Make it Simple


#1

Is it just me or does this product seem to over complicate a simple task of water my yard. I wanted a smart irrigation timer that was smart enough to turn off the sprinklers when its raining and maybe water more when it gets hot. While I am sure some people love the advanced settings and being able to set your precip amount and soil type I don’t want to but I still want the benefits. Seems like a smart sprinkler timer should be able to learn about my yard based on feedback from me the user.

It would be great to open the app and choose the condition of that zone.
“Too Wet”
“Perfect”
“Too Dry”

Take that data and my weather data and past water data and adjust my yard based on that simple feedback.


#2

The Rachio can only learn about your yard based on your feedback. Every yard is a microclimate of it’s own. Ideally, a weather station and effective soil sensor in every irrigation zone around your yard is the best way to determine the landscape needs. And even with those sensors, it still needs to know what/where it’s being watered.

Rachio has created a stop-gap to satisfy most of this. And in the process taught the end user that there is more to watering a lawn than just turning on the water.


#3

Hey @ShaggySS

For the time being, I would recommend using a fixed schedule with all of the Weather Intelligence featuers enabled. This should work fine without digging into your settings, and still save you water!

I think your idea of that simple adjusting of a schedule is very interesting. How often would you be willing to give this feedback? How long after setting up your system? I think we would need a couple times of you gives that feedback to start figuring out your setting, which could be a time period of a couple weeks. Would you be ok with it taking that long to get it tuned in?

McKynzee :rachio:


#4

Currently I am using the fixed daily and modifying the advanced settings to get the watering times in the ball park of what I think I need. I have considered the fixed schedule many times but I feel like I am going to figure this thing out one of these days.

As for giving feedback to a system I would have no problem providing this feedback on a weekly basis for several months. I have been trying to dial in my sprinkler settings for over a year and have yet to master it so what harm would a few weeks do. Seems like after a few weeks\months “Learning Period” I should be able to go in and provide manual feedback if needed. Based on just the info in the “Zone Details” and the weather data the timer should be able to figure out all the advanced info to keep my lawn green from spring to fall.

To simplify it one step further I would even be willing to buy a Bluetooth soil probe that can sync with Rachio so simply going around my yard choosing the zone and sticking it in the soil and the system will adjust automatically.


#5

Thank you for that! This is super helpful. I was curious about how much time people would be willing to stick with it to get it right. I think between knowing weather, having general zone settings, and that feedback, it ultimately wouldn’t take all that long to get to the perfect schedule.


#6

Year 3 with this sprinkler controller and in my mind it is still lacking. Each year I think this thing will get better. Each year I go back to the smart function of the timer. I watch the lawn and adjust the advanced setting to do what I want. Longer root depth seems to water longer, and reduced depletion seems to do the same thing. Its a constant juggling act but I am there to see it die so I can adjust quickly. The problem is each year right around the middle of summer I go on vacation and return to not only a dead lawn a lawn so crispy you’d think it was a foreclosed house. At this point I revert my timer to the dumb timer ways and water my lawn every other day. I am sure I waste of ton of water. Back to my plea for those people who don’t give a crap about available water, root depth, allowed depletion, efficiency, crop coefficient, and nozzle inches per hour. Give me a few options…“Too Wet” “Too Dry” and use those digi brains to adjust my timer on the backend for me. Make my smart timer truly smart. While I understand some people want that kind of granularity there are those of use out there who just want to set it and forget it.


#7

I hear you. Unfortunately, without those Advanced Zone settings, there’s no way for the controller to magically know how wet or dry soil is. It sounds like some kind of system using moisture sensors is what you desire.

There’s nothing wrong with using Fixed schedule and its smart features, but even Saturation Skip requires zone settings otherwise there’s no way for the controller to know when the soil is too wet. If you’re in a climate where ET exceeds water put down on a Flex schedule then a simple supplemental fixed schedule in the afternoon can help replenish water. That’s what I do and it was very simple to set up from my couch.

Sorry you don’t like the Rachio irrigation scheduler but you may be hard pressed to find a consumer grade controller that meets your needs. Maybe Rachio is thinking about how to produce a reliable wireless moisture sensor that can be installed in multiple places in a lawn— quite a difficult engineering project especially since lawns tends to be pretty far from the controller so wireless signal needs to be pretty strong and low frequency.


#8

Thanks @Kubisuro, it’s difficult to take a very complex environment with multiple inputs and variables (zone characteristics, weather, user, etc.) and make it universal.

@ShaggySS I agree that we can do better at simplifying things. We took a large amount of time last year to build a platform that would support our “water” vision and schedules really didn’t move forward in the simplification department. I still do believe overall we have the strongest feature offering when you look at weather intelligence features and our flex scheduling. I have some ideas of how to leverage learning technologies to help with some of our scheduling complexities.

Good discussions nonetheless!

:cheers:


#9

Kubisuro,
Not sure you read my original post which I was going back to with this latest statement. I am not looking for magic. I am looking for simplified settings for the non irrigation geek.
Zone Type - Simple enough
Spray Head - Easy to look up
Type of Soil - Easy to look up
Sun Exposure - Easy to determine
Slope - Pretty easy…with a ball even easier

Now that I have set this up I am looking for a the addition of two simple buttons for each zone. “Too Wet” “Too Dry” Based on the above info, and weather info those digi brains should be able to make some simple adjustments for those of us who are lazy and don’t want to setup catch cups to determine efficiency or figure out root depth and I still have no clue what crop coefficient and I am too lazy to look it up. I suspect I am not the only one.

Connected moisture sensor would be awesome!


#10

Say that you have a loam soil and are growing an Oak tree with a 15’ root depth, while I live in a climate with ‘forest’ soil and a 3’ root depth. When we each hit “Too Dry”, how would you expect an irrigation controller to react ? For your tree, it would should water more deeply. For mine, it should water more often, yet there is only one button ?

Now let’s say we both have Oak trees but your soil is very different than mine, requiring your roots to be deeper than mine. Again, we each hit “Too Dry”. How do you suggest that the system respond given that your tree requires deeper, less frequent irrigation while mine should deliver less water but more often ?


#11

azdavidr. Great point. I am should clarify that I am thinking of this feature request more for lawns.
Crunchy = Too Dry
Swampy = Too Wet.


#12

I read that but there are many many variables involved — answering simple questions to calibrate the scheduler to lawn performance (to me) seems unlikely to work. I think that proposed solution would require constant input from the user — negating the “smart” and automatic scheduling of Flex daily. Most want to set it and forget it and not need to baby sit the app (though to be fair, I do that, because I’m compulsive about how my soil moisture doing :slight_smile: Anyway, as Franz mentioned, perhaps there are ways to involve more learning and avoid some settings.

We’re here to help with your advanced zone settings.


#13

My only caution here is that for the ‘Easy to look up’ comments. Looking them up doesn’t mean they are accurate, especially with the spray heads. If you’re referring to a lawn then a catch cup test might show that you don’t have uniform coverage, and/or your flow isn’t as advertised, maybe because of issues like system pressure. Similarly with the soil, for some people what is found on the Web Soil Survey might not be quite right. A soil test might be more accurate, and they are often free.

Assuming that your settings for the above are correct, I think you essentially have what you’re looking for with the crop-coefficient setting. Increase the crop-coefficient for the zone and the system will water more often. Decrease it and it will water less often.


#14

I should correct myself. In addition to the settings you mentioned, you want to take a good stab at the root depth. That in combination with the soil type will determine how much water should be delivered to fill the root zone. Once that is set up right the crop-coefficient is your too-wet, too-dry knob.


#15

In the past I had a simple timer. Set frequency and duration. I don’t need\want advanced settings. I think you are looking at it from a irrigation master level. Someone who like the ability to customize.

Let me change topics really quickly. Lets talk cellphones… When my parents were in the market for a smartphone I quickly said get an iPhone. Its simple and easy to use even for the most technology challenged individual. Yes Android has the ability to customize until your hearts content but for some people simpler is better not only for you but for them.

Kubisuro. Maybe its my ignorance on this topic but in my simple minded head it seems like the a little bit of data could go a long way. Even if it was part of the monthly seasonal shift email. Three feedback buttons, Too Wet, Too Dry, Perfect. If you click it you are feeding your zones with more info. Digi Brain “It was a hot month and user said Front Grass was too dry…If its the same temp or hotter lets increase watering duration” Not to complicate things but what about add a run off also. “Too Much Runoff” Digi Brain "It was a hot month and user said Front Grass was too dry and also said Too much Run off. Increase watering days and decrease time or maybe add smart cycle. Seems like after a season the timer could use that data to adjust times and there you have the lazy mans smart sprinkler timer.

azdavidr: I would agree those first few settings could get your into trouble but. In my case did take the time to feed it as much correct info as possible on the main screen. I looked up my soil type and I looked up my sprinkler heads. IE Rotor\Spray. I am certain all the info on the main screen is correct.

Thanks for the info on the crop-coefficient. That will come in useful. Need a little question mark button next to each of those advanced settings that explains. Yes, I am aware you can go into the help and read about it.

As for my timer I have an older smarter brother who looked at my settings and steered me in the right direction …I hope. He also pointed out a somewhat hidden feature to me. The ability to fill or empty the soil moisture. That will help immensely.


#16

Oh as a feedback for Rachio to make fine adjustments to crop coefficient or other settings this makes perfect sense vs an entire irrigation model on feedback alone — which is what I had thought you were going for. I suggested a similar feedback method a while back but more along the lines of an interactive help feature rather than direct feedback to the advance zone/flex model. I like it. I also agree question mark buttons for contextual help w/hints and tips on each setting would go a long way.


#17

I like this idea. I understand that due to how the system works, those advance values will always be needed, regardless if the user knows about them. So a ‘Too Dry’ or more generic ‘Help Me’ button that launches a little wizard to help figure out the appropriate action would be useful. To take a step further, how about an interactive wizard feature over time. So if you’ve identified a zone that’s not right and gone through the wizard, then maybe it prompts you in a few days to ask how things look and takes extra steps. For example if it decided to keep the same frequency but water more each time, did that lead to major runoff, was the area soggy for a few days afterwards, etc. Maybe that causes it to flip it’s suggestion in the other direction and water less but more frequently, it could ask if the area is drying out or remains soggy; perhaps before finally deciding on some combination of both. This process would at least be visible and likely make more sense to the user. Wouldn’t this be similar to what an installer would do for a client, check back at several points after the install to make sure the schedules are working as expected?

Another idea, is to leverage the settings of others. If I my cool season grass zone isn’t working properly, why not have the system double check my settings against others in the area or general guidelines. Maybe the user got frustrated at one point and raised their lawn root dept to 24" because that got them the watering duration they expected. Perhaps just add a sanity check anytime someone changes advanced settings to values that are abnormal for the zone type.

It would also be nice to have instant feedback. For example if I change my root depth by an inch, show a little message that tells me this will cause increase watering duration by 10% but decrease watering frequency by 5%. This has the added benefit of teaching people over time the impact of each setting. Likewise if I change a bunch of settings at the same time, a summary message that gives the net effect would be useful. As with my prior red flag suggestion, if a 24" root depth is abnormal for a lawn, say so right there on that advanced settings screen. Perhaps the user never intended it, it was just a typo; I’ve done this before :wink:


#18

Kubisuro: That would be perfect! Guess I need to spell out my ideas a little better in the future. I think you get my vision.

GregS: Some great idea there. I feel like to keep it simple advance settings shouldn’t be required to keep my grass alive. If it does you have some interesting ideas. Knowing the effect an advanced setting change would be great info.
Troubleshooting wizard would be an interesting idea as well. I can imagine a flow tree in my head.
“Front Lawn” - Help
Rachio - "My lawn is dead? “My lawn is a swamp?”
Rachio - “Does this issue affect the whole zone or just part of it?”
I think you get the idea. A simple flow tree type wizard would help educate users as to potential problems with there setting or with the sprinklers in the zone. In the end the better peoples yards look the happier they will be.

Productive day. Thanks everyone.