Winter Uses (NOT just dormancy)

Hi all,

I’m looking to buy a Rachio controller and join in the fun. I’m in CO so we definitely have a lawn/watering season…but then a whole 'nother winter season where different things need controlling too. Alas, everything I see about “winter” in this forum is all about “winterizing” and shutting things down - can we just shift modes and keep things humming??

I could go with just an 8 circuit (which will handle my 7 irrigation circuits nicely), but am thinking to go 12 or 16 and do some other cool stuff that employs the weather smarts and other capabilities for non-watering things, e.g.:

  • control gutter heat tape (if snowed and until sufficient sun and melting temps have occurred)
  • turn on driveway heat (if snow predicted and until storm finishes)
  • remotely turn on hot tub to pre-heat (when headed back from ski slopes)
  • turn on/off pond pump and heater (by day/night and if freezing conditions)

Now I realize that there will need to be relays, sensors, and logic that I will need to integrate. That’s all manageable, so the fundamental questions are:

  • Is the Rachio and its software generally friendly to hacks like this?
  • How much met data is accessible or can be derived (e.g., just present temp and precip?..or deeper levels like cumulative precip, average daily/nightly temps, hours of sunlight, etc.)
  • Also, how biased are the weather features and controls to just summer conditions? the concept of an active “winter mode” supported?
  • Is the mobile app also configurable to allow for remote controlling of “hacked” circuits?
  • OR am I better off getting some other kind of general purpose controller device?

Thanks in advance and look forward to responses,

To try to answer the first question (which may answer more) from my perspective:

  1. Is the Rachio and its software generally friendly to hacks like this?
    • Generally speaking, I would say yes. I have a water feature hooked up for example. Some things to consider that I can think of off hand:
      • Rachio has limited power output. This means that is cannot drive every relay that has 24VAC input. You will have to watch out for that and there are other ways of handling this
      • If you are talking about automatically turning things on because of snow or freezing temperatures, Rachio does not handle this as it turns things during these conditions. Obviously, you can do it manually and if you have some tech background, probably can set up some cool things. You might have to interface with multiple sources to get current temperatures, precipitation, etc.
      • From the perspective of Rachio, everything looks like it is a zone whether it is a sprinkler zone or some “hacked” circuit

It’s important to note that the Rachio will run only one zone at a time. So if you needed to turn on your gutter heat tape and your driveway heat at the same time, Rachio wouldn’t be able to do that. For those things, you are probably better off with a more traditional home automation system. I’m all for using what you have and seeing how far you can push the limits, but some devices are really just not designed to use differently.

You can do it with a Z-Wave/Zigbee hub and plugs, or there are a lot of inexpensive WiFi plugs available. Either way, you will probably get better results with one of these home automation systems than you would trying to hack the Rachio.

For the gutter and driveway heaters, I agree with @DaveB on the Wi-Fi controlled plugs. You can place each one at the respective power cords, eliminating the need to install new wiring.

However, for devices requiring low voltage control, something like these Wi-Fi controlled relays may be more suitable, with isolated relay contact outputs.

Oh yes, I forgot to include the limitation of one zone at a time. Thank you for catching that @DaveB.

1 Like

Thanks everyone for the feedback. I’d say the one-circuit-at-a-time limitation is probably the dealbreaker for my scheme right there (along with the other noted complexities). I probably will still pick up the Rachio for the sprinklers and will check out another hub for the rest of the wacky stuff.

Back with more I’m sure once I get my hands dirty…

Cheers, J

You might be able to do more than one “hacked” circuit if they came on and stayed on together, such as snowing. However, it probably is not efficient that way. To me, I would probably go with smart outlets or something similar.

We look forward to more when you get your hands dirty.