# Everything dying... can't seem to calibrate

Three premises:

a) Rachio CALCULATES that a zone needs X litres per minute.
b) Rachio THINKS it is putting Y litres of minute onto the plants.
c) My water meter MEASURES how much is being put out.

so “a” is presumably based on the data I provide about the zone, which may or may not be correct but let’s assume it is true for now.

“b” is based on the data I input regarding sprinklers. Again, I did the best I could.

“c” is from my utility’s meter that’s in my house. That obviously has to be taken as correct.

The problem is that all my plants are dying with the water Rachio is putting down. Maybe I need to adjust “a”, but what I really want to do is confirm “b”… in other words, is Rachio putting out as much water as it thinks it is? How can I confirm? I see broad summaries, like Zone A has used 600 litres of water in June, but how can I confirm what the zone’s calculated LPM is? Once I know that, how can I fix it?

Thanks. That doesn’t answer the question though. That helps someone in a specific situation (over ground sprinklers, which I don’t have) figure out one single element of the inputs, which I already posed as being assumed correct. That doesn’t answer how to find out what the rachio thinks is being consumed in LPM, nor how to adjust.

But I did figure out that I can download historical usage, and that rachio is under estimating my LPM by half, which means it is running twice as long as it should if it correctly understand the input. Yet, even then, it is grossly under watering for the conditions. That highlights that it is WAY off in its calculations.

I thought rachio was a good idea, but it is just making almost meaningless guesses based on necessarily imperfect inputs. Soil type, root depth, etc… these all vary throughout any given zone for a plethora of reasons. It guesses at soil saturation… why not measure that?

Anyway, it looks like I have to manually set days/times like with any other controller. All the “intelligent” features here are unexplained and problematic (and “recommended” settings on the app are told here to never use. Weird). And the best support I can expect are links to irrelevant scenarios.

because it’s easier said than done? I’ll give it to you that what Rachio lacks is a feedback loop. This is supposedly being improved in the next release where you’ll be able to tell Rachio whether it’s over- or under-watering. There is a beta program of sorts that people can join: I find rachio to be way more complicated than it needs to be - #67 by chris

How would you expect Rachio or ANY smart sprinkler to function correctly if the settings entered by the user are incorrect? There is a ton of science behind soil moisture as a function of precipitation rate and crop ET, and Rachio used all of that in its algorithms. It isn’t Rachio’s calculations that are off, it is user inputs.

If you’d like to share what your zone settings are (screenshots are helpful), along with some shots of your moisture graphs, there are plenty of people here willing to help.

I think my first question would be, if you don’t have above-ground sprinklers, what are you using as your emitter type, and what are you actually using as an emitter? Followed up by, how well does the water spread out from what you are using? I think that that may be the heart of your problem. Rachio calculates how much water it used based upon the nozzle inches per hour, and doesn’t actually measure it. If you set that value to 1 in/hr, but it’s really 0.25/hr, then Rachio is going to water a quarter of what it actually needs to in order to put out the amount of water that it thinks is required. That is why doing a catch cup test is one of the things frequently mentioned, because there can be differences between what the manufacturer says the sprinkler does, and what it actually does when installed. Doing that for a drip system is more complicated, but I’m sure someone can point you to how they did it. If you have some other kind of watering system, someone with more expertise than me will have to tackle it.

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How would I expect…

Ok, let me put it this way. My Tesla can drive itself down the road without me explaining the road type, conditions, and relevant physics. My Roomba cleans my floor without any scientific analysis by myself regarding what it is picking up. I ask my smart speaker to play music and it plays music, without me defining what music means, the audio characteristics of the room or my degree of hearing loss. All these things are imperfect, but they get the job done reasonably well.

If the sprinkler controller needs to be told every possible detail to work effectively, then I’d argue there’s really no point to it. Fine tuning parameters is fine, and I expect that. But without any sort of in-app explanation of what it means if I increase or decrease root depth, for example, it becomes a bit meaningless. And I (and nobody) can provide “accurate” answers to this anyway! If I take a sample and measure the root depth, it is virtually certain that a different sample would have a different measurement. All any user can do is guess and fiddle, but without knowing what that fiddling is doing!!! And I did try… hard. I did take samples. I did my best to provide as accurate answers to all those things as possible. The end result? It is putting on WAY too little water despite the fact that it thinks it is putting out about half as much as it actually is (so it should be drastically overwatering).

I guess I expected too much?

philospher77: thanks. Emitter type is drip line. Actual emitter is… drip line. How well does the water spread? That’s virtually impossible to answer. When I installed it, I trusted the manufacturer’s research that soil moves the water effectively (some scientific word that’s not coming to my head right now). But that’s partly what confuses me. Rachio asks emitter type… it doesn’t ask about spacing, or number of emitters. There’s 1000 in the lawn, approximately, and it is approximately 1000 square feet. Makes sense since it is spaced in 1’ rows and 1’ emitter spacing. And so many GPH that I no longer recall but could look up. Anyway, using the downloaded usage I was able to figure out that Rachio THINKS it is delivering roughly 10 Litres per minute and my utility company’s meter (which is accurate to the mL so I think it would be correct) shows a flow of 22.5L/m when the zone is accurate. That is, Rachio thinks it is putting down roughly half what it actually is, and it is still nowhere near enough to keep the grass alive.

ps. when I say drip, I mean subsurface drip line. doing any sort of catch cup exercise would be difficult, and I’m not sure it is necessary. I know from the meter exactly how much is going out.

