1200 gallons in 3 hours!

My water bill shows that in a 3 hour period Rachio watered ~1200 gallons on my yard… ~2x the water as I have ever used on any day living in this house 5 years – 1 yr on old Rainbird and 4 yrs on SkyDrop.

I have not changed ANY zone Advanced settings from default but now I’m looking at them some seem WAY off… grass had 9" root depth - really? Garden shows 6" in depth, etc. I dont know how these settings affect watering times/amounts and I dont know what many of the settings even mean but I should not need to be an irrigation expert… that’s why I bought Rachio.

How do we fix this?

Is there any easy way to see all the defaults for these zones and adjust (I suspect not, Rachio UI is lacking; only designed to do 1 basic task at a time - def not a ‘pro’ level design)

Within the app, you can head into your yard tab and then into each zone to configure that zone. And additionally into the advanced settings for that zone to really fine tune it. Under advanced settings there is a reset to default button that will reset everything.

One thing to note, when using a flex daily schedule, the schedule will be calculated dynamically based off the soil moisture level of each zone and the type of zone.

It’s important that zones are configured correctly for that schedule type since the soil moisture level takes a look at recent precipitation and watering as well as the advanced zone settings to figure out how long the zone needs to water for.

One example, If there’s a zone with deep roots and the zones nozzle inch per hour is set low, that zone will run for a long time to try and water the soil down to the roots.

There’s also a good article about some of the stuff here too: https://support.rachio.com/hc/en-us/articles/115010541708-Flex-Daily-Schedules-FAQ

Hopefully that helps, let me know if you’ve got any questions and I’ll try me best to answer!

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Thx for the info, I did look at Advanced… Most of Root Depth was very very wrong bu default. I dont know any grass with 9 or 12 inch root depth! I changed them all to 4.

I dont know how to, so I didnt change, any of the other Advanced settings. We need a wizard for that to help those who are not experts.

Ultimately this should not even be a problem… Rachio is not providing enough insight into why the defaults are what they are OR how to adjust them if there is a problem, like what I and others are clearly running into.

Another option which pays less attention to all those options but still makes sure that your system won’t water in bad conditions (like if rain is forecasted or observed, or if temperatures get down to freezing) is to use the Flex Monthly schedule. That schedule type also adjusts durations automatically as the season changes, so in the hottest months it can increase the duration or frequency it runs, but then also lowers those as the weather starts cooling down and not straining your lawn as much.

There’s a FAQ here: https://support.rachio.com/hc/en-us/articles/115010378767-Flex-Monthly-Schedule-FAQ

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Depends on the grass and how established it is. Established warm season grasses can easily get to 9" root depth. Cool season typically max out at 6".

As for the rest of your concerns about advanced settings…garbage in, garbage out. Rachio will water and keep your yard alive with the default settings, but if you really want it to work efficiently, you need to spend a little bit of time setting everything up according to your yard. With hundreds of different sprinkler, nozzle, emitter combinations on the market, how can Rachio account for EVERY one of them?

Since you are talking about only grass, we will start there. I’m assuming that you set the zone up correctly, ie your soil type, slope, etc… My first guess is that your nozzle PR is incorrect as these can vary widely, and Rachio default is somewhere in the middle. Do you know what brand/model of sprinkler nozzles you have in your yard?

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1200 gallons is ~160 cubic feet is ~4,000 square feet x 1/2 inch of precipitation.
4,000 sf isn’t all that big a yard, and 1/2 inch of precipitation isn’t all that extreme…

This corresponds to the “Cool Season Grass” setting with all the defaults (for my climate, at least). Then it will water about every third day. Not xeriscape, for sure, but within reason.

First thing I would look at is the “Nozzle inches per hour”, at the bottom of the Advanced section.
Default for cool season grass is 1.5iph. That’s a good guess for typical nozzles, but conceivably you have impact sprayers that could be delivering 3 or more inches per hour, in which case the command to deliver 1/2 an inch would be actually delivering 1 inch or more.

Then I would check available water, which is probably default to 0.17. This is the space available in your soil for water. If you pack a 1 pint jar with dry soil, and it takes x pints of water to fill the jar until it runs off, that is the number to put here. If you have thick clay soil, it should be a number like 0.1 or 0.05. Making this number smaller will water less per day (because the soil holds less water) but more frequently (because it dries out faster).

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@neilhunt @tmcgahey
thx for the help, I’ll check those things out.

