Top 8 Best Water Timers of 2018 – The Ultimate Water Timer Guide

July 15th, 2018

Buying a water timer is essential if you want to make a sprinkler system without paying thousands of dollars for a specialized setup.

Homewares Insider Best Reviewed

Orbit Water Timer

Orbit Water Timer

  • A durable weatherproof construction
  • Setting it up is an absolute breeze
  • Everything, including the rain delay, works really well
  • No advanced functionality, but you shouldn’t be complaining at this price range
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It’s more or less the crucial part of the whole system. That’s why it’s important to get the best water timer. A water timer, also known as a sprinkler timer, is an electromechanical device. You put in on a water line, and it uses a solenoid valve to either increase or decrease the water flow. There are multiple types, from a battery operated sprinkler timer, to mechanical ones. Getting the best water timer that fits your needs is important.

Summary of the Best Water Timers

BEST WATER TIMERSQUALITYPRICEOUR RATING
Orbit Water TimerA+$
Melnor 4 zone water timerA+$$$
DIG Water TimerA+$$$
Nelson Watering TimerB$
Orbit 2 Outlet hose faucet timerA+$$
Gardena Water TimerC-$$
Claber Water TimerB$$$
Hozelock Water TimerB$$$

When you combine it with irrigation sprinklers, you can make an automated, or non-automated sprinkler system. This is ideal for any garden. It can administer precisely regulated amounts of water on a regular basis. You no longer have to worry about watering your plants or you lawn – you have a water timer to do it for you.

Now, choosing a water hose timer isn’t such an easy task. It’s of a similar difficulty of working out the right time to mow the lawn. There are multiple options for timers and controllers, and they come in a variety of configurations. Choosing one can be difficult. However, we’re here to help. We have a list of options for you. The list contains a couple of timers that we’ve found to perform admirably. Regardless of which one you choose, you will not regret it, but they aren’t all the same. They have differing specifications, and are made for different situations. That’s also why we have a bit of a buyer’s guide at the end as well, to help you with your decision. Once you’ve read through everything, you can go ahead and order your water sprinkler timer. Let’s begin.

1. Orbit Water Timer – the ultimate single dial faucet timer

If you’re looking for an excellent hose faucet timer that does it all, look no further. There is a good reason it’s one of the best selling products, as it’s simple, it doesn’t break the bank, and it just works! The oversized dial is a great feature and only enhances the ease of use. Set things such as watering time, how long, how often it waters, and run it! You won’t be needing the Orbit water timer manual, or any water timer instructions to set it up – it’s really simple.

One of the most important components of the Orbit water timer is the flexibility of scheduling. It’s obvious that Orbit consider this a key feature as well. Why, you may ask? Because you can set watering intervals for any time, from 6 hours, to 7 days. Talk about versatility. It doesn’t get much better. Running it also only requires two AA alkaline batteries, and battery life is stellar, so you don’t have to worry about that either.

You also have a rain delay in the run function. We’ll talk about rain sensors and what they do to help a bit later, but for now, it’s good to know that there’s such functionality here. You get a choice of delaying things for 24, 48 or 72 hours, as you deem fit. And if, at any time, you’d like to interrupt the program, you can always make use of the “Manual” button.

Why is it the best water timer?

When you’re looking for a water timer, there are a few essentials things you’re asking for. You want it to work well, you want it to be accurate, and you want it to last. You don’t want to bother with reprogramming it because it forgot what it should be doing. And you don’t want it to not have the time interval you need, and cause you unnecessary water timer problems. If you can get everything mentioned above, plus a waterproof construction with a brass swivel, and get it for a decent amount of money, you’re winning on every field imaginable.

And, honestly, you are getting it with the Orbit timer for sprinklers. It’s a magnificent product, one that you literally buy and forget it’s there – it just gets the job done. Additional things such as rain delay and oversized features for ease of use are all just bonuses. Why are you still thinking and reconsidering? If it suits you, just buy it!

ProsCons
A durable weatherproof construction

 Setting it up is an absolute breeze

 Everything, including the rain delay, works really well

 No advanced functionality, but you shouldn’t be complaining at this price range

2. Melnor 4 zone water timer – a great option if you need more zones

The Orbit water timer above is amazing, but you can only run a single zone with it. If you need more, the Melnor water timer might be a much better choice. It doesn’t limit you to a single zone, instead you have four to set up to it, so let’s take a better look.

This is, universally speaking, one of the easiest operating sprinkler timers on the market nowadays. You will find many people that agree with this, as you really don’t need a lot to be able to set up and operate the Melnor 4-zone digital water timer. You can set up up to four zones, and each can water either automatically, or manually, by twisting a knob. And it’s excellent that you can program each independent zone manually. If you aren’t new to Melnor products, it also works with the AquaSentry Soil Moisture sensor. This is excellent if you want to completely automate things.

