Setting up Rachio to Control Sprinklers W/O an Irrigation System


#1

Hi there, my name is Eric M. and I’m a CX Supervisor on the Rachio support team. I’m a huge home automation geek and have been trying to figure out how to use my Rachio without investing in an expensive in-ground irrigation system. This is especially important to me because I live in a rental house, so investing a lot of money into a house that’s not mine seems crazy. Below, I’ve outlined how I use my Rachio with Samsung SmartThings to control my sprinklers through the Rachio interface.

For this to work, you need:

SmartThings Hub
Water Valves
Rachio Irrigation Controller
Sprinkler Heads
Hoses

Part 1: Set up the Rachio app

The first thing to do is set up the Rachio app as you normally would.

 Weather Station			       Zones				      Schedules

I simply set up my zones, weather station and schedules as I would if it was on an irrigation system. We have a lot of rain here in the Portland area so it’s not watering too much right now!

Part 2: Smart Valves and Sprinklers

I have some Waxman Leaksmart valves that I got for free, so I figured I’d put them to use to automate my dumb sprinklers. With some simple fittings from Home Depot, I was able to connect it to my hose bib and hose.

	Valve

I then set up a series of hoses and impact sprinkler heads around my front and backyard.

Part 3: SmartThings and Rachio

After getting my Rachio and sprinklers set up, I had to get Rachio integrated with my SmartThings as well as get the link set up.

The first thing to do is to set up Rachio in SmartThings. Once set up, it shows as switch like valve devices.

Then, I set up 4 routines, one to turn on each sprinkler valve and one to turn off each sprinkler valve. I only have 2 valves so one is for the front and one is for the back as shown in the images above.

Once that was set up, I grabbed a custom SmartApp from the SmartThings Community called “Switch Activates Hello Home Phrase”.

I set that up to run my Start routine when the zone is turned on and to run the Stop routine when the zone is turned off. The Rachio integration is pretty instant when it starts running in Rachio. I noticed about a second or less delay from manually running the zone in Rachio to when SmartThings updated the zone’s status.

Part 4: It’s complete!

Once all that is set up, every time Rachio runs a zone, the corresponding routine will run and start/stop the sprinklers! The zones are essentially synced with my valves, so any time that zone runs for any reason in Rachio, it will turn those valves on in SmartThings.


32 mm valve
Real drip irrigation from scratch
#2

@IoTEric, we might need to make you our full time hacker! Thanks for sharing your solution. I was curious how much you’d ballpark this setup to cost to someone and how long it took to install?


#3

Eric, you are the man.


#4

Anytime!

For pricing, the SmartThings hub is $80, water valves are about $100-$200 each depending on which one you go with. Nice thing about SmartThings is that they have generic handlers for devices and you can connect any Z-Wave or Zigbee valve to the hub.

The hoses cost about $100 for my 2 yards. I went with some cheaper hoses. For the Sprinkler heads, they were about $40 total (Home Depot has a 2 pack of impact heads on spikes for $8).

Finally, an 8 Zone Rachio is $199.99.

So I’d say from scratch, for my lawns (which are both fairly large), it would cost around $700 for the Rachio, ST hub, valves, sprinkler heads and hoses. In comparison when I got an estimate to put in irrigation, it was around $3000+


#5

I set up something similar several years ago (pre-Rachio) using 1/2" polyethylene (black) tubing and mist fittings. It worked great. Eventually I even went so far as to use in-ground lawn sprinkler heads with some bits of PVC and barb fittings. The spray points for those were ‘near enough’ to locations with the black hose that I only had to dig a hole for the head and about a 2" run-up trench to it. The rest of the hose was hidden under mulch.

This time around, however, we went with a fully in-ground setup with an 8-zone Rachio. It’s been fantastic. Right now only 5 zones are in use. Next spring I plan on adding the back yard and some misting heads for patio planters.


#6

Thanks for sharing! I was actually thinking about doing the same thing because you can even get adapters pre-made for your hose bib to work with actual irrigation materials, but didn’t want to do anything permanent. Also, it’s slightly more costly because I got a lot of this stuff for free myself (lucky).


#7

Irrigation stuff is all just plumbing. There’s various adapters you can use to ‘make it work’. One of the most important things to implement is a backflow preventer. Your local water company would no doubt insist on it. This seeks to prevent any water in the irrigation system from getting back into the potable water system. You don’t want the water that’s been sitting in the hoses getting back into your house water. Which can happen more easily than you might think. So be sure to have one on the spigot.


