Can Rachio 3rd Gen Do Better

I’m thinking of replacing my 6 zone irrigation timer with a Rachio, but I want to be sure it will do what I hope it will do. Currently, this is what /I/ do (I’m an engineer - sorry):

I’ve measured the exact water flow in gpm for each zone, calculated the area of each zone, and have a spreadsheet that can then calculate the minutes for each zone to put X" of water down. I water 3 days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Saturday), and would like to keep doing that. Each zone waters 3 times per active day, as I get runoff from the sloped front otherwise (100% clay soil). I check the NOAA web site every Sunday and get the weekly FRET for my area (Columbia, SC), and set the Budget setting on my controller accordingly. If it’s going to rain, or has recently rained, I’ll set the Rain Delay. If I get or expect say 1/2" of rain throughout the week, I’ll guess and reduce the Budget by 50%.

I’ve ordered a set of Orbit’s sprinkler catch cups to try to calculate watering time more accurately. I used to set my sprinkler Budget setting to 100% for Summer, thinking 1" of water was required then, but that seemed too little. Today, I use the Budget setting based on the FRET which can easily give over 1.5" of water or more per week in the summer; I’m thinking now that might be too much.

Anyhow, I’m looking for an automated system that will equal or better the steps I’m doing and information I’m using, but with my limitations. I do NOT want a system that will water whenever it wants to, I’d rather a system that waters when /I/ want it to, but with the correctly calculated amount that it determines. And - if that calculated amount leaves my lawn too dry or too wet, there should be a way to generally modify it, probably by a constant.

Is Rachio for me? Would another system be better? What /won’t/ Rachio do that I expect it to do, and what additional things will it help me with?

Don’t apologize!

We love data. The system can be adjusted as low level as you would like in advanced zone settings.

This will help dial in nozzle precipitation rate settings for sure.

Little confused here. Do either of these match?

I hope so, we have the most advanced schedules on the market, and big plans next year for making them even smarter and easier to adjust based on customer personalized feedback.


Thank you SO much, franz, for answering!

As to the schedule, I really like the idea of watering only 2 or 3 days a week, currently doing Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. I want the Smart system to water only those days, and vary the time of watering automatically, based on temperature and other “real” (not historic) factors, to keep my lawn healthy. Including actual rainfall, I know, is problematic, as local stations around me can vary a lot. Plus, I don’t want the system to not water at all, just because I got (or will get) a small amount of rain.

And, if the calculated/applied amount of water seems insufficient, it would be good to be able to apply a constant 10% or whatever more or less. I’m certainly interested in saving water, but not at the cost of a properly watered lawn.

I agree Rachio seems to be the most advanced. It seems like Orbit B-hyve only varies the frequency of watering rather than the amount of water each time (I could be wrong on this), and I definitely don’t want that. And I read somewhere that Orbit was difficult to apply modifications to without defeating the Smart watering (thus my mention of mods in the previous paragraph).

I’m also concerned as we’ve had like a week of 40% plus rain chance around here, without having a drop of rain. Or so little that it adds up to less than 0.1" a week. And am unsure how a Smart system can still water the appropriate amount, without a local and connected rain gauge. I wouldn’t mind inputting actual rain received into the app to help it apply the right amount of water, but don’t know that there’s provision for that.

We don’t currently adjust like that. We lean more towards adjusting frequency in flex daily schedules (adjusted real time, every day, we forecast three weeks out). Our fixed schedules will adjust watering minutes monthly but it is based on historical weather. Flex daily is our most efficient and advanced schedule, you might actually prefer that after adding one or two zones and tracking performance.

To be honest our fixed schedules with weather intelligence might be the best fit for you.

You can adjust the skip threshold if you are worried about rain not materializing.

We don’t support that level of override.

Well, whatever solution you choose (Rachio, Orbit, other) good luck!


Thanks very much. Looks like I might be best just continuing with my system, and checking out the changes you’ll be making next year; maybe they’ll fit a bit better for my needs.

I have found that the more data you give it the better it will do than you can. You don’t need to water on certain days to keep your yard green, you need the water available to the roots of your grass to stay between certain levels, and that’s what rachio has accomplished for me quite well.

I used to do something similar to what you do now, and after switching to rachio way, my grass is doing as good or better always.

