Need Outdoor Cellular Unit

There is a great need for a Rachio that would use cellular service at a reasonable cost for installations that are without Wi-Fi. As far as I know, none of the major manufacturers offer a smart controller for the HOA, light commercial markets that waste so much water. I suggest Rachio develop a prototype with the same software and app, but the controller must have faceplate for basic setup and installation with an LCD display, buttons and dials. And use cellular connectivity. Maybe some of you high tech guys can give some ideas. There are products out there like Rain Master, HydroPoint that have this but pricing is $1k plus.

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Hey @robertokc-

Would we need the LCD display for programming if you could connect via cellular and program from your phone?

McKynzee :rachio:

@robertokc that would be a great product. I’m on the Board of my HOA (1158 single family homes), and we have over 30 different controllers for our Common and Recreation areas. Unfortunately, we also have a mix of wired and battery powered controllers, due to remote locations.
Just a commercial unit with the features you mentioned would be fine. I think that web / mobile access without an included screen would be fine. Everybody has a smart phone today, especially the supervisor of a landscaping team.
Our $40,000 annual water budget could be much better spent by properly watering with a commercial Rachio device, plus our extensive landscaping would be in much better condition.
I will say this: commercial and public (park) facilities have very generic watering setups. We have pop up sprinklers in most places that are performing double duty watering grass, plus the trees planted within the grass strips. Programming zones is going to be tricky in these circumstances.

I can tell you it is very important to have an LCD display and buttons or knobs if this is to be installed in an HOA or light commercial setting - if for any other reason but to do a test cycle. I know Rachio wants to be different, but in this market you must compromise and have the same features as the “big boys.” One concept would to not allow any changes be made at the controller- that any setting would managed by a landscspe company manager or something like that. The number one reason contractors shy away from Rachio is they think itvis too complex. Your wholesale irrigation distributors need more technical help, too. It is so much easier for them to sell Hunter and Rain Bird all day.

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I did a sprinkler checkup at an HOA todau that used 1.8 million gallons of water from (3) 10 station controllers during 2016… The overwatering here is off the charts. It was due to controller programming errors - adding a second start time, but not splitting run times in half. So some rotor zones were running 70 minutes total - four times a week.
Hope Rachio will develop something that is excellent for HOAs and light commercial.

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1.8 million gallons :scream: I agree there is an opportunity for an incredible amount of savings in those commercial settings, it’s just a big shift in markets, and will require a good amount of research and preparation.

I understand. Honestly believe its just a matter of using cellular versus wifi. Technology is available.


The addition of a cellular radio would be a huge advantage and would greatly increase who I can sell a controller to. I have to disagree with you on the need to have controls on the unit. If you include all settings it makes the interface incredibly complex and if you only include basic controls it makes it confusing. You can always buy a $50 table and mount it next to the controller on the wall. Contractors really need to evolve, but I am fine with them being afraid of technology because it sets me apart in the field.

I would love to see the inclusion of a cellar radio. Software support tailored to the commercial market isn’t necessary to complete in that market. Most controllers where I would like to use a rachio would be replacing a 16 or less zone rain bird controller that is not utilizing any commercial lever features.

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My idea for faceplate dials and LCD display would be just for manual operation or a basic set up (start time, run times) at a new installation without worrying about all the app settings. The homeowner would then load the app and proceed with setting up the controller. I constantly hear comments from contractors that no faceplate control is a deal breaker. The buttons under the current panel are clunky to use. I would say if Rachio won’t do faceplate control, they could at least place a sticker in English and Spanish that gives instructions on basic setup. But I don’t think these buttons can set up odd or even watering, which are the rules here. Does this sound like something you would agree. Rachio is competing against Hunter, Irritrol, Rain Bird and Toro. Need some compromise to pick up more market share.

@robertokc I think you make a good point. If the cellular connection is for HOA, commercial, or municipalities, it makes sense. Weathematic has SmartLink. I’ve not used it, but have a friend who likes it because it’s not Wi-Fi. I personally don’t like subscription fees. But the non-residential market could sustain and justify it.

I don’t think Rachio needs an LCD faceplate or any more buttons than the Gen 2 has. But I do like what ETwater did with the HermitCrab. It’s ability to utilize existing controllers and add a module to make it a smart controller. A retrofit module that ties into an existing controllers remote ports is, I think, a great idea. Doing this for the residential market may help the end users (homeowners, irrigation contractors) transition into the current smart controller market. Plus, you would still have access to the LCD, button, and dials.

That being said, the longer it takes other irrigators to catch up to this paradigm shift in thinking about smart controllers, the better for me. I love it!

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I agree with you. The fees for Weathermatic Smarylink are insane. And do not get me started on ET Water. If Rachio would just allow the owner to pay a cellular charge through a carrier then that is all that is needed.

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I haven’t yet have the oportunity to do this, but I think just leaving the original controller in place and just running from each terminal to the rachio seems like a good idea. I had an HOA I proposed this to because they have a homeowner that does some work on the system and they were worried about other contractors not being comftorable with Rachio. The original controller would just have to be left off. You could also run the power for the rachio form the old controller thereby eliminating the need to connect another power source.

If I worked in the sprinkler market, here’s what I’d do to address 1.8M gallon usage, $40,000 water bills, etc. This suggestion requires no changes to Rachio’s units and is implementable immediately.

