Having had to grow a new lawn in 2 areas covering around 2000sq ft we really needed some sort of sprinkler timer system. I had actually spent some time searching online to see what it would take to put an in-ground system in at one point. Although most of the components are extremely price friendly, there are a couple which are not. The first is the sprinkler system timer, and the second is the back-flow prevention valve which can run up to $300 in itself on top of the rest of your system. Add in the additional digging and modifying your plumbing, etc, it’s a lot of work and perhaps a job better after settling in for a couple of years.
Vigoro 3015V Water Timer / Sprinkler Timer (also known as a Melnor Electronic Water Timer 3015V)
We ended up going with some garden / home improvement store variety water timers / sprinkler timers that you just hook your hose to. The first one we purchased was a ‘Vigoro Model 3015v’ (same as Melnor) branded item which had a lot of programming flexibility, manual override and, in this package, the moisture sensor. The water timer without the rain sensor function is $26.30 at Amazon. (not the number of ‘review stars’ in the amazon popup when you hover over that link) The one with the water sensor is pictured below.
Overall this seemed like a pretty good timer. It has a lot of flexibility in the programming schedule. You set the current time (in hours only) and set the start time (in hours only). You then program how often the timer will open the valve in hours or days to water your lawn, and for how long it will do it each time, in minutes, or hours.
We used this unit at first on four oscillating fan type sprinklers. I noticed right away that the water pressure to the sprinklers was very low when they were ran and series (VALVE –> SPRINKLER –> SPRINKLER –> SPRINKLER –> LAST SPRINKLER) type setup. I bought a 4 way splitter valve and then split the hose 4 ways to the 4 separate sprinklers. This evened out the pressure much better (and is called a parallel configuration)
While the water pressure had improved with the 4-way hose splitter it was still weak, this of course is not the sprinkler timers fault but just additional useful information if you’re trying to water a large area with multiple sprinklers.
The rain sensor / moisture sensor did a reasonable job, and lets you adjust how sensitive to ground moisture it is. The setting varies from 1 water drop to 3 water drops to tell the system how wet you want your ground to be. If the moisture sensor detects that your lawn is wet, to the level you selected, the main unit will bypass any sprinkling times until your lawn dries out enough to require watering again. The rain sensor is great as it prevents the system from watering your lawn when it has rained recently, saving you money and possibly sparing you the dirty looks from your enviro-conscious-neighbors if your sprinklers happen to turn on during a torrential downpour!
Special Note: Attach your hose to this unit before attaching the wireless receiving antenna. Speaking from experience it is much more difficult to get the hose on when the antennas is attached!
Model: Vigoro/Melnor 3015V Water Timer / Sprinkler Timer w/Wireless Moisture Sensor
Cost: $24.95 (excluding moisture sensor feature)
Pros: Simple to setup, manual override, reliable, easy to read.
Cons: Splits hours evenly. a 6/noon/6 schedule is not possible, you only get a midnight/6/noon/6 schedule, and I didn’t want to water our lawn at midnight and I didn’t want to water too early in the morning, or too late at night like I could achieve with an 3 x 8hr schedule. This unit has received terrible reviews in general.
Orbit 4 Zone Water Timer / Sprinkler Timer
After messing with the Vigoro sprinkler timer and having the water pressure problems as well as the ‘watering at midnight’ problem due to limited timer configurations with that unit I decided to go to Lowe’s and see what they had in the way of a timer with multiple zones. Well, there wasn’t a lot available other than this Orbit ‘Complete Yard Watering Kit’. In all honestly it didn’t come with the 300 feet of hose or 5 25 dollar sprinklers so I’m not sure how ‘complete’ I would say it was. It did come with a 4 way valve manifold, the timer module and 2 electronic valves, expandable to 4 (additional valves are 12.95, mail order only from Lowe’s site and rarely in some stores).
This timer seems pretty well built, and it’s pretty easy to setup. It is somewhat the same parameters as the Vigoro module above with the addition of individual zones. As an added bonus, they seemed to know you did not want to water your lawn at midnight, and it allows you to set a schedule for 6am, Noon and 6pm, and to skip any overnight watering possibilities. GOOD IDEA!
With the addition of multiple valves, you have multiple sprinkler zones. I split the sprinklers down into 2 watering zones for the main peninsula lawn and set the timer to run both sets of control valves, one at a time, for 20 minutes during each watering period for the new lawn. It works great and reliably.
I like this timer much better, but it has it’s own problems as well. While the programmable portion of the timer is pretty great. The fact that you have to buy additional zone valves via mail order only is kind of a lame, but not impassable barrier. Additionally in manual mode it would have been a nice feature to be able to set individual times for each zone. With this module you can turn on one sprinkler zone for X minutes. Or alternately you can turn on all zones for X minutes. You cannot set Zone 1 for 10 minutes, Zone 2 for 20 minutes, Zone 3 for 10 minutes, etc.
Model: Orbit Complete Yard Watering Kit (Model #: 91591 / 27752)
Cost: Spotty Availability, cheaper version now available for around $49
Pros: Very flexible timing options and multiple zones. Expands up to 4 valves and is reliable. While discontinued the additional valves are still currently available.
Cons: You can only buy sprinkler zone control valves through mail-order. I have received and viewed some reports regarding the reliability of the reviewed unit in a poor light and in fact when I changed the batteries the unit died on the spot but in general Orbit has better product reviews than the Melnor products Vigoro re-brands.
I wasted so much time and money with these sprinkler timers that we might have been better off trenching and putting in our own sprinkler system. By the time we got everything taken care of working right, the amount of money spent on sprinklers, hoses, timers, watering at weird hours, etc could have just been resolved with a real sprinkler system with an indoor based multi-zone timer for a couple hundred more. Perhaps next year, things are working okay for now but not optimal. If you’re not able to do your own sprinkler system installation, then these may be the way to go, if you’re just being kinda lazy you may wind up regret it.
If you are looking for a short term solution for a sprinkler timer then I think these two models can provide you temporary relief. If you’re looking for something that is going to last you longer and multiple seasons, you might want to look at other sprinkler timers. I’ve found that while the particular multi-zone Orbit I reviewed has higher failure complaints, their smaller single zone units have a bit better reputation such as the Orbit 91213 or the Orbit 62001 which has been getting excellent reviews. If you want longer life from your timer, don’t leave it or the valves out over the winter. When you change the battery it may be beneficial to rub something like petroleum jelly over the rubber seal on the battery compartment to help it seal better. If you buy a unit that doesn’t have a sealed battery compartment, take it back.
If you liked this post, please see my other Lawn Related Posts and also my new article where I disassemble the Vigoro 3015v to see how the valve works.
I’ve tried to keep this post updated with recent information based on feedback from readers and information I find from other review sites and reviewers so that my readers can be better informed on their choices. I last updated this page on June 7, 2011. Best of luck with your lawns and gardens this Spring and Summer.