Non-intelligent sprinkler system - change my mind

See this thread:

In that thread, I posted this, back in 2020:
I use a 16 zone Gen 2 (with 13 zones being used) and have for a few years.

I live in Palm Beach County, Florida. We water here year round. I get reclaimed water, so never any water use restrictions, and the water is very cheap.

I tried Flex Daily and Flex Monthly. I really tried to make the scheduling systems work, and spent a lot of time to try and understand how they work, asked a lot of questions on this Community, but in the end found it too complicated, and I finally reached the limit of the amount of time I was willing to dedicate to this.

It has been over a year since I gave up, but I remember playing with the settings and watching the zones percentages of saturation, hoping it would water my grass while I watched it turn brown.

I have a Davis Vantage Due weather station, connected to PWS Weather (PWS_BOCA33432) with a Meteobridge, which is a considerable investment. So my Rachio has the advantage of knowing exactly the amount of rain I am getting, the temperature, wind speed, the humidity, etc., but I still could not figure out how to configure it to keep my grass green.

Unless you live somewhere where there is no rain, I think having your own weather station where you get the exact weather information probably goes at least half way to the goal of saving water and getting your yard the correct amount of water, even if you are on Fixed schedules.

So for now, my Rachio knows if it rained, the wind speed, and somehow it figures out if it is going to rain in the next 24 hours, usually correctly, all from my Davis weather station, and it usually does not run when not needed.

The other thing I have done is to install drip irrigation on everything that can be watered by a drip line, and kept my spray heads in good shape.

I notice that a lot of people that have replied to this post say they are engineers or worked in tech jobs for Sony or Silicon Valley, and even these engineers and technical folks think the system is too complicated. I agree if Rachio wants to be a successful mass market device, it needs to be able to attract people that are not technical and right now is way too complicated for the average consumer. Most people do not want to have to spend the time it would take to understand how to make this work. In my case, I gave it a lot of time, but in the end just reverted to an irrigation timer, but with the benefit of it knowing how much water I get at my exact location.

And I too offer this in the spirit of friendly advice. I want Rachio to be successful.

Thanks for considering my comments.

This resulted in a comment:
Just FYI, your Rachio definitely can/does use the rainfall from your PWS, but none of the other information (from your PWS). That information it gets from larger stations, or multiple stations, but not yours.

And my response:

Your explanation does not agree with what I was previously told when I specifically asked if the forecast came from my PWS or the NWS, or other weather sources.

I was told that Rachio (at least Gen 2) only uses the info from my PWS and “years of weather history that Rachio has on its servers”.

I don’t remember who told that.

This got me looking back at some of my posts. I asked a lot of complicated questions, and one of them was this from June 2018:

If a zone starts a day with current moisture balance of zero, as long as the forecasted rainfall for that day is greater than the evapotranspiration that is expected for that day, that zone will not water. In the case of my zone 5, on June 22, that zone was to end the day with current moisture balance of 0.26. But if it did not rain on June 22, it would end the day again at zero.

So, in that event it would start June 23 at zero (like it did on June 21 and June 22), with rainfall forecast of 0.24 inch and evapotranspiration forecast of 0.13, and it would not water that day either.

Assuming it did not rain on June 23, and if it did not rain on June 24 and June 25, each day would start at zero, but since rainfall for those days is forecast to be higher than evapotranspiration it would never water on those days either.

So, assuming the forecast does not change, and the forecast is wrong and it does not rain, is it possible that this zone would never run as long as this is the situation?

The answer to my question from “theflexdude” was:

Yes, it is definitely possible. We do take probability into consideration, but we can only be as accurate as the data from the weather provider.

My response was:

Perhaps occasionally it would be better to overwater rather than risk this happening. If a zone ends each day at zero for several days, perhaps the system should eventually run even if rain is forecast on, say, the third or fourth day this has happened, even if that were to risk an occasional over-water.

