System doesn't adjust enough for temp increases, lawn is dying


#1

I got my Rachio at the first of the year. Our area mandates twice weekly waterings (Mon/Thu) so I can’t do “as needed”. I set up my zones based on my winter watering requirements, soil type, etc.

Initially it did fine, watering when appropriate, not watering when it rained enough, and increasing the watering time throughout the spring. However, the increases are not enough and my lawns are dying (I’m having to hand water spots or manually run the zones.

How do I find out how long each zone is watering now and how do I change it. I know how long each zone has to run in each season, so in order for the lawns to be okay in the summer, each zone has to run a certain amount of time. I was expecting it set it once and it would correctly adjust.

For the year, I have a high and a low. For example, in the early spring I may need to run a zone 6 minutes twice a week. That same zone in the summer when it is hot needs to run 24 minutes twice a week. So, if I set it for 6 minutes in February, in July it needs to be watering for 24 minutes.

How do I change / adjust? I can’t find enough info on the various parameters to understand how they will change my times.

Also, what about a lawn that is mainly in shade in the winter but in full sun in the summer? How do you account for that?


#2

Where do you live? What type of turfgrass do you have. I’m on odd/even watering here. I know they are on 2 day a week in most of North Texas and yards look OK. Why don’t you try flexible scheduling and delete the days you cannot water. Set up all the zones based on soil type, sprinkler type etc. Check carefully the default precipitation rates for rotors. I believe the default is 1.0 inch. When the Rain Bird, Toro and Hunter catalogs have precipitation rates that average .5 or .6 inch per hour. The run times will then be adjusted every time there is an allowed irrigation day. You might ask your water utility if they would give you a variance for having an EPA WaterSense controller.


#3

If you are on a fixed schedule, open up the schedule and go to duration and bump it up there. I would love to know if that solves the problem for you.


#4

I would like to know which solution would work better. Seems like both should work.


#5

No your solution would be best, I just got the feeling this person did not want to get envolved with the intergalactic configuration so I provided an alternative.

Honestly I would rather help the person get flex daily going, but that needs to be posted in the flex category


#6

Thanks all for the replies.

I live in Northern California (San Jose area). We’ve been here 13 years and I know exactly how many minutes each zone needs during each season (I keep a log). I’ve been on twice/weekly for quite a number of years (before it was mandated). I don’t know the flow rates of a lot of the heads (I only have bush/lawn pop up and stationary heads), but I would have thought that if I need a zone to run x number of minutes (whether all at once or split) in the spring or fall for a green lawn, it would be able to calculate the summer requirements. In the spring/fall, some zones only run 6-8 minutes twice a week, but in the middle of the summer, they need 25 minutes twice a week.

I can ask the water district for a variance (since I got a rebate from them for purchasing the Rachio). And honestly, no-one can see my yard from the street (flag lot) so I’m on the honor system.

Your suggestion to change to flex and delete days I can’t water is interesting. But how does flex know to adjust appropriately while a fixed schedule would not? Seems like if it is flex but can only water twice a week, that would be the same as a fixed schedule (meaning either way the system should adjust for the amount of water needed for the days it can water.

I looked at some of the ones that were getting sufficient water in the spring (6 minutes) that should be at 20 or 25 minutes, and they are only at around 12. So I don’t know how to tell it it needs to run for 25 minutes now during a hot spell, but only 6 minutes in late fall.

I assume for flex, you need the flow rates of all heads (which I don’t have).


#7

Rachio, would you please address his questions? I think you are making this too technical.


#8

It’s a hard question you are asking. Flex is amazing because it tracks both inputs (water put down) and outputs (water used) to figure out when watering is needed. To do that, however, requires some thoughtful setup (if not measurement).

First off, your historical approach is not aligned with watering best practices. Your yard conditions alone dictate the length of a watering cycle. If, for example, a deep watering for one of your zones takes 25 minutes, it should take 25 minutes whether it is in the spring or the summer. The difference is that you will water less frequently in the spring, not for shorter run times. In order to use the Rachio to its potential, you must accept the “deep watering” philosophy. In fact, you might even find that you should be watering less frequently (but for longer) in the summer. Be open to that possibility.

That said, here’s a thought for you: try setting up a flex daily schedule using defaults and see what the system shows for watering times. Specify each zone carefully with regard to vegetation/slope/soil/sun (use default for root depth and 50% for depletion). That should be a good starting point for the usage side of the equation.

On the input side, maybe start with a default 1"/hour for your spray heads, maybe 0.5"/hour for rotors, adjusting up/down based on what you know about them. For example, a zone with half-circle rotors puts down water at twice the rate of a full-circle rotor.

Now, take a look at your Flex Daily schedule. Open it up and see what durations are showing for watering. If they align with what you think they should be for a deep watering, then you are all set. IMO, do not tweak these watering times using the +/- buttons; you are better off changing the input assumptions that drive the watering times per zone.

If you’d like to watch how the system calculates water balance, now disable this new Flex Daily schedule, leave your interval schedule running, and come back to it in a week or so. Reenable the Flex Daily schedule and you can look at moisture levels zone by zone. You can get a sense of how your historical knowledge lines up with how the system is measuring moisture balance. Once you are comfortable it is working “properly”, you can enable the Flex Daily schedule and let it take over.

Ultimately, when you have some time on your hands, you would well be served to figure out how much water your heads are actually putting down. You’ll already have the consumption side of the equation covered, and this would be the final piece to get the Rachio system working to its fullest potential.

Good luck!


#9

Amen! Outstanding explanation, Stonecliff.


#10

If you can only irrigate two days a week flex daily scheduling might not help that much :wink:

IMHO I would remove your existing schedule, create a new one with the minutes you need in July (the schedule we recommend should be close if your zone characteristics are close) and make sure seasonal shift is enabled (it is enabled by default).

Each month we will adjust your minutes according to the time of year. My assumption is you will have the highest minutes in July and we will slowly back off until the end of the season.

Glad to help if you have further questions.

:cheers:


#11

In your situation, the only advantages to flex daily is that it will make more efficient use of the rain you never get and help promote deeper roots.


#12

“more efficient use of the rain you never get” is a very accurate statement!


#13

I agree. Hadn’t thought about it in that way (less frequent, not less water). That said, the key there is “time on your hands”. Won’t happen right now, so I guess I’ll just kill the schedule and redo it again (and see if the baseline times change or not). Need to get my lawns back to life first, tweak the system second.

Thanks for all the feedback and suggestions. I will eventually get to flex daily mode…


#14

So, each month you make seasonal adjustments. I assume those are baselines that are then adjusted by my unit based on current temps, etc., so if we have a nasty 3-4 day hot spell it is going to water more then next time it waters, correct?


#15

@wtrskrs Seasonal shift increase in watering durations on fixed schedules will only be applied at the beginning of each month. Ironically, fixed watering days which are set by a lot of municipalities is the least efficient way to water. Increasing/decreasing minutes isn’t that effective if you aren’t changing your intervals. The most efficient watering is keeping roughly the same amount of water output (duration) throughout the year to fill the soil moisture level to full while increasing/decreasing watering intervals which helps promote healthy, deep roots and turf that is more drought tolerant.

Our seasonal shift used to adjust schedules each week but IMHO shifting durations by a few minutes +/- might give the customer the perception that we are smart, but I don’t think it was that effective. Also, if the forecasts are wrong or you are looking at prior observed data to make adjustments there is a lot of room for error. Another issue we saw was with bounds on the thresholds we were reaching. We would see one week where the percent change in evapotranspiration was so dramatic that we could modify watering minutes by 100%. We had to bound this to something reasonable (I think the max was 20%) or customers had serious concerns. But, if you are bounding you aren’t really truly adapting and it could take a long time to snap back to durations that made sense for that particular week.

I think our schedule offering has something for everyone based on restrictions or desire to tweak some advanced settings to fully dial in the system.

Even with a fixed 2 day schedule paired with weather intelligence settings (rain skip, climate skip, seasonal shift) I think the system provides a lot of value.

:cheers: