Simpler Scheduling for Spring


#1

I wanted to thank the community for all of the feedback we have had with flex schedules. It has been invaluable in helping us revisit how our schedules will work this year. For our Spring release we will be moving back to one unified, simple to use scheduling model.

Flex schedules ultimately helped us determine some things we did right, and some things we missed. In my opinion the dynamic nature was attractive, but configuring them for the normal user was difficult. I even had a difficult time dialing them in last year, and I wrote a lot of the software.

I believe we have developed something that I would call a mixture of flex and fixed, or flixed (marketing is going to hate that). In schedule creation, you will be able to build a standard fixed schedule with intervals, days of week, etc. or choose water as needed. This will build an interval based schedule that will automagically adjust frequency and durations throughout the year. The main difference from flex schedules is this will be easy to understand, predictable, and definitely won’t need the fine tuning that flex sometimes needed. Being engineers, I believe we over engineered with flex.

We are carrying forward one of the important concepts of flex in monitoring soil depletion between schedule runs. If between watering intervals we determine that you can effectively skip an interval due to weather conditions (rain, evapotranspiration), we will skip the schedule for you. You will be able to modify minutes any way you see fit. Frequency modification if needed will be performed with one simple lever.

Here are a couple of examples.

This schedule is for Denver, Colorado using cool season grass and a fixed spray nozzle. Using water as needed we will adjust your schedule throughout the year automatically, while skipping intervals by tracking precipitation and evapotranspiration.

This schedule is for San Jose, California using warm season grass and a fixed spray nozzle. Using water as needed we will adjust your schedule throughout the year automatically, while also skipping intervals by tracking precipitation and evapotranspiration.

When we get closer to software release there will be a lot more information regarding flex transition, etc.

Thanks for your time and we are looking forward to an amazing year. If you like what you see this year, you aren’t going to believe what we build out next year :wink:

Feel free to provide feedback.

:cheers:


While You're At It (Merging Flex and Fixed Schedules)
Initial set up with flex schedule
New schedule = empty soil moisture?
Flex Watering Long?
Rachio App "Access Denied" and "Not Scheduled" status
Flex Schedule Two Zones Scheduled, Only One Watered
How to customize watering duration in flex schedule
Cycle/soak runoff
Water budgeting, Rachio not adapting to ET/weather variation in San Diego
Flex initial startup
Water a certain amount?
How to make my system smart
New Sod - Need Help Optimizing Schedule
Basic suggestion: Make app useable
Water usage on the 1st day after install
Rachio Iro Watering Early
Area not affecting watering time
Rain under threshold, adjust watering?
.35 " of water applied per hour how to enter
.35 " of water applied per hour how to enter
#2

Bug associated with "emptying" a zone and flex schedules
#3

Can’t wait to check it out. The flex was above my head!


Can not set moisture to full
#5

Very disappointed to read this. The problem I see with that is this scenario:
Interval = 10 days, today is watering day and there is a chance of rain tomorrow, so schedule is skipped. But oops it didn’t rain and now my yard is going to have to wait 9 more days until the fixed interval comes up again. This type of thing happens a lot in Texas. I also use ifttt to disable watering when it is really windy (wish this was native) so that will happen even more often than the chance of rain.

In my opinion flex schedules were awesome except some of the default values were way off for Texas at least (I was watering about 3x needed with default settings, fixed by adjusting the depletion levels).

-Kyle


#6

Thanks for the feedback. I have been thinking about this.

Since we do have the concept of flex baked into this, thoughts on if we skip due to low ET, or precipitation, etc. just shifting the interval ahead one day?

:cheers:


#7

I really like that. It also seems like a simple elegant way to deal with the myriad of restrictions that different communities have dreamed up. It just gets ‘deferred’ to try again tomorrow.

This would need to be done zone by zone, right? If so, seems like you are very close to flex but with a more elegant way of describing it to the user… Which is right where you should be IMO, since the science is there behind flex but the UI is where the complication lies.

Sorry for my negative post. I really do love what you all are doing, and just don’t want to see it take a step backwards!


