I’m a relatively new user to Rachio. I’m really enjoying it for the most part, but still trying to figure out all of the settings and get my specific yard dialed in to the best of my ability. That said, here’s a quick rundown of my current setup.
Flex Daily Schedule
4 zones with only rotar heads
2 zones with only fixed heads
Grass only (cool season; tall fescue)
3 front yard zones all set at some shade (1 rotar zone and 2 fixed zones) - other 3 set as lots of shade
Here’s the setup for one of my rotar head zones (other 3 are identical to this one)
Prior to making Total Watering Time adjustments (more on that later), the system was wanting to run a total of 3hr and 16min. That seemed like an AWFUL lot. I wasn’t trying to generate a $1k water bill for the month for the sake of “healthy” grass in the dog days of summer, so I made some watering time adjustments.
My Total Watering Time now sits at 2hr and 29min. This still seems a tad high, but I’m willing to give it a shot and see how it turns out. I didn’t make any changes to any of the default settings. Everything is still the same. All I did was adjust the Total Watering Time down.
My 4 rotar zones are now running for 30 min. each and the 2 fixed zones are going for 14m each. So, here are a few of my questions that I’ve been fighting with. Hopefully you guys can help me out:
What does adjusting the Total Watering Time do to the frequency of watering? I don’t see any difference in days being increased since I changed. Does the system still think I am watering for the default time?
When it comes to Soil Moisture, does the system still think I’m watering at the default total time and displaying the moisture reading? Or does it update that moisture % based off amount of time that I dropped down to?
Is it better to manually drop my Total Watering Time as I have, or to make some other changes in Advanced to compensate for this?
Is it best to keep the default Weather Intelligence Plus or go with a local PWS? I have two that are 0.29 within my home.
Are there any universal adjustments in Advanced that everyone agrees on that really helps get the best out of the Rachio experience?
Flex Daily won’t adjust frequency of watering when you adjust the time down manually. There are other ways to adjust duration down with settings, which will also up the frequency. Changing Root Depth to a more shallow depth is one that will cause it to water less duration, more frequently for example.
I’ve never manually adjusted duration, so I might have to defer this question to another user.
I’d probably recommend adjusting other settings to get this. Looks like you are using default nozzle output numbers, but depending on what you actually have, the precipitation rate of your system could be wildly different. I think some of the advanced settings could use some tweaking to make it specific to your yard Are you pretty confident in your soil type (did you use the web soil survey website)? Are you sure that your zones are in fact lots of shade? I’d only chose that if a zone was getting less than 2-3 hours of sun a day…
If you have a solid PWS that is showing accurate weather, and more importantly, rainfall totals, I would ALWAYS chose a PWS over WI+.
IMHO, Soil type and nozzle inches per hour are two of the main culprits for failure. Also, how did you water prior to Rachio? Rachio will water with “best practices” in mind, but if someone watered every day for 5 minutes, the root structure isn’t ready for longer less frequent watering. The plants may vegetation may take some time to adjust, and playing with the root depths is my favorite since it is a bit more visual for me…
Rachio has calculated you need to apply 0.51" of water at one time, using your Advanced settings. And ignoring the shade aspect, it would calculate you need to water that zone about 37 minutes to do that, using your 1" Nozzle Flow. That should be correct, if your nozzle flow is. Now, 0.51" of water is NOT too much water to apply at once. Most all the country will need close to 1.5" of water per week in this time of year, meaning on average it would water about 3 times per week. Depending on your location, much less water than this can cause a problem. It isn’t how much water is being applied at one time, it’s how much over a week or so that’s important.
Now, when you change the time to 30 minutes, Rachio assumes you are telling it that it only takes 30 minutes to apply that same 0.51" of water. So, IF your Nozzle rate is correct, you’re only putting down about 81% of the water it thinks you are. So your lawn may dry out too soon. Basically, you should never change the TIME in a Flex Daily schedule. If you really want to cut down on the water applied at one time, change the Allowed Depletion.
