Rachio vs. RainMachine

When it comes to keeping your lawn green, smart sprinkler control systems are the way of the future. Pollution, water wastage, drought, and climate change have become serious problems, and systems like the Rachio and RainMachine offer an intelligent solution to these issues.

By purchasing a system with access to detailed weather information and the ability to turn sprinklers on and off only as needed, you’ll see a significant difference in your water bill and majorly help out the environment. Let’s face it: keeping your lawn green throughout the summer uses a significant amount of resources, and whichever you choose between the Rachio vs. RainMachine, you’ll be just as “green” as your grass.

Let’s go into detail on the similarities and differences between these two smart sprinkler systems, so you can figure out which is best for you and your home.

Rachio vs. RainMachine — About

When it comes to smart sprinkler systems, Rachio and RainMachine are some major names to keep in mind.

The Rachio product line has been around for quite a while, and you have three separate generations to choose from — each improving upon the last and offering a more comprehensive smart sprinkler control system. With pinpoint weather accuracy, you can rely on your smart sprinklers to save you money by only watering when your lawn needs it. All features are programmable with a convenient smartphone app, and additional attachments like the Rachio flow meter can even stop leaks in their tracks — saving your lawn from a potential disaster.

While Rachio may be one of the top brands when it comes to smart sprinklers, RainMachine also offers a competitive product line that encompasses pretty much anything you’d need from a smart sprinkler system. With three different models with varying levels of features, you should be able to find a RainMachine system to fit most any budget. Just like the Rachio, your smart sprinkler is designed to adapt to the weather — saving water and saving money.

Rachio vs. RainMachine — Things in Common

RainMachine - Extra - 01

Before we get into what exactly sets these sprinkler control systems apart from one another, let’s cover the similarities between these two product families.

In the interest of brevity, we’ll be comparing the Rachio product line as a whole with the RainMachine, giving you a general sense of what is available with each brand.

Both the Rachio line and the RainMachine offer an 8-zone model and a 16-zone model — giving homeowners flexibility when it comes to the size and layout of their lawn: whether you’re watering a small front lawn or sprawling tracts of land, you should be able to find a sprinkler system that works for you regardless of your choice in brand.

The Rachio and RainMachine also support rain sensors, which makes it easy to ensure that your sprinklers aren’t running when Mother Nature is doing the job herself.

The last two generations of Rachio systems and the RainMachine offer on-device control which makes it easy to trigger your sprinkler on-demand from the box itself. While you’ll primarily control your sprinklers via app control, the ability to start and stop your sprinklers on the controller itself is a definite plus.

When purchasing a smart sprinkler system, you want to do so with the knowledge that it will work with your existing smart home setup. Both the Rachio and RainMachine product families offer extensive support for voice control systems like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistants. You’ll also find pretty comprehensive compatibility with popular home automation systems like SmartThings, Wink, Nest, and IFTTT — just keep in mind that you’ll need to get acquainted with IFTTT if you want to use home automation with RainMachine.

Last but not least, both brands communicate over 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n connections, and are backed by a two year warranty.

Rachio vs. RainMachine — Differences

  • Difference #1: Zone Control – As mentioned above, both sprinkler control systems offer zone control that allows homeowners multiple options to choose from to best outfit their home.

    With the Rachio model, each generation comes in either an 8 or 16 zone option. Each model has its own advantages, and if you’d like a closer look at what sets them apart from one another, we strongly recommend checking out our Rachio Gen 1 vs. Gen 2 and Gen 2 vs. Gen 3 comparisons.

    While Rachio does offer a good amount of flexibility, RainMachine comes out on top in this category with additional support for 12 zone models rather than just 8 and 16. Just like Rachio, there are three models of RainMachine, although they are very similar outside the type of zone control they offer. The middle ground of 13 zones is perfect for mid-sized lawns that might be a little too big for 8 zone control and for which 16 zones is overkill.

    Long story short, with the RainMachine you have more zone choices.

  • Difference #2: Sensors – While RainMachine may have the edge when it comes to zone control, Rachio offers wider support for sensors. The later generations offer their own Rachio-branded sensors, but are also compatible with popular third-party sensors like the Hunter Rain-Clik Wireless Rain Sensor, RAIN BIRD WR2 Wireless Rain Sensor, and Orbit Wireless Rain Sensor. These sensors combined with proprietary weather technology help make sure that you’re not overwatering or wasting water even if the built-in weather detection fails. The Rachio also offers support for soil sensors, which are notably absent from all RainMachine models, as well as flow sensors that help monitor water usage and even address potential leaks.