For those programming needs you have a pretty large screen. Even though really simple, the device gives you plenty of functionality. The Melnor water sprinkler timer display will show the whole program at a glance. This is excellent compared to other products with smaller screens, where you have to scroll through pages and pages to see what you’re setting up. And it’s not just the screen – the multi-function control button is rubberized and fairly large, making it easy to operate.

The Melnor timer works well, but durability isn’t its strong suit

The build quality of the Melnor AquaTimer is, at first glance, pretty good. The device is water sealed and rubberized for grip and durability. However, long life expectancy isn’t what we saw with it, and many users tend to agree with us. It’s not the whole device that fails. Instead, you have one or two of the zones only. They fail after a few months to a year, which, if unnoticed, can cause damage to your zones.

ProsCons
Four zones you can program separately

 Large display that shows everything at once

 Easy to set up and use

 A little on the expensive side

 The timer doesn’t really last a lot, with zones failing after a few months

3. DIG Water Timer – The battery life champion

If there’s one thing we think really stands out with the DIG irrigation timer, it’s the battery life. If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t want to change batteries all the time on their irrigation products, this is the solution. Instead of opting for smaller AA batteries, the DIG timer makes use of a single 9-volt alkaline battery. It lasts for a year, which is absolutely amazing.

Since it’s not just about the battery life, let’s take a look at some of the other features. The DIG sprinkler timer has a flow rate of up to 6.3 GPM. The irrigation kit is made to be connected to a faucet, or a garden hose. From that point, you can either use it with a drip irrigation or a sprinkler system.

How does the DIG sprinkler timer perform?

Performance is crucial with any product, and so is the case with the DIG. With it being very easy to adjust, you can get quite a few things. There are four start times per day, where duration is from a minute, up to 12 hours and 59 minutes. What this does is lets you use it in a wide variety of situations, as you find convenient.

ProsCons
Battery life is very good

 Very simple to set up and use

 Timer options give you a lot of versatility

 A little on the expensive side for just the basic functionality

4. Nelson Watering Timer with LCD Screen – A simple budget entry in the market

With many electronics and devices around our homes, it comes a time where you simply don’t want to spend more than what’s absolutely necessary, and only want the most basic functionality. If this is the case with your irrigation sprinklers, you should look at the Nelson water timer.

Sized similarly like the Orbit, our champion, the Nelson sprinkler timer comes with a couple of buttons and an LCD display. There’s a metal coupling which swivels very easily, which is pretty good. However, we’d prefer if it was brass, for durability reasons. We haven’t had any issues with our unit, but we didn’t get to test it for too long either.

One thing we did notice, though, is that the display doesn’t tend to show a lot of information. It actually alternates between the current time and your next scheduled program, but that’s it. Fortunately, setting up the Nelson timer is really easy, and you won’t really need the display for much afterwards. You won’t be reaching for the water timer instructions here, it’s really intuitive.

How does the Nelson sprinkler timer fare?

Well, this basically depends on you and your needs. If you’re after a simple water sprinkler timer that does the basics and doesn’t cost a lot, it’s actually good. It runs up to 360 minutes, which is something you won’t find with many other products, and it’s easy to set up and adjust. If you don’t need the advanced functionalities or smart features of higher-end products, this might be a great option.

ProsCons
A true budget offering

 Runs up to 360 minutes

 Really simple to set up

 Display doesn’t show a lot at a time

5. Orbit 2 Outlet hose faucet timer – the champ’s bigger brother

We couldn’t recommend the Orbit single outlet timer, and things aren’t much different with this one either. This is what you get when you like what the water hose timer reviews say about the Orbit lawn sprinkler timer, but a single outlet isn’t enough. The four of the Melnor are overkill, as you only need two. That’s where the Orbit 1 dial 2 outlet timer comes in.

In terms of specifications, it’s actually similar to the Orbit sprinkler timer with a single outlet. The watering frequency can be set from 6 hours up to 7 days. This gives you a lot of versatility, something not many other hose timers can offer. The swivel connection lets you install it easily, and it’s as simple to set up as the single outlet one. Again, you have watering duration from one, to 240 minutes. The one, two or three day rain delay options are here too, and you can do manual watering without interrupting the programming.

Is it as good as the other Orbit faucet timer?

