Rachio vs. Hydrawise HC

The smart sprinkler industry has exploded in recent years, and it’s now more possible than ever before to bring intelligent water management to your lawn. The fact of the matter is that excessive watering is both expensive and bad for the environment. But with new technology that offers features like smart scheduling and weather prediction, it’s possible to save water and money without sacrificing a perfectly green yard.

The Rachio vs. Hydrawise HC debate can be difficult to sort through, as both products offer a viable way to manage an existing sprinkler system. We go deep into the details below, so read on to find out which smart controller comes out on top, and which one falls behind!

Rachio vs. Hydrawise HC — About

When it comes to choosing the perfect smart sprinkler control system, there are more options on the market than ever before. The Rachio and Hydrawise product lines both include multiple models that collectively cover a wide range of features. With different benefits and capabilities at a variety of different price ranges, pretty much any homeowner should be able to find a controller that suits their needs.

The Rachio product line is one of the most well-known brands in the smart sprinkler arena, and has been around long enough to build up three generations of systems — all of which are still current and viable if you’re looking to add a little intelligence to your watering. With advanced weather detection and some of the best smart integration on the market, it will be incredibly easy to take a hands-off approach to watering and connect your sprinklers to the rest of your home.

Hydrawise is the smart technology line of Hunter Industries, a major name in irrigation for professional and home watering alike. Their product line is pretty comprehensive and a worthy competitor to Rachio, and really brings some of the professional quality used in the industry and scales it back to make it appropriate for homes of any size.

Rachio vs. Hydrawise HC — Things in Common

Hydrawise HC - Lifestyle - 01

Before we go into the differences between these two brands, let’s first go over what they have in common so you’ll have a sense of the baseline commonalities between both sprinkler control systems. While each model does have their own benefits and drawbacks, it’s nice to know the types of conveniences you can add to your watering regardless of your choice in brand.

Zone control is a big part of what makes different models work for different sized lawns and gardens, and both the Rachio and Hydrawise offer 8 zone models that are suitable for most homes. Both also offer analogous but different options for larger lawns and gardens.

The Rachio product family and the Hydrawise brand each offer support for rain sensors and soil sensors that offer a backup to the weather intelligence that is one of the primary draws of purchasing a sprinkler control system. The main “smart” factor of both models lies in their ability to adjust your watering schedule to match the weather, saving you time and money. However, it’s nice to have rain and soil sensors to serve as a backup and ensure that your lawn is getting the perfect amount of water — even if the intelligent weather tracking were to fail.

Data regarding weather and your watering schedule presets will sync via the cloud with either brand, and each system is controllable through an iOS or Android app.

Voice control of either device is possible through Amazon Alexa, and you can rest easy knowing that your Rachio or Hydrawise purchase is backed with a 2 year warranty.

Rachio vs. Hydrawise HC — Differences

  • Difference #1: Zone Control – With the Rachio, each generation of smart sprinkler controller comes in two different options: 8 zones, or 16 zones. Each Rachio model has their own benefits and drawbacks, and we recommend taking a look at our Gen 1 vs. Gen 2 or Gen 2 vs. Gen 3 comparison to really get a solid understanding of what sets each model apart from the rest.

    With the Hydrawise HC, you’ll have the option for either 8 or 12 zone models. However, where this brand has the advantage is in the 12-zone model’s expandability to up to 36 zones. This is made possible with optional accessories called Expansion Modules. These modules make Hydrawise the superior choice when it comes to flexibility and expandability, and at its maximum size it can cover an incredible amount of ground.

    With the Rachio, you’re essentially stuck with your choice of 8 or 16 zones. It’s possible to add multiple systems together over one account, but the systems won’t share the same schedule and configuration, meaning you’ll have to essentially manage two separate systems. The 36 zone support of the Hydrawise HC is more than enough for nearly any residential application, making it the go-to choice for those with a huge amount of grass or garden to water.

  • Difference #2: Master Valve – The master valve that controls the water flow to your sprinkler systems can hook into either of the two sprinkler control systems, but they differ in how they connect. With the Rachio models, you’ll be able to connect your master valve directly into a dedicated “M” terminal, but with the Hydrawise you’ll have to take up a zone slot.

