Valve box flow meter install feedback


Thanks again for the feedback @corfam. Always helps to talk/type it out when troubleshooting. There are no dumb suggestions :wink:

I should have enough system pressure to support this, but I would probably save this as a last resort. I could also drill through my block wall, extend my zone wires, and run them inside the garage so I could get the controller closer.

It’s my hope as well that Rachio can find a software solution that would extend the range for users that understand the tradeoff in battery life. I’m ok with changing the battery every year.

I wondered this as well.

I finished my can of pringles yesterday :wink: I have some work to do today but look forward to running some more tests. In the meantime, I did try and coil up some wire and place it over the antenna on the flow meter to see if signal strength was boosted.

Could be poor technique on my end but this doesn’t seem to have much of an effect.

When I measured excellent signal strength, I had just paired the flow meter to the device but it wasn’t installed yet. It was at ground level at the exact install spot - so it seems that the signal degradation is less from the garage/block wall and more from being buried ~10 inches or so and placed in the valve box.

Thanks again for the comments/suggestions.


@johnny2678 I hope you don’t have to go through the trouble but it’s good controller antenna would then also face sensor in this configuration.

Again, I’m no RF guy, but wire length would matter to act as antenna tuned to somewhere close to 900 Mhz. FCC cert for Rachio’s flow sensor says transmit & receive is in the range of 903.8-922.2 MHz. Did you happen to cut your wire to a specific length? Just over 1 foot length would be good.


For this frequency range my calculations say wire length in the range of 12.8 inches to 13.1 inches would be appropriate. I would make it one continuous piece without the splice and probably also test leaving wire straight (no coil) where it rests on sensor.


Good call on the antenna length. I’ll have some more time this afternoon to test some more configurations. thx again.


great. When I said to test leaving wire straight I meant to say to align wire so that it’s parallel to PCB antenna as shown in FCC photo. That would put the wire sitting across short side of sensor like this:



I too would hate to see you drill through the cinder block until it is the last thing. I might de-install the Rachio and then plug it in with an extension cord and with @brad on the line walk towards the flow meter to determine distance.

Two other things to consider:

  1. An empty valve box next to and in a straight line toward the Rachio. Air is less resistive to radio signals that dirt.

  2. Get 4 90 degree elbows along with the PVC-Lock release tool (assuming you don’t have it) and put the flow meter just under the valve cover top. In other words raise it up 8 or 9 inches. Just like the other pipe in the picture. Swap out their layout.


Some progress to report:

I found a 3rd signal strength state reported in the app - Good!:

How did I achieve this??

I placed the wire coil inside a pringles can and tilted it towards the controller as best I could. :laughing: Props to you @DLane!

@Brad - I ran a calibration at 1:29 PM ET and it completed without any dropouts. Could you check and see that the SNR you see on your end matches what I’m seeing?

Still chuckling, but happy to hear any critique on my technique. I’ll probably head later with some electrical tape and scissors to rig up something a little more durable.

Is there a minimum length of pipe required after the Flow Meter?

Great progress @johnny2678! Looks like the Pringles guy is smiling too.



This might be my favorite post ever, science!

I’m wondering if we need to include a Pringles can in our next build out.


@johnny2678 - I take it you doubted my recommendation??


Just make sure that when you announce a Pringles / Rachio strategic partnership, @DLane and I get invited to the happy hour.



Wow, I’m super impressed by this thread!! You guys rock :iro:

A few notes in no particular order:

There should be no situation where you get low flow measurements from poor signal strength. All our transmissions are error checked, so we will either get a correct measurement or nothing at all. There was something else going on with @johnny2678’s readings but we were working on signal strength first.

@johnny2678 your SNR is now at -6, so definitely better. One thing I was reminded yesterday is the SNR is averaged over the last hour or so of messages. That makes it a lot harder to run the real time testing we work trying, so I’m looking for a way to us do some better testing next time. I’d really like to determine whether the pringles can made the difference or if your controller happened to switch frequencies and maybe that made an impact.

As I discussed with @johnny2678 over the weekend, range to a buried install is very challenging to assess. With no obstructions we’ve seen 300 ft into a valve box. However, depending on hills and obstructions, range may be more like 75 ft in a worst case. Also, we are maxed out on power… y’all are correct it is a pretty low power level to save battery life. Our radio chip had two RF outputs, and we went with the one without an extra amplification stage. It was a tough call, but it saves a bunch of battery life for not losing that much output power. Unfortunately, there’s no repeater for our system, just another trade off we had to make. We kept the system very simple and pushed range as far as we possible could in a star network. FYI, the controller has quite a bit higher power than the flow meter since it’s wall powered.

SNR and RSSI are not exposed in the app at this time.

@corfam Yes, you’re right on with where the antenna is located. If you’re curious, this is the chip antenna we use:

I think I covered most everything, but let me know if there are other questions I do my best to answer :wink: Looking forward to some more sleuthing.


@johnny2678 Just noticed one little problem in your install. These are the “lightly salted” Pringles. I think BBQ or Ranch would have been a better choice.



Thanks @brad for the feedback.

Would love to get that # a little higher. Any updates on channel selection?

Happy to do some more testing at anytime! Just let me know.



Et tu Brute?


@DLane mentioned a potential problem with Stucco (Faraday cage). I was planning to install the controller about 30 feet from the underground flow meter. It will be inside my garage which is behind stucco. Is this going to be a problem for me?


Is the Stucco in the direct path between the controller and the meter? What is your garage door made of? Wireless signals can take multiple paths between components and it would depend on the path(s) available and the RF attenuation that is caused by each path. I would do the pairing test in the underground instructions with your garage door closed before digging anything and see what signal level you have at that point. If it shows up excellent when the meter is in the shipping box and paired with the controller while sitting on the ground at the location you will dig, I would say you have a good chance of it working. The maximum distance in the underground installation instructions is 75 ft (down from 300 ft in the above ground instructions) and you are less than half that distance. Thus if there is an alternate path that is wood or a window that is less than 75 ft going that path, then you have a good chance of it working. (for those of you RF gurus out there, yes I’m simplifying things for this case and not talking about multipath and such real-world RF concerns, among others.) The only real confirmation is to put it in the ground under the box. Hope this helps.


I received the flow meter yesterday. I haven’t installed it yet because the system is a 1” poly and installation instructions for this seem to be up in the air. Nevertheless I paired it with my controller and put meter in the valve box and my signal strength is excellent. So I think I’m good.

I could probably install in my poly system the same as the pvc or transition from poly to pvc before and after the flow meter, but I would like to follow what Rachio says. The fact that they have not supplied an official installation for this makes me wonder if they are having problems with an underground Poly installation.

I’ve seen one document on it but it doesn’t seem to be available any more. Another document that said it is coming.


Hey @mkj!

Don’t fret, underground poly instructions coming so stay tuned :slight_smile: Whatever you do, wait for the poly instructions!! DM me your email so I can make sure we get those out to you as soon as they’re ready to go!

-Lo :rachio:


Im in the process of install except I’m 1" PVC and just did like you did I placed flow meter in back flow valve box to with cover on to get a signal reading. Say 7 excellent. Im leaving in in there for a while to see if signal fluctuates before actual install.


@Bytored - my flow meter is about 10 - 12" underground and I’m at a +5. Been installed for a week, so far no issues.