Rachio vs. Rain Bird

With the advent of smart sprinkler technology, the dream of an environmentally-conscious and green lawn with a low energy bill has finally become a reality. There are a number of different brands vying for the top spot of this exciting new industry, but which models are really worth your time?

There are many options to choose from when it comes to keeping your lawn watered conveniently and efficiently, and our Rachio vs. Rain Bird comparison goes deep into the details on some of the best.

Are you looking for a premium experience at all costs? Or will a smart system that is easy on the wallet be your top choice?

Let’s go into what sets these brands apart from one another to help make your shopping decision just a little bit easier.

Rachio vs. Rain Bird — About

While the smart technology market has only been mainstream within the last 5 or 10 years, there are some manufacturers on the market that have a history of producing excellent products that extend far back back before the advent of this new type of intelligent tech. Rain Bird is one such line, with more than 80 years on the market producing trusted products. Their Rain Bird smart sprinkler controllers are staples on the scene and really demonstrate the same amount of quality that the company has been consistently delivering since long before the internet was even a thing.

Rachio products don’t have that same 80-year history, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t made a name for themselves in the smart technology industry. Older isn’t always better — and Rachio isn’t even really a newcomer to the smart sprinkler arena. With three generations of products released at this point, each with their selection of features and available at varying price points, it’s easier than ever before to add smart control to your watering schedule.

Rachio vs. Rain Bird — Things in Common

Rain Bird - Lifestyle - 01

You probably stumbled across this page while looking for the differences that set the Rachio and Rain Bird apart from one another, but let’s first touch on what these two systems have in common. It’s always nice to know what you’re getting as a baseline with either brand, and it lets you further appreciate the differences once you understand the similarities.

Regardless of your choice in brand, you’ll have access to 8 zones that afford you a large degree of customization over all but the largest lawns. Both systems are also controlled via an iOS or Android smartphone app over a 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n WiFi connection, but also offer manual control on the device itself for situations where you find yourself without a phone handy. If you’re looking for a more hands-free approach, you can even hook up either brand’s products to Amazon Alexa for easier adjustment of schedules and other settings.

Both brands take advantage of weather intelligence to help predict changes in your lawn’s watering needs, and will automatically adjust the schedule as needed to keep your lawn looking green without wasting water. This weather intelligence is backed up by a rain sensor that ensures that your grass or garden stays at the perfect watering levels, even should the smart prediction fail.

Information regarding scheduling and the various settings is also handled via cloud sync, so you’ll be able to easily adjust important aspects of your watering as needed as long as you’re connected to the internet.

Rachio vs. Rain Bird — Differences

  • Difference #1: Zone Control – When it comes to keeping your lawn green, it’s understandable that you’d want as much control over the process as possible. While both brands offer smart features that can predict and adjust to various watering needs, wouldn’t it be nice to have a system where you can fine-tune your scheduling for different areas of your lawn or garden?

    Since both Rachio and Rain Bird offer 8-zone control, you’ll have the basics covered with either brand. However, Rachio comes out ahead for larger homes with additional support for 16 zones across all three generations. It’s important to note that you’ll have to choose between 8 and 16 zones when you make your purchase as they represent two different models, but it’s still much more flexible than the Rain Bird.

    While all three generations of Rachio controller offer 16 zone models, they do differ pretty significantly in the types of features they offer. Take a look at our Gen 1 vs. Gen 2 and Gen 2 vs. Gen 3 comparison to really get a good sense of what makes each model special.

  • Difference #2: Sensors – Part of the baseline “smart” technology that any controller worth its salt will include is weather intelligence that adjust your sprinklers as needed to suit the current weather conditions. However, these reports aren’t always 100% reliable. Having backup sensors is an important part of ensuring that your lawn is being watered efficiently 100% of the time, and Rachio does come out ahead in terms of its support for this important feature.