Flex daily does seem to adjust how long it will water each month, in addition to how often based on weather. So example, for me, it automatically will plan on watering for longer time frames in July, and water more or less often depending on how hot it actually is to maintain a certain amount of moisture in the ground. It will water for shorter lengths and more or less often in December. Heck I have ST Augustine, and there can be weeks go by when it doesn’t need water and it doesn’t water in the winter.

If it rains, it simply waits a bit longer before it waters. This is not going to result in anything different than what you are already doing, depending on how you set up your data and allowances in the system. It might wait an extra day or two before it waters, but it’ll keep the same moisture level in your yard.

And if you want longer watering times or shorter, there’s a lot of ways to adjust the data to make that happen. You can also even go in and specifically adjust the actual planned minutes.

I’m curios why you think you need to water your yard on certain days every week and adjust how long it waters rather than how often it waters. The end result can be similar, but watering based on soil moisture rather than how much should I water every so many days should in theory promote your grass to grow longer roots…

Sorry, haven’t figured out how to include previous text to comment on this forum.

I realize that varying days between watering works fine compared to say twice a week and varying times, but I’m not convinced it’s better. Even if my lawn needs only .5" of water in a month, I would never water only once a month. While I have mostly lawn, there are flowers here and there, which would die in the meantime, without a little water each week, preferably more often.

I used to water every 3 days. But then I’d never be sure when watering would happen. It would water the morning when my lawn was going to be cut. Or the day /before/ it was fertilized rather than the day /after/. We don’t have great water pressure, and I’d go to get a shower, only to realize I couldn’t, because it was watering. So I’ve arrived at my Monday, Wednesday, Saturday schedule: Fertilizer is always on a Tuesday, followed by watering the next day. Lawn cutting on Friday, on dry lawn. Garbage pickup, whose garbage cans block sprinklers, always on Friday. Etc.

I like the idea of using weather data (temperature, humidity, etc.) to modify the Budget setting or sprinkler time, but feel historic data is not really useful. We just had a week where temperatures were in the 60s with low humidity, followed by a week in the 90s with high humidity. Historic data would not work, but NOAA Fret data takes that into account.

“If it rains, it simply waits a bit longer before it waters”. Problem is 1/4" rain and 3" rain require different settings. Simply saying to delay if over 1/8" doesn’t cut it, IMHO. And we can have 1/2" of rain when my neighbor 2 miles away gets none. I realize this is no fault in the Rachio system; without a connection to a local rain gauge, any system would have a problem here. But that’s why I need something that can be modified easily. If my lawn requires 1" of water, and we get .5" rain, I /can/ just set a rain delay for say 3 days, or I can set the budget to 50, and just water less.

I’m not saying the Rachio doesn’t do a great job. I know it does. I’m just not sure, at this point, if I would be as happy with what it does as I am now, and if I didn’t like it, might not be able to simply modify the settings without defeating all its features.

Thanks very much for your comments, though.

How many zones do you have? Assuming your flowers and shrubs are on different zones than grass your data will be different for each zone based on plants in any particular zone so it will water each zone differently. Example shrubs it may water for longer and less often but grass more often and less time. Just an example, it all depends on what you have and if you enter it into the zones. I have all my flower beds and shrubs on drip lines, so they water 2 hours for each zone and on totally different schedules when they do vs my grass.

Also, mine for example also waters the grass I have that’s mostly shaded differently than the grass that is in full sun all the time. It’s on the same schedule, but the zones will be watered on different days sometimes and shaded ones for longer times, and slightly less often. You’d never know it by looking at the grass, as it all looks the same and nice and healthy.

Even with flex daily you can still adjust what days it can not water, so you’d not have wet grass on mow days, etc. personally I have mine so they don’t water the grass on certain days but the shrubs can water any day. For any zones that have different day requirements you would simply create a different schedule. Example, I have one schedule for my shrubs, one for my grass. Another off shoot of that is when it waters. You can set end before sunrise, or start after sunset, or enter a specific time for any of these. I set my schedule with my grass to finish before sunrise, shrubs to start after sunset. It takes care of making sure they don’t ever try to water at the same time.

Historic data isn’t really a driving factor, other than a starting point for zone length each time it waters, for the month. Mine changes a few minutes from month to month usually, with longer times for summer and shorter in winter. With that said you can manually adjust that as well.

