Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller
In my quest to make everything in my home "smart" I recently got a smart sprinkler controller: the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller (2nd generation). Also, it's 4.7 star rated at Amazon, which tells you something.
I already had an outdoor "smart" sprinkler system, but it was a bit of an enigma to me. I never had a clue what it was up to and if it was working.
Replacing the existing unit with the Rachio was very simple. Rachio has a great article describing all the bits and pieces of sprinklers.
Most of the time was in mounting the new unit to the side of my house. Rachio makes a very nice outdoor box for the sprinkler which I also purchased.
All I had to do was simply wire the old wires to the unit, paying special care to which zone was which. I also found out I had a special setup with a master control valve. The phone app does a great job walking you through this. BTW, you should have a master control valve!
A master valve is an electric valve installed at the main water supply for the irrigation system. A master valve will greatly reduce any water loss due to a leaky station valve because the leaky station valve can only leak while the master valve is providing pressure to the system. Also, if you damage the irrigation main line, a master valve will control water loss so the main can be repaired without shutting off the water supply. An electric master valve is typically the same type of valve as you would use for your zone valves, but is installed upstream from the zone valves on the main line. It is connected to the "master" or "pump" connection in your controller -- the blue terminal in the Iro wall mount.
After wiring everything up, it was time to set up the Rachio and test it. I named each zone, customized the inputs and then simply copied over my schedule.
The biggest question I had was around the type of soil I had. I knew I had clay (very common here in Seattle), but there were three kinds of clay. A quick consultation with my landscaper revealed we had Silty Clay.
You also select plant type, sun exposure and type of sprinkler. In our case most of our garden is drip irrigation since we have a synthetic lawn.
There are a few different kinds of schedules (Flexible and Daily) and each one of them is smart. There is the "tell me how much water and how many time as week" to schedule, which is what most of us use.... and then there is the extreme "I will figure everything out for you".
The concept for how scheduling works is kinda cool. You can read up on it here.
I decided a mix of schedules would work. I set up my main front and back zones as the traditional watering schedule, and then experimented with my rear magnolia tree and vegetable planter to see how things went for a few months.
The blue rain drops below are the traditional schedule and the green are the much smarter schedules. In the calendar app you can see how the system is watering.
The system is so dammed cool, and it gives you a lot of information and control.
For example, when it is going to water
When there is a change in the schedule to to water or weather conditions you also get alerted
It's not just about rain delays. The system is constantly figuring out if your plans need water. This can depend on weather following rain and watering.
You can also go in and look at what your system has been up to
Rachio is one of the best integrated systems. They can work with your Nest, Alexa, SmartThings, Wink, IFTTT, Neatamo weather station. they ere working on HomeKit.
You can customize your Rachio with a rain sensor (to get property based rain info) as well as set up your own personal weather station.
I recently picked up an Orbit Sprinkler Rain Sensor (wireless)
They also have support for flow sensors (to measure real water usage) and are also working on soil sensors.
In closing, this is a really awesome device. Rachio has done a fantastic job and you can tell these guys understand the space. I'm super happy we did this.
Exceptional. A spectacular product.