Whether you have a garden and are trying to grow that perfect tomato, or you just want a lush, healthy lawn, the key is in the watering. Unfortunately, it's easy to get caught up in life and forget all about yard hydration. The quick, easy, and best solution is to get yourself a water timer.
A water timer lets you manage your lawn and gardens with precision. The following guide will help you find a water timer that's right for your needs. Check the short list of recommendations to discover our favorites, including our top pick, Rachio's Smart Sprinkler, which can effectively water up to eight different zones in your yard.
Considerations when choosing water timers
Mechanical or digital?
Depending on your needs and budget, there are two main categories of water timers:
Mechanical water timers feature dials and sliders that the user must physically position to set the timer. These models are more affordable and easier to use than digital water timers, but they are not as versatile.
Most digital water timers are set by pressing buttons, much like you would for a digital alarm clock. Although some can be very basic, the majority of models offer the user a broad range of programming options. Some digital water timers are compatible with smart devices to allow even greater control.
Three other elements that are important to consider when choosing the best water timer for your needs are the number of zones the model covers, its power source, and how it handles weather.
If you have a delicate flower garden, it's not going to require as much water as your front lawn. Each area on your property that needs a different amount of water can be classified as a watering zone. If you have three distinct zones on your property, you will want a timer that can handle that.
In order to function, your water timer needs a power source. Batteries are easy to use, but they will eventually run out. Additionally, without a failsafe, your sprinkler might not turn off when the battery dies. A solar-powered water timer is only acceptable if you get sufficient sunlight to adequately charge the battery. If you purchase a plug-in unit, remember, you will also need a nearby outlet. A hardwired unit is the most reliable, but also the most expensive and will require a professional to install.
The best sprinklers have, at the very least, a feature that delays the start of watering after a rainfall. Some of the smartest models can make watering adjustments based on weather forecasts.
Water timer prices
Depending on the level of automation you desire, water timers can have a broad price range. You can purchase a basic mechanical timer for as little as $8 or $10, but a multi-zone, smart water timer can cost up to $300.
Q. Are water timers difficult to install?
A. In most cases, not at all. Unless you have a hardwired system, installing a water timer is about as easy as connecting a hose to a hose bibb (the spigot located on the outside of your house).
Q. What time of day should I water my lawn?
A. The best time to water your lawn is in the morning, before the temperature gets too high, so evaporation remains at a minimum.
Q. How often should I water my lawn?
A. Watering your lawn every day can be bad for your grass because it encourages a shallow root system to develop. Instead, aim for two to three times each week, delivering an inch or an inch and a half of water for the entire week.
Water timers we recommend
Best of the best: Rachio: Eight-Zone Smart Sprinkler
Our take: An eight-zone sprinkler controller that you can customize to give your lawn and gardens the precise amount of water each needs to thrive.
What we like: This efficient water controller is weather-intelligent and can be accessed in real-time via any smart device, including a virtual assistant such as Amazon Alexa.
What we dislike: Initially, there can be connectivity issues that may make start up a bit difficult for some.
Best bang for your buck: Orbit Three-Outlet Programmable Hose Faucet Timer
Our take: Easy to set up and use, this digital water timer can cover up to three zones in your yard.
What we like: Orbit's water timer has a built-in, easy-to-access rain delay feature and an override, which allows you to water your lawn without changing the programmed settings.
What we dislike: Although this unit functions exceptionally well, it may not be as durable as some of the pricier models.
Choice 3: Raindrip Analog Three-Dial Water Timer
Our take: A basic water timer that features manual or automatic watering for one zone.
What we like: This unit is effortless to install and the large dials make it very easy to use. It has a built-in failsafe which shuts the water off when the battery gets low.
What we dislike: The unit is not fully automatic, at some point the user must physically activate the timer.
Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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