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Discussion Starter · #1 ·

I've been using this WiFi smart controller for around a month and wanted to start a dedicated thread about its use. I'm happy to give my thoughts on it, and hear from others on what they think of it and how they've managed its feature set.



My only other experience with controllers is a Hunter X-Core and Irrigation Caddy, both of which I have decommissioned. In other words, I don't have much of a sample set to say it's fantastic compared to other smart controllers, but I can say it's a lot better than the previous two I've used. My impression so far as that I really appreciate how smart it is. However, it's only as smart as the information you feed into it. If you don't have a weather station close by or are too far off on your guesses about soil type, root depth, or moisture depletion levels, it won't be much help to you or your lawn.

Setup was very straightforward. It needs 2.4 GHz WiFi to operate and you need an modern version of iOS or Android to set it up to join your network. Mine is installed in the garage and changing over the wires from my Irrigation Caddy was easy after I took a picture of which wire went to which zone. Unlike some internet controllers, this Gen 2 has manual controls behind its panel if you just want to work manually. If you lose internet access, the programs will still run but without the aid of updated weather information. Like Nest, the only way to reach your controller is via the Rachio servers, so if the company goes under, you'll lose connectivity assuming no one else buys the company or assets. I don't worry about things like that when I use a quality product, but it may concern some. There is both web and app access to the interface, but the app is much more detailed.

One of the best reasons for me to go with the Rachio is that it uses personal weather station data for free, of which I have one. (RainMachine and others will do this, too.) Other controllers like the Hydrawise (which looks fantastic) charge for the use of integrating personal weather station data. The Rachio online community is very vibrant and I'm hopeful that they might even integrate soil moisture data from weather stations into the Rachio brain. Lots of improvements have been implemented over the last few years, unlike other controllers (ahem). So, check a map of your area and see if you have a neighbor around you who is helping out by providing weather data, or maybe you live near an airport or school that has weather data provided. The closer the station, the better accuracy you'll have for rain totals. My mom lives just a couple miles from me and our rain totals can vary wildly, so not having a station near you might be troublesome (or an excuse to get a weather station!).

Further setup on the app is easy and kinda fun. Label your zones and add pictures if you like. Drilling down, you'll enter things like grass and soil type, slope, amount of sun or shade, irrigation type, and my favorite: "Advanced." There are lots of settings, and changing one can affect the others, so you'll want to experiment, and make slow changes to observe what happens. In my opinion, the two most important things to get right in the settings are nozzle rate and allowed depletion. The Rachio uses calculated E/T (evapotranspiration) to determine when to water and you'll set the allowed depletion percentage of calculated moisture loss in the soil to trigger irrigation. For me, with Bermuda, a tough southern grass, the default depletion value of 50% was going to irrigate too much, in my opinion, so I'm experimenting down in the 70% range (a drier value). Getting that setting to match your expectations or what your grass really needs will take a bit of work, but I don't think it's beyond anyone who has a login here.


The other setting that is important to get right is the rate for which type of nozzle you have on your sprinklers in each zone. I used short rain gauges to see what my actual irrigation rate was to determine inches per hour. When you know this about your own system, you then set up each zone and choose a nozzle and you can skip their default nozzles/rates and create a custom nozzle that matches the rate that your system actually delivers. I have several custom nozzles, named "Front Sprays", "Side Yard Sprays", "Back Yard Rotor" and so forth. When you create a custom nozzle, you also set a rate, so I just used the rate at which I had calculated with the rain gauges. What is nice is that all the settings are specific to each zone, so that differences in your yard and irrigation system can be easily catered for.

I really like the cycle and soak feature because I have a high clay content in my soil. The system is smart enough that if it wants a 30 minute soak time, it will water other zones while it is waiting for the first zone to finish absorbing the water. Also, each zone is treated like its own little yard, so that my flower beds that are almost always in shade are watered every couple weeks, while my back yard is watered more often. Looking at the calendar view in the Flex Daily mode, two or three days in a row of watering may appear, but clicking on each day, I can see that on that day it is only watering one or two zones, because those zones have reached the depletion level of moisture. This is really nice for those that have large lawns where watering it all on one day would take too long. I really like that it can keep track of multiple zones' moisture levels and take care of all of them on its own.



There are four watering schedules to choose from, each with varying degrees of predictability or savings, and each is customizable to your whims. I have two-day a week watering restrictions, but a simple e-mail to my water district let me know that if one has a "smart" controller, the restrictions don't apply! That revelation opened my eyes to the Flex Daily schedule where it can water any day of the week. That's great because it opens up flexibility on what zone can be watered, and when. If you are on watering day restrictions (But, make sure that with a Rachio, that you really have restrictions or not) the other programs will work for you. Beyond the schedules, there is always a manual ability to water via the device on the wall, or the nifty remote on the app. The remote is nice when working with one zone, or if you just want to test the system zone by zone.