Now that I look back, this problem, and similar complications, may be why I gave up on Flex. I do remember that I had a lot of rain forecast, but it would not usually rain. Perhaps this is unique to SE FL.

You can read the entire thread if you want, there are a lot more comments. But after fooling with it for years, I gave up and just use fixed schedules now.

If you are serious, I do recommend that you install your own weather station. There are simpler weather stations than the Davis, which will not directly talk to the various weather web sites (needs something called a meteobridge to do that, which is expensive or complicated to implement) but having the exact rainfall is very helpful, compared with the typical rain sensor that you can buy for the typical irrigation timer.

Hope this has been of some help to you.



Eric, from Eric…thanks. I think you have gone down the rabbit hole that I didn’t want to spend time in. The concept is great, but I believe there are simply too many variables for the system to get this right - especially if it isn’t accurately using soil moisture measurements, actual rainfall data on my property, and real world temperature measurements.

It reminds me of the idea people have that we can predict global climate based on models that are barely anchored in real data and are attempting to project out decades. As one who works with models of massive data on a daily basis, I know the futility of that!

I’ll probably just move to fix schedules and enjoy the remote features and pretty interface. I needed to replace my old controller anyway b/c it was going wonky, so I didn’t jump to this just to be a “smart home” geek. :wink:

Note, I do have a drip/mister system on my landscaping berm that finely controls the water out put there to the ground/plants directly.


Rachio is completely dependent on ACCURATE DATA. Give it rubish and it produces rubish.

That may be in the form of the settings you give it for your zones - the sizes, grass and soil types, the nozzle inches per hour etc …

It’s also dependent on accurate data from a weather station. You are admitting that your neighbours PWS’s are unreliable, so you have little option but to install your own imo.

If a zone says it’s 95% full, then it can only reach that conclusion based on the settings you gave it. How many mins of watering did it get to go to 95%

Post a screenshot of a zones’ advanced settings, and also a history chart.


Yep, I’m in the same boat as you. I’m an engineer with 30+ years experience writing software and debugging embedded systems, but I was unable to get my Rachio controller to work as intended. You’ll get lots of comments stating “all you gotta do…”, but the software is buggy, the user interface is non-intuitive, and I have other projects that I get paid for to fix.

I just use it as a dumb controller with fixed times that I can monitor remotely.

Best of luck.


Just a note regarding your comment saying you can go to fixed. Fixed is great for some of us. I actually bought my Rachio about 6 years ago, with the intent of using fixed. I live in Northern California on the edge of the Central Valley. We get pretty much no rain throughout the entire summer, however, the temperatures do fluctuate and it gets really hot, typically beginning in July through at least September. I have rain, freeze, and wind skips turned on and truly don’t have to worry because Rachio worry’s about the skip items as well as the temps. As the thermometer rises, Rachio makes routine adjustment to compensate for the increase heat, adding more water, and as it comes into October and cooler weather, it reduces the volume of water. Pretty simple.

This year we got hit with some radically high temps for 5-6 days straight and even though Rachio made proper adjustments, I felt compelled to hand water as well. As a side note, I use a moisture gauge to verify the lawn and plants have enough water. At this point, my lawn and garden are in great shape with minimal water and little effort.

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@ttueric, I went through ALL your posts that you have made since you have been here, and you have never posted a topic asking for help in setting up your yard. Your only topic that you started other than this one was " New Rachio - no plans to water my lawn" in which you initially assumed that Rachio was going to automatically create schedules for you just by plugging the system in. Now, I’m in no way questioning your ability, but do you think there may in fact be a chance that you don’t have your settings quite right?

Based on this information, I’m going to assume that you don’t in fact have things set up correctly, since base on your verbiage, I assume you have rotors, and those will most likely have a lower precipitation rate. So…I might suggest (which was suggested in your previous post I believe) to create a post with screen shots of your zone settings (both standard and advanced), and give us some details about the make and model of your sprinklers. If you aren’t interested or willing to do a meter read or catch cup, we can at least try to dial things in with manufacturer settings.

