We have plenty of pressure and capacity and have been running multiple zones for years using two agricultural grade pumps. Our system is professionally designed to allow relatively precise watering of different grape varietals that are each in separate zones and need to run for different amounts of time (can’t be wired together). Since blocks run for 4 hours it takes a full 24 hours to cycle through six blocks serially with Rachio. While this drip is running no other irrigation can take place and no water features (fountains, misters) on the property can operate irrespective of the low water volume they consume. It is frustrating that a MODERN, full-featured controller such as Rachio is using an archaic model that assumes each zone fully consumes all of the capacity and pressure available in the system. I would guess that most installed drip systems today use far less than the full capacity of the system per zone and could be safely operated simultaneously. Hunter and others have products with multi-zone support, but lack Rachio’s sophistication. Sorry for the rant, but this one seems so easy to solve in software.
I would not say Rachio is archaic. It is for residential use and not agricultural use, for typical landscapes. Hunters ICORE and ACC controllers can run two zones, but they are not smart controllers unless you add a Solar sync which is not very great. To move up to the ability to run multiple zones, then you are looking at products like Irritrol’s Rainmaster Eagle plus with zip ET. That product’s cost is about $2000.00. Others include Hydropoint, Tucor or Netafim. Some of these require a data plan or subscription service. I understand your frustration. Rachio is a trail blazer. The rest of the industry has been very slow to offer anything that you need, but also be affordable.
Rachio is not archaic at all. I love it, just wish it did not use an outdated model for zone control that does not match the way drip systems use water today. Even at my residence (not the ag property) I have six drip zones that can easily be run at the same time. I just don’t get the rationale that prevents this in a modern system with a good UI. My current system uses a home automation controller to drive the sprinkler relays to achieve the desired result - but it is time to upgrade and I’d really like a product with Rachio’s feature set at the heart of the solution. Again - 5500 people have viewed this thread, it is one of the most popular on the forum - so I don’t think my request is a total outlier.
Have you considered combining drip zones?
All zones that are combined need to run for the same amount of time. That’s not what I want to do. In any case, combining zones requires the controller to supply solenoid current (300ma) for every zone that is on. I don’t know the limits on Rachio but have typically seen a limit of 2 or 3 zones on other controllers. A software solution would be highly preferable. All that would be needed is some sort of metric for each zone to indicate the % of system capacity consumed. This does not need a ton of precision - I’d be thrilled with a granularity of 33 or 25% (allowing up to 3 or 4 zones to be active). Full capacity zones like sprinklers would get a rating of 100%, lower capacity zones could be 25, 33, 50, 66 or 75%. Zones could be combined as desired until the capacity limit is reached. Per @plainsane above, if the current limit of Rachio is 1.5A then 4 solenoids @300ma would seem a safe limit. It just does not seem that hard.
The ability to have multiple zones active at once would also enable some very limited control of water features (fountains) and lighting. Yes these can be done through an HA system, but even on my property with over 150 HA controlled devices there are multiple instances of sprinkler wire being in the right place to get the job done where electrical control wires are not present.
It sounds like Rachio’s abilities do not meet your needs. Buy a separate lighting transformer and controller. Your nerds are exceeding product capabilities.
I would love to run multiple zones at once!
I’ve partially replaced my sprinkler heads with low-flow Hunter MP Rotators so now irrigation takes about 2.5 times longer but meanwhile, I have about 1.5 spare flow/pressure. In my particular case (80 psi at the valves) I could run three zones at once.
I plus one this request!
@Rodrigo thank you for the feedback, that’s a great setup! My concern would be users who don’t have your pressure/nozzle set up would not understand the risks of multiple zones running at once, and would inadvertently do so which would negatively affect their system. Any ideas on how to safe guard this? It’s my main concern when we talk about this feature request, just curious if there are any ideas out there!
Hi McKynzee, your concern is very valid. I too am a system designer and often have to choose whether to expose the full capability of the system or to constrain the interface to prevent users from hurting themselves.
A proper implementation of this feature would be very beneficial in supporting more efficient heads sprinkler heads and watering times/periods recommended for the common lawn. One of Rachio’s main selling points is the conservation of water and supporting users to retrofit their systems with the higher water-efficiency of the MP rotors would be in line with your mission. Doing so in a way that allows running a full ~6 zone cycle in less than 3 hours would enable early morning watering as recommended—for me the reason that this became noticeable is that I had to advance the start of my water cycle to 4 AM so that it would finish by ~9 AM.
Anyway, I see these possibilities:
- For users that have a flow meter, the system could be smart enough to detect how many zones it can open while staying below some flow-rate threshold that is known to happen at an appropriate pressure. Probably very few users have flow meters, but I like to explore all options.
- For users who create custom sprinkler heads with low irrigation rates (as the MP rotors), offer the “Advanced” possibility of grouping multiple zones together, and present very explicit warning about doing this. Such warning could include a full setup walkthrough that informs the user of the risk of losing pressure, forces her to run an actual test and confirm that the sprinkler heads in the grouped zones operate as expected before enabling the grouped zones. In other words, the App/website would not let you exit the setup window/popup before the user confirms that the group is actually working.
