Useability Improvements suggestions Flex Scheduling


#1

This post could go under suggestions, support, or flexible daily schedules. I have seen a similar question from about 2 years ago, I just wanted to see if there has been any improvement or what people would suggest. I have set up Flexible schedules. I have tweaked the zone settings as much I know. I have changed the soil type, nozzle types, shaded areas and things like that, but I am now getting areas that seem to be getting too much water and some that don’t get enough. I think for the most part if is because the spray zone of some zones completely overlaps another zone, which causes the area to get twice as much water and ends up being soggy and overwatered, or there is no overlap at all and the area is getting too dry. For the sake of being “easy” or “intuitive” I think that each zone or maybe the app in general should have an occasional “checkup” so to speak. Every couple of weeks have the App ask a question or a survey of some sort:

  1. “How am I doing?”
    -Great! Keep it up. (End of survey)
    -Not so great, adjustments need to be made. (Go to #2)

  2. “Have you made adjustments to your zones to ensure you have the correct nozzle type, soil type, shaded areas, and vegetation settings?”
    -Yes (Go to #3)
    -No (Suggest that the user goes in and makes adjustments to the settings so that Rachio can do a better job at figuring out a better schedule, or give them the option to skip and proceed to #3 anyway).

  3. "Do you have zones which are:
    -Too Wet (ground stays soggy in between waterings)? (Go to #4)
    -Too Dry (ground is completely dry and/or vegetation is dry)? (Go to #5)
    -Some too wet, others too dry? (Go to #4 then to #5)

  4. Which zones are too wet?
    -Check boxes for each zone. (Go to #5 of they also have dry zones or go to #6 if not)

  5. Which zones are too dry?
    -Check boxes for each zone. (Go to #6)

  6. Rachio will make adjustments to your schedule based off this input. We recommend that you ensure all of your zone settings are correct before these changes are made.
    -Would you like to make these changes to your schedule? (Confirm the changes and Rachio somehow “knows” or makes adjustments to its algorithm based off this input to improve its watering schedule.)
    -Or do you want to make adjustments to your zone settings first? After you make changes, you can restart this survey at any time in the Main app settings, or we will ask you again in about two weeks.

A similar survey could be given within each zone if you just wanted to tweak that zone and none of the others.

I am not a programmer and so I have no idea about the complexity that this would bring into the app itself or the algorithms that Rachio uses in order to correctly irrigate, but I think it would help to improve their image of user friendliness and usability. It could essentially be the “Nest” of lawn irrigation. Too much water? Rachio turns it down a bit. Too dry? Rachio turns it down a bit. Right now, it might be saving me water overall, but it is actually taking me far more of my time in order to constantly tweak the settings to hopefully get it right (it might be the end of summer before that happens) than if I just stayed with my basic Rainbird controller.


Easier way to adjust watering levels
#2

The idea is intriguing, that based off user feedback, the system will self adjust. Who knows how complex this idea would be, but this would be very helpful to those who want the system to do everything right out of the box and do not have time or the want to fine tune their settings.


#3

This would require one hell of an algorithm. I think that Rachio should note that Flex Daily is an advanced set-up procedure. It works phenomenally well, but only as well as the information you feed it, and how well your overall system is set-up and running. If you set it with incorrect soil types, bad PR’s, wrong root depths, you will have issues. If you system is full of leaks, clogged emitters/heads, then the system can’t overcome this.

Once I took the time to set everything up correctly, my plants suffered at first because I went from watering 3 times a week, to once a week (or longer in winter), but for MUCH longer durations. I went back and had to ramp things up over the course of a couple months. Once things stabilized, I still had a couple issues that I found to be clogged emitters, emitters that were over watering, or sprinkler overspray that was causing overwater situations in nearby plants.

Flex daily can be configured to work relatively easily out of the box, but to truly optimize it, it’s not for the faint of heart. But, it is also the most advanced on the market from what I have seen. If you want simple wifi control and a computer dashboard, there are a ton of options out there now.


#4

Not sure about having the system ask me to take a survey, but I can see having a flex troubleshooting page that can be reached from the zone setup that asks the same type of questions, and suggests changes to zone setup to improve frequency and duration of watering, or perhaps to point out non-rachio problems in the irrigation system design or build.

Even having a static page that explains how each zone attribute can affect frequency and duration of watering would be a most welcome reference when setting up zones for daily flex.


#5

@jeremyjhartley, interesting thoughts. I’m not usually a fan of “wizard” style troubleshooters since I feel like they don’t always get the job done, but the part about acting like Nest is cool. A percent up/down adjust has been suggested elsewhere - I wonder if “too wet” or “too dry” could just be an optional fancy front end to that.

For the programmers who might be reading, the algorithm might be a PID (proportional integral derivative) feedback loop that zeroes in on the appropriate watering frequency based on the rudder the user gives. I don’t think it would need to be too complicated but would have be tuned to avoid oscillation since a zone could easily go from “too dry” to “too wet” and back quickly given overadjustments.


#6

That’s sort of my point. I think they have done a great job at creating a good interface and a good way at accessing and adjusting the watering schedule from your phone or anywhere in the world. I think the next step would be to make it idiot proof. Right now, I have filled in all of my zone variables but because of other variables (one zone sloping into another or some zones with triple overlap and others have no overlap from other zones) which cannot be filled out in rachio, I have some zones which are dry and some which are wet. I end up watering them manually or skipping a watering manually. Which completely ruins the idea of automatic flex schedules. A wizard of some sort that you could input that one zone is too wet or too dry would advance the software to a level that could practically any idiot (including myself) would be able to use it effectively. Right now it is only marginally better than the old $50 rainbird controller. The only aspect which makes it better currently is the app interface and ability to access it online. Is that worth $150 more than the cheapo rainbird? Questionable. The way that Nest and others have made a mark is that they not only make it easy to access the thermostat online and via an app, but they learn and fine tweak their automatic settings until they get it perfect and they can potentially save money on utilities. Right now rachio doesn’t do that second step.