    We talked a bit about how Hydrawise has the edge in expandability, but hooking in your master valve essentially leaves you with 5 or 11-zone control instead of the 6 or 12-zone originally advertised. This may be a non-issue if you decide to purchase expansion modules, but it could make all the difference if you’re already trying to get the most bang for your buck out of the smaller 6-zone model.

  • Difference #3: Manual Control – Part of the appeal of a smart sprinkler control system is the ability to set schedules and let intelligent weather prediction do the heavy lifting. However, there are bound to be times when you want to adjust settings manually, and you might find yourself without the dedicated smartphone app handy.

    Both the Rachio and Hydrawise brands offer on-device control. But where the Rachio offers just a few simple buttons and a pretty basic manual control of the system, the Hydrawise models come with a 2.8” Color TFT display touchscreen that makes it easy to control pretty much any aspect of watering from the device itself. The touchscreen also allows you to program settings without access to WiFi, which is a definite advantage of the Hydrawise HC over Rachio products.

    Within minutes of installing your Hydrawise system, you’ll have a program up and running — all from the device itself.

  • Difference #4: Weather Intelligence – Weather Intelligence is the primary draw of a smart sprinkler control system, and you’ll have access to some of the world’s most accurate weather monitoring with either brand.

    The Rachio 3 is the most sophisticated of the brand when it comes to weather tracking, and it includes access to Premium Weather Intelligence Plus. This system uses the world’s most accurate weather monitoring in order to automatically update your schedules to match the forecast in your area. The intelligent tracking takes data from more than a quarter million sources, which ensure pinpoint accuracy and accurate watering schedules that are customized for your home.

    While the Hydrawise offers similar features, there’s one major caveat. While it’s possible to operate the system without any additional fees, you’ll only have access to 10,000 Airport Weather Stations by default. This may seem like a lot, but when it comes down to ensuring the maximum accuracy that is zeroed-in to your home, it really isn’t as competitive as the Rachio 3. You can check out for weather stations in your area here.

    For an additional fee, you’ll have access to all available weather stations nearby, making it pretty much as capable as the Rachio. The extra charge each month is definitely a bit of a wet blanket, however, and we have to give the Rachio 3 the edge when it comes to weather intelligence.

  • Difference #5: Subscription – Rachio doesn’t have any subscription fees whatsoever. All the features advertised are available indefinitely, and you won’t have to shell out any additional money after you’ve paid for your system.

    The Hydrawise does offer a number of features by default, but to get the same level of support that the Rachio offers, you’ll have to pay for the “Enthusiast” plan.

    This subscription model will cost you $60 per year, and the primary benefit of upgrading is the fact that it unlocks 100,000+ total weather stations rather than the 10,000 available initially.

    It can also monitor up to 5 stations simultaneously, provide hyper-local rainfall monitoring and SMS text alerts, and support multiple users on the same account. If reporting history is important to you, you’ll also have access to 365 days and 100 MB of file storage, vs the 25 and 30 days available for free.

    For the full details of the different Hydrawise plans, you can visit their subscription page. Long story short, however, it’s clear that Rachio has the advantage. By offering a greater number of features and ditching the monthly fee, they’ll definitely provide more value over the long run than you’d see with Hydrawise.

  • Difference #6: Wi-Fi Connection – All Rachio models support 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n connections, which falls in line with the modern standards for WiFi. Hydrawise, on the other hand, only works with 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g signals. The lack of that “n” means that it doesn’t have the capacity to handle data transmission as quickly as any of the Rachio products.

    Add to that the fact that the Rachio Gen 3 also supports 5GHz connections, and it’s easy to see that the brand is a lot more flexible and modern in terms of data transmission. The lack of that b/g/n support with the Hydrawise HC really holds it back in this comparison. If you’re looking for a product from the Hydrawise brand that does support these modern standards, consider taking a look at the Hunter Pro-HC or Hunter HPC controllers.

