Smart cycle breaks down irrigation periods more than anticipated

My last flex run under smart cycle was 359 minutes, which Rachio 2nd broke down into 11 cycles for 9 zones - this computes to 99 station changes, and all periods I could find in the long log were between 1-3 minutes. This feels a bit excessive, given the switch over time from zone to zone (btw, does Rachio account for some switch over time, or does it count time from the moment the new zone is computer activated?). Is there anything in the zone set-up or watering schedule I might have done wrong to cause this effect?

I believe (or at least hope) I have digested the very good smart cycle knowledge base article. Since I am on clay the max runs seem to be between 6-8 minutes with fixed heads, and 10-13 minutes for rotary. I also understand the logic for the 30 minute pause between periods, adding legitimate complexity. I don’t have any other things like drip or so connected, which apparently could screw up smart cycle.

I could see the last cycles having to deal with with leftover fragments, but I don’t quite understand why the initial cycles don’t use values close to the maximum for the true “soak”. 1-3 minutes are more of a tease… maybe one could have a setting that it uses a %age of the max, or a minimum run time up to the last catch up cycle?

If this should conflict with the 30 minute wait requirement (which I fully support), I would prefer the system to simply go idle for the balance and the app reflecting the time-out, so that I am not starting to troubleshoot :).

There must be something I am missing here, so I appreciate any help and clarifications!
Thanks in advance - I LOVE this system, it’s a great environmental science project.

Addendum: I should mention that next to grass on reasonably flat areas, I do have 3 zones of steep banks with some juniper shrubbery, irrigated by fixed heads (max time 4 minutes according to the table in article). Can one or three short zones impact the calculations for the others and result in mini-slices for everyone? Wouldn’t they just be finished earlier?

I have clay with various slopes as well, and my cycle times tend to max out at 3 minutes when looking at the detailed watering schedule via the Android phone app. The actual time might be closer to 4 minutes, as the app might just be truncating any fractional minutes as opposed to rounding up/down to the nearest minute.

Some zones are in the shade, so their runtimes are shorter, tending to be 2 minutes per cycle. My old controller would always use max cycle time for all zones even if that would mean some zones completing early and more ‘idling’ during the latter soak times. I think for simplicity of programming, Rachio decided to look at how many cycles it would take for the zone that required the most time for cycle/soak, and divide all zone watering amounts by that number of cycles.

A worst case scenario probably involves having turf growing in clay on a steep slope with full sun exposure. It would require a high watering time (clay + full sun), with short cycle requirements (steep slope). 45 minutes with max 4 minute runtime results in 12 cycles for 375 minutes of total run time. Adding extra zones that are not as binding don’t increase run time much further as long as it can be interleaved into the schedule when it would normally be doing the soak pause, though the total minutes required for the other zones will ultimately determine how long that schedule will take.

Update and good news:
today’s flex daily run watered for 111 minutes in 3 cycles - exactly as I hoped! Individual zone run times ranged between 2 and 13 minutes. My steep juniper bank zones were not scheduled for today (with which I also “agreed”). If they should be or become the reason that my water runs get so chopped up as mentioned above (into 11 cycles with run times between 1-2 minutes), I have to consider running them three steep ones manually, so they don’t become part of the flex run… but this kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

Could rachio confirm or deny what wx16 suspects the reason for the short run times is. If wx16 is right, and since it was working with the old controller, any chance that you can get back to the old method? This would be great, since all the 1-2 minute runs, especially for rotary zones, don’t make sense to me.

I’m not from rachio but you have not provided enough detail to determine.

Provide slope, pr and soil type for each zone. With that I can compute what it should be.

1 Like

Another thing you could try if the culprit is the juniper bank zones is putting them in their own separate flex schedule and see what the timings look like. You can schedule them a minute after your current schedule so if they do need to run on the same day as other zones, they will just kick off after the current schedule completes.

1 Like

Thanks for the offer @plainsane! Wish there was a “core dump and export” feature for that - so I will suggest it in the product suggestions. That way everyone as experienced as you could look at a standardized settings report, and wouldn’t have to pull teeth with newcomers.

Great idea @wx16 - will try it out as soon as I am back from travels and can watch over it. Thanks!

@wx16, thank you very much for this suggestion. I finally got around to implement it and it works great. My shortest cycles are now 3 minutes on the steep juniper banks, and I no longer have the dreaded one minute cycles.

@franz, it would still be great if the different flex schedules would interweave (rather than be sequential) to reduce overall run time. Ideally, if my “juniper flex” zones are soaking for 25 minutes, the system would recognize that it is idle and take bids from my “lawn flex” zones to get working on zones that are ready for water. While I don’t have water restriction at my location, I could see that this approach would help people that have sharp time windows?

1 Like