    RainMachine sprinkler control systems have rain sensors that function in tandem with accurate weather technology, but it’s not backed up by soil or flow sensors. In day to day operation the two systems will function very much the same, but when it comes to safeguards and third-party sensor support, you can’t do much better than any of the three Rachio models.

  • Difference #3: Wi-Fi Connection – Both sprinkler systems function on a 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n connection. However, the Rachio Gen 3 stands out from the crowd with support for 5GHz connections as well, making it the only smart sprinkler control system out of these four models to support such a router. For those on a 5GHz connection or who think they will be changing their WiFi setup in the future, the Rachio Gen 3 is clearly the more flexible choice.

  • Difference #4: Local Connect – One major advantage that the RainMachine has over the Rachio product family is the way in which it connects and manages watering. While the Rachio Gen 1 through Gen 3 rely on WiFi to set and manage schedules, RainMachine systems use local connect and can still be managed even if your WiFi happens to go down.

    It’s worth noting that either system will continue to work as-is if you lose internet due to their ability to store the last known settings, but only with the RainMachine will you be able to make any adjustments to settings while an internet connection is down.

  • Difference #5: Cloud – The Rachio models have a lot of clear advantages. With easier smart home integration and wider support for sensors, it’s easy to see that the latest generations are the smartest of these sprinkler systems.

    However, the Rachio models come with one major catch, and that catch is reliance on the cloud in order to issue and carry out commands. While the Rachio cloud server has never been down more than a few minutes in our experience, there’s the risk that your smart sprinkler system may no longer be functional in the future should the Rachio servers shut down.

    The RainMachine smart sprinkler controller is one of the only true non-cloud devices in the industry, so if longevity and self-reliance is your primary concern, the RainMachine wins hands-down. It connects directly to weather services via WiFi, so as long as major weather prediction systems like NOAA remain active online, you’ll retain all the smart features you’ll grow to love. You’ll miss out on some dynamic scheduling features and native support for some smart home controllers, but that might be a worthwhile trade-off for some when it comes with the guarantee that your sprinkler system will continue to function flawlessly for the years to come.

  • Difference #6: Manual Control – We mentioned in the similarities that both product families had support for manual control, but the Rachio Gen 1 is missing this feature and the other models differ in how easy the controls are to access.

    The Rachio Gen 2 and Gen 3 both offer manual control, but only the Gen 3 has fully featured on-device control. If you opt for the 2, you’ll need to open the cover to manually adjust settings.

    With RainMachine, you’ll enjoy convenient access to manual control regardless of which of the three models you happen to go with. The 12 and 16 zone modes even come with a big touchscreen — making adjusting settings a breeze even if you find yourself without your smartphone.

  • Difference #7: Outdoor Use – The Rachio and RainMachine can be used inside with no issue, but you’ll only find support for outdoor installation with Rachio (using the Gen 1 or Gen 2 / 3 outdoor enclosure).

    Because the RainMachine only operates at temperatures between 32 F to 122 F, it definitely isn’t suited to being outside in colder climates, and the lack of of weatherproofing means you’ll have to keep it safe from the elements even in more moderate locales.

  • Difference #8: Dimensions – The three Rachio models differ in size from generation to generation, and the RainMachine has different dimensions as well. Listed below are the dimensions of each model. While all are relatively small and should easily find a place in most homes, the size is worth taking into account — especially for cramped spaces.

    • Rachio Gen 1: 2.165” x 7.25” x 7.25”
    • Rachio Gen 2: 9.25″ x 5.625″ x 1.625″
    • Rachio Gen 3: 9.1” x 5.5” x 1.4”
    • RainMachine: 6” x 4” x 1”
  • Difference #9: Smart Home Integration – As far as smart home integration goes, Rachio is the clear winner. While it relies on the cloud to issue and receive commands which can be a disadvantage in terms of longevity, it’s very compatible with voice controllers and smart home control systems like SmartThings Gen 3, Nest, and Wink, and IFTTT.

    RainMachine offers full integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant as well as much of the same support for smart home controllers, but with one major caveat. For integration with SmartThings, Nest, and Wink, you’ll need to use IFTTT — the functionality isn’t supported by default.