The integration of a nearby weather station is a really nice feature. It acts as a rain sensor, a freeze sensor, IFTTT actions can be integrated, and of course the Rachio looks ahead into the forecast to decide when and how to water while keeping track of past rainfall amounts. In the end, I'm excited to see how the Rachio does in comparison to my soil moisture data. I don't believe I have it dialed in 100% because it is watering a little more often than I would based on soil moisture (opposed to an E/T calculation), but that is probably due to 1) My settings not being dialed in just right, 2) I'm a stingy water miser. Don't forget, that I also really enjoy this unit because I'm gone all the time, for long periods of time, and this allows me to keep tabs on my lawn while away. If you are home everyday, these controllers can be full of geeky fun, but all the brains and formulas in the world are hard pressed to do better than just a quick barefoot walk on your grass. If you are new to lawn care, sometimes the simplest plan of a rain gauge on the fence combined with a manual on-off controller can do just as great a job.

dfw

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Tifgrand—7,500 sq/ft—Baroness LM56
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Very thorough review!! I've had mine for about a year now and hopefully will be able to tinker around with it a little more and get it dialed in just right. I do like all the adjustable features on it.
 

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Tifgrand—7,500 sq/ft—Baroness LM56
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Do you know if they ever came out with the update to use a flow meter with it?
 

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Bermudagrass, 3.75 acres, Arkansas
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Mightyquinn said:
Do you know if they ever came out with the update to use a flow meter with it?
Per their website:

The Rachio 2nd Generation Smart Sprinkler Controller is compatible with the following flow sensors:

Badger
  • 228PV15
  • 228PV20

CST
  • FSI-T10-001
  • FSI-T15-001
  • FSI-T20-001

Toro
  • TFS-050
  • TFS-075
  • TFS-100
  • TFS-150
  • TFS-200

Rachio's 1st Generation Smart Sprinkler Controller is not compatible with wired flow sensors.
southernguy311 said:
I just got a survey the other day asking if I would be interested in a wireless flow meter and how likely I would be to buy one. I use the gen 1 unit I picked up last year on sale and I love it.
That's neat that they're gauging interest and not completely leaving the Gen 1 customers behind. On a similar note, they didn't leave this guy stuck with a sensor they thought they would be able to support. Great customer service!
 

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Tifgrand—7,500 sq/ft—Baroness LM56
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I saw that list too but never heard anything of it coming out of beta testing. The sensors are quite expensive but it would be neat to see how much water I actually use/save every year or month.
 

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Bermudagrass, 3.75 acres, Arkansas
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atc4usmc said:
Great review; I got the Rachio last summer when I had my system installed and like it a lot! I don't have anything to compare it to but still it works great for me.
It seems to be a great controller. Welcome to TLF!
 

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Tifgrand—7,500 sq/ft—Baroness LM56
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atc4usmc said:
Great review; I got the Rachio last summer when I had my system installed and like it a lot! I don't have anything to compare it to but still it works great for me.
Welcome to TLF!!!

I'm loving mine just for the ability to turn the zones on from my phone while I'm in the yard when doing my initial checks for the Spring and making sure everything is spraying where it's suppose to.
 

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MQ, yeah thats why I wanted it (to run remotely) plus I am a gadget geek too. I needed to be able to monitor and run the controller while away from the home; active duty USMC and spent the last year in AL away from my home in Raleigh. Brought the family with me and just hired a landscaper to maintain the lawn. He installed the irrigation and is as picky as I am so I trust him to do right. The controller has exceeded my needs and wants for monitoring and controlling, plus the customer service with Rachio is top-notch.

Been on the ATY forums for a couple years and just found this one so bouncing between the two to read threads...most of the stuff I read and posts I follow are from you, Ware, and DFW. Anyway, thanks for the welcome and I look forward to reading more threads and learning.

Oh- BTW, I have recently secured a JD 180C thats in immaculate condition and will be having it delivered when I return to Raleigh. I cannot wait to get started with reel mowing and show off what I have read and learned from these forums.
 

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I've had mine for a couple months and so far it's done what I ordered it for. It views forecasts or historical rainfall for the past few days and adjusts watering accordingly. I haven't gotten into any advanced features yet. I figure I'll play a bit more once I get the sprinklers all tuned in. The Personal Weather Station is a great tip. Just because a station is on Weather Underground doesn't mean it's going to be compatible. I have several stations within 2 miles but none of hem are on the PWS site. My closest station is 5 miles away. Last big rain dropped about 1.5 inches on my house and almost double at the closest station. Integration with Weather Underground would be great.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
T-Roy Jenkins said:
Integration with Weather Underground would be great.
As it was explained to me, the integration of WU won't happen because of the licensing fees charged. If the fees get dropped, I'm sure Rachio will pick them up.
 

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Maybe y'all can help me out with what I need to adjust on my Rachio. I picked up a bag of Lesco Moisture Manager today. This season will be the first season I've used it. I was thinking about adjusting the 'allowable depletion' to account for the moisture manager. Thoughts or recommendations? For those of you who use the moisture manager, how much are you typically able to cut back on running your irrigation system? Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I personally don't think you'll notice much difference with the LMM, at least at first. My bermuda is set to 70% allowed depletion and I'd recommend starting there, and then walking on your grass to see how it feels. Then adjust by 5% as needed.
 

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Tifgrand—7,500 sq/ft—Baroness LM56
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I have used LMM and actually I put my first app down about a month ago. I look at it more as in insurance policy than anything else. I'm not sure how much it actually helps and everyones soil is different. There is no set in stone number that you will gain from using LMM. I would just play it by ear and adjust accordingly, I know that is what I plan on doing. In the heat of Summer I usually have to water every 3-4 days regardless.

If you have any other questions about LMM you can ask them here: Soil Surfactants/Wetting Agents
 
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