Howdy! Newbie seeking help and info

Hey, everyone:

Upon recommendation from somewhere else on the Net, I was sent to these forums as a good place to for advice and info.

I live in the Northeast U.S. (near Boston) and currently have a small four-zone system controlled by a Rain Bird unit that was installed by our neighborhood sprinkler guy. I also just had a second water meter installed, and I can finally water my lawn without going broke.

SO–the Rain Bird controller is good enough for what it was designed to do (dial switch, small LCD display, etc), but I have a dream of saying “Alexa, water Zone 1,” and watching the magic happen from the comfort of my couch. In other words, I’m ready for a unit that is wi-fi enabled and can be controlled via voice or app.

I’ve looked at the Rachio Gen 2 controller on Amazon, which is decently priced around $170, but not sure if it’s worth it to get the Gen 3. And is the water flow meter a separate purchase?

Also, I’m assuming many of you are handy and installed these controllers yourselves. Unfortunately, I am dumb and would probably burn down my house trying to install on my own, so hoping my sprinkler guy could do it. I also see that Amazon has an option for installation, but who knows where Amazon gets their techs and if they’re competent. So any advice for installation is appreciated.

Thanks so much in advance, and looking forward to being part of community.


@Attirex - (Andrew) welcome to the community. I think you’ll find lots of folks willing to help and provide advice.

Yes, the flow meter is a separate purchase. One can buy a plain Gen 3 or the Gen 3 with the flow meter. I think if you want to add the flow meter later on, one can order just the flow meter.

For the Gen2 vs Gen3 discussion, I presume you’ve found this knowledge base article:

So are the differences worth ~$50. Probably so with the weather intelligence (there is a way to somewhat work around the lack of WU on Gen2), wiring connectors (a big one) and the on unit controls. Plus future proofing as any new accessories would probably target the Gen3.

As long as there are five wires in your existing Rain Bird controller, it will be simple to swap out. There was a recent post of a Hunter two wire system that the Rachio can’t replace.

Is the existing install inside or outside? If outside, one would need to mount the new enclosure and see that electricity is wired to the enclosure.

How far is the power outlet to the controller?

Post a picture of the current wiring and I’m sure someone will confirm the wiring compatibility. The unit uses 24 VAC, so no house burning down involved. Just plug the adapter into the wall outlet.

I’m sure community members will be glad to advise you through the install.


Thanks so much! Sounds like might be worth it to get the Gen 3. Hm.

The existing install is in my basement. As you can see from the pic (sorry, not exactly a pristine setup down there), the controller is located next to electrical panels and plugged into an outlet only about 1.5 feet away. I think wifi signal is decent down there, but not super strong (don’t know how much of an issue that is with Rachio unit, ie, if I’ll need to also install a wifi extender/repeater).


@Attirex - take you cell phone down there and see how many WiFi bars there are. If you’ve got a signal you’re good. Some folks do need to add an extender (I had to add one to reach where my Rachio is installed) if they have a weak WiFi signal at the install location. FYI, 2.4 GHz will go farther and through more walls than the 5.0 GHz band, but the 5.0 GHz band is less crowded (right now).

Regarding the flow meter, if it will be installed in the basement you’ll be fine. If it will be installed outdoors, I don’t think the signal will penetrate the ground and reach the controller.

I think that you’ll be able to do the swap out/install. Just take a picture of the wiring on the Rain Bird before you unhook things. Literally a couple of screws to hold the Rachio on the wall and then pushing wires into wire terminals (no screws) and plugging in the power is what the installation steps are.


Yeah, I get a pretty good signal on both the 2.4 and 5ghz bands, although obviously the 2.4 is stronger.

Good to know re: flow meter.

And here’s a photo of the Rain Bird wiring, FWIW:


@Attirex - easy. Label the wires before/as they are removed from the Rain Bird as white is normally common, but looks like it is a zone wire here. Do the purple and black wires that head to the upper left corner connect to a rain sensor? Again, straightforward easy migration. Go for it.



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Yeah, forgot to mention it has a rain sensor.

