Rainbird ESP to Rachio install

Hi everyone,

About to switch out my Rainbird 16 zone, for Rachio 3.

Any tips / anything I need to be aware of when doing so?


  1. Before disconnecting anything, check to see if all zones work
  2. Find out about what sensor you have. I suggest labeling, removing, and repeat #1. I would not be concerned about connecting it to Rachio until maybe later. If it is a rain sensor especially, most end up not using it because of the built-in weather forecasting, etc.
  3. It looks like you might have 11 out of 16 zones hooked up (hard to tell exactly) and maybe some of the zone might have more than one wire connected (again, hard to tell). I do not know how many zones your Rachio has, but if you have room and no plans to expand, I personally would consider splitting the wires that have multiple connections to any particular zone. I would test the individual zone wires separately to make sure everything works.
  4. While you are at it, testing all the zones, I would consider making at least a rough map so everything is documented
  5. I see Valve Test (VT) or Master Valve/Pump (MV), so nothing to do here
  6. Take pictures (done), first removing power from Rainbird (do not connect to Rachio, you will use its supplied power adapter), and label before (or as) removing wires
  7. Move wires to the corresponding terminal on the Rachio. The multiple COM wires do not need to be connected to the same C terminals, so I would put one per terminal. At least some of the wires look a bit long, so I would clean that up a little while moving them
  8. Connect the Rachio power supply
  9. If you have not already, install the app
  10. Retest all the zones, probably naming the zones as you go

If during testing especially before moving wires, you might want to come back here to see what to do next. You might want to diagnose issues early so you know you are starting from a clean slate. If you do not do that, you might get frustrated with Rachio even though it is not Rachio’s doing. It does seem like sometimes even moving wires will cause issues such as a wire breaking that you do not notice.

Hopefully I did not miss anything and others will jump in here.

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Thanks for the detailed help!! I’m going to try switching things early next week. I have 9 sprinkler zones and 2 drip. Everything is “working” ok on the Rainbird (we just started it up again for the year).

Great, let us know how it goes if you will please

I think Thomas Lerman’s response covered it well. I converted a 22 zone RainBird system that had 3 cables with repeating colors and I labeled everything obsessively. My wires were too short so I did a patch panel type thing which worked out great. After it was all labeled and organized the actual wire moving took only a few minutes.
Depends on your weather but most of our summer rain is from thunderstorms that the Rachio weather network doesn’t get right so in my case I’d absolutely hook up the rain sensor.

Good point @DAC, the very localized thunderstorms could make a big difference.

I’m labeling them all now.

Any idea why zone 1-3 and 11 would have much thinner, multi-colored wire?

Also, the sensor seems to be only a single wire with red/black ie not powered?

I swapped out my homebuilder-provided Rainbird ESP-ME3 controller for a Rachio 3 last year and it was straightforward. Thomas_Lerman provided a very good, detailed list of what to do. Seeing that many of your zones have red wires, labeling them before disconnecting is important!

For the sensor that is connected to your Rainbird, if it is a rain sensor, I suggest you check out this page before re-wiring: Rain Sensors FAQ

I have a rain sensor and eventually disabled it within the app, since activation notifications were a nuisance and the Rachio does such a good job of integrating local weather information (I am using the Flex Daily schedule and am connected to a local personal weather station).

I hope this helps, and best of luck!

Great, thanks @heckcj !

What’s been your experience with switching to Flex Daily Schedule?

I think it worked brilliantly last year. My grass remained green and healthy, and based on my casual observations, my irrigation system ran at least half as much as my neighbor’s (still on the Rainbird controllers).

I did make sure I put as much information as possible when defining the zones (under the “Advanced” section when editing the zone) to try and ensure the Rachio had a good basis for calculating the soil moisture content.

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I tried the flex daily for most of a summer and it really is annoyingly random sometimes presumably because it’s getting bad weather data from somewhere because I know for a fact the advanced zone settings are as correct as the app allows. Sometimes it just keeps skipping waterings despite hot, dry weather pattern and lawn burning up or it pours rain for a few hours and sprinklers come on anyway. I much prefer the monthly flex or even manual schedule and I just tweak things as needed based on what the weather has been doing and how the yard looks. However I have no doubt that in some areas daily flex performs well.