Need Help. Coming from SkyDrop to a Gen 3 at a new house. Not sure on Zone recommendations, especially with multi sprinkler types

Hi Rachio community! I was a long time time Skydrop user at our old house and dealt with the numerous bugs with the app and notifications but was fairly happy with the watering output - it just worked. It also allowed me to put in multiple types of sprinklers per zone (which our new house also has - horrible hydrozoning…).

At our new house I did quite a bit of research on my end and landed on a Rachio 3. We’re getting this paid for by our water district who came out and did a water survey and tweaked the settings on the old “dumb” controller based on the types of sprinklers/drip we had in each zone, types of grass plants, shade/sun etc… I had that in for all of a day before our Rachio arrived so I can’t say for sure their numbers were spot on but I’m using it as a baseline.

I got our Rachio installed over the weekend and went to setup a “Flex Daily” schedule. I was a little surprised it only let me put in one type of sprinkler per zone and only one type of vegetation. After getting all the zones setup I was shocked at the cycle times for the zones compared with both the original times the old owners had setup (based on my memory as we had gone through them during the water district survey) as well as compared with the “adjusted” times the tech had put in.

I sketched up a very rough plan of our watering areas which I can upload but my handwriting is terrible so it probably wouldn’t make much sense. I can upload it but I’ve also tried to type up notes for each section with the number of and type of sprinklers in each below:

  • Zone 1: Bottom of sloped some what elliptical front yard (curved all around). Total yard is approx 2,450 sq ft with 5 trees in it. This only waters the bottom half. All sprayers are pop-ups and are rotary in this zone. 1 - 1/4 spray rotate pop-up, 4 - 1/2 spray pop-up rotate
  • Zone 2: Top half of the above yard. Also waters some shrubs at the flat part above the yard. All sprayers are popups. 1 - 1/2 Spray pop-up, 4 - Full Spray pop-up
  • Zone 3: Front yard is split in two - this is a small “D” shaped portion next to the driveway. Approx 400 sqft with two trees in it. All sprayers are popups, some are the small 3" (I think) brass pressure pop-up sprayers. 2, 1 is a small brass sprayer - 1/4 Spray, 4, 2 are small brass sprayers. - 1/2 Spray
  • Zone 4: This is a small 1/4 circle shaped patch of grass in the backyard, approx 150 sqft. The full spray also waters some light ground cover next to the grass. All are pop-up sprayers. 1 - 1/4 Spray, 1 - 1/2 Spray, 1 - Full Spray
  • Zone 5: This is a huge zone which covers a large part of the backyard with shrubs and trees on a slope leading up to the back fence as well as some smaller areas around the house with drip irrigation. The sprayers are all fixed shrub sprayers and the drip is a combination of 8 bubblers and an approximate number of a few 1/2gph emitters and mostly 2gph emitters. This also includes a small rectangular patch of grass in the backyard approx 250 sq ft. These are 4 of the 1/2 sprayers, all popup. 3 - 1/4 Spray, 9 - 1/2 Spray (4 for the grass), ~35 drip emitters, 8 Bubblers
  • Zone 6: This makes up the rest of the backyard (there’s a walkway up the back that splits it in two) as well as the shrubs on one side of the driveway. Combination of fixed shrub sprayers and 1/2gph drip emitters. 1 - 1/4 Spray, 10 - 1/2 Spray, 9 drip emitters
  • Zone 7: This covers the rest of the shrubs at the top and side of the front lawn. All sprayers are fixed shrub sprayers. 3 - 1/4 Spray, 10 - 1/2 Spray, 1 Full Spray

So now for the cycle times. I didn’t write down the original times the “dumb” controller had (I think they’re sending them in the report today or tomorrow) but it ran daily (!) for a long time per zone with a ton of overrun onto the street and sidewalks. The water district tech set the “WD” Times I’ve listed below to run every other day and in a cycle/soak pattern (for all zones) so it would run through 1-7 and then do it again so each time is doubled for each day of watering. The Rachio times are the “total” times per zone that came up after I setup each zone. I did not make any adjustments to the advanced settings but can list what I put per zone if that’s helpful. I then put the revised total time per zone I setup based on what the water district tech said.

  • Zone 1 - WD: 8min, Rachio: 37min, Revised: 20min
  • Zone 2 - Revised: 5min, Rachio: 23min, Revised: 12min
  • Zone 3 - Revised: 5min, Rachio: 23min, Revised: 12min
  • Zone 4 - Revised: 5min, Rachio: 23min, Revised: 12min
  • Zone 5 - Revised: 7min, Rachio: 57min, Revised: 20min
  • Zone 6 - Revised: 4min, Rachio: 57min, Revised: 20min
  • Zone 7 - Revised: 4min, Rachio: 57min, Revised: 20min

The “Rachio” total runtime was 4h40min and my “Revised” runtime is 1h56min. It does look like it’s running a cycle/soak pattern on most of the zones as it repeated all (I believe) the zones.

I’m happy to provide any other details I can. The Hydrozones are not setup well here so it may take an irrigation expert to get that corrected. I’m in the process of swapping a lot of the higher flow drip emitters for lower flow as I don’t think 2gph is required for most of the small plants they’re watering. I’ve also purchased multi-stream rotating nozzles for the lawn sprinklers that can take them (although not sure what/if I can do anything about the small brass nozzles given the pipe depth).

Appreciate any help that can be offered. I’m liking most of the Rachio interface so far (especially the notifications!) but hoping I can dial something in that will work well with the lawn setup we have and be able to take advantage of the flex daily scheduling.

One note: I did notice the “Rain Skip” didn’t come up as an option for the flex daily schedule (but freeze and wind skips did). I sent a note to Rachio support and Rain skips are apparently automatically included (which makes sense but all the documentation I saw said they had to be checked/unchecked).

Located in North Marin County, California for weather purposes.

Thank You!!!


As long as you are using the same type of head per zone, there should be no need to put how many half, full or quarter sprays per zone. The standard Rachio program considers pop ups as just that.

The brass heads are a higher output than your standard Matched Precipitation Rate or MPR type of heads so you will need to adjust that in the advanced settings.

Since you just installed your new Rachio, we usually recommend “NOT” starting on the flex cycle since your system needs time to adjust to being used and knowing that everything is watered well. Usually 2 weeks is sufficient before you switch to the Flex programs.

If you don’t let it operate for @ 2 weeks, the system will assume that everything is dry from the start and it will start to build up it’s water table amounts.

Your multistream rotator nozzles should be used on the entire zones in which you are intending to install them, otherwise your system will not have a match in precipitation. ie: If you have 12 heads on 1 zone, make all of them the same spray type. Spray with spray, rotators with rotators, rotors with rotors of the same type.

You drip should be controlled to run slightly longer than your spray since spray is measured in Gallons Per Minute whereas drip is rated in Gallons Per Hour.

Try to set the drip to run at a rate where the soil can absorb it without pooling too much. Most applications will require 1/2gph or 1gph drip emitters depending on the plant type.

Drip will generally run out of a filter/regulator that will reduce the drip down to @30 psi for optimal operation.

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