It really uses local weather data to determine how often it will actually water and such. You can also set the limits on that to, so for example anything less than .25 inches of water and it ignores the rain event that day. Anything over and it will know to add that rain into its calculation. And you can adjust that tolerance as well. Also it gets how much rain was measured and uses that in its calculations, it doesn’t assume the same amount of water every time. You can get your own weather station and connect it to the rachio at your house so it knows exactly how much it rained at your actual house if you want. It would basically do as you suggest, if it got half the water it needs each time it waters it wait an extra couple days or whatever it would be before it watered again, longer if it rained a lot, less if it rained enough to measure but not enough for much more than a day.

And there is a nice graph that will show you what is currentLy calculated for the soil moisture, when it’s currently expected to be depleted enough that it will need to water again. As you adjust data points that graph would change. And if the weather changes the graph may as well. One nice thing it should do as I recall is if extreme heat is coming it might water a day early because it knows the water will deplete faster. This is especially helpful if you don’t allow it to water on many days. Example. It is schedule to water Tuesday then on Saturday and never on Friday. It sees weather report saying massive heat wave coming Thursday. So it’ll water Thursday because it will know if it waits till Saturday the soil moisture will be depleted further than acceptable.

Anywho if you did try one, you’d need to have the will power to adjust data and settings and not mess with water times directly for the most part, then slowly dial it in to get it working as you’d expect.You’d want to give it time to get going to. At First it may water extra because it assumes the soil moisture is somewhere near 0. But after a little time it settles in and is pretty smooth running.

If you really want to try it, I’d suggest getting one from Costco. Can always return it after three or four months if you don’t see the benefits. But you’d need to trust its choices once you gave it all the data and got it tweaked. You may not notice how nice it would be till you are well into the next season, and realize you didn’t have to adjust it’s data points or settings to get it to water differently during a different season, But I’m sure enjoying that, especially also when we have a big heat wave.

Anyway, just making sure you get a full picture of how it works.

Thank you, inkahauts, that’s very helpful. I appreciate all your time. While the shrubs around my house are on drip (wish I’d never changed it from the builder’s continuous soaker hose - it’s a pain to keep up with changes and be sure they’re working), the rest is on 5 zones, which includes a large mulched shrub/tree area and my wife’s “butterfly garden”, all of which are just watered with the lawn.

You mention that any rain over .25" (if it’s set to that) it takes into account in the calculation. I thought the rain setting was only to determine if it watered the next day/time, and did not affect how much it waters. If it modifies watering time (not just water or not water with normal time), that would be a good improvement.

As far as historical data, franz said “Our fixed schedules will adjust watering minutes monthly but it is based on historical weather.” Indicating if I couldn’t use the Smart schedule and wanted to set times, it would only use historical data, not actual. Is that not the case?

And is there a difference between “Smart watering” and “Weather Intelligence with fixed schedules”?

I notice that Costco sells what is apparently a customized version of the Rachio 3, one with 12 stations, rather than the normal 8 or 16. As I now only have 6, either the 8 or 12 would certainly do the job. As it is custom, will Costco’s version get the same updates/improvements mentioned for next year as the standard 8 or 12 stations?

I was about set to buy an 8-station model, when checking that prices everywhere (except may Costco) just went up from the $165-$175 to $215. I’ll certainly hold off if not buying from Costco. :wink:

Is there a manual I can download for the R3, so I can see the various features and how to implement them and if they’re available with my watering requirements? And for the app as well?

Based on what you are looking for it’s seems a bridge too far for the Rachio.

Since you are an engineer, I think you would enjoy building a system driven by a Raspberry Pi. You could program i. Everything you are doing manually including checking weather forecasts.

Here is a link to a jumping off point.

The rain calculations… basically the rain calculations fill your moisture level or % of it, and it then recalculates when it will water. Again it won’t adjust how many minutes but when it waters. So it might skip a time but then water the next day it otherwise wouldn’t have watered (but not on a day you don’t allow it to water). Even if you only allow watering on say three days a week chances are it won’t water all zones all those three days every week every month unless your soil doesn’t hold water well and your roots are all super shallow.

