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!

Order Placed: Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller, 2nd Generation

The sprinkler controller at my parent’s home (Rain Bird ESP-6TM) was on the fritz, and I’d been aware of suitable replacements for some time. In an effort to modernize everything and conserve water, I selected an 8-zone Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller (MSRP $199.99, Amazon.com).

The Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller meets EPA WaterSense criteria, meaning the controller uses local weather and landscape conditions to tailor watering schedules to actual conditions on the site.

Programming is driven through a mobile app available on the iOS App Store as well as the Google Play Store, and each zone can be customized to account for plant types, soil types, nozzles, and sun exposure. Furthermore, the app can send real-time notifications and report on water usage.

Cloud connectivity means that the sprinkler system can be controlled remotely.

The Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller is available in 8-zone (Amazon.com) and 16-zone (MSRP $249.99, Amazon.com) models.

Order Placed: Unifi AP ac LR

I wanted a more robust wireless access point to supplement or replace my Linksys E4200. I had been experiencing spotty WiFi coverage at my home’s extremities, even after flashing DD-WRT and tweaking settings.

I’ve been spending a lot of time combing through Ubiquiti Networks’s product offerings as part of an ongoing engagement, and after reading Ars Technica Senior Technology Editor Lee Hutchinson’s review on their UniFi wireless access points, I decided that I was already too invested not to try one out for myself.

I chose the Unifi AP ac LR (MSRP $109, Amazon.com), the long-range version of their wireless access point. It’s rated for a 600-ft range, though we will see how well it fares in my living space.

Stay tuned: I intend to follow up with a review of the unit against my Linksys E4200.

Order Placed: Eyez-On Envisalink EVL-4 IP Security Interface Module

I wanted to leverage my home’s existing security system, making more of what I already had. Effectively, teaching an old dog new tricks.

The Eyez-On Envisalink 4 (MSRP $129.99, Amazon.com, EyezOn.com) wires up to a compatible security panel, taking on the role of a network-connected keypad.

It sounds like just the ticket for building out a solid foundation for any connected home. Upon reading that it integrated cleanly with home automation controllers, I immediately pulled the trigger.

The following comes, with minor modifications, from the Eyez-On website:

Without a monthly monitoring fee, the EnvisaLink 4 will allow you to receive text and email messages as well as control your Honeywell Vista and DSC security systems through the internet. The EnvisaLink 4 also provides access through a virtual keypad using an iPhone, Android or Blackberry.

Take Control

The best just got better. The new EnvisaLink 4 is a powerful TCP-IP based bus-level interface to DSC PowerSeries* panels and Honeywell Vista* panels. It allows you to view the status of and even control your alarm panel through a standard web-browser or smart-phone. VOIP Friendly.

Fully Upgradeable

As new software features become available the EnvisaLink 4 is easily upgraded over the network and automatically keeps itself up to date.

Plays Well With Others

Through the built in TPI (third party interface) the EnvisaLink 4 is already compatible with many major home automation systems and numerous 3rd party Android and iPhone apps.

EnvisAlerts Service

With the addition of the free EnvisAlerts service your control is enhanced and can be extended to anywhere in the world. EnvisAlerts also allows you to specify e-mail or SMS addresses to receive alarms, arms, disarms and more.

Module Features

  • **New** 100Base-T Ethernet Support
  • **New** Improved diagnostic LEDs to speed installation
  • Remotely upgradable to allow for new features and services
  • EnvisaLink TPI – programmer’s and integration interface.
  • EnvisaLink Expansion Header – add new hardware modules as they become available.
  • Simple to hook-up
  • Built-in basic web server and html user-interface
  • 128-bit encryption
  • Real-time zone status with “time-since-tripped ” feature
  • Local Arm/Disarm/Zone Bypass/PGM Control
  • Multi-Partition Support

With Free EnvisAlerts Service

  • Remote Arm (Away & Stay, Quick Arming)/Disarm/Zone Bypass/PGM Control (depending on panel model)
  • Event Logging
  • Receive Alerts by e-mail or SMS.
  • Network Supervision.
  • See at-a-glance system status on a map in EyezOn portal.
  • New “Smart Phone” optimized version of the portal. Works with iPhone, Android, and Blackberry.

With EnvisAlarm™ Service (Optional)

You now have the option of full-ULC grade alarm monitoring over your EnvisaLink 4 with the addition of the EnvisAlarm™ service.

  • Full IP-Based monitoring.
  • 1 Year and 3 Year terms available.
  • Receive monitoring certificate and take advantage of Insurance company discounts.

Specifications

  • Power Draw: 65 mA
  • Connectors: RJ45, 4-Terminal Screwdown
  • Dimensions: 10.5 cm (4-3/16″) x 4.2 cm (1-11/16″)

Included in the Box

Panel Compatibility

  • DSC PowerSeries (1555, 1555 MX, 1575, 5010 (832), 5020 (864), 1616, 1832, 1864)
  • Honeywell Vista Panels (Vista20P, 21iP, 15P, 10P, 128P, and 250P)

Read the EnvisaLink 4 Primer Manual