Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller (2nd Gen) Review

I placed an order for a second-generation Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller (MSRP $199.99 for 8 zones, $249.99 for 16 zones, Amazon.com) to replace the old sprinkler controller at my parents’ home. I received delivery two days later thanks to Amazon Prime’s shipping benefit.

Installing the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller

Installation was relatively straightforward. Prior to pulling the old sprinkler controller out of line, I noted wire colors for each zone. This wasn’t strictly necessary, but I wanted to retain zone numbering for consistency’s sake.

I encountered a minor hiccup while testing wire insertion. To remove wires from the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller, simply insert a small flathead screwdriver into the slot at the end of the receptacle to release pressure, and pull out.

Once all sprinkler wires were inserted, I wall-mounted the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller, and fed it power.

Basic Configuration

I installed the Rachio app from the iOS App Store, and registered an account from the login screen. The app identifies the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller. I configured it to join the same wireless network that my iDevice was on, though it is possible to designate another network.

A minor quirk: the Rachio mobile app and web application both make reference to a blue terminal on the device. There is no blue color-coded terminal on the second generation Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller! Master/Pump Valve Wire insert into the “M” terminal slot on the second generation Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller, as per the Quick Start Guide (http://support.rachio.com/article/474-installation-guide-gen-2).

Rachio can obtain weather data from National Weather Service (NWS), part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); or from Personal Weather Stations (pwsweather.com)

As luck would have it, it began raining moments after I joined the unit to the wireless network. This came in handy as a litmus test of the PWS station located about half a mile away from the house. I checked to see if the PWS had recorded the precipitation (it had), and selected it as the source.

Zone Configuration

Zone configuration within the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller is immensely rich. In order to make the most out of the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller, it pays to do some legwork in this department.

Depth of configuration is impressive. Basic zone configuration populates data that can be refined in advanced zone configuration.

Basic Zone Configuration

  • Vegetation
  • Soil
  • Terrain
  • Sunshine/shade
  • Sprinkler type

Advanced Zone Configuration

Advanced Zone settings are primarily used for Rachio’s “Flex” Scheduling

  • Area
  • Available water
  • Crop coefficient
  • Root depth
  • Allowed depletion
  • Efficiency

Additional details can be found at Rachio’s page on advanced zone settings

Watering Schedule

The Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller offers four schedule types:

  • Fixed Interval – Waters on a set interval or odd/even days
  • Fixed Days – Waters on specific days of the week; i.e. Mondays/Wednesday/Friday
  • Flexible Monthly –¬†Adjusts monthly based on historical climate data; watering duration & interval (frequency) change takes place after the first watering in the following month
  • Flexible Daily –¬†Adjusts daily based on soil moisture; watering schedules dynamically update on a zone by zone basis

Information from support.rachio.com/article/416-creating-a-watering-schedule

These schedules can be used in tandem, and one can designate start and end dates for each schedule.

I started by configuring the Rachio to follow the same watering schedule used by the previous sprinkler controller, a simple fixed schedule that runs on set days of the week.

I want to move the watering schedule over to one of the dynamic schedules, but I need to gather additional data in order to make full use of Rachio’s smart features. Stay tuned: more on this to follow!