Example, you only allow watering mon wed and Friday Saturday. zone 3 is in the shade and it is currently scheduled to water Monday and Friday. But Sunday it rains enough to push soil moisture back up where it won’t need water till Wednesday. So it skips Monday and waters Wednesday and then schedules the next one after that for Saturday instead of Friday. Etc etc. it recalculated daily based on how the weather has been and will be before the next water ability and the next water window after that one as well so it will know if it needs to water. The more days you allow water the better. And since you can set end by or start by times you might be able to water another day or two than you have in the past, making it even more flexible.

I can’t recall but it seems like you can create an account and play with settings to learn how it works without a unit but not positive.

Costco one is the same as the others and has all the same firmware and features as far as I have seen. It actually had one feature the others didn’t for a while… and a long return policy of course.

The historical data is what it used to create the general length of water for zones. You can manually adjust the times it comes up with on your own if you want, no matter how the schedule is created, but realistically the historical data is used in conjunction with your data points of types of soil etc to create the length of watering. Historical data is Really how it knows to adjust from one month to the next. Think of it as the “budget” feature on your current controller being automated.

Again you set the parameters of when it can water and what the soil moisture level should be and such and then it creates the times and schedule based on making that happen. The lower the tolerance of min to max soil moisture you set the more often it’ll water with less water duration for each zone based on my experience. It seems The key is tinker till you get the range large enough it can water lest often but longer times to keep everything green because that helps create the best root structures, which is better for the plants. And keeps them well hydrated at the same time.

Smart watering is a marketing term imho. The entire thing is smart, and how smart you let it be is based on which kind of schedule you use, be it fixed, monthly, or daily.

Weather intelligence is it knowing how to change based on your actual weather. It can even skip watering if it’s to windy if you want.

You can also set one zone to water fixed, one to water monthly flex and one daily flex. Personally I’d go all in on daily right front he start since I’m familiar with them now… but maybe do fixed for half and flex daily for the other half at first till You get used to it if you get one. The key for you would Be letting Go of watering certain amounts on certain days and focusing more on tweaking the data points to keep the moisture level in the range you want, which is determined by all the settings, except adjusting watering times and such manually. Adjusting soil type and water field and root depth and such is far more critical imho to making it work best long term as it navigates seasonal changes better that way.

That should give you an idea of some of the things it shows for moisture level. And you’ll see it doesn’t necessarily need to get it to 100% or let it drop to the minimum either before it will water again. Again it’s kept my lawn greener than it used to be when I water on a set schedule but shorter times more often and even adjusted when it was hot.

The front yard ones are in the sun most the day where the two backyard ones are well shaded.

Also note the further out you look in the schedule the more rough it is as it always adjust based on actual weather that happens each day and update forecasts each day.

I’m also an engineer, overly focused but sorta lazy once I figure out a way to let it go. I figured out all my zones based on nozzle size and pressure, confirmed with a water flow meter. I have a rachio gen2 from it’s initial release, and recently added a weatherflow tempest. Was previously using a PWS from 5 miles away from my location and had released that control from my brain years ago. Yard is amazing since rachio, take the chance, check it at first and put your mind on something else.

1 Like

Thanks for all that great information. You’ve pretty much talked me into it. While ones available generally on the Net just went up in price by over $50, I see Costco still has theirs for $180, so will probably go that way.

I just received 12 Orbit’s catch cups today. They seem like a good idea to be able to enter in what’s actually being applied per minute, per zone. Can that be input into the Rachio in some way, or would I use Orbit’s site to calculate time and input that? Or…?

1 Like

Rachio has an input for nozzle inches per hour in the advanced settings for each zone. So you can figure out how many inches per hour each zone is watering with the orbitz catch cups and then input that amount into the rachio data. You would not use orbitz calculator in any way to figure out watering durations etc.

Thanks. I appreciate it. I went ahead and ordered the Rachio 3 12 station from Costco. Thanks for everyone’s input.

Nice. I’m interested in how it goes if you have a chance to update us at some point.

I was thinking about my original “requirement” that the system not water on Fridays, because of lawn mowing, etc. and gather from what I’ve read that the system works best by not setting such restrictions on it and just “letting it go”. So, if I do that, can I at some point specify specific days for it not to water? For example, grass cutting is every other Friday now: can I set it now, to just not water THIS Friday? Or my wife’s having someone work on the lawn early on Tuesday: can I tell it not to water on that day only?

Or, if my lawn is fertilized on Wednesday: Can I tell the system to water on Thursday, whether or not it normally would?