#8

We are trying to figure out the best way to do this so people don’t ever have to adjust any levers or understand soil moisture concepts, zone attributes etc. It’s harder than it looks :wink:

We are having a hard enough time building the piece that automatically adjusts frequency each month, and then rendering that on a scrolling calendar so you can see your full year of watering. Pretty sure there are no other devices that can do that. :sunny:

:cheers:


Rachio Iro Gen 2 (Australian Review & Info)
#9

Can’t wait for the new release. Almost time for watering in Ohio!!


#10

@Franz -> Thanks for the update. I’ve been considering purchasing Rachio because the flex scheduling seems to be just like my Rainbird ESP-SMTe. I really love that my current controller only waters when the lawn needs water, and performs a complete watering each time. I really didn’t mind having to enter all the variables and tune it a bit (root depth, soil type, etc).

If I understand your new “flixed” process right, it’ll pick a schedule and then vary the runtime (or possibly skip a run) on those days based on the actual water needs. If this is the case, I’m a bit disappointed too as I feel a bit like switching from my ESP-SMTe might be taking a step back i(with the exception of your connected features). I certainly like the method of a full watering when it is optimally needed to build a real healthy lawn.

I’ll keep considering a Rachio–I look forward to more details on how the new process will work once you have them. Perhaps you might even consider simply leaving the current flex option for power users like me?


#11

@bzimmer, thanks for reaching out. Our new “flixed” schedules will be just as intelligent as Flex schedules are today. The major difference will be in the delivery of the schedule adjustment. Currently, Flex schedules will delay & adjust your watering schedule on a per zone basis; whereas “Flixed” schedules will skip using real time ET data. The new schedules will be easier to plan around and the only variable you’ll need to adjust is the time duration on a per zone basis.

Additionally, the new “Flixed” schedules will be built using 30 year historical ET data. You’ll be able to see what/when your schedule is forecasted to run months in advance. Flex schedules could never do this as they were limited to forecast data; which is usually 50/50 after 7 days out.

Please let us know if this helps to address your concerns of the new scheduling model.

Best, Emil


#12

I’m sure you’re tired of this question, but is there an eta on the next generation of software? As someone else commented, watering season is pretty close in parts of the USA. I’d rather not switch horses in the middle of the stream, or software in the season.

Thanks,
Mike


#13

I’m afraid I’m a little confused already with the new schedule idea. Even thought it had some issues, I really loved the Flex schedules, and having come from a Rainbird SMTE, I never even bothered with fixed schedules when I got my Rachio last year. But my yard has VERY different lawn zones in it. One zone is almost full shade and doesn’t drain well, so it doesn’t need watering very often. But another zone is in full sun with a slope, and needs watering a whole lot more often. The new “flixed” process is still going to be able to handle this, right??? And will I still be able to water my annuals/perennial beds using “water as needed” or will I need to go to fixed type scheduling?


#14

@emil - Thanks for answering! It’s really nice when companies are willing to engage with the community–especially during development.

I’d like to make sure I’m understanding your response correctly. In the new schedules, I will set a run-time for each zone and the system will produce a schedule based on the historical ET data. As we move through a season, watering days may be skipped due to previous rainfall (or forecasted rain fall), but when it does water it will be for the full time that I set. As part of these schedules, actual calculated ET data will no longer be used, so it will be just relying on historical data.

Is this correct?


#15

We are currently testing iOS/Android/Webapp for the 2.5 release. Software will be released early Spring as soon as it is ready for delivery. Trust me, we want to get this out as soon as we can but need to make sure high quality :wink:

If you do have flex schedules and upgrade to the new software they will continue to run as normal for the rest of the watering season, although you won’t be able to create new ones.

Hope this helps.

:cheers:


#16

Based on the chosen zones for the schedule (I recommend grouping similar characteristic zones) we generate a schedule for the entire year that will automatically adjust its frequency and duration every month. You have total control over minutes if you would like to override.

Correct, we can skip due to temperature (user configurable with default), precipitation (observed or forecasted), or our flex based ET skip. We will water for the full time.

