Why did Rachio decide to have no dials

What is the story behind Rachio’s decision not to have and buttons and/or dials on the controllers faceplate? This is the biggest deal breaker for contractors and homeowners. I am fine operating the controller the way it is, but just wondering.

Are you using the v1 or v2 hardware? v2 does have buttons that allow you to manually start and stop zones.

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@robertokc, great question. We decided to design the controller with limited local controls to focus the user experience in the mobile and web app. We added manual zone operation and offline (Limited) schedules to our Gen2 controller to help contractors manage landscapes with the controller if/when they don’t have access to the app or WiFi.

I hope this helps. The days of analog devices are numbered :slight_smile:


I do not agree the days of standard controllers are numbered. When you look at the percentage installs of wifi based controllers it is very, very small. If you look at all the other wifi smart controllers they have dials. Continue to tell you no dials is a complete deal breaker. The buttons for limited schedules are inadequate.

@robertokc What functionality do you want from the dials? Are you thinking this is needed for situations where you don’t have wifi for a limited period of time, or indefinitely?

I’ll weigh in since I let the thought of getting the Rachio bake for about a year, and it’s kinda like this -

I have a wifi thermostat, but I can do 100% on the face of the device if I want to. Likewise my security system. I can control my garage with wifi, but also if I am standing there.

I did not do my due diligence on the Rachio, and when I bought it and installed and then realized the lack of local control, I was kinda bummed. Not real bummed, because I got it so I wouldn’t have to trek down to where it is just to do stuff with it, but my first thought was now I have to set my neighbors up with the app and my login so they can kill it if I have a blowout or geyser and we are gone for a few weeks. (Normally we can all go into each other’s yards and shut down whatever needs to be dealt with). I guess they could just unplug it, but the app access is fine - we have each other’s security codes, so the sprinklers are no biggy.

What would I like on the face? A master enable/disable switch that anyone can use to immediately kill the system.

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@civdiv9999 That’s really helpful, I could see an emergency “off” button being helpful in those situations you described. It’s also an interesting comparison to something like Nest, while it is a connected device you can do everything locally. However, I will give us some credit and say that irrigation scheduling is a bit more complex than setting your thermostat. However, an off switch isn’t complex in the least. For now, like you mentioned, sharing access with your neighbor or having them just unplug the controller is your best bet.

A timely thread. Here are some of my cover/box suggestions that I posted in the v3 thread. I agree the lack of any exterior controls is a poor design choice. I know everyone wants to be sleek and sexy in the smart home world, but some things don’t need to be changed. :slight_smile:

  • Manual buttons exposed without removing the cover. I’m tempted to cut my cover to expose the buttons so the family can easily kill the sprinklers if the need arises without fumbling with the latch on the bottom or having to go grab a phone.
  • Hinged cover, not the flimsy current one that you can easily drop when it pops off.
  • Move the latch placement for the cover. Right now it is up against the wire entry area and with larger wire bundles behind the latch it can be tricky to sneak your finger onto the back of the latch.
  • Easier to read zone #s around the LED indicators
  • Wi-Fi signal indicator (maybe re-use your 1st-4th LEDs for a special mode that shows signal strength.)
  • A way to plug in a non-smartphone remote, like the Hunter remote control for irrigation companies to plug into quickly when opening/closing the system in spring and fall. No, limited access is not what I want here. I want something quick, dirty, and simple they can use so anyone on a company’s crew can show up and use it without worrying about setting up a phone in advance or once on site.

I’m tempted to leave my cover off so I and the family can access the buttons, but then the terminal strips are exposed and i don’t like that on permanent display. :disappointed:


Similar to aforementioned Nest, I love that my ecobee3 is entirely controllable locally in addition to the phone app without having to remove any face plates to get at things.

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I have reading this thread with interest, seeing why people want the dials/buttons. I must be an exception to most customers. My unit is outside, on a wall buried behind a bunch of bushes and is a real PITA to get to. So I love not having to deal with anything on the unit itself. And my sprinkler guy has Rachio in several locations so he has the app on his phone and doesn’t need it either.

