What are zones and do I need 8 or 16? Over my head

Hello rachio community,

I tried to search “zones” to lurk for an answer, but no luck, looks like a very active forum so hoping to get schooled.

Amazon has the rachio as their deal of the day saving me fifty bucks or so for the unit.

However I noticed there’s two variants, 8 zone and 16 zone. I’m very opposite of a handyman but sure do love tech toys which brought me to this product.

What is a zone and how many do I need?

I’ve read the forums a bit and imagine you need some info to answer:

  • I don’t know my lawn square footage, however here’s details that may help…
  • House is 2K sqft, front, one side, and one backyard
  • Not sure if you need soil type as I saw on here, but this is in North Texas and will be for our grass all around, and flower beds and tree in the front yard.

Thank you and appreciate all the feedback in advance.


Hi John,
I’m in Fort Worth and to find out your number of zones, you’ll need to either look at your current controller and see how many zones are active. A zone is just a grouping of sprinkler heads. For example, if I had 3 sprinklers for the front of house that waters the left, middle, flowerbed, and right, that would be 1 zone. Another way to think about it is if you can remember how many minutes you have in between your sprinkler turning on to water the front zone and moving say to the left side of your house (another zone) and then your back yard (another zone). So this would be 3 zones. Hope that helps.

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Hi @jav, good morning. Thanks for reaching out!

As @H2ODude defined:

The easiest way to tell how many zones you currently have is to check your current timer’s wiring to see how many zone wires you have coming into it. Perhaps you could post a photo of your current wire and/or email it to our support team [support@rachio.com] and we can double check the number of zone wires you have?

Hope this helps :blush:

Best, Emil

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Thank you @emil and @H2ODude!

This is my first home with sprinklers and frankly I’ve used it only once since I have no clue how to run it.

No offense emil, but you have a pretty awesome forum so I think putting the picture on here may help with others that may be just as overwhelmed when visiting for an answer. (in industry terms, this should help with your call deflection too!)

If you remove the cover over the wires on the bottom and take a picture of the wires inside there are folks here who could tell you how many zones you have.

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Hoping I got this right this time Tom:

That is an 8 zone controller. It looks like you are using 7 of the 8 zones. If you do not have plans to have more zones at your home, get the 8 zone model. If you want to have expansion you may want to spring for the 16 zone model. My guess is that the smart folks at Rachio will come up with all sorts of interesting integrations where the IRO unit could be used to control other things as well (landscape lights, fountains, etc). In that case, having all those extra zones may come in handy!


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Thanks a lot Tom and the rachio community!

@jav, I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for your willingness to ask on the forum. Not everyone feels comfortable doing so, but as you’ve experienced, we have some awesome user and even better supporters! :smiley:

@Tomzo, thanks for helping John!

I know the Iro supports low voltage landscape lighting and garage doors, but we haven’t heard of any fountains yet…but that sounds very doable. If you have one, maybe we could test it out!

Hope you both have a good evening.

Best, Emil

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Looking forward to setting this up and pairing it with my Galaxy S6 edge!


@jav Nice, you got the fancy new packaging to boot.

If you have any questions or feedback, support@rachio.com can help you out.


This is what the inside of my existing sprinkler control box looks like, can you tell me if I need an 8 zone or 16 zone?

@Night62hawk - from the photo it looks like there are 9 zones on your existing Rainbird controller. If every zone is in use/active then you’ll want the 16 zone version Rachio Gen 3. While you could put two wires on one zone to use the 8 zone Rachio that somewhat defeats the purpose of the intelligent controller on the two zones that run as one. As you haven’t bought it yet, go with the 16 zone version.

Zone architecture might certainly change as your landscaping changes. For example you might want a separate circuit for deep watering trees than you have drip irrigation around plants even though they are in the same area. I have a seperate zone circuit for container/planters as they can fill fast. I run two different poly tubes along part of my yard to be able handle either type of need.

I also have zone to top off my pond less waterfall basin. The zone runs for an hour but actually fills quicker depending on when the electronic auto fill sensor detects it is full.

The days of simple sprays for grass or bushes are really over.