    While both the Rain Bird and Rachio offer support for a rain sensor, you have many more options with the Rachio. With devices like the Hunter Rain-Clik Wireless Rain Sensor, RAIN BIRD WR2 Wireless Rain Sensor, and Orbit Wireless Rain Sensor (just to name a few!) you really have a large amount of choice when deciding the type of technology you want to include when monitoring your lawn.

    The Rain Bird supports a single sensor model that can automatically turn the timer off when it rains, but this limited support really holds it back when compared to the Rachio.

  • Difference #3: Power Outage – In an ideal world, your system would keep on working 24/7 with zero interruptions. But what happens if your power goes out? Will your grass be left without water, and will all your work with scheduling go out the window?

    With the Rachio, your system will continue to run as normal after the outage, however you won’t be able to alter the programming until your WiFi connection comes back up. The device will maintain the last schedule received from the cloud and will continue operating as designed until it receives updated information once the internet connection is restored.

    The main Rachio controller has a coin cell battery as a battery backup to maintain an internal clock. Once the controller comes back online, it’ll resume running your pre-programmed schedules so there’s no need to wait for it to sync with the Rachio cloud. Plus, Rachio controller will continue to record watering events even while it’s offline.

    The Rain Bird, on the other hand, uses 2x AAA batteries as a backup. This means that your sprinkler system will continue to run as intended once power resumes saving your pre-set programs.

  • Difference #4: Wireless Flow Meter – One of the advantages that Rachio has over the Rain Bird is its support for a wireless flow meter. We talked a bit about how Rachio has wider support when it comes to sensors, but their flow meter is another area in which the brand really goes above and beyond when compared to competitors.

    The flow meter is an optional accessory that only works with Gen 3, but if you make the decision to buy you’ll enjoy detailed water usage reports as well as the ability to stop system leaks in their tracks before they do irreparable damage to your lawn. It’s a small additional investment that can save you a lot of headache later on, so we highly recommend looking into a flow meter should you decide to purchase a third generation Rachio controller.

  • Difference #5: Outdoor Use – Both the Rachio and Rain Bird are relatively slim systems, but wouldn’t it be nice to be able to stick your system outside? Since your sprinkler system is outdoors, it makes sense that many homeowners would want to place their controller on the exterior of their home. But, surprisingly, many control systems are only designed for use indoors.

    Both the Rain Bird and Rachio are designed with options for use inside or out, but there is a major difference in how the models are designed. With Rain Bird, you actually have to choose between an indoor and outdoor model, which means you’ll have to have an idea of where you want to install it before you make the buy. The Rachio sprinklers, on the other hand, work well in either location regardless of the model you choose; all you need is an inexpensive outdoor enclosure.

    The Rachio gives you more flexibility as to where you can install, but you will need to make an additional purchase to use it outside. The Rain Bird is much less flexible, but its outdoor model is designed to stand alone without any required accessories.

    If you have an idea already as to where you’re going to install your system, the Rain Bird might be the better choice. Otherwise, the adaptability of the Rachio models win hands down.

  • Difference #6: Smart Home Integration – Having a smart sprinkler control system is excellent in and of itself, but part of the appeal of having a connected home is having technology that works together. In this regard, the Rachio comes out far ahead with its support for third-party integration.

    Since both the Rachio and Rain Bird work with Alexa, you’ll have access to some simple commands in either case. Unfortunately, however, the Rain Bird’s functionality stops there. Rachio models, on the other hand, go above and beyond when it comes to meshing seamlessly with the rest of your home.

    In addition to Amazon Alexa, Rachio also works with Google Assistant, which is a godsend for those of us who are bigger fans of the Google Home than we are the Amazon Echo. The controller also works with major smart home controllers like SmartThings, Wink, and Nest, which opens up the ability to control your watering alongside dozens of other smart products.

    Where the gap becomes truly apparent, however, is in the fact that only the Rachio supports IFTTT. This trigger system is the king of home customization, and allows you to heavily personalize nearly every aspect of your home — your sprinklers included.

    All in all, the Rachio is the clear choice if you’re looking for a system that will play nice with your various other smart products.

