I got in on the HD Mini-8 when it was on sale. I was torn between the Rachio and the RainMachine, and I'm soooooo glad I went with the RainMachine.
I originally had the Hunter programmable controller and rain sensor, and it does what it does. Rain sensor works decently, but of course it only detects rain. It doesn't account for how much or how long. 5 days of rain, and then it's sunny... welp, guess we can go ahead the run the sprinklers. Rained a couple days ago, but it's been overcast and mild... let's run the system again.
Using the internet and weather data, I can see how much water the RainMachine estimates I'll need for the week. The main screen in the app shows the forecast with daily water need, temperature, rain amount, and how many % my program is expected to be run at over the course of 7 days. Screenshots and here. NOTE: "Fresh" is my current irrigation program
Now, I pretty much left the granular settings on the default, but you can adjust for water restrictions, wind factor, weather data source, overwatering in case of drought, among other (likely) unnecessary adjustments. I hear Rachio offers more granular control, but for my purposes the defaults have yielded a solid green lawn (and it was seeded/started about 6 weeks ago).
If I need to start a zone, it's really easy. I just go to the watering section and activate the zones I'm interested in. I actually used it last night cause I was looking into expanding the patio and the landscaper was looking for the irrigation heads. I just opened up the app, triggered the zones around the patio and that was that. Super easy. Screenshot here
According to the unit I've saved about 50% of the water usage I would have gone through had I stuck with a regular controller. So, why did I go with RainMachine over Rachio?
Price. I got this for $129 on sale. Rachio would have cost me much more, and I don't have rebate programs in my state.
Cloudless. Yes, it pulls data from the cloud, but I can run the unit if I disconnect my router from the WAN port. So, as long as I can communicate with my RainMachine I can control the unit to run my sprinklers since my home wifi will still be connected. Let's disconnect wifi entirely, and I'll still be able to run my RainMachine since the program is still there. It just won't have the data to adjust watering needs. IOW, it turns into a dumb controller when not connected to the weather data. With Rachio if you're not connected you're not running, save for running the zones manually at the unit interface, but none of your configured programs can run from what I'm told. Rachio requires you to connect to their servers for that to work.
Compared to the bigger/more expensive RainMachine don't need any fancy touchscreens or data showing on my controller that's sitting in my basement.
You used to have to run a workaround to access the RainMachine from outside the network, but now all you need to do is supply the RainMachine with your email (done during the easy setup) and you can access it from anywhere in the world (as long your RainMachine is connected to the outside world as well.
Speaking of install/setup, it was extremely easy. Plug in all the wires, plug in the adapter, following the quick start guide to setup, and you're up and running. Setting up a program was also very easy. You go in, pick your options as you go down the list in the app, save, and you're set. You can also run your program manually if you need to. I'm dealing with new/germinating grass, so sometimes I'll go in to give my lawn that extra watering to ensure the soil is deeply irrigated to build those nice deep roots.
10/10, have not had any issues with my RainMachine. It's reliable, cost effective, and easy to use. I'm sure my last month's water savings paid for the unit already.
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