Rachio clearly says it wants to be a s/w company. Thus, don’t wait to proceed until you can get h/w enhancements from Rachio (LCD screen face, other things mentioned above, etc.) There’s no reason to not proceed now.

I work in energy monitoring and reduction areas. For our real time energy monitoring, we use a ‘black box’ approach exactly as Rachio does. The ‘black box’ has connected wires, it does processing, and it needs an Internet connection to function properly.

Most of the time we connect our ‘black box’ to the customer’s Internet connection. But sometimes, the customer won’t allow for this, or there isn’t an Internet connection available. In this case we use a Wi-Fi to/from cellular communications ‘box.’ Work fabulously well.

We use CradlePoint’s COR IBR600 Series units - . We don’t bother with external antennas - performance in metropolitan cities where you have Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, etc. is excellent.

We buy our units through distribution so I don’t know cost on retail market. I looked on Amazon - - $645. A bargain for HOAs and commercial properties and areas where there’s acres and acres to be watered.

Slip in a SIM card, spend 5 minutes configuring the WiFi to ‘talk’ to the Rachio Iro, and you too are now in the business of running a sprinkler controller network without any wires. And it’s doable this moment - no need to wait for anyone to go cut that 1.8M gallons, or that $40K bill.

Put the Rachio in ‘automatic’ mode (flex daily), configure the Rachio, and 'let ‘er rip.’

You will run up on two problems, not unexpectedly:

  1. You’ll have zones where flowers are planted simultaneously in the same zones as trees, shrubs, etc. You’ll have to go add valves, etc. to create more zones to avoid over watering the trees/shrubs or underwatering the flowers. (This isn’t a limitation of Rachio - it’s a fundamental rule of correct sprinkler system design.)

  2. You may end up needing more that 16 zone controllers (i.e. see above) or encountering more than 16 zone controllers. As has been said numerous times here this is a limitation of Rachio controllers (currently).

There’s no reason to not get on with these 1.8M gallon / $40K situation. Rachio in automated mode will probably save a lot of water.

Best regards,



I tried to convince my HOA last year to go with rachio. I had a spreadsheet showing even with the cost of cellular there be significant water savings. They were not sold on it and I was going to set everything up myself

There are two problems here that have to be overcome before HOA’s will put in a Rachio w/ a cellular internet connection.

1.) Good HOAs do all of their business via a property management company. This way the HOA only has one party to deal with for implementation and maintenance of all HOA expected acitivities.

A resident such as yourself (ghctim) means well, probably will do a good job, but if you move away or something else the HOA is left with something it may not be able to operate.

What you need to do is ask the HOA to implement the idea via a company like mine, that understands cellular data connections for monitoring and control of systems. This way the HOA is happy because it’s got a warrantied product and implementation, the property management company is happy because it’s simply gone off and executed the instructions of the HOA, and the members are happy because HOA dues are much lower due to the water savings.

2.) The current Rachio interface is frightening, not ready for usage by those other than hobbyists who will put up with the interface difficulties. IE users face upwards of 30 seconds response time for certain screen to screen transactions, IE users are faced with being told the responsiveness can only be fixed given willingness to mess with their computers to install a different browser, like Chrome, or abandon IE browser usage in favor of smartphones.

It takes a million keystrokes to get information like soil saturation or forecasted rain or rain so far. And the algorithms used for automatic watering are hard to understand in layman terms (what do I change to increase amount of water, increase frequency, etc.

I just don’t think Rachio, as it’s currently available, is ready for HOA, commercial, parks and municipality usage yet.

Best regards,


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I agree with everything you say. The abilities of most contractors in Oklahoma are below average. There are too many cooks in the kitchen with HOAs. I deal with them all the time. But I think there are light commercial sites where Rachio could work, but they need the water management expertise of someone like you. Hydro-Rain, Rain Bird, Hunter, Skydrop all have an LCD display. Rachio lacks an LCD display and faceplate buttons or knobs. This is the single reason why contractors choose other products for residential installations. This is the disconnect between Rachio’s cool features and the reality of the typical contractor. Of course, contractors will make excuses for anything.

The real benefit of Rachio including cellular radio is in managing the service agreement and hardware at volume. $600 for the hardware and $250 for the service a year may make sense on a $40,000 water bill but not on a well system or $1,000 water usage system. If I could find service for low volume data usage sims from some provider for around $5 a month I could use a $100 hotspot and it begins to make sense.

There are companies like ET Water and Hydropoint that make their living off charging ridiculous service fees. It would seem all that is needed is some basic AT&T cellular service that does not have voice. I saw an AT&T ad that showed cellular service interacting with a soil sensor in a field of cotton. There is a solution for the controller that is too far from a home’s wifi.

There are companies who package this stull up such that everything the Rachio G2 needs is next to it. On top of the pole is the solar panel. Inside the ‘gray box’ on the pole is the inverter for the solar panel, a battery, and the CradlePoint or equivalent. All nicely engineered to ‘play’ exceptionally well to provide power and internet to the Rachio out in the middle of nowhere.

A little more expensive than what a residential owner would spend, but, ungodly cost effective for those properties putting out 40K gallons/year or spending $18M/year.