Hmmmmm, maybe I’ll try it myself.

Dumb question: I’m guessing bc of internet functions, the Rachio units don’t support rain sensors?

@Attirex - incorrect. All Rachio Generation support rain sensors. Kind of a belts and suspenders approach. The internet will catch the it’s going to rain enough after the schedule would have finished, so no need to water (which the rain sensor won’t catch) and the rain sensor will catch that “scattered showers” or 10% rain chance that is right over your property where Rachio is watering because it is planning on missing that shower.

Rain sensors aren’t required. They are optional.

If you can handle a screwdriver you can handle the swap out. I’ll be glad to list out the ten steps that will need to be performed to swap out the Rain Bird for a Rachio.

1 - document the Rain Bird zone settings
2 - unplug the Rain Bird power supply/transformer
3 - label the wires in the Rain Bird
4 - loosen the screws holding the wires in the Rain Bird and remove the wires
5 - remove the screws holding the Rain Bird on the wall
6 - mount the Rachio
7 - insert the wires into the respective terminals on the Rachio
8 - plug in the Rachio power supply/transformer
9 - connect the Rachio controller to the cloud using Rachio app
10 - Configure zones - start with a Monthly Flex schedule for three zones and one Flex (if you want) - using the Rain Bird settings as a sanity check.


I moved from conventional sprinkler controllers to my first home automation solution which was an EZ Flora unit that works with Insteon that is supported by my home automation system called Indigo ( After the failure of the first unit, I bought another and had a second failure again. That prompted me to look at something that was stronger as a stand alone product with the bonus capability to get access to the API and still connect it with my home automation system.

Hands down this was the easiest installation ever. Nothing challenging, Took me about 15 minutes for the physical installation and another 10 minutes to program. I followed up later with photos of my zones.

This is a world class product. I firmly believe I will not need another system for a long time. I bought Generation 3 8 zone.

Home automation enthusiast or entry level, strong technically or novice do it yourself or even first time. You will have no problems. Do not hesitate. Buy it.

Once installing I found a weather station was located within 700 feet of my house, so I know I am getting the best, most accurate reading to ensure I do the correct levels of watering. My lawn looks super healthy in just a couple week.s



That’s a strong endorsement, JP. :smile: I’ve only dipped my toe into home automation with a few smart plugs, but I’ve been wanting a wifi controller for awhile now (even before home automation became a “thing”).

Going to save your list, D, thanks so much. I’ve built my own gaming PCs so I should be able to handle this, I think…?

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@Attirex - if you’ve built a gaming PC then you’ve got this!

I’ve got your back. But, I fully expect the next post to be “I’ve installed it and it is working”!

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Aha, will do! But first hurdle is getting approval from Minister of Finance (ie, my wife). :astonished:


OK, RFP approved by Minister of Finance and purchase completed. :sunglasses: Bought the Gen 3 this morning and should arrive later today (thanks, Prime!).

And even though I should install myself, I chickened out and called my sprinkler guy. I asked if he could install an internet-enabled controller and he said “You mean like Rachio? I have those.” Bingo!

So guessing I’ll be up and running by Friday. And then I’ll probably have more questions.




Rofl. Thanks, co-founder!

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Your local water company probably has rebates. I am getting one.

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Good to know. Hm. I’m on town water, so not sure if that would apply…

OK, well, I’ve fulfilled dream of commanding Alexa to water my lawn. :slight_smile: Install and config took about 15 minutes, and I’ve set the smart watering schedule for four zones. I can already see the watering schedule changing based on the upcoming rain forecast, which is really cool.

Bonus: Das Blue Blinkenlight makes my basement almost look like the bridge of the Enterprise. Almost.

So only one question thus far: can the app control the system over cellular, or wifi only?


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@Attirex - rumor has it that @Franz is working on a subspace communication channel version for one of the Next Generation Rachios. Until then, one will have to use a mobile hotspot (AKA JetPack, MiFi) to connect to a cellular system and create a WiFi network that Rachio can connect to.

Until then Set a Course to better watering and LLAP :vulcan_salute: