The "Seasonal Shift" feature is just bad practice


#1

I’m looking over the 2.5 release documentation and I’m unhappy with quite a bit of it. I’ll post about each topic once I’ve researched it enough to make sure I’m not prematurely judging it. However, I’m virtually certain your “Seasonal Shift” feature is just bad practice.

The “Seasonal Shift” feature is an improper technique for watering grass (at least in Florida). To quote UF (https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/lh025), “The amount of water applied each time you irrigate your lawn should not vary seasonally, though the frequency with which you water will change by season.”

An explanation in my own words…

Constant water volume with variable frequency encourages deep root growth and thus a drought tolerant turf. Suppose roots can reach as much as 12 inches below the surface, every time you irrigate you should put down enough water to also reach a depth of 12 inches (NOTE, this doesn’t mean you apply 12 inches of water…UF recommends 1/2 to 3/4 inch). Then you wait until your lawn shows signs of drought and you repeat the process.

This works because when grass experiences (short-lived) drought it will respond by growing deeper roots as long as there is water to be found at the lower depth. So by only watering after signs of drought are visible and by always watering as deep as roots have the ability to grow, you are creating a positive feedback loop that promotes the deepest roots possible.

If your grass already has deep roots and you no longer water to that depth (perhaps because of “Seasonal Shift”) then you’ve created a “use it or lose it” scenario. The grass isn’t going to spend the energy maintaining deep roots if there is no water to be found at that depth. Similarly, if your grass doesn’t yet have deep roots and you’re not watering deep then it “knows” there isn’t any water to be found and doesn’t divert energy to growing deep roots.

I’m guessing the Rachio team intuitively thought “colder weather requires less water” then mistakenly applied that logic to the amount of water per application rather than (or perhaps in conjunction with) less frequent applications. Easy mistake to make but I don’t think it is right.


#2

@EdLaFave, Seasonal Shift is a feature designed for users that have day of week or interval watering restrictions and cannot adjust their frequency. The watering practice you’ve outlined is how As Needed (and Flex) schedules work; perhaps those schedule modes would be a better solution for you?


#3

I will make sure I do not use Seasonal Shift but two thoughts/questions…

  1. I suspect lots of Rachio customers bought the timer because they don’t know and don’t care to know how a lawn should be irrigated and prefer to offload that onto a “smart” device. I suspect many of these people will see this feature, find it makes intuitive sense, and turn it on despite not falling into the supposed use case for the feature.
  2. If you can’t water on certain days of the week I see no reason why you’d want to apply water either below or above the maximum depth of the roots. So when you say Seasonal Shift is for people with watering restrictions it still doesn’t make sense to me. With the information I’ve considered this feature is a bad idea all around. What am I missing?

#4

Ed Lafave is right. Seasonal shift is a bad water practice. It is a good idea to increase/decrease the number of water cycles per day. It is a good idea to change the frequency of irrigation. It is a bad idea to change the number of minutes of irrigation. The number of minutes of irrigation is not only about how much water is applied, it is, more importantly about how deep the water penetrates the soil.

Another subject is the depth of water penetration on the third cycle of the days’ application. Assume for example, the irrigation runs for 8 minutes per cycle, 3 cycle starts. Does the third cycle of 8 minutes drive water deeper into the root zone?

Thanks for the Community forum, buy the way.

SM


#5

@EdLaFave and @Scott1 We appreciate all the feedback. After a year of flex schedules, we discovered that putting restrictions on flex (a flexible, interval based watering similar to what you’re describing) had serious pitfalls. Many people have significant restrictions that don’t allow flexible interval based watering to work properly. That’s one reason we created As Needed, which is precisely what you’re describing, for those without restrictions. I hope this helps.


#6

The new “Water As Needed” is a massive step back from “Flex” for me. I have water restrictions (T, Th, Sat). I want to water 1 day a week in May (just Tuesdays), 2 days a week in June (Tuesdays and Saturdays) and 3 days a week in July and August. Because of my water restrictions I can’t use Interval or Water as Needed. So, I’m stuck with “Season Shift” which @EdLaFave mentioned is just a bad practice.


