I’ve been using Rachio with a good bit of success for a while now, but last year moved out to the south side of Denver and am on a well. I’ve got a pretty complex system with a 600 gallon storage tank with its own pump that can push 22GPM, but a well that averages about 6GPM. Needless to say, this can become an ugly situation if left unchecked. Despite best efforts to spread watering out, use the well delay feature to let it recover, etc, there were regular occurrences where the tank ran dry and the pump started making really fun noises at 4AM, waking my wife and I up! On top of that, since the well delay feature replaces cycle and soak, deeper watering wasn’t really possible.
So, we started thinking about a solution. Having spoken a bit with Lo over at Rachio Support and given some feedback on features that’d be nice, I stumbled upon another post indicating someone had rigged up their own well to the rain skip sensor on their controllers, so I figured I’d give this a try. It’s not quite perfect, but as I run a full flex daily schedule, it does the job nicely! If water runs out, Rachio will just stop watering until water’s back then resume the schedule wherever it would have been at. The zones that miss some water will just kick back in later whenever flex determines they need it. The funniest thing is that this has worked so well at staggering the various zones just by virtue of interrupting them that it hasn’t actually kicked in and stopped a water run for over 10 days due to shorter runs becoming the norm!
I have 18 zones, 9 on each controller, so I started with two simple float switches that are closed when facing up, and interrupt the circuit when facing down. They’re hung inside the storage tank fairly close to the bottom, hanging off of a sinker. They’re simply wired up through a conduit to the sensor terminals and configured as a rain sensor. Here’s the inside of the tank after install, but before I moved them lower - wanted to start high and slowly lower them to find the sweet spot.
Here’s what happens when those floaters get too close to the bottom:
Another great side effect here is that if we’re watering the lawn and something else in the house needs a lot of water, the lawn will kick itself off to avoid a dry pump situation, which overall works pretty well as not much in the house uses more than the well can produce.
I’d love to see a well duty cycle feature in the future that works with smart cycle and lets us pick an on/off cycle for running water, e.g. “water 20 minutes, wait 30 minutes”, but that’s not a thing yet and well users aren’t really the majority here. Maybe we can get some traction for a feature like that in the future. I’ve already tried to bribe some of Rachio’s engineers with donuts and coffee, since I’m local.