Melnor-raincloud-featured-image Watering & Irrigation

Melnor RainCloud Smart Water Timer: Product Review


Ease of Use:
Final Thoughts

A nice alternative to manual clock watering systems as long as you’re within Wi-Fi range.

Overall Score 3.8

Available on Amazon

Buy It

Have you ever had one of those “duh” moments when you realize hours later that you left the hose/sprinkler/drip system running? Most of us have. The problem is that it wastes water and sometimes harms the plant you meant to help.

The Melnor RainCloud Smart Water Timer 4-Valve System lessens the chance of human error (in a couple of ways) and makes watering much easier, especially while you’re at work or on vacation. The Smart Water Timer is designed to give you control of watering from anywhere and is an excellent solution for those who have edibles or other spots in the garden that need consistent watering. And with four valves, you have plenty of options for adding watering zones in your garden.

I tested the Melnor RainCloud on two areas of our garden. I hooked up a soaker hose to water an area with several small plantings and also connected a garden hose with a wand set on low to water a tree.

Melnor raincloud soaker hose

A soaker hose ran from the RainCloud valve unit to some newer plantings along our dry river bed. If you want to attach a soaker hose, you can add a regular hose between the unit and the soaker.

Easy to Set Up and Use

The RainCloud system comes with a valve unit and control unit that are simple to install and operate, as well as power and network cords. Both the control and valve units are made of heavy plastic; the valve unit has a metal faucet connection and four plastic hose connections.

The valve unit requires four AA batteries (not included) and screws onto your existing faucet.

Melnor raincloud valve unit

The components of the RainCloud system: valve unit (top); control unit (bottom); power and network cords, and instructions.

There are easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions that walk you through the installation steps. Note that you’ll have to go online to set up the cloud-based software before you can start using it, so be sure you’re near a computer and modem.

Melnor raincloud control unit

Close-up of the control unit, which is a little larger than a deck of cards, so easy to fit near the modem.

Melnor raincloud battery compartment

The valve unit requires 4 AA batteries

To get started, I set up my user account online, then connected the control unit to my Internet modem.

This required hard-wiring the unit to the modem with a network cable (included) and plugging the unit into an outlet with a power adapter (also enclosed in the box).

Aside from a few more steps online to make sure the control and valve units communicate, all you have to do is decide when to water with the drip, sprinkler, or soaker hoses attached.

The included instructions were easy to follow and the process was smooth, taking about 15 minutes.

Melnor raincloud modem

The RainCloud control box plugs into a modem with an included network cable. The control unit then sends signals to the valve via Wi-Fi.

Cloud-Based Watering Control

The system’s valve unit gets its watering orders from the partner control unit, which sends signals to the valves through your home Wi-Fi network. Activating and managing the RainCloud requires logging into Melnor’s cloud server.

Once you set up your account, you program and manage the RainCloud system from your computer or a free smartphone app (available for both iOS and Android devices). I tried both and they worked well, although the app screen mirrors the computer version, which means the writing and buttons on the app are pretty small.

There is no fee for cloud-based management of the RainCloud system.

Editor’s Note – As with any cloud-based technology, there can be outages if there’s a problem with Melnor’s server. Some users have experienced outages because of this, resulting in watering programs failing to run, incorrect information showing on the app or computer, and not being able to manually override the system.

Flexible Watering Programs

The watering program is really flexible: you can set a number of combinations of start days, times and length of watering. Each of the four valves can be set to water for up to 240 minutes.

An optional eco mode sets the unit to water for, say five minutes, then goes off for 10 minutes, and repeats. This is an excellent feature, allowing the water from your sprinkler or soaker hose to penetrate the ground slowly, which is the best way to water.

Melnor raincloud cloud based management

The home screen for the system’s cloud-based management. It’s user friendly and easy to edit.

I had never used a cloud-based smart controller before, and I found it easy to operate or change the schedule. For example, if the weather forecasts rain you can easily turn the irrigation off that day and have it resume normal operation afterward. It’s a great alternative to older programmable systems that come on as scheduled regardless of the weather outside.

And even though I don’t have the greatest Wi-Fi signal, the unit worked continuously. The app home screen tells you whether both components are online or offline so it’s easy to tell if the system is working.

However, if you remove the system for winter (which I would advise in areas of the country with freezes) or have an interruption in power or Internet signal, the control unit likely will cycle through for a few minutes to locate the valve unit before coming back online. At that point, it should re-enable your existing settings. After an outage, I went to the setup page and found that it had retained all of my registration and program information. I hit the “Complete Setup” button to make sure the control unit found the valve unit and re-started the watering program.

Melnor raincloud mobile app

The app on my phone. It’s handy to have, but I believe the screen could be better optimized for mobile use.

