A few weeks I moved into a new house and after taking a final inventory of what I wanted to have changed or updated, the sprinkler system controller was one of those items. It seems like the 80s had called and wanted their sprinkler controller back – that is how old that thing in my garage looked like. There were several reasons why I wanted to replace it, but the main reason is to avoid wasting water when running the sprinklers for my house.
Watch my video about how to install and configure the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller.
I started looking into smart home features and wifi connected sprinkler controllers. After doing a good amount of research I had narrowed down my search to 2 different smart sprinkler controller. One of them was the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller.
The Rachio Sprinkler Controller is a smart home, network connected sprinkler controller. It does not only connect to your wifi and allows you to be controlled from your smart phone or website, but it also connects to local weather stations and creates a custom sprinkler schedule based on local weather information.
The Rachio is easy to install and it took me about 30 minutes before I was ready to program that thing. The most important part was to take a picture of the old sprinkler controller so that I was able to map the zone setup correctly to the new sprinkler controller. Once I had the physical installation completed, I downloaded the Rachio app to my Google Nexus smart phone, created an account on the Rachio website, and started programming the sprinkler controller from the comfort of my couch. I decided to go with the smart schedule first to see what the Rachio would come up with.
The Rachio Sprinkler Controller needs to create a baseline for proper scheduling watering times. When setting up the different zones you have provide information about the soil and the layout of the zone. This includes what type of sprinkler heads the zone has and if it is on a slope or hill and what not.
Then came the scary part. The Rachio needs to create a baseline and that means the first time it runs it soaks the zones in water. Think about it as a deep-soak kind of watering. From there it then bases the watering times on the zone specific criteria (soil type, slope, type of sprinkler heads, etc.). So, as an example I have a soaker zone with just a soaker tube and watering there is very slow. So, the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller allows for more time on that specific zone compared to a zone with rotating sprinkler heads.
Next it is important to find a weather station fairly close to where you live so that your Rachio controller can read the weather forecast that matches your place the most. In many areas in the US the weather can be significantly different by just a few miles. The better the weather station for your area, the better your sprinkler schedule will look like. I recommend using an external rain sensor for your Rachio if you live in an area that has sudden localized bursts of rain (like Florida as an example) as opposed to only using the internet weather service (weather station) that this sprinkler device pulls data from. This would make your watering schedule even better and more accurate – saving you a ton of water along the way.
Being able to remotely turn on and off each zone manually made the job of troubleshooting my pop up sprinklers and drip emitters so much easier. Instead of having to rotate through through the sprinker zones, I can now start an individual zone from my smart phone Rachio app. That also means I do not have to go to my sprinkler controller, I can do it from wherever I am at any moment. This saved me a lot of time troubleshooting my sprinkler system. Buyer beware – the Rachio smart phone app is only available for Iphone and Android, but not Windows phones (in case you are one of the 2 people that bought a Windows phone). The Rachio website also lets you manage everything you need. Turn on or off your watering schedule, create a new watering schedule, look at available data (how much water did you approx. use), or look at historical data and much much more.
The Rachio is a pretty cool addition to your smart home setup. Not only does it take care of your sprinkler schedule, you can actually use it to save a lot of water. All it takes is to invest just a little bit of time to set it up correctly and to read the data – especially in the early days. Pay attention to watering schedules for each zone to see patterns forming. Compare it to how the individual zones look like in real life. Once you have things fine-tuned, let the Rachio Smart Sprinkler controller do the rest.