@franz my 2 cents on this as a power user techie and person who has been in both the hardware and software business (incl product design and support)…

When users must understand & change Advanced settings, the tech is not made for the average consumer. There needs to be a ‘wizard’ to run the users through all of these settings and also accommodate for normal situations, which I’m not seeing here - explained below:

Normal consumers will not know what most of the Advanced settings mean, nor will they want to. They buy tech like this to avoid needing to know. Even if they are OK with digging into it, every residential system mixes types of heads/nozzles in a given zone - zones are almost never homogeneous. Plant areas have different flower/shrubs/etc with different flow rate drippers / sprayers on each type of plant. Lawn grass areas often have different spray & flow heads to accommodate slope, shape, long vs short throw areas, etc. even if designed properly, by an expert, they rarely train the home owner… if they do, the 2nd/3rd owners never get that knowledge.

My hope is you can find a way to make this easier and much better. I have some ideas including the simple “look and see” method. Either have a monthly feedback loop where the system asks the user basic stuff… “is the zone thriving?” “are you seeing water pooling or running off?” “do all the areas look like they are getting proper water for growing?” … etc. Then your system can tweak the watering duration.
Rachio tried to water my veggie garden yesterday for 30 min total (which I had to add manually bccuz unlike the SkyDrop, Rachio doesnt tell you!). I have already set Advanced settings. I’ve had my garden for 5 years and know I water 5 min on warm days / 12 min on the hottest days. Even this is over watering a bit.

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Thanks for the feedback. We are doing researching into this area and hope to have improved solutions in the future.

:cheers:

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Agreed! But the Advanced setting are for “advanced” users, not the average user. The issue isn’t with having advanced settings, but rather figuring out what “advanced” settings the “average” user may need and easing the burden of setting those up.

I would hesitate to use “every” here. You’re essentially asking the programmers to “fix” incorrectly setup systems through their controller. That presents itself as an impossible task unless intelligence is added to each head/nozzle/sprinkler/drip individually.

@7Natives
@franz - you might want to read this too as it explains further a core problem with Rachio water calc

From what I’m seeing… almost all, if not all, users Must tweak Advanced settings to try to get close to proper watering. Thus, its not just for ‘advanced users’ if nearly all users must tweak them.

Example 1 : no where I’ve ever lived (all over Phoenix, Seattle, Boulder, etc) is grass root depth 9 to 12 in… but Rachio was set to that. I had to tweak every lawn zone since 4 to 6 is normal root depth for a healthy lawn in any area I’ve lived. Same for trees… my mature trees may have 24" depth but most of my trees are smaller and have 12-18".

Example 2 : most zones have multiple types of plants… lets take one of mine… shrubs (root depth 12-20"), day lillies (roots 4"), bulbs (6"), and other misc (ornamental grasses, flowers ,etc - 6-12"). How does setting a SINGLE Root Depth help this? It doesnt, it makes it worse. even if we average the depth, sure, that could work if the nozzle flow rates are correctly set… but we (all normal users) are Still tweaking the Advanced settings.

… I dont have a problem with requiring tweaking Adv settings… just understand most dont know they need to, or what those mean… a very explanatory (and holding type) wizard should be in Rachio to walk users through it for every zone. It is clear is it almost always needed.

Professional design plant zones almost never, yes “almost never”, have all the same head/nozzle for non-homogeneous areas. Its simply not cost effective to setup each ‘type’ of plant (plants with the same watering needs) into a separate zone. Often there are multiple types of plants where each type gets a nozzle (or set of) with a flow rate for that watering need. Its not always possible to use the same nozzle flow rate and use add more/less nozzles per plant so often they use different rate nozzles in the same zone and set # of minutes per zone based on what nozzles they used so each plant gets the proper amount of water in the same time frame (nozzle flow + time).
Rachio incorrectly assumes the entire zone is the same nozzle is used for every plant and you are only varying the # of nozzles to get the flow rate needed for each plant. Again, this is usually not how zones are setup for non-lawn areas / plants.

The entire reason for a ‘smart’ controller is to make things smarter than humans, or compensate for problems/issues with irrigation design. Most residential irrigation is not designed by experts and are definitely very ‘incorrect’, per your definition. SkyDrop accommodated this easily by allowing the user to define the type and number of each head/nozzle and mix them in any combination in any zone. This is THE ONLY correct way to do a a proper ‘smart’ controller. I’m sad SkyDrop went under, it easily allowed for far more accurate definition of zones in the real world. I hope Rachio learns from SkyDrop as they had a more accurate view of how residential zones are setup in the real world

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