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
Rain Bird ST8I-WIFI 8 Station WiFi Timer, Indoor (Discontinued by Manufacturer; replaced by ST8I-2.0)

Rachio vs. Rain Bird — Comparison Chart

Rachio Gen 1 Rachio Gen 2 Rachio Gen 3 Rain Bird
8-zone model Yes Yes Yes Yes
12-zone model No No No No
16-zone model Yes Yes Yes No
Rain Sensor Supported Supported Supported Supported
Soil Sensor Supported Supported Supported No
Wired Flow Sensors No Supported Supported No
Wireless Rachio Flow Meter No No Supported No
Manual Control No In-unit On-unit On-unit
Cloud Sync Yes Yes Yes Yes
Local Connect No No No No
Weather Intelligence Standard Standard Advanced Yes
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 and Android
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 2.4 GHz 802.11b/g/n
Temperature Range -4°F to 140°F -4°F to 140°F -4°F to 140°F N/A
Indoor Use Yes Yes Yes Indoor Model
Outdoor Use With Enclosure With Enclosure With Enclosure Indoor/Outdoor Model
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” 6.25″ x 6.25″ x 1.54″
Weight 2.7 Lbs. 1.2 Lbs. 1.05 Lbs. 1.5 Lbs.
Warranty 2 years 2 years 2 years 1 year

Rachio vs. Rain Bird — Accessories

Rachio - Accessories - 05

Both the Rachio and Rain Bird work well as is, but we recommend purchasing some accessories to really get the most bang for your buck.

Since the Rachio can be used both inside and outdoors, you’ll want to purchase a Weatherproof Outdoor Enclosure to keep your system protected from the elements. If you make the decision to purchase the Gen 1 model, however, just keep in mind that it has its own enclosure that is separate from that of Gen 2 and Gen 3.

The Wireless Rain and Freeze Sensor for Gen 2 and Wireless Flow Meter for Gen 3 also ensure that your lawn stays watered and free from damage even if the weather monitoring is unreliable; and we feel that these accessories in particular are worth special attention.

For the Rain Bird, the only accessory really worth of note is their rain sensor. This functions much the same as the options for the Rachio, although there isn’t really support for third-party sensors like you’d see with that brand.

Rachio vs. Rain Bird — Our Thoughts

Rachio 3 - Lifestyle - 01

So how does this battle between an industry behemoth and a relative newcomer shape up? It’s pretty clear that the Rachio has the edge across a number of different categories.

With better smart home integration and a wider support for sensors, the Rachio just feels much more intelligent and capable than the Rain Bird model. However, it’s also significantly more expensive. Purchasing a Rachio system is a significant investment, and it can be cost-prohibitive for those who are just getting their feet wet with smart technology.

The Rain Bird has a few advantages like its battery-powered backup in the case of a power failure, but it does fall short in the majority of categories. The main perk that the system has to offer is in its budget-friendly price. Purchasing a Rain Bird model gives you access to intelligent watering without breaking the bank, and the benefits of that cannot be overstated.

Long story short, if you’re looking for a more premium model with a wealth of options, the Rachio is the winner. For the budget-conscious, however, the Rain Bird is also a completely viable choice.

Last update on 2024-04-23 at 00:10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

3 thoughts on “Rachio vs. Rain Bird”

  1. In the power section you mention you can continue to run your sprinklers if the power is cut out. This is incorrect. The battery in the rainmachine will only save the scheduling memory. To run the sprinkler actuator requires 24V of power from the transformer. Since power is out the timer will able to keep its schedule but not send power to the individual zone..

      • We had used Rachio at our last home as well as gifting one to my father. Loved the connectivity and reliability. Recently purchases a new home that came with a Rainbird ESP ME system. Purchased the optional WifI dongle. The wifi coverage is less than ideal, you loose connectivity often even being with in 25 -30 ft of controller. I actually lost all my settings recently when it loss connection. I felt the Rachio was easier and more flexible in setting up and use on my phone via app.
        Probably with change out the unit soon.


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