Sorry to say, but half the data Rachio is using to calculate is user input…it has to know accurate details of your yard to function properly. No way around it.

Yes, this would help with actual rainfall totals, but doesn’t change the forecasting. But, a properly set up Flex schedule will adjust if the forecast is incorrect. Numerous times I get a notification that a schedule will run/not run due to a change in the forecast. Flex Daily schedules check for weather conditions within the hour before a run and will adjust accordingly.

So are you on Flex Daily or Flex Monthly schedules? Flex Monthly or Fixed would be the only schedules with seasonal shifts, if you set that up when you created the schedule. Both flex schedules can work very well if set up correctly, but Flex Monthly isn’t nearly as fluid as Flex Daily and is kind of a hybrid between a Flex Daily and Fixed schedule. If you don’t have watering restrictions, I’d always recommend Flex Daily over Monthly.

Like tmcgahey, I live in Arizona and have a single system on a xeriscape lot running drip irrigation. No lawn for conscious reasons.
My experience seems to be that the irrigation only gets delayed after “measured” rainfall based on the WI+ or local PWS selected. It does not move based on predicted rainfall.

We have hot, dry months where the irrigation frequency is often but during the monsoon season the water frequency pushes back based on rainfall.
In the cooler dry months the watering frequency is more spread out due to the lower evapotranspiration expected.

I’m with OP. The Rachio has some sort of database corruption or math issue. I have another thread detailing it and I’ve found more examples. I have a Flex Monthly that thinks I my trees need water less than once a month, and never in august. In California. So yeah. Worse than useless since it killed a good number of plants by underwatering and is now over-watering.

Many poweruser fans of the product try to defend it, suggesting user error. I’m extremely technical and I can see bad code here. You simply can’t work around unpredictable code. It’s the opposite of easy to use and it treads the fine line between bad for people who don’t like a lot of setup AND bad for people who are detail oriented.

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The thing that got me initially was there’s basically 2 sets of settings “easy” mode and “advanced”, but it’s not clear which are which and what role they play. Once you do understand that, the system works pretty well. I think it still doesn’t do as good of a job with forecasting as it could, but it does water less after a rain.

As was already stated, you do need an accurate/representative weather station to base your sun and rain on.

Then you get your irrigation and soil settings right, then tweak your coeff to match real life soil evaporation rates. It will probably take a while season to really get the numbers dialed in so you are watering just right, unless you don’t care about wasting water then it’s a bit easier.

I, too, am a Controls Engineer and still found the settings non intuitivate and frustrating at first.

All lawn schedules are flex daily

are you saying you have a fixed schedule, but Rachio adjusts it as needed? I’ve not seen that on my one plant fixed schedule.

Well, this goes back to the initial setup. It’s really not clear that’s what you have to do. But once I figured it out it was easy enough. Certainly don’t question my ability, like others on here I’m an engineer that’s worked with devices for decades. And like others the problem with this is…does it want to be a “Mac” that just works and any noob can use it, or does it want to be a custom-built PC that takes someone who knows the innards of how it’s designed and want to tweak the settings constantly to get it to work right? Only one of those is good for the mass market, and I’ve tried to use it that way putting in detailed data. It simply isn’t smart enough to do the job. maybe if I was in an areas that had temperate climate and regular rainfall it would do okay, but that’s rarely my environment in the summer.

I do in fact have things set up correctly. Yes, I have rotors (Hunter PGPs to be exact) for most of the yard, with different nozzles inserts for different parts of the yard - based on the throw and how often the arc does a full sweep. I also have a few pop-up heads (rainbird) in one small section, and my landscape berm is a mix of droppers and misters. ALL of that is input correctly into my different Zones. I know my irrigation quite well as I helped a friend who used to own a landscaping business install it after our house was built. I dug the trenches, laid the pipe, put on the heads, etc. Much of it I have modified over the years as we’ve added fences, planted trees, etc. Thus the 12’ trench I dug last weekend.