I hope this helps,
I, too, would like to have the option to run multiple zones at once. And my use case appears unique versus the others presented here.
I have lived in my current Austin, Texas based home for 6 years and installed a Rachio 8 zone controller last year.
The house is 30 years old and has 5 zones across 1/3 acre. It only has 2 zones in the backyard.
I recently turned a sprinkled shrub bed into a small garden plot and I want to subdivide the large zone in half. Unfortunately, the garden bed is at a point roughly 60 feet from the existing control valve and splitting the feed line there or somewhere prior to the garden isn’t feasible because it travels under steps and a slab for pool equipment (as best I can tell). The garden is the first area in the zone and this weekend I ran a control wire from my Rachio panel to a new control valve I installed just after the garden in an easily access area under a deck.
My plan was to water the garden more often than the rest of the oversized zone by leaving the second (in serial) valve closed unless I wanted to water the entire zone.
Suffice it to say, that I was very disappointed to learn after my installation efforts that this isn’t supported by my Rachio controller.
After reading this thread I fully understand the possible downsides of my approach, but would still love to have it as an option, albeit imperfect.
Are there any plans to develop the software to handle multiple zones being on at the same time or did I naively waste many hours this weekend?
Thanks in advance for any feedback on the product roadmap and any ideas of a workaround to my current frustrating predicament.
As we are on reclaimed water we are limited to the time we have to water. This would really be helpful.
@Rodrigo I think both of the solutions you provided are excellent options, I love the smarts we could include in the idea involving a flow sensor. I agree there are less users with flow sensors, however I think that option is a little more powerful? But both are great solutions.
@DTWinters I’m having trouble understanding the layout of your irrigation system, do you mind explaining it to me again? I would hate to hear you wasted any time, hopefully we can make something work!
Thanks for the quick reply.
My 30 year old sprinkler system has a very large backyard zone. I now have a garden bed at the start of that zone. The original valve is roughly 70 feet away in the front yard.
This past weekend I added a new valve just after the garden bed on an easily accessed pipe. I wired this to a new zone on my Rachio controller installed last summer.
My intent was to work this second valve in concert with the original valve so the garden could be watered more often than the entire zone. This would save a lot of water.
In my desired future state:
- Water garden only -> original zone powered on, new zone left off
- Water entire zone including garden -> original valve powered on and new valve powered on simultaneously.
Does that better explain my failed plan? Might there be dev underway that could meet that need or perhaps a workaround?
Thank you for that, I understand now! What are the other three zones that you have (not including the backyard or the new garden bed?)
There are four other zones; one additional backyard zone covering the lawn and another three in the front yard.
All the control valves are in the front yard and not convenient to splitting off an entirely new zone.
@DTWinters, I’m thinking there is a way that you could use two zones and a normally open double pole single throw relay (24VAC NO DPST) to accomplish this. One zone would trigger just the Garden zone and the other zone would trigger the relay which would connect both the Garden and the remainder of the backyard zone. This way the Garden only zone wouldn’t trigger the remainder of the backyard as the relay would block the current coming from the Garden zone and not let it energize the backyard zone. I’ll the the more electrical savy folks comment. The other side of the relay coil would be connected to the common on the Rachio. I don’t know if the relay coil and the two solenoids would overload the Rachio as the Rachio can drive multiple circuits at once as master pump circuit would be one and the active zone would be two (you’re not using the master pump circuit are you?).
@DTWinters, if I’m understanding correctly, you effectively want to make the shrub/garden valve into a master valve for the subdivided half, which would have a slave valve?
We might be able to make something work using a Doubler provided you ran a multi-strand wire with at least 2 wires from the valve box with the “master” valve to the “slave” valve as noted above.
@DLane, Thanks for your ideating. In answer to your question, I am not currently using the master pump circuit.
@emil, Thanks to you also for your ideating. That Doubler device appears very useful even as I still can’t get my arms around how it actually works. I do think your explanation of master and slave does explain my use case.
Restating the desired use case differently, I am looking to add a second inline valve that when closed would limit watering to just the first section of an existing zone. That first zone is a garden bed that would be watered more frequently than the remaining larger section.
Your combined ideating has sparked a new idea on my part:
What if the first zone powers only the first valve and I double lug the second valve and a pigtailed first valve lead to a second zone on the Rachio controller?
In theory, when the first zone is powered on only the first valve would open and water would be limited to the first garden bed. When the second zone is powered on both valves would open providing water to the garden bed and all the other heads of the entire zone.
Is this possible or would the power flow back from the pigtailed first valve lead back to the Rachio lugged second valve lead causing the second valve to always be open when either zone is powered on?
I do have extra conductors available on the wire going to the new valve if that could help.
Thanks in advance for your continued assistance. I feel like we are close to solving this puzzle.
Master, Zone and Sub-Zones
@DTWinters, I believe the current would flow from the first valve down the pigtail to the second valve, so the second valve would be on all the time. That was actually my first idea and I had the post all typed up and then I realized the current would flow back through the jumper/pigtail connection and always power the second valve. I’ll try to draw up a schematic for you, it was late the other night. Is your controller inside or outside in a weather proof box (just trying to figure out where I can put the relay)?