That said, I did have need to get to the unit the other day when it scheduled to run, I realized that I needed to have it not run, and I couldn’t stop the schedule from starting. I put the unit into Standby mode thinking that would work to stop it, but the zone started anyway. I finally had to unplug the unit to get it to stop. I think the good news is that I believe the ability to stop/pause zones may be coming in V3 (at least I’m hoping).

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I’ve been using my Gen2 for a year and other than initial set up I have never, ever, had the need for a manual control on the unit, nor do I want it. In an “emergency” I can just go to the valve and shut it off there. I’m trying to determine what said emergency would be really. In 25 plus years of home ownership I’ve not seen a line just spontaneously burst open. There again, I use Schedule 40 for everything. Maybe just me but I can get by without controls on the controller.


The answer would be for ease of setup and operation at the controller. One of the things I really like about Hydro Rain’s controller is whatever changes made at the controller make changes on the app. I keep telling you that no dials, LCD display are a total deal breaker for contractors. I respect your company very much, but for your longterm viability you must come out with a new model with these features, as well as a contractor rewards program. Utility results from rebate programs are poor based on conversations and talks I have heard. I am not sure, but I think the EPA WaterSense program is dead.

Do you think these local control needs are more for contractors and less for homeowners?

@mckynzee, speaking for my sprinkler guy, who is an authorized contractor with you, a contractor rewards programmer, as well as regular newsletters/updates for your authorized contractors would be good. He doesn’t have time to spend on the community, and asks me to keep him up-to-date on what’s going on.

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Faceplate LCD display, plus dials and buttons are important for all. But if you wish to compete well the major irrigation manufacturers this is a must. As far as install contractors you are mainly dealing with unskilled workers.


I love the newsletter idea, and I love the idea of some sort of rewards program. If you don’t mind, I would love to get in contact with your installer… DM me his info if you think he would be interested in chatting!

@robertokc Would you want the full functionality of the app within that display, or maybe just basic scheduling? I guess what I am getting at is what local functionality is most important- because I think there may be some ways to provide that using some ideas that are different than the current status quo.

I like the clean “smart look” of the gen 2. The only challenge with having a wifi connection is if the wifi goes down you cannot access the controller. So only basic functionality or an alternate way of accessing the controller (own SSID?) would be nice for these situations.

I recommend that Rachio stay true to their direction. You are off to a great start with a great product. Yes, there millions of controllers to retrofit out there but as you have already seen this transition is not simple with virtually infinite use cases. I think going back to having full control via a panel is a diversion from your IOT/Smart strategy. Basic yes, maybe at the right time. I think it is a matter of prioritization, cost, development time and market adoption as you scale. As much as I would love to have soil moisture sensors I appreciate and admire your reluctance to move this direction too quickly.

The real value and use cases for this controller are yet to be fully understood or exploited. With flow sensors, detecting that you have a broken head or leak is an example of what I would think is a more strategic use case than what goes on the front panel. Stay true to the smart vision.

My 2 cents :slight_smile:


Stay true to the smart vision.

Agreed @tomlay





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On the front for basic install by a contractor. Also helpful if Wifi goes down.

  1. Time, date, year
  2. Start Time
  3. Station run
  4. Manual run
  5. Off
  6. Wifi signal strength (after wifi is set up by thr homowner.
    These are a few.
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The lack of dials makes it more intimidating for someone to attempt moving the settings. What good is a smart controller if everyone could just come by and adjust it as they think it should be without regards to your carefully calculated settings?

No dials…no unauthorized changes to the program.

I live in California. The gardeners hate the Rachio because they want to be adjusting and putting more water on an area instead of accepting that the amount the area receives has been determined by the Controller.

I do concur that there should be some kind of emergency stop button or the ability to have a remote interface other than the smart phone to operate or program the controller.

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