Well, yes and no. In terms of performance, ease of use and durability, it is every bit as good. As we said earlier, if you loved the first one, but need two zones, this is absolutely the one to get. However, in terms of the price-to-performance ratio, it just doesn’t have the same value proposition. For the same amount of money you could get a 4 zone sprinkler timer. You might not need four zones, but that’s a much more complex device, yet it costs more or less the same.

ProsCons
A lot of versatility in terms of watering frequency and duration

 Rain delay options and manual watering ability

 Quick to install, and extremely easy to set up

 Price-to-performance ratio isn’t that good, it could be a bit cheaper

6. Gardena Water Timer – the no-display mechanical solution

As in any other category, there are some purists who think that they don’t need a display. Just a good old mechanical Gardena water sprinkler timer. And if you’re one of those people who don’t need a water timer electronic device, this might be great for you. However, we’d suggest that you give it a good thought before you purchase. Let’s see why.

The Gardena water distributor timer is an extremely simple device. We couldn’t blame you for thinking this isn’t a timer or controller – after all, the Gardena timer has no display and no buttons. That means no easy way to figure out the adjustments, and no real advanced programming features. Again, this might appeal to purists that think that they don’t need a display, but it’s far from convenient.

Why do we say you should give it a good thought before you purchase?

As far as the features go, there isn’t much you can set. The watering time is between 5 minutes and two hours, and you can also set the water flow. However, that’s pretty much it. There are some garden situations where the 5 to 120 minutes limit just doesn’t cut it, making this Gardena water distributor timer very inconvenient. Last but not least, we live in an era where a display lets you see, and adjust, just about anything you want. Sure, you might not need it with the adjustments (or lack thereof) the Gardena has. But it would’ve been nice to have one, especially at this price.

ProsCons
Extremely simple

 Quick and easy to install

 Water timer that switches off automatically

 No display making it very inconvenient

 Adjustments are lackluster and might not do the job for you

7. Claber Water Timer – A simple, yet fairly advanced timer

Claber is a fairly well known brand in this industry. The Claber AquaUno Video 2 cycle is a good representation of what they can do with their irrigation timers, and it comes with a price that supports that fact. Claber timers often come with a premium price, so this is no surprise, but is it worth it with the Claber Aquauno? Let’s take a look and find out.

The Aquauno is an interesting device. It comes with a regular hose connector, just like you’d expect, so you can use it with your current setup. You can program it up to 7 days in advance, and as its name suggests, it supports two watering cycles per day. The watering duration can go from a single minute, to 23 hours and 59 minutes, which is pretty impressive. It also has programs that operate sequentially, either on any, or all days of the week. This is the kind of advanced programmability that makes its asking price somewhat worth it.

Why isn’t this the best water timer on our list?

Even though the Claber water timer is amazing and has a lot of features, it isn’t the best. You will find that programming it is actually much more difficult than it should be, which is a bummer. Chances are you’ll get frustrated with setting things up and not get to the features that make this a premium water timer. And there’s the O-ring issue. They do last a good while, but getting replacement ones from Claber is very expensive and certainly not worth it.

ProsCons
Advanced programming options you won’t find on many other devices

 Watering duration from a minute to a full day

 Sequential operation setup

 Programming is very difficult

 Very expensive

 Replacement O-rings are expensive as well

8. Hozelock Water Timer – last, but certainly not least

We’ll wrap up our list with the Hozelock water sprinkler timer. Hozelock is a name that pops up every once in a while in garden water timers reviews. Fortunately, it’s not in regards to Hozelock problems, but instead to their Hozelock water systems and timers that are usually high quality and easily adjustable. This is also the case with the automatic water timer we have today, so let’s take a look.

The Hozelock water timer comes with dial and button programming. This lets you, as a user, easily set up things such as current time, watering start time, duration and frequency. There’s an audible confirmation that the program is accepted. An interesting feature that not many others offer is the ability to re-set any element of your program without actually needing to re-program the whole timer. You can choose between ½, ¾ and 1” inlet sizes with the included adapters. This is also a thing you don’t see very often, and comes in handy.

However, as far as water timers for garden hoses go, the Hozelock is expensive. It does offer some interesting features, but certainly not enough to justify the price. Yes, it comes from a reputable brand, but does that mean you should spend twice as much as you would with something like the Orbit? We don’t think so.

ProsCons
A high quality, well-built product

 You can re-set any program element without re-programming the entire timer

 Multiple inlet options are a versatile option

 The price is fairly high, and far from justified

Let’s talk a little history

Now that you know your options, let’s see where the irrigation timer originated. They first appeared in the 1960s. Back then they were used for large-radius lawn sprinklers. At the time, they had their own electronically operated valve. This is still the case with some golf-course sprinklers. However, these timers were large and had a lot of mechanical parts. It wasn’t until the 1970s that compact sprinkler timers became common. The controller Lawn Genie introduced at that time was really small, and proved popular for many years. However, it was difficult to reprogram, and unless you had each valve running for an hour, it didn’t operate valves in immediate succession.

Later on, Rain Bird introduced a timer that had an electromechanical programming interface. It proved to be pretty easy to operate, and it didn’t require time gaps to omit stations from the program sequence. This was a timer that became standard in numerous situations during the 80s, and as far as weatherproof timers and waterproof timers go, it proved itself as extremely durable. You can even find some that are still operating today. And in the late 80s, a brand known as Hydro-Rain introduced the hybrid. It had electronic programming, and a visual programming interface with a single selector dial. This turned out to be the best irrigation controller design, and you will find many drip irrigation timer models that use the hybrid system today, as it’s by far the most common one.

A buyers’ guide

As you saw in the list above, there are plenty of models, and plenty of configurations. If you don’t know exactly what you need, what you need it for, and what to buy, it’s easy to make a mistake. We don’t want you to do that, so we have a buyer’s guide for you. What you should know, for starters, is the difference between a timer and a controller. The timer is commonly a hose-end model. You attach it to a ¾ inch hose thread, or the standard hose faucet. A controller, on the other hand, is more often the unit that connects to a valve manifold system. It can either be alternating od direct current, and it’s important that the valve and controller are matched to the same current. Let’s answer some basic questions.

What kind of water source do you have?

If your main water line has a manifold valve system you’re working from, it’s a controller you need. The controller should be wired to one, or multiple electronic valves. These valves control each zone, and as we mentioned above, it’s important that you have the correct current. An AC valve goes with an AC controller, and a DC valve goes with a DC controller, make sure you remember that. If, on the other hand, you’re working with a hose bib as a water source, you’ll need a hose-end, or garden hose timer.

What kind of PSI are you working with at your water source?

It’s fairly common for timers and valves to require a minimum PSI amount in order to work correctly. For example, hose-end timers commonly ask for at least 7.3 PSI. However, there are some models that only require a fraction of that, and can work with PSI as low as 2.9. You could make use of those in situations where you have a low flow, such as with a gravity setup.

As far as the relationship between controllers and PSI goes, it isn’t a direct one. Controllers don’t operate on pressure, but instead the valves they control do. Therefore, a valve needs a much higher pressure to work correctly. A low pressure valve requires a minimum of 10 PSI, while others may ask for at least 20. You might think all of this isn’t important, but if you’re looking for the best water timer, you’ll need to know your PSI if you want to get the best hose timer possible.

How fond are you of programming things?

Way before Bluetooth and Wi-Fi were introduced, this was a really big issue. However, since the models that we mentioned above don’t have neither of the aforementioned technologies, and are instead budget options, this is still a thing to discuss. With Bluetooth or Wi-Fi all you need is your phone, tablet or computer, and an app that’s actually pretty intuitive. But with a regular, non-smart automatic sprinkler timer, you’ll need to program it yourself. A garden water timer varies in difficulty from model to model. Depending on which one you opt for, you might have a really easy time programming it, or you might get stuck for hours until you figure out what you need and how to set it up.

Are you irrigating one zone, or multiple?

If you’ve looked at multiple battery operated sprinkler timers, you’ll find that most of them are actually meant for a single run of tubing from a single hose bib. However, this isn’t the only option. Models such as the Melnor water timer above can water 4 zones instead of one, with some even going up to 24 zones. If you need one for 24 zones, chances are you already know what you need and aren’t reading this guide, but the more you know, the better.

Do you need a rain sensor?

A rain sensor is nothing more than an additional function that helps you save water and protects your plants. If your garden is in the open, it might be good to take a look at this functionality. If it rains, it won’t water your garden. Besides saving water, this will also protect your plants because overwatering them is just as bad as not watering them enough.

Wrapping things up

As you saw above, there are plenty of contenders for the title of best water timer. However, aside from our obvious top choice, the Orbit water timer, all of them are second place. If you don’t get the Orbit, choosing between the other options is merely a preference, and trying to get as much necessary functionality as possible.

You’ll want to note that ‘necessary’ part in the previous sentence. Things such as paying for the Melnor 4 zone water timer when you only have a single zone are a waste of money, which isn’t something that you really need to do. However, if you intend to introduce more zones in the future, it might be a decent investment, one that will actually save you a bit in the long run.

All things considered, it’s completely up to you. We did our best and gave you quite a bit of options, and it is on you from now on. You have the choices, you have a well put together buyers’ guide, all you have to do is order! Regardless of which one you order, chances are you’ll enjoy it, and it will serve you for years to come.