Underground buried drip line is definitely above my pay grade, but I’d assume that the root depth is going to be close to however deep they buried that line (since why would they grow any deeper?). Which might be a problem if they buried the line too deep. As to how much it puts out… that’s for someone used to those systems to answer.

Your Tesla is a \$60-120k car. Rachio is a \$250 sprinkler controller. Your Roomba has one task, to vacuum tile or carpet. With the HUNDREDS of different manufacturers of sprinklers, emitters, drip tape, etc., plant and yard configurations from all over the United States and world, how would you expect Rachio to just know? You have to enter the information, and I promise you, it will be smart and extremely powerful. Garbage in, garbage out.

Ok, so you have a measurement to calculate the inches per hour to set the zone to. You know that there is 22.5l/m, and you know an estimate of area (or could easily get that from an online mapping site). You can easily calculate the inches per hour from that point on. Adjust the Sun, Slope, Soil Type, and Root depth (or leave it as default for warm/cool season grass), and you’ve got a pretty good handle on the system.

yeah, but that is what I did. Yet here I am.

Still, I’m missing something because it askes for the nozzle centimeters per hour. It doesn’t ask how many nozzles (absolute or per sq meter or whatever).

Do I enter in the total for the 1000 emitters? To me, “nozzle” (singular) means one emitter.

Also… at one point I searched (with difficulty) to get explanations on what the advanced screen was looking for. I no longer remember and would have to search again. Some things are self-explanatory, such as area and root depth, but “available water”? In inches per inch? Come on. That makes zero intuitive sense and really needs to provide direction to the user. I struggle to think of anything that is measured in inches per inch! (umm… there’s ALWAYS 1 inch per inch! lol). Allowed depletion I think I get, same with efficiency (though there’s no explanation of what that figure impacts). Crop coefficient? No clue. I can’t be the only one thinking these are not intuitive figures. But even knowing what they mean, there is no explanation on how changing them impacts the result.

I may have figured out the “nozzle inches per hour” thing. An hour of watering puts out approximately 350 gallons. The yard is very close to 1000 s.f. 1000.s.f = 144000 cubic inches. 350 gallons is 80850 cubic inches. 80850/144000 = 0.56 inches per hour. I see I had left the default of 0.25 inches. That jives, I think, with what I observed that the system is putting out roughly double what it thinks it is. Which is alarming to me, because it should probably be putting out double what it actually is, meaning it was watering around 25% of what is necessary. What do I need to change (other than manually setting times) to get it to realize that? I entered an accurate (at the time) root depth of 4.5 inches. Do I artificially increase or decrease that to increase watering times? See the problem here? I have to put in fake info to get it to do what it needs to do, but then what was the point? Why not just have a “little more, little less” slider?

Do you have a rough idea of the proper duration and frequency of water that works for you? Maybe based on what you have done in the past?

If so, you could start with the default settings for your zones. Using a Flex Monthly schedule, you can take a look at the calendar to see if the watering is roughly the proper frequency and duration.

If it seems off, you can make adjustments. To change the watering frequency, change the crop coefficient. Increasing the crop coefficient increases water frequency, and decreasing the crop coefficient decreased water frequency.

The change the water frequency, change the nozzle inches. Increasing nozzle inches shortens the watering duration, and decreasing nozzle inches increases duration.

This is just to get you started in the right direction.

Later, you can pick one zone and create a Flex Daily schedule. After you get comfortable with how Daily Flex is working with one zone, you can convert you
other zones, one at a time.

Thanks twin1. That brings up another… annoyance, let’s say… about this system. I believe it defaulted/recommended flex daily. Yet when I had trouble with that, the answers I see are things like “don’t jump on the flex daily wagon” or “you shouldn’t be using flex daily”. Yet that’s literally what is recommended.

Anyway… flex monthly makes little sense to me. I tried that and there didn’t seem to be any adjustment at all. Just a consistent schedule going forward. Do I have to wait until the 1st of the month for that to change?

To answer your question: Yes, I do have a sense that it needs about double the water that it is putting out. I gather that from looking at my irrigation bills from years before rachio (when my yard was healthy!) vs. what it is doing now. Water savings was the whole point, but not the extent that everything dies.

Again, I have to wonder… if I have to tweak everything to get back to how I was watering before, then what’s the point? lol

ANyway, thanks everyone. I’ll read all this again on the weekend when I have some time.

With a Flex Monthly schedule, when you scroll through the calendar from the summer months to the winter months, you will see the frequency of the watering gradually decreasing. The duration will stay the same.

You can make adjustments to the Flex Monthly schedule just like with a Flex Daily Schedule. Increasing the crop coefficient increases the water frequency. Decreasing the nozzle inches increases the water duration. So you can definitely fine tune your flex monthly schedule.

Some people like the predictability of the Flex Monthly schedule, and that’s all they use.

The available water (in in/in) is a measure of how much water the soil holds. Clay soils hold a lot of water, sandy soil holds a lot less. It’s inches of water/inches of soil, so an available water measurement of 0.2 in/in means that there is 2 inches of water in 10 inches of soil. But that water is spread out into all the pores and spaces between the dirt particles. It’s not like there is a layer of water somewhere in the soil. I agree, it’s not a very intuitive number, so I just stuck with the default for the soil type I have (sandy loam with no clay to speak of, so 0.17). It means that my yard is “free draining”, which is great for most plants, but means that I need to water more frequently than if it held onto water better…

Thanks for that explanation, philospher77. Funny that the slider goes to 1 in/in. Wouldn’t that be… a pond? lol. I don’t think pond plants require irrigation.