But cutting back on the water applied at one time (which is basically calculated by multiplying the Soil Available Water by the Root Depth by the Allowed Depletion, will NOT change how much water is applied over time. Reducing water applied at once just means it will water more often. To reduce the TOTAL water applied over time, you should reduce the Crop Coefficient.
As to Nozzle FLow values, I’ve seen them vary tremendously (mine average about half the published values), so you should try to get accurate values for them, if possible. Catch Cups and measuring water use over time divided by zone area are two good ways.
Well, I am not totally confident in my soil type. A guy here from a lawn company said that we have clay in the KC area where I live. Here is what I found from Web Soil Survey:
Ap - 0 to 6 inches: silt loam
A - 6 to 13 inches: silt loam
Bt - 13 to 19 inches: silty clay loam
Btg - 19 to 56 inches: silty clay loam
BCg - 56 to 79 inches: silty clay loam
I chose loam and that is what the system defaulted me to based off my zip code. Do you think I should change?
No, my zones are not totally shade. They’re really more so some shade, but I was trying to cut down on some of the run time. I’d rather the front get the most water if I have to choose, so that is why I set the front as some shade and the back as lots of shade. I will probably switch all zones back to some shade since I’m definitely getting more than 2-3 hours of sun a day, as you stated.
I guess I need to pick up a rain gauge to matter my true rain fall totals and then measure that vs what the two PWS at .29 miles from me is getting, as well as the WI+ totals.
Yeah, I agree. I’ve been fiddling around with nozzle inches per hour and the soil type for a few weeks now. I just can’t get it dialed in. Prior to this, I was watering around two times a week for 15 min. for rotars and 5 min. for fixed (this was the recommendation from my sprinkler guy - he also said the fixed heads put out 3-4 times MORE than the rotars).
From what I’ve read, a lot of people on here say to not adjust the root depth. I have tall fescue and the system defaulted to 6".
Would you suggest I just delete this schedule and create a new one with the default Total Time Settings (along with changing my sun settings)?
And what suggestions would you have for Allowed Depletion and Crop Coefficient?
As for catch cups, I talked with my neighbor about this and he said his numbers were crazy each time he tried. He said it was not accurate at all. From what I know, all of my nozzles are Hunter, if that makes any difference. I know that they, too, have varied rates of inches per hour. Maybe I should just raise my rotars to 1.5" and my fixed to 2.0-2.5" since that is still within a reasonable range. Would you agree? Worse case scenario, it’s a little high, but my grass isn’t going to die or go dormant. I’d just like to keep it lush and not brown while NOT breaking the bank!
Yes I would. It seems to be the only way to be sure that the time is calculated again properly.
I would start out with the default values, which you have. Later, if you want to, over time, apply less water, you can lower the Crop Coefficient by 10% or so. Or to apply more water, increase the Crop Coefficient. This doesn’t change how much water is applied at once, but it will help determine how often it waters.
I’ve had similar luck with catch cups. I think it’s best and easiest to measure the area of the zone being watered, then use your water meter to measure how many gallons flow in a given time. From that, it’s easy to calculate the Nozzle Flow inches per hour:
Nozzle Flow "/hr = Gallons / Minutes / Area in sq ft x 96.25
Do that separately for each zone. If you have problems calculating the area of the zones, let us know; there are online tools to use, if you can see your home in Google Earth, or we can help work something out.
IMHO, best to over-water at first (also insures ground is saturated), then reduce the water applied using Crop Coefficient until it starts to suffer a bit, then go back up a bit.
This is where @rraisley and I differ a bit. While measuring the area and calculating the PR based on your water meter readings during a test is a great way to do it, it doesn’t account for the good, or horribly bad uniformity of the sprinkler spray patterns. A catch cup test will show you that, and you can make adjustments to sprinklers to try and get better uniformity. Once you’ve dialed them in as much as possible, you can use that efficiency calculated with the catch cups in Rachio, and it can adjust watering accordingly so all areas receive adequate water.