Benefits of the Melnor RainCloud Smart Water Timer

Both the computer program and app come in handy. I had an easier time seeing and maneuvering the setup and home page from my computer, but the app was great for being able to turn off the system if it rained while I was away, or to activate watering if forgotten before leaving for vacation. You can control your watering from virtually anywhere with the app.

The unit also suggests additional automation for rainy days with an accessory AquaSentry Soil Moisture Sensor that detects soil moisture and adjusts the watering schedule accordingly.

The valve unit has four outlets, which means one control box can handle four separate stations with their own schedule, such as by day of the week to meet watering restrictions or to schedule longer or more frequent watering for plants that require more water. Between the number of stations and ease of changing the schedule, the RainCloud is really handy for boosting watering during hot summer months or for establishing a new plant, and then later lowering watering time or frequency.

The valve unit hooks up directly to the faucet, which is convenient. Concerns I had about using the faucet manually to fill a water pail or wash something off were overcome easily. Buttons right on the unit (and in the program) make it easy to override the program temporarily and access water right away. And with four outgoing connections, you can leave one open to turn on manually whenever needed.

Each valve can be manually activated for up to 60 minutes. This is handy if you want to run a zone outside of the normally scheduled time, and you don’t have to worry about turning it off.

Melnor raincloud valve unit for hoses

Melnor RainCloud valve unit. The faucet screws into the top, and you can attach any standard hose to each of the four stations. The round push-buttons override the program for manual access to your faucet or one of the hoses.


Drawbacks of the Melnor RainCloud Smart Water Timer

Although Melnor RainCloud is a lot less expensive than a programmed in-ground sprinkler system, it requires use of above-ground hoses. This works great if the faucet hook-up and bed fall in the right location. For example, the beds I watered required running the hose along our patio. I could also see it working really well around the perimeter of a yard.

Wi-Fi reach might raise another location issue for some homeowners. Our faucet is on a well and just out of reach of the Wi-Fi signal. But it was easy to run a hose from the faucet into the top of the valve unit at a location closer to the Wi-Fi modem; the program still worked.

Melnor raincloud well system faucet

The Melnor RainCloud on a well system faucet.

You have to leave your water system on continuously for the Melnor RainCloud to work. So, if you forget and turn off the faucet, the program won’t activate. You also run the risk of some sort of leak or problem while gone. I would recommend checking the valve unit and faucet connections every few days to a week, just to make sure everything is tight and working.


I would recommend the Melnor RainCloud Smart Water Timer for those who want to save water by controlling the system when at home or away. Four watering stations seem like more than enough.

If your Wi-Fi is strong or your faucet located within range, this is a great solution, especially for people who travel or work long hours. However, if you have spotty Wi-Fi coverage in your home, or at least outside at the faucet, this product won’t work for you.

I only tested the system for a few weeks before Mother Nature provided way more water than our plants needed, and the unit seemed sturdy, although I can’t verify that it lasts through a year or more of weather.

Where to Buy

The Melnor RainCloud Smart Water Timer is available at retail outlets such as Home Depot for $135.38, Target for $134.99 and online at Amazon Prime for $131.99 or Walmart for $137.74. You can extend the system with an extra 4-valve unit, which costs about $110, and the AquaSentry Moisture Sensor which runs about $29.

Don’t forget to use good quality rubber hose washers when you connect the system to the faucet or hoses to the valves. We like these Gilmour rubber hose washers.

Editors Note: We tried the RainCloud’s predecessor, the Melnor AquaTimer. We went through two transmitters and could never get the system to work reliably. Customer service at the Melnor engineering level was stellar; they helped us along the way as we tried to make the system work as designed. The AquaTimer was Melnor’s first attempt at a Wi-Fi delivered watering system. The early unit had a lot of bugs to be worked out but the new RainCloud seems to have solved those problems.

According to Melnor on Monday 6/11/18, “This weekend (Saturday 6/09/18 and Sunday 6/10/18), some users experienced issues with their RainCloud Smart Water Timer. The rapid increase in RainCloud’s popularity created challenges for the server. The capacity of the server has been upgraded to avoid this problem in the future.

We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for choosing Melnor”.

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Disclaimer – GPReview would like to thank Melnor for giving us a free sample to review. There was no expectation that it would be a positive review and we received no compensation for writing it. All opinions expressed here are those of the author based on personal experience using the product.

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13 Comments on Melnor RainCloud Smart Water Timer: Product Review

  1. Joseph Spenner

    I’ve had 2 of these units for several months (1 for about 7 months, and the other 5 months). Over the past few months the company (where the servers live) seems to have issues:
    – their https cert expired in April, causing everything to stop working
    – their servers seem to go offline at odd times, causing everything to stop working
    – last night 1 of my valve units stayed ON, but the web interface showed it was off. My water ran all night. I had to pull the batteries out of the unit and put them back in to make it work again. All this time, the web interface showed the unit as ONLINE.