  • Difference #7: Outdoor Use – Both the Rachio and Hydrawise HC are pretty slim devices, making it easy to install either pretty much anywhere you please. For those of us who have limited space in the house or garage, however, it’s nice to have a sprinkler control system that will function as well outdoors as it does inside.

    The Rachio is rated to work in a wide range of temperatures, and with the purchase of the outdoor enclosure, you’ll be able to install your system on the exterior of your home and save some much needed space. All Rachio models and the Hydrawise HC are light and don’t take up much room, but it’s always great to have more flexibility when it comes to installation.

    The Hydrawise HC sprinkler systems are not waterproof thus it is not recommended to install it outdoors.

  • Difference #8: Smart Home Integration – Having a smart sprinkler control system that can adjust as needed to suit the weather is great in and of itself, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a system that can integrate well with the rest of your connected home? There’s a pretty big disparity between the Rachio and Hydrawise HC when it comes to smart home integration.

    With the Rachio models, you’ll have support for major voice controllers like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, which makes it possible to control your sprinklers hands-free. It adds a valuable third option when it comes to operating your system, and combined with manual and app control, you shouldn’t ever be left without easy access to customization.

    The integration of the Rachio systems doesn’t end there, however. The product family as a whole represents some of the most compatible smart sprinkler controllers on the market, and you’ll be able to take advantage of integration with smart home controllers like Nest, Wink, and SmartThings.

    Each of the three generations also supports IFTTT, which opens up near-endless customization that makes your sprinklers work for you. Tie your sprinklers to your outdoor lighting so you can keep an eye on your system in the dark, or ensure that your system is turned off when you come home from work so you don’t end up soaked on your way inside! While support for the smart home controllers goes a long way, IFTTT is capable of a lot of heavy lifting and represents a world of possibilities for those who are willing to tinker with the settings.

    While the Hydrawise HC has a number of useful features and even offers voice control with Amazon Alexa, it definitely falls short when it comes to integration. Alexa is pretty much it when it comes to smart control, as the system does not work with any other voice controller, nor does it integrate with other smart products. It’s an excellent product in and of itself, but it doesn’t play well with other smart tech.

Sale Discontinued Rachio WiFi Smart Lawn Sprinkler Controller, 8-Zone 2nd Generation, Alexa Compatible with Rain, Freeze and Wind Skip (8ZULW-B)
Sale Rachio 3: 8 Zone Smart Sprinkler Controller (Simple Automated Scheduling + Local Weather Intelligence. Save Water w/ Rain, Freeze & Wind Skip), App Enabled, Works w/ Alexa, Fast & Easy Install

Rachio vs. Hydrawise HC — Comparison Chart

Rachio Gen 1 Rachio Gen 2 Rachio Gen 3 Hydrawise HC
8-zone model Yes Yes Yes HC 6 zone model
12-zone model No No No HC 12 zone model
16-zone model Yes Yes Yes Expandable to 36 zones
Rain Sensor Supported Supported Supported Supported
Soil Sensor Supported Supported Supported Supported
Wired Flow Sensors No Supported Supported Supported
Wireless Rachio Flow Meter No No Supported No
Manual Control No In-unit On-unit 2.8″ Color TFT display
Cloud Sync Yes Yes Yes Yes
Local Connect No No No No
Weather Intelligence Standard Standard Advanced Free/Paid
Monthly fees No No No Optional
Master Valve “M” terminal slot “M” terminal slot “M” terminal slot Zone terminal slot
Amazon Alexa Yes Yes Yes Yes
Google Assistant Yes Yes Yes No
SmartThings Yes Yes Yes No
Wink Yes Yes Yes No
Nest Yes Yes Yes No
IFTTT Yes Yes Yes No
App iOS 10.3+ and Android 4.4+ iOS 10.3+ and Android 4.4+ iOS 10.3+ and Android 4.4+ iOS, Android, Web
Wi-Fi Connection 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n 2.4 or 5 GHz 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g
Temperature Range -4°F to 140°F -4°F to 140°F -4°F to 140°F 0°F to 150°F
Indoor Use Yes Yes Yes Yes
Outdoor Use With Enclosure With Enclosure With Enclosure No
Dimensions 2.165” x 7.25” x 7.25” 9.25″ L x 5.625″ H x 1.625″ W 9.1” x 5.5” x 1.4” 7″ x 6″ x 1.3″
Weight 2.7 Lbs. 1.2 Lbs. 1.05 Lbs. 0.4 Lbs.
Warranty 2 years 2 years 2 years 2 years

Rachio vs. Hydrawise HC — Accessories

Hydrawise HC - Accessories - Flow Meter

Both the Rachio and Hydrawise HC can be expanded with additional accessories. While they offer comprehensive smart watering on their own, there are a few different options that enhance the experience with either brand.