#8

For a hose based system, all you need is an inexpensive brass vacuum breaker (Not to be confused with a pressure vacuum breaker that is used with underground automatic systems) that screws onto the hose bibb. The typical hose faucet puts out about 8 gallons per minute. You can do a bucket test to see. Then you need to carefully select the heads with flow that does not exceed the capacity of the hose bibb.


#9

@IoTEric Did the leaksmart valves need the hub or could you connect them directly to Smartthings?


#10

@jinoue The Leaksmart valves are Zigbee and connect directly to the hub. They aren’t officially supported by SmartThings but you just change the Device Type in their developer api to “Zigbee Valve” and they work great. You can see the ones they do support here. You’ll need the hub to use SmartThings anyway but you can get them cheap on eBay. Although they aren’t outrageously priced on smartthings.com.


#11

I bought a Samsung Connect wifi setup which is also a Smartthings Hub. Just wanted to make sure that I don’t have to buy a separate hub like you do with the Leviton Caseta.

Leaksmart sells a separate hub so I wanted to make sure I didn’t also need to buy that. And thanks for this, this is eaxctly what I want for my garden.


#12

No problem, @jinoue ! Glad I could help. Yeah if you have the Samsung Connect, it should have Zigbee capabilities so you can connect the Leaksmart directly to the Connect.


#13

Just an FYI to all: Hose bib vacuum breakers are not to be used under continuous pressure. So, if you are leaving the hose bib open to pressurize the valves that run the system, you need a back flow device designed for continuous pressure.


#14

This is correct, but i have never seen a homeowner install a pressure vacuum breaker, RPZ, or double check on a hose faucet. An anti siphon valve is another option. i can imagine all kinds of indoor flooding from a hose faucet that is under constant pressure. I think you take a huge risk. Think about it.


#15

In this scenario, what does the Rachio controller actually do? Does it connect to any physical valves at all? If not couldn’t you just use a Smartthings IFTTT schedule to run the valves for a while?

I have my pool on a smart outlet that turns on the filter/pump from 2-4pm but another rule that turns it on if the weather temp goes above 80 degrees. That way on a warm day it filters more and also circulates the solar heater for more hours.


#16

Seems a bit much regarding risk. Your pipes are always under constant pressure, including ones leading to outside hose bibs. If you left an outside hose running the only leak risk you pose is that water seeping back into the house. It’s unlikely to cause anything to go wrong with the indoor plumbing leading to the spigot. I mean, water hammer and such are always potential problems, but that’s just as likely with a hard connection.

But yes, leaving constant pressure into a hose is a bad plan. Don’t use hoses in-between hard plumbing and valves. Always have a properly rated valve on the hard plumbing to control the flow. Don’t have a hose sitting there with pressure in it.

That and if you use any kind of external connectors, you’d want to avoid plastic. I had an old Orbit timer on a spigot with a wye tee. Timer was on one end of the wye, a regular hose was on the other. The tee was plastic and split while we were away. My neighbor happened to notice the fountain of water coming from it… and turned off the spigot… without letting me know…

10 days later we got home to a dead vegetable garden and seriously parched landscaping. But at least it wasn’t 30-90 days later getting a huge water bill because the faucet had run constantly during that time.


#17

I do it all the time. When a very small volume of water is required, it’s easier to hook onto a hose bibb. Just install a DCV in the ground right at the POC (still legal in Austin TX), and go from there.


#18

Yes, i know Austin unfortunately allows double checks. I attended a backflow conference during February. The American Society of Sanitation Engineers ( ASSE), the International Plumbing Code, USC Foundation for Cross Connection and American Backflow Protection Association classify sprinkler system as high hazard. A double check valve is not rated for high hazard, so TCEQ is going against all accepted industry standards. The stories I heard about backflow incidents would scare the crap out of you.


#19

It’s about to change. The TCEQ is underway with the required public comments. I expect irrigation systems will be reclassified as high-hazard this year and the new rule will go into force Sept. 1.

Frank (Licensed Irrigator 29 years)


#20

That is what I’ve heard, Frank. There will be pushback from many irrigators in Texas.
Did you know that Mississippi does not require any backflow on residential systems? Scary.