    I hope they get their problems resolved.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Joseph. Sounds really frustrating. We had some issues with the earlier version (the AquaTimer) but understood that Melnor had gotten that all sorted out. Seems like that might not be the case…

    • A quick update from Melnor (passed on by Teresa Odle who wrote the review of the RainCloud). This is the text of an email that Melnor sent out on April 27, 2018.

      “In the morning hours of April 27th, 2018; Melnor’s RainCloud server experienced a technical issue which limited access for some users. Only users making adjustments during this period were aware of the issue. For all others, your timer would have continued to run the existing program as usual.

      The problem is now resolved and you should again be able to access

      If you did have trouble connecting to the server, we apologize. Rest assured your account and all settings are safe and secure. If you attempted to make changes to your watering program, you may want to check them again now that the issue has been corrected.

      Thank you for your patience and continued support. We value your business.”

  2. Joseph Spenner

    Still see nearly daily failures. I wrote some code to check the Control Unit and Valve unit every 15 minutes. Today (Sunday 2018.06.03) I saw failures starting around 1:15 MST, and it’s still not working 4 hours later. I emailed support, but didn’t even get an auto-response today. Perhaps they feel servers never fail on weekends?
    This is sad, since this product has such tremendous potential.

  3. jim

    The review peaked my curiosity but the comments led to my decision not to buy this unit. It is truly a shame that a company has to be incontrol of watering your garden. Why is it necessary to even be connected to their server? A smart phone is more than capable of running a simple timer program.

    • Joseph Spenner

      Jim, I agree. On a brighter note, I’ve not seen any failures in over 2 months. They hay have finally fixed/upgraded their servers.
      It is unfortunate that it needs to ‘phone home’ in order to water your own stuff though. This should all be kept on the local network. I see no advantage to having the devices rely on their servers, other than the ability to change/monitor your watering schedule remotely. But this could also be accomplished if the devices were set up properly on a local network.

  4. Joseph Spenner

    Jim, I agree. On a brighter note, I’ve not seen any failures in over 2 months. They hay have finally fixed/upgraded their servers.
    It is unfortunate that it needs to ‘phone home’ in order to water your own stuff though. This should all be kept on the local network. I see no advantage to having the devices rely on their servers, other than the ability to change/monitor your watering schedule remotely. But this could also be accomplished if the devices were set up properly on a local network.

  5. Gardner

    I REALLY wanted to go this route but the thought of an open valve while I’m away means this won’t work for me. I wouldn’t care as much if a program got missed but a flood and I’m away for week. Yikes.

    The tech side of it screams of lack of understanding. Marketing likely suggested we should have a “cloud based” device, it’s cool right? We can sell more units. As the previous comment by Joseph noted, it should be an either or. The unit should not REQUIRE a connection to the server to operate. Sure if you WANT it to you can but once setup it should run locally unless otherwise desired.

    • It seems like nearly everything is moving to a cloud-based service these days. People want to be able to control their home-based devices from anywhere, in which case the device has to “talk” to the cloud. But being able to disconnect it from the server and still have it run the programs you’ve created would be a nice plus, especially when the server seems to have occasional “hiccups”.

  6. Joseph Spenner

    Some better logic would be in order. For example, if the valve can not communicate with the control unit, it should go into lock down and close all valves.
    On Sunday I had my first failure in over 2 months. The mobile device returned a ‘500 server error’, which means their web service had an issue. I noticed this for several hours, then emailed support about it. I never got an automated response, or any response for that matter. It finally fixed itself a couple hours later.
    It’s been running pretty solid for a couple days though.

  7. Jay

    This is a great idea but the unit stays offline more than online. It has been very frustrating using this product. We bought it for our home in Florida ( 4 hours away ) and it will stay about a day or two and then offline it goes. We’re going back to the regular timers. They may be old fashioned and water when not needed but at least they work!!

    • Joseph Spenner

      In someone’s comments, I read: “However, since it works over your Wi-Fi system, it will only work if the valve unit (attached to your faucet) is within Wi-Fi reach.”
      This is incorrect. This product has nothing to do with WiFi. It uses RF signal to get from the valve to the control unit.
      They need to be no more than about 35 feet from each other, or you’ll see ‘offline’. Also, I found the orientation of the control unit makes a difference. I have mine up high, and sitting on its edge with the flat surface facing the valves outside. This seemed to improve the reception

  8. florin

    does anybody knows what is the voltage amperage and polarity or have a picture of the label of the power supply ?
    thank you

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