I unboxed my rachio 16-zone on Monday. It's sitting on my desk, fully programmed and running. It isn't connected to my sprinklers yet (but the box doesn't know it). I have run programmed cycles, manual cycles, and am messing with the flex schedules. Here are my thoughts after a few days.
As a Basic "timed" Sprinkler Controller -
this is a great drop in replacement ss long as you have wifi available for the controller, have basic internet skills, and are OK with not being able to walk up to a controller on the wall to run a manual cycle. The extra cost is payed back nearly immediately during setup. No standing outside rotating knobs and pushing up/down buttons until you got it correct. Also easier to change as seasons change.
I don't think I will miss the manual cycle buttons. It was always confusing to get my old one to run the right manual cycle, esp since I didn't do it much. However, if you have a yard person this may be a problem. They wouldn't be able to run a manual cycle, stop a cycle, and if they aren't familiar with the system they won't be able to adjust it for seasons (if your a hands off type person).
Having the ability to skip cycles based on forecast is nice if your forecasts are good in your area. Turning off based on a local weather station is nice as well, those plug in rain detectors never worked well for me (but are available as well). Even without this, not having to rotate the dial and push all the buttons during setup made it a worthwhile purchase.
As a "Smart" Controller
It appears to me that the real strength is the "flex schedules". If you want to use this I feel like you should be prepared to do a good bit of reading and spend some time stumbling through it. After a few hours I believe I have it understood, but not confident yet. It isn't that it is hard or poorly documented, there is just a bit more science/math to it. It is also appears to be very dependent on proximity and accuracy your nearby weather station.
Hopefully someday one could just bury a handful of sensors throughout the yard (1-2 per zone) and it would all be magic
I do think it would be cool if they could create some sort of flex schedule simulator. If you could create "test" flex schedules that "run" in parallel to the old style timed cycles and provide a report at the end of the week/month on how usage compared. It would help with confidence in a new system.
- There are some inconsistencies between the web and app.
- Support respond very quick!
- I haven't tried to wall mount it, no idea how that will go. I hope ok, won't do it until spring.
- Gallons used is prominently displayed, but not accurate unless you go into the advanced tab.
- There is a server dependency, so depended on Rachio staying around...