So, regarding user input, I’ve given it loads of correct data. And the reason you don’t see me posting asking about how to set it up is that after that first mess up on the schedules, I went into the Rachio pages and these forums to find out the answers to questions I had regarding setup details. I’ve only come here when I’ve had an issue that I couldn’t find, or for this thread, trying to see if there is something I’m missing. As others who have already spent significant time fiddling with their controllers have pointed out here, that’s doubtful.

Regarding flex daily (which I’m on) and forecasting. Yes, I have had it NOT run a few times when it had accurate data of rainfall that had occurred. BUT when it did that, we were already in a drought and those 0.3" of rain we got barely got the top of the ground wet and I STILL needed significantly more water. I have had to manually control the stations so many times now that it just makes more sense to go with a fixed schedule and forget it.

When did I admit that? I think what I said is that there is a station close to me that when I have checked it mostly matches the conditions at my house. It’s the most accurate data to feed to Rachio since using the mass-blob of data is useless for this area.

See my response below in terms of your “rubbish” comment. I have provided it tons of detailed data about my zones, the irrigation system, the soil, etc. on that zone that said 95% - it had watered 2 days prior, for 30 mins. And before that, it had been over a week!!! How it calculated that it got that much soil moisture (with no additional rain occurring) with such little watering is beyond me - but it had nothing to do with the data I provided it.

There are THOUSANDS of yard configurations out there, some with really well designed irrigation systems, some with really poorly designed systems. No denying Flex Daily is a very advanced watering system, so yes, it is going to take some knowledge and time to set it up to maximize its function.

I’m not really denying that you know what type of sprinklers you have, but do you know the actual output of your particular sprinklers, in your particular yard in inches per hour? If you just selected Rotors, but left the default inches per hour setting, the default settings in Rachio seem to be a solid average of what is in the market. As you mentioned, there are different nozzles for your rotors, and your particular GPM Hunter Nozzle might end up putout out more/less inches per hour than a Rainbird nozzle, K-Rain nozzle, or Toro Nozzle of similar GPM. There can be MASSIVE differences in other types of nozzle types, spray nozzles especially.

I’m in Phoenix, Arizona. I surly don’t have a temperate climate, and CERTAINLY don’t get regular rainfall, we’ve has 145 days over 100 degrees, and probably under 6" of rainfall…and mine has been doing great for over 6 years now…Ignore the overgrown shrubs. I haven’t been home for a weekend in over a month. :crazy_face:

At the end of the day, I promise you it can, and does work. Yes, Flex Daily take effort, but I firmly believe it is the most advanced scheduling system on the market today.

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Yes, I am saying Rachio makes seasonal adjustments. As the heat increases, Rachio changes the watering time, increase with heat and decreases when cooler (winter) season moves in. Prior to getting Rachio I would simply turn off my irrigation system during the winter. Which may not be the best thing do do, depending on whether it’s a wet or dry season. With Rachio, I leave it on and it make the reductions in watering time as the season progresses. Love it!

My Rachio system watered yesterday and this morning even though it rained all day yesterday. I had to skip the run once I heard it start up. Frustrating.

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I think this is what I need for southeast AZ watering. I am on the Flex Monthly and the plants are not getting enough water.

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Glad you are having success. Do you think Rachio sells its system to people by telling them it could take them weeks or months to tweak all the settings to get it just right for their particular yard?

What kind of grass do you have?

I’d like to know how to change those. As I said in my initial post, summer isn’t over and the heat of it certainly isn’t here in AL - but adjustments have already been made behind the scenes for me.

Who says it has to take weeks or months? For every person that comes onto the support forums with issues, I guarantee there are 1000 out there working well.

I have Bermuda grass in the warm months, and overseed a rye grass in the winter.