Otherwise, I’m totally with @rraisley on starting fresh. To me, I think you were a bit light on your durations with rotors at only 15 minutes a few times a week, but not knowing their PR, I can’t say for sure. It might be a bit of a shock to the system for you on the duration, but frequency might also surprise you.
Should I keep my soil as Loam based off my zip code default? If I change to clay it drops watering times quite a bit. Just not sure Clay is 100% accurate even though the irrigation guy said it was. Not sure he knows what he’s talking about, really. There’s not a Silt Loam option in the system, and that’s what the Soil Survey site says my top two layers consists of.
Something you should realize is that no matter what soil type you choose, the total water applied over time will be the same. It’s just a fact that sandy soil can actually accept and store far less water than clay can at one time. So Rachio has you water less time and total water with Sand, but the system will water much more often, while they apply more water with Clay, but apply it less often.
The only thing that determines how much water you use over time is the shade/sun characteristics, the temperature/wind/humidity factor which helps create the ET for each day, and the Crop Coefficient which also is used for the ET. So the daily ET’s added together minus the rain received is what Rachio will apply to keep your grass green.
Back to the soil, if you specify Clay with a high Available water, and you get a lot of runoff, then your soil can’t accept that much moisture at once, and you should water less (but more often) by reducing the Available water. You can, in fact, just play with the AV. You want to get it as high as possible (more water at once) so that you can go longer between watering. But you don’t want it to run off. If it does, an you can’t correct it with Cycle & Soak, cut back on the water.
Certainly, Catch Cups are a great way to measure water uniformity and amount. I bought a set of 12 catch cups, and with my son’s help, located them and tested them in my 5 zones. On a very hot day, and it was a real pain. I found out that I have extremely low efficiency in my zones (21% to 53%). Yet I don’t see any wet or dry areas. After all, water doesn’t stay where it’s put: it runs downhill, fills low areas, wet areas soak into adjacent dry areas, etc.
So I did some more tests, just moving a cup a foot or so one way or the other (especially those around the perimeter). Doing so could DOUBLE or HALVE the water received. Location was so critical (with my yard), that I felt that guessing on location with only 12 cups was not accurate at all. I felt like I’d have to have 50 cups to get a decently accurate reading. And my house & yard is nothing special: just a typical builders-grade irrigation system (meaning not really professionally designed), but it’s what I have, and it works.
I had already measured the areas and flows to all my zones, but did them again and calculated Nozzle Inches per Hour that way. In all cases, the actual flow into my actual square feet was higher than the cups indicated (Flow column is calculated from water flow & area, Cups column from Catch cups):
Now, I’ve measured my zone areas to the fractional square foot (house, yard, etc. all drawn in CAD), so I know it’s right. I’ve confirmed my water meter flow accuracy (and it’s now online to the 1/10th of a gallon). So I KNOW exactly how much water is applied to the zone on average. And since those values differ by 26% to 71% when compared to my catch cup measurements, I’ve decided to use them. I could use the catch cup efficiencies, of course, but 1) question their accuracy as well, and 2) I don’t see much effect to the grass due to the inefficiencies, so just use a higher value.
By the way, the first 4 zones have Rotor heads (rated per Rachio at 1.0 “/hr) and the last zone Spray heads (rated at 1.5”/hr). My values are half of what they “should” be in most zones. That’s why I feel any actual measurement is far better than manufacturer’s published values.
Good to know. I thought changing the soil type would reduce the total watering time based on how the soil stored it. I’ll just leave my soil type as Loam.
As for the sun/shade, I dropped two zones to Lots of Shade and both zones Soil Moisture jumped by 10%, but water time didn’t change. The calendar updated by watering for nearly two straight weeks! I changed back.
So it sounds like my only option is to change Crop Coefficient for all 6 zones since you said i shouldn’t touch Total Watering Time, correct?
The soil type changes how much water the soil can hold at once. But only the Crop Coefficient and weather (including sun) change how much water is actually used.
The sun changes how much water is used, but not how much water is applied at one time. Remember, just because you don’t see a change in the watering time, doesn’t mean it won’t save water usage. It’s how often and when it waters that determines that.