#7

I’ll hedge my comments below in two ways:

  1. I still need more time to study your documentation, maybe I’m missing something.
  2. I’ve asked for information that I may not be considering. I’ve provided a logical explanation and UF research to show why your new way of doing things is bad. All I get in return are generic statements that the old way was “bad” and the new way is “good”. Therefore, I may not have the full picture.

I’m inclined to believe that in developing Flex Schedules Rachio gave it their best effort to create a truly “smart” timer but it turned out to be more complicated/expensive than they thought. The people in control of funding probably believe that most potential customers would be “happy enough” with an interval-based timer that is accessible through the internet and has a user friendly interface. In the hopes of increasing profits they’ve decided to scale back the scope of the product to be just a smidge better than your standard “dumb” RainBird timer paired with a rain sensor.

Now the company is in PR spin mode trying to make the original adopters feel like the product didn’t just take a step back. I’m definitely open to persuasion/explanation but as of right now I feel like there was a bait and switch. I feel that I wasted the $300-$400 that I spent on this product. I’ve got buyer’s remorse and unless something changes I certainly won’t be recommending Rachio to anybody else despite raving about the product in the past.

Frankly, it would be more palatable if Rachio just made the argument that the benefit you get from perfect watering is small but the financial cost to the company is large. As a customer I wouldn’t be able to argue against that, it isn’t ideal but it is reasonable. However, the current argument seems to be easily refuted and feels disingenuous.

Bottom line, if somebody has water restrictions then they’re going to be in a sub-optimal situation no matter what but it is the job of a “smart” timer to choose the least bad option.

Suppose the grass isn’t showing symptoms of drought quite yet but thanks to watering restrictions you can’t water for the next X days. If the timer waters right now then we’re not doing all we can to promote deep root growth but if we water after X days we may endure drought-related damage to the turf. It is up to the “smart” timer to determine which option is the least bad by considering the following:

  1. How dry the grass currently is.
  2. The weather forecast for the next X days.
  3. How dry the grass will be after X days.
  4. How long the grass would be in “too dry” of a state if we didn’t water for another X days.

The idea that watering more per application in the summer and less in the winter is helpful for people with watering restrictions doesn’t make any sense.

Lets assume that in the winter the water depth is perfect for promoting root depth. Then by watering more in the summer you’re not helping anybody make it through the hot days when they aren’t allowed to water…you’re just wasting water because you’ve watered to a depth that the roots can’t reach.

Conversely, lets assume that in the summer the water depth gets down to the lowest root (making it more likely to last through hot water restricted days). Then when winter comes you’re not watering to the lowest root depth and that promotes shallower roots. That in turn means that when summer comes around your lawn is now less drought tolerant and more likely to have trouble during the hot water restricted days.

It doesn’t make one bit of sense!


#8

@EdLaFave I’d rather keep this conversation about the features and try to be constructive. As I’ve mentioned earlier, we are continuing to iterate, so constructive feedback is very valuable to us. I will keep this short and just say that at Rachio, our customers ALWAYS come first. I think you and everyone at the forums see how involved we are and excited to listen and help. Please remember that we have many customers and those on the forums are a subset (and a very important one!:cheers:). For now, flex is still available to you if you chose to use it. We need a little time for all this feedback to sink in (may need a cycle soak :wink:).


#9

@EdLaFave, @Scott1, @MattS – please continue this conversation here:

@EdLaFave, if you wish to return the controller, please PM me and I can handle for you.

Take care and have a great night.


#10

I have experienced Rachio. It has shortcomings. it is a very good ap. Yes its scheduling needs to be improved. and I think it would be much more useful if it started to track meter readings to get some real data on the customer experience.

I cannot justify demanding a refund or calling it a waste. It has been a valuable experience and the dialogue with cs people and other users is promising.

Let’s carry on.


#11

We’re, version will support flow sensors, which is just as good as the meter for me.


#12

I agree with @EdLaFave, this statement makes zero sense. I’m guessing the vast majority of your customers have water day restrictions. You changed your system such that the “new” feature set makes it 100% useless for them over a timer + rain sensor.

And @emil, having 75 different conversations in one thread is completely useless and impossible to follow. It’s the forum equivalent of your new scheduling system. Seems you guys could track the feedback without forcing everyone onto a party line talking at the same time. Please stop inconveniencing the people who made you what you are today and start listening.


#13

this I agree with 110%. when i went to setup my Gen 2 coming from a Rainbird ESP (that is fairly advanced in calculating flexible runtimes based on current temp, measured rainfall, and HISTORICAL (not actual) wind / humidity data) I was truly stunned that since I have an odd/even day city restriction I couldn’t even use the “As Needed” feature let alone Flex capabilities I bought the box for since every raving review talks about the Flex capabilities. Luckily I found this forum and the developers for now have put the Flex beta page back up.


#14

I’m currently looking into replacement timers and I’ll have to pay my irrigation guy to perform the swap. So I’m trying to determine if a return is financially viable.

Are you able to give me an estimate for how much would be refunded? I purchased the 1st generation 16 zone unit. I purchased an outdoor weather box (possibly from a 3rd party source, not sure). Would a refund require me to ship the product and if so who pays for shipping?


#15

@EdLaFave I haven’t spent the time reading through this thread, but if losing flex is a concern, please don’t worry about that. We are working on a solution that will work for everyone.

If you want to start using flex schedules, you can create one here https://flex-app.rach.io and then use our other apps to edit, view moisture graphs, etc.

Hope this helps.

:cheers:


#16

I tried to write my own versions of flex schedules a few years back with another controller that I had a simple API to. I only had 1 customer (myself) to make happy and it mostly failed because of our water restrictions – for example, it is very hard to predict if it will really rain in the next 14 days before my next chance to water. And the risk of choosing not to water on my chosen day (even if rain is predicted tomorrow) could result in a drought damaged lawn.

Thus, I’ve opted to ignore the watering restrictions since I got the Iro and if I have to I’ll make my case to the city that I’m actually meeting the intent of the law more than any of my law abiding neighbors who are watering the day after a heavy rain because it’s “the day to water”.

Kyle


#17

I have been reading many of the discussions regarding Flex vs. WAN and both sides have valid points. Neither side is more right than the other. Because everyone has different environmental factors, preferences, and restrictions, perhaps more global settings is the answer. When I first started using my Rachio I was surprised that there were not more global settings. Examples of global settings are: 1) watering restrictions for days and/or times of day; and 2) when using seasonal adjustments do you want frequency or duration. I am sure there are some others that could be put into global settings.


#18

@kylepeavy, You make me realize that I should be extremely happy that Mecklenburg County, NC has tackled this the right way. Last year we had a severe drought, and they had to put in watering restrictions. But because I was using a smart watering controller, I did not have to abide by the restrictions (only if they make it to a Stage 4 restriction can I not water)! They even give us a sign to put in our yard saying that we are not held to the restrictions because we are doing smart watering. It would be nice if more jurisdictions would do that. (Plus our irrigation water is billed at tier 3 and tier 4 prices based on how CF used, and again, because I have a smart controller, I only pay the lower tier 3 price!). Reading all these restriction notes makes me very grateful. Thank you, Rachio!


#19

Rachio uses the soil moisture depletion model. Ideally, you want to refill the soil moisture in the rootzone when the management soil depletion is at 50 percent. Field capacity is when the root zone is full, but not saturated. The opposite extreme is wilting point. Don’t worry too much about this. Rachio uses the soil depletion model based on daily evapotranspiration.


#20

This doesn’t address the issues I laid out. Probably because the issues I laid out are impossible to address with the Water As Needed scheme.

With interval based schedules you’re either going to water too soon, which does NOT promote deep root growth…or you’re not going to water soon enough, which invites drought damage.

With variable application volumes (Seasonal Shift) you’re either going to be wasting water in the summer OR you’re not going to be watering enough in the winter.

I believe both of these are indisputable facts but I’m still open to somebody explaining why I’m wrong as opposed to telling me “don’t worry”.

I’m still hoping to hear from @emil about how much money would be refunded. However, I won’t be going through with that until you eliminate Flex Schedules (later in the year) and if my irrigation guy can replace the timer at a cheap enough price.

…hopefully that isn’t necessary.