For the Rachio, we recommend considering the Weatherproof Outdoor Enclosure or the Wireless Rain and Freeze Sensor for the generation 2 and 3. If you decide to opt for the Gen 1 model, just keep in mind that it has its own outdoor enclosure that is separate from the one compatible with later generations. For the more advanced Gen 3 model, it may also be worth looking into the Wireless Flow Meter for accurate data readouts of your water usage and the ability to detect leaks and stop them in their tracks before they cause lawn damage.

The Hydrawise accessories are mainly sensors like the Hunter Sprinkler WRCLIK Wireless Rain-Clik Sensor System and the Hunter Sprinklers SGM Rain Sensor. These along with a dedicated flow meter will help ensure that your lawn stays healthy and happy, even if the weather monitoring were to fail.

Rachio vs. Hydrawise HC — Our Thoughts

Rachio - Lifestyle - 03

Overall, both smart sprinkler systems have their pros and cons, and each option could be right for you depending on the needs of your lawn.

One of the primary advantages of the Hydrawise HC is the fact that it can be easily extended to support a huge number of zones. While the Rachio pulls ahead in a lot of different areas, it’s difficult to do much better than the Hydrawise when it comes to sheer size. The company behind the sprinkler control system has experience in commercial applications, and it’s clear that similar attention has been given to their retail models on a slightly smaller scale. With that said, the Hydrawise HC doesn’t have nearly the same amount of smart home integration, and you have to pay monthly fees in order to access the same features you get with Rachio for free.

Rachio is not quite as extendable as the Hydrawise brand, but we feel that it’s a superior product overall. The smart home integration with each generation is pretty much unmatched, and the weather tracking is some of the best on the market — all available for no extra charge after your initial purchase.

Ultimately, while both controllers have their benefits and drawbacks, we recommend the Rachio due to the lack of monthly fees and the ability to easily add it in to your connected home. The Gen 3 model with the wireless flow meter is our top pick for smart sprinkler control.

Last update on 2024-05-28 at 14:52 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

3 thoughts on “Rachio vs. Hydrawise HC”

  1. DO NOT BUY a Hydrawise/Hunter controller before you read and understand the following design flaw.

    If your controller drops the wifi connection for whatever reason, it does not work as suggested and water as per set schedule (less internet weather forecast access and app control). Instead it will water each and every zone, EVERY DAY.

    Hydrawise conceded that this issue is difficult to fix.

    This happened to me when I was away for some weeks and wifi connection was lost and never re-established. I didn’t think much about it but when I came back I found the lawn way overgrown and greener than everyone else’s in mid summer. Then the massive water bill arrived.

    I spent several months with Hunter’s customer service and over a hundred emails later and several hours of my time time following their instructions, they finally identified the flaw. They promised me twice it will be fixed by a firmware update but when it was never fixed, I emailed again and they told me IT IS DIFFICULT TO FIX. They offered me a refund – but when I accepted the offer they said they can’t refund because it is now out of warranty !! – which is grossly unfair because I brought the issue to their attention while the unit was still in warranty and it is not my fault it took them a year to find the fault. They instead offered me a replacement with a non wifi unit, which is totally useless for me. All Hydrawise controllers have the same fault.

    My preference would have been to stick with my controller and they fix the issue, but apparently the Hunter/Hydrawise hardware is lacking the memory to support a fix.

    There is a list of other annoyances with the Hydrawise softare, but for me this major flaw is a deal breaker and until this flaw is rectified, Hydrawise is unfit for purpose.


Leave a Comment