    IFTTT is an incredibly powerful conditional trigger system that lets you do tie your smart home together such as turning off your sprinklers when the sun goes down, or even tying the system to your smart lighting. It does require a bit of tinkering to get set up, however, and is a little less convenient than the Rachio models which feature smart home support right out of the box.

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. RainMachine — Comparison Chart

Rachio Gen 1 Rachio Gen 2 Rachio Gen 3 RainMachine
8-zone model Yes Yes Yes Mini-8
12-zone model No No No HD-12
16-zone model Yes Yes Yes HD-16
Rain Sensor Supported Supported Supported Supported
Soil Sensor Supported Supported Supported
Wired Flow Sensors No Supported Supported
Wireless Rachio Flow Meter No No Supported
Manual Control No In-unit On-unit On-unit
Cloud Sync Yes Yes Yes No
Local Connect No No No Yes
Weather Intelligence Standard Standard Advanced Yes
Amazon Alexa Yes Yes Yes Yes
Google Assistant Yes Yes Yes Yes
SmartThings Yes Yes Yes via IFTTT
Wink Yes Yes Yes via IFTTT
Nest Yes Yes Yes via IFTTT
IFTTT Yes Yes Yes Yes
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 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n
Temperature Range -4°F to 140°F -4°F to 140°F -4°F to 140°F 32°F to 122°F
Inside Use Yes Yes Yes Yes
Outdoor Use With Enclosure With Enclosure With Enclosure No
Dimensions 2.2” x 7.3” x 7.3” 9.3″ x 5.6″ x 1.6″ 9.1” x 5.5” x 1.4” 6″ x 4″ x 1″
Weight 2.7 Lbs. 1.2 Lbs. 1.05 Lbs. 0.7 Lbs.
Warranty 2 years 2 years 2 years 2 years

Rachio vs. RainMachine — Accessories

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The Rachio in particular has some accessories that can expand the functionality of the system. We mentioned above some of the third-party rain sensors that work well with the systems, but this Wireless Rain and Freeze Sensor is our top pick. Weatherproof enclosures for Gen 1 and Gen 2 / 3 also allows you to install your Rachio system outside and keep it protected from the elements.

If you decide to opt for the Gen 3 model, the Wireless Flow meter can help you monitor water usage with pinpoint accuracy, and stop leaks in their tracks before there is any major damage to your lawn or water bill!

The RainMachine is a ready-to-use system, and doesn’t really have any additional accessories to offer at this point in time.

Rachio vs. RainMachine — Our Thoughts

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Unfortunately, this comparison doesn’t truly leave us with a clear answer as to which smart sprinkler system is the superior choice.

While the Rachio has support for more specialized sensors and is much easier to integrate into a smart home, it relies on the cloud and has differing levels of functionality based on the generation you decide to purchase.

The RainMachine succeeds where the Rachio falls short, with the ability to control the system offline and zero reliance on the cloud, as well as comprehensive manual controls through the easy-to-use on-device touch screen.

If we had to choose a winner, we’d probably recommend the RainMachine due mainly to the fact that it’s one of the only smart sprinkler control devices on the market that doesn’t rely on cloud servers. This means you’ll only need to make an investment once, and your sprinklers will retain smart control.

With that said, the Rachio is clearly the superior choice for those who are looking for sensor and smart home support.

At the end of the day, the best smart sprinkler control system will depend on what you’re looking for. Our vote, however, goes to the RainMachine.

Last update on 2024-05-28 at 16:35 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

4 thoughts on “Rachio vs. RainMachine”

  1. WiFi is not the same as Internet — you mix these concepts repeatedly. My WiFi can be up while my Internet is down — and vice versa. While you correctly call out Rachio’s reliance on cloud servers, you miss the point: privacy. Rachio is able to track and sell your usage data (Hmmm. This customer has 16 zones — likely a big, expensive house — would you like to buy their email & contact information?) whereas RainMachine cannot.

    • Thanks for your feedback, Dan! We really appreciate it.
      And we’ll review the article to make the Internet/WiFi concept more clear.

      Cheers 🙂

  2. You state that the Rainmachine can not be used outside. The Orbit 57095 Enclosure holds the Mini-8 perfectly. Mine has been in service outside for 2 summers and 1 winter so far.


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