Water conservation has become more important in recent days and looks to only increase in awareness. Those with lawns are already aware that the cost of keeping “green” will cost more in the future, so what to do? The answer has been to water the lawn with careful attention to schedules and manual use of sprinklers. But with the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller in place, it now means “smart watering.”
The Rachio is a water scheduling device whose only similarities to the conventional sprinkler timers found in so many homes is that it will turn sprinklers on and off. But the Rachio is not “stupid” because it’s electronic brain has a fast-track to that all-important invisible entity, the “Cloud.” Through the use of built-in WiFi, it can assess the weather so that it doesn’t follow the really stupid example of a dumb sprinkler system that goes on the same day after there’s been a downpour. That can’t happen if the system has automatic water delays based on knowledge of what is going on in the world that it inhabits. And as should be obvious now, this same intelligence gathering is able to work other aspects, such as analyzing the soil’s composition, sun exposure, sprinkler nozzle type and yes, the lawn’s overall makeup. And being able to not just communicate with national weather stations but tie into personal weather stations and rain sensors just opens the options up wide. All this works together so as to provide the best means for watering efficiently and in a cost-effective manner. But also with an eye for making the lawn look as good as it is healthy.
As stated above, the Rachio connects to the home’s wireless network in order to function, necessitating an Internet connection. That might have been an issue 10 years ago but it’s hardly worth mentioning now. Obviously its placement requires being within range, but the easiest approach to this is to have a home network with as fast a wireless component as possible (802.11N for example). The Rachio has a straightforward look and is not designed to be a fashion statement but a functional smart device that will continue to do its work over a long period of time. The actual connections require replacing the existing sprinkler controller, and there are online videos to help with the task. It’s not exactly rocket science, but since electricity is involved, if in doubt look to a friend who is more knowledgable about these things (or your gardener or lawn service).
The basic setting up can be done once the associated app has been downloaded and in no way requires mucking about with the network, so your Netflix is safe. Just check out the abundance of instructions on the company’s “Support” tab on their website, take a few deep breaths and proceed. The Rachio does require an AC outlet and so again placement must take this into consideration also. But for most folks, it will be positioned next to/near the existing sprinkler system’s controller, because it is going to take over all the functions of that antiquated fossil anyway and will be using those connections already in place.
Obviously the use of an app on a smartphone (be it IOS or Android) allows for both local as well as remote control and teh ability to get (near) real-time notifications as well as water usage reports. Of course it’s expected and desirable that the app can be updated over time to become more efficient and effective in doing its tasks, but what is available right now seems to cover the majority of the needs one will have. Scheduling is designed around flexibility without sacrificing routine. This doesn’t mean changes can’t be made — they can — but it’s possible to see what the best choices are to make, rather than having to rely on the rigidity of a schedule that can’t take any factors at all in mind. And for those who really want to kick back and relax, the system allows for “handing off” control to one’s gardener or landscape professional, so as to give them the tools they need for performing their job better.
This second generation (i.e., Gen 2) Rachio is EPA certified but it’s not about restrictions but about sensible and effective use of a natural resource, water. The company points to the fact that the Rachio isn’t about a “one size fits all” experience, but about being able to calibrate and adapt its use based on your needs. There’s even the possibility of rebate savings from one’s municipality as a result of installing the Rachio — for this you’d have to check with your city, but here’s an opportunity that might pay off and which you wouldn’t have had any chance about before.
The Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller retails for $249.99 (covering up to 16 zones), can be manually controlled from the unit and has an optional enclosure for weather resistant use if exposed to the outdoors. And as befits a “smart” device, it can integrate with other home automation products, such as NEST, Control4 and others. For those who say that going “smart green” isn’t necessary, let’s remind them that the Rachio will help to decrease the costs of that other green, money. So considering how simple it is to integrate it into one’s sprinkler system, watering one’s lawn is not just smart but at a savings.