Save Water, Save Money: We Test Out the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller - Generation 2
The Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller Generation 2 sets out to improve upon the widely successful Rachio Iro. A smart sprinkler controller replaces your current one to automate watering in ways that conserve water and save you money. We previously tried out the RainMachine Touch HD-12 which looks and feels very different than the Rachio.
Installing and using the Rachio was very easy, just make sure you take a picture of your existing wire configuration on your current controller so you can keep the order the same and know your zones. The app, available on iOS and Android, will connect the controller to your home’s Wi-Fi and use local weather and humidity data to make your schedule more efficient. The set up process will trigger each zone one at a time, so you know the connections work. It will ask you for soil type, ground slope, what’s planted there, sun exposure, and sprinkler nozzle type to get a good feel for how it should be watered. You can even take a picture and title the zone so there’s no confusion later.
You can then create a schedule based on each zone’s needs, a certain interval, or specific days. The “as needed” option puts the full power of the Rachio to the test as it creates a dynamic schedule based on your yard’s information, the weather, humidity, the season, and regional data. No matter the schedule, you can still have the Rachio use weather data to conserve water. You can also select Smart Cycle which breaks up zone watering to prevent water runoff, so the water you do use is absorbed properly.
If you have rain or freeze sensors, they can be connected to provide additional data. A flow sensor connection is also included for future functions.
We loved how it took the guesswork out of watering, especially since the yard we tested it with had a variety of vegetation. We had different schedules set up for watering trees by the month, keeping our veggie garden hydrated every other day, and watering our grass on the as needed schedule.
The Rachio controller makes every aspect customizable, even the weather station you use can be changed to a personal weather station. We found the app to be easy to navigate and control, allowing you instant access to manually water a specific zone, see your schedule on the calendar or by zone, view the weather and if it will affect watering, etc. Your watering history and schedule updates are also saved so you can understand how the Rachio is adapting and make informed decisions moving forward. Graphs chart your usage in gallons and let you know how much you’ve saved.
Since this controller depends on a Wi-Fi connection, if it loses communication with your router for more than 24 hours, a push notification and email will be sent. We loved this simple alert as we hadn’t experienced it in other smart devices tested before. It made it easy to fix the problem before it affected our yard’s well-being.
Onboard controls and a LED status light are new features for the Gen 2 model, so you can make quick changes if you don’t have your app-enabled device handy. The response time is also quicker this time around, which was immediately apparent as we started and stopped watering almost instantaneously from our phones.
The Rachio can connect to a wide variety of third party devices and programs to push the controller’s capabilities and usefulness. IFTTT, Nest, Xfinity, Alarm, Control4, Nexia, Wink, and Amazon Echo all have functionality with the Rachio. For example, you can use voice controls with Echo. We connected the controller to our Nest system which enabled two new features. If your Nest Protect senses smoke, it will tell Rachio to wet down your yard to help mitigate potential fire spread. Your water usage stats will also appear in the monthly Nest report.
The Rachio website states you can save over 50%, with average users seeing 30% water savings. We were unable to verify that report during our month-long test, we’d just need more time to track water usage, but we did see a sizable water usage decline that reacted very well to the weather conditions that occurred. Just being able to cycle and soak for our scheduled watering cut down on water waste, which led to more savings at the end of the month.
The Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller Generation 2 can be purchased online or in stores as an 8 or 16 zone model, starting at $200. Some water companies even offer rebates to owners of EPA watersense certified smart sprinkler controllers.