I’d still like to see your graphs. Changing the shade should only change when it waters every so often.
I’d like to see the graphs & charts first for 2 weeks. I still don’t see anything wrong with the original times, and you haven’t done a confirmation of the Nozzle flows. To me, that should come first. Changing Crop Coefficient should only be after you’ve set everything else as closely as you can.
After thinking about it more overnight, I wanted to look a further deeper into my soil selection. I found an article from someone here in the Rachio Community that had a detailed document on how to properly set your Available Water capacity. Mine defaults to 0.17. After following the instructions, I see that at 6" my cool season tall fescue should be set at 0.21. I set it for one zone and then checked the updated run time. WOW! That dropped my Soil Moisture by 50% and raised my run time all the way up from 37min. to 46min.! Needless to say, I reverted back to my default settings.
What I ultimately did is slightly raise my nozzle inches per hour from 1 to 1.25 for rotars and from 1.5 to 2 on the fixed. Here’s where I’m sitting now:
I think this is more of a “budget” friendly schedule and closer to what I’m going for. It’s definitely more than what I was watering before (15 min for rotars and 5 5 for fixed), but I can live with these adjustments. Hopefully manually adjusting the nozzle times up a slight bit doesn’t negatively affect anything else in the algorithms.
You should really ignore the time for running a zone on one day, but instead compare the total number of minutes run in a week or a month with what you were doing before. Rachio may water much more at once, but less often, than you’ve done in the past. Total up what you would normally use in a week, and what Rachio proposes in that same time.
If you change the times directly, you’ve defeated the algorithms and are on your own. If you’ve changed the variables, you can always change them back.
Sorry, I misspoke there. I changed the nozzle inches per hour slightly, but left everything else the same. I didn’t adjust the overall watering time so to not negatively affect the algorithms.
Let me gather my total run times for a week prior to Rachio. I’ll then gather the times for the week at default with Rachio and then the slight inch per hour increase for my two nozzle types. I’ll send those here in a bit.
Personally, I still think you are looking at this the wrong way. You are trying to trick Rachio into running exactly how you had before. If you want to do that, just run a fixed schedule with weather intelligent skips and save the extra work of dialing in a Flex Daily schedule. If you want to trust the process, lets dial in your REAL nozzle PR’s (using a meter read or catch cups, your choice), and your REAL soil type (using web soil survey), setting realistic shade settings, and see how things perform.
Well, I’m not totally trying to run it as I had before. I’m just trying to wrangle in some of these times so I do not have a $1k a month water bill! My grass was fine before. I mean, it wasn’t fairway green, but it wasn’t dying or going dormant (there were a few spots that had some browning, but not dead). I love the idea of the flex daily schedule, but I am just trying to get the times more in line with what I think should still provide nice results without totally breaking the bank. That is my goal. I’m not opposed to going 30 min in my rotar zones whereas I was doing 15 min previously. If the grass is lush and healthy, I’m fine with it, but when I’m getting in the high 30’s to mid 40’s, that seems a little extreme - AND costly!
My soil type is real. I didn’t modify it. Based off web soil survey and what was chosen for my zip code by default, I’m using Loam. Here’s what web soil survey said:
Ap - 0 to 6 inches: silt loam
A - 6 to 13 inches: silt loam
Bt - 13 to 19 inches: silty clay loam
Btg - 19 to 56 inches: silty clay loam
BCg - 56 to 79 inches: silty clay loam
There’s not a silt loam option, so I went with the default setting.
All that said, here is my total run time breakdown for a two week period based off my varied schedules.
Previous schedule prior to Rachio; 4hr. 4min.
Rachio - Everything default, but nozzle PR’s and shade settings; 10hr. 42min.
Rachio - Everything default, but nozzle PR’s; 11hr. 33min.
Rachio - Everything default; 16hr. 18min.
For #3, I used all Some Shade setting as I believe that is probably the most accurate.
For #2 and #3 I increased default nozzle PR from 1 to 1.25 on rotar heads and increased from 1.5 to 1.75 on fixed heads.