This is where we can continue to add some cool flex concepts. We track daily ET data and will be able to determine based on the when the schedule last ran, and when it will next run if the current ET will have depleted the zones in the schedule (looking at the zone with the lowest field capacity). To our team this allows us to use some very sophisticated concepts but not necessarily have everyone understand what ET, root zone depth, field capacity, MAD, etc. are.

For really advanced users, I am going to expose crop coefficient that will essentially allow you to fine tune the schedule for the entire year with one simple adjustment.

We have listened to feedback and looked at our scheduling data and feel this strikes the right balance of automation and incredible water savings.

Hope this helps.

:cheers:


#17

I would recommend these zones be put in their own ‘water as needed’ schedules (sorry for ever mentioning the word ‘flixed’). Sun exposure is used to determine our offset of daily ET. The more sun exposure, the faster ET pulls down your zone ‘bucket’ level. Slope also determines our cycle/soak max run times…so grouping zones with similar characteristics is ideal :sunny:

Flixed is dead to me, ‘water as needed’ :wink:

Absolutely.

Hope this helps.

:cheers:


#18

I know I’m going to have to just wait until i see the software myself to grasp how this is going to work, but it sounds like a little bit of a step backwards in “smart” scheduling. What is the use case for needing to build and see a schedule a full year out?

The RB ESP-SMTe also heavily uses historical ET values to do its calculations. I have a year plus of data on my unit compared to local weather station values. When the actual weather is near historical, the unit performs very well. When the actual weather deviates significantly from normal (like last spring and fall in central TX) it can be off by >50%.

I know dumbing things down to make it easier for homeowners and to an even greater extent my fellow irrigators to setup the Rachio takes away one of the barriers to adoption, but hopefully it also doesnt take away its usefulness.

Eric


#19

Thanks for the feedback. We will be using historical ET to automatically modify frequency and duration each month to set a reasonable, predictable schedule…but that is where historical usage of data stops. Before each watering interval, using real time weather data, we will determine if we can skip based on precipitation (think virtual rain sensor) or by incorporating the flex concept of soil moisture depletion (based on when you last watered and will next water, can we skip this interval). Our empirical data was telling us a lot of users tried flex, too unpredictable or hard to adjust/fine tune, and ended up disabling. We are trying to meet somewhere in the middle with more simplicity while also carrying forward depletion concepts.

The great thing about our team is we will continue to look at the data and innovate for the most efficient and simple to use schedules out there. I promise this won’t be the last iteration, but I believe it is in the right direction.

Thanks again for the feedback.

:cheers:


#20

I may not understand the new scheduling concepts, but it seems like it has a major flaw. I have taken a watering class at our local Desert Botanical Garden and the repeated point was duration is determined by root zone and how deeply you want to water, and duration stays constant as the objective is always to fill the root zone when it is “dry” however that is defined. The depth of the root zone and the amount of water to fill it when dry doesn’t really change during different seasons. So the only variable is frequency which of course would vary as water usage varied from temperature, sun, rain, plant type etc.

Maybe I misunderstood the concepts mentioned above, but seems that this new design was trying to adjust both variables. It is what is wrong with the current method where it keeps adjusting watering times seasonally. This doesn’t really make sense given the above description. I admit that this way of thinking was not natural to me, but once I thought about it the concept seemed to actually make sense. Any additional water that goes outside the zone you are trying to hit is just wasted, and here in the desert if you don’t flood the whole zone then salt begins to accumulate at the edges.


#21

@garmanmd, thanks for the concern. The revised Water As Needed scheduling still calculates watering duration by root zone depth and available water within the soil (this is the “dry” you mentioned).

If you review the scheduling models posted on the first post of this thread, you’ll see that the durations do not vary much month to month, but the frequency (interval) of watering do.

This is how fixed interval and day of week schedule will be adjusted since frequency cannot be changed automatically.

Correct. This is why we calculate the the Plant’s Available Water given the Vegetation (root zone) and soil type (available water) selected within the zone attributes.

Water As Needed is build on the flex schedule framework, but intervals adjust monthly – not daily. This makes the schedule easier to understand. It leverages real time weather data to determine if your schedule can be skipped on a daily basis; which is the same weather check we perform daily on Flex schedules currently.