in setting the programming; the operation proved to be very simple. Moreover, it is very flexible to adapt the control unit to the most diverse needs.
This model has a very good permanent memory: once set, the parameters can be saved for up to 5 years.
The Junior Max is solid, built with good materials that have not disappointed users: the control unit is reliable from all points of view.
Small gardens only:
The limit of this control unit lies in the fact that it is suitable for serving only small gardens, while for large ones, it is good to look for something else.
Guide to buy an irrigation controller
We have collected all the necessary information to show you how to choose a good irrigation control unit. We must say that there is plenty of choices because there are many on the market, not only the best brand. We have made a comparison between the models sold online and found them interesting offers that we will propose later on. We believe that among these, there is the best control unit for irrigation.
Not everyone is clear about the operation of the best irrigation controllers of 2020, so it is well to explain it immediately. Regardless of the technological innovations that a control unit may or may not have, the operating principle is always the same; in essence, it is a timer that commands the solenoid valve to open and close. A control unit manages three fundamental aspects: the sectors to be flooded, the start, and the time of irrigation.
But what are the advantages that follow? In the first case, that is the irrigation area. One sector can be assigned to the lawn, another to the orchard, one to the flower beds, and so on. Setting the start means telling the control unit at what time it is preferred that the plants are watered. Once this is done, you can sleep in peaceful dreams, in the sense that you are not obliged to wake up early in the morning, or perhaps to go out. Finally, choosing the duration of irrigation allows you to decide the quantity of water to distribute.
Battery-powered control units
There is not a single type of control unit for irrigation. Battery-powered ones, for example, are cheaper and easier to install. There is no need to connect cables as it is equipped with a battery, just attach it to the tap. If you are looking for something extremely simple, consider the two-selector models: one allows you to set the watering time and the other the duration.
Some models allow you to choose the sectors to be sprayed. Such a control unit is suitable for the plants on the terrace or a small vegetable garden. It is important to keep in mind that battery-powered controllers must be kept away from the rain.
The indoor unit does not mean that it is used to water the plants you have at home. Its function is to manage the irrigation system for your lawn or, more generally, your outdoor green space. A control unit of this type must be mounted at home or, in any case, indoors and can manage from four to eight areas. As the solenoid valve is not integrated, one will have to be connected for each zone.
The external control unit is identical to the internal one. The fundamental difference is that it is located inside a watertight box that prevents water and dust from entering, so it can be installed in the garden without any problem.
The smart control unit
In recent times, a new type of control unit is spreading: the smart one. Of course, it is not the cheapest model, but the advantages are undeniable. Thanks to Wi-Fi, such a control unit can be managed with the smartphone, but that’s not all because there are models that connect to the weather station to collect data regarding the probability of rain, temperature, and humidity and automatically adjust the irrigation. In this way, you save on consumption.
How to program the irrigation control unit?
It is important to the premise that the programming of a control unit varies according to the model. However, we can give indications valid for most of the models. Usually, the program is identified by a letter. For example, imagine that the lawn program is indicated by the letter A.
The control units then have one or more stations, the areas into which the irrigation system is divided. The areas to be sprayed must be chosen. The item “departure” refers to the start time of the irrigation. The item “time” is used to determine the duration of the irrigation. You can also set the days during which the water is given to the plants, for example, watering every two days.
How to connect the irrigation control unit?
The connection is very simple, especially if the control unit is battery operated. In this case, there are no cables to connect, just fix the control unit to the tap through the fittings. In the case of power supply units, some cables must be connected to the terminal block. Again it is very easy.
What types of irrigation controllers are there?
There are four: indoor, outdoor, battery timers, and cockpit control units. Indoor controllers must be installed in an indoor location. The outdoor ones are equipped with a watertight box used to avoid water and dust infiltrations. The battery-powered timer control units have only one zone and are specially designed to water plants on the terrace. The cockpit battery-powered control units, on the other hand, have from 1 to 8 zones and are installed in the wells
I have an internal control unit, can I install it outside?
First of all, let’s clarify: that the control unit is for indoor use does not mean that it must be installed in the home. More simply, it needs a place sheltered from the weather. So the answer is that she can’t stay outside unless you protect her with an adequate box.
What is the rain sensor for?
Providing the control unit with a rain sensor can save water as it starts the interruption of irrigation when it rains. Connecting the sensor to the control unit is very easy; this has two wires that must be tightened to the control unit’s terminals. In the remote case where there are no terminals, the sensor connects to the common of the solenoid valves.
What are solenoid valves?
They are electrically controlled valves and are used to manage the opening and closing of the water flow. When starting irrigation, the control unit sends an electric impulse to the solenoid valves; these, therefore, open, allowing the outflow of water. At the end of the cycle, the control unit communicates the closing to the solenoid valves.
How to use the control unit for irrigation
To give the necessary water to your plants or lawn, a practical and comfortable solution is to set up an irrigation system managed by a control unit. In this way you will be free to even go away for a couple of weeks, perhaps to make a pleasant holiday, on your return nothing will be wilted because the plants will have received their dose of water even in your absence.
Indoor or outdoor
First of all, you have to understand if it is better for your needs to take a control unit from the inside (cheaper) or from outside. The substantial difference is that the former is not protected from the weather while the latter is, because it is locked in a waterproof box. The indoor control unit does not necessarily have to be at home, but it is important that it is located in a place where rain cannot damage. The single-zone battery-powered indoor unit is a good solution for watering the plants you have on the terrace. For a lawn, an external control unit with two or more zones is suitable for the area’s size to be watered.
Mainly you buy the control unit for the possibility that this offers to program the irrigation. Depending on the models, programming can be more or less versatile. This is set, in most cases, by acting on a bezel and two buttons. The departure, duration, and days of irrigation must be set.
Associating a rain sensor to the control unit saves water consumption. In the case of rain, the sensor communicates it to the control unit, interrupting the irrigation.
Smart control unit
For further savings in consumption, for remote management, there are smart control units that interact with the smartphone. In this way, thanks to the application, the control unit can be programmed, and a series of functions can be used, such as, for example, self-learning.