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Rachio Sprinkler: Ultimate FAQ Guide for All Gens

Last Updated Oct 30, 2021
rachio 3 smart sprinkler

The Rachio Sprinkler System is designed to convert your current system into a new layer of digital, smart control. It’s neither radically designed nor complicated to install. Once in place, your lawn care will be neatly integrated with your smart home or added as a quality, automated sprinkler system.

In this FAQ, you’ll find all of your important questions answered, including those about each generation of Rachio Sprinkler System products.

How Does the Rachio Sprinkler System Work?

The Rachio Sprinkler System works by using an app, controller, and flow meter to adjust the output and direction of water, detect leaks, and more, to maintain the health of your yard. Each generation of Rachio offers additional features as the technology advances.

The Rachio Sprinkler System is not a replacement for existing sprinkler systems. The pipes and sprinklers already installed are linked to the controller and flow meter. In other words, like a smart thermostat doesn’t replace your HVAC system, Rachio doesn’t replace your sprinkler system.

In fact, Rachio functions in much the same way as a smart thermostat, automating your system and tailored to your preferences while monitoring and adjusting to reduce waste.

What Are the Differences Between All the Rachio Generations?

The following are the key differences between each Rachio generation:

 Rachio Iro (1st Gen)Rachio Gen 2Rachio Gen 3Rachio Gen 3e
CompatibilityAmazon Alexa, IFTTT, Nest, Wink, Control4, NexiaAmazon Alexa, IFTTT, Nest, Wink, Control4, Nexia, Smart Things, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKitAmazon Alexa, IFTTT, Nest, Wink, Control4, Nexia, Smart Things, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKitAmazon Alexa, IFTTT, Nest, Wink, Control4, Nexia, Smart Things, Google Assistant, Does Not Support Apple HomeKit
Weather IntelligenceYesYesYesYes
8 and 16 Zone ModelsBoth ModelsBoth ModelsBoth Models8-zone Model Only
Wi-Fi Bandwidth Support2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n2.4 and 5.0GHz 802.11b/g/n/ac2.4 and 5.0GHz 802.11b/g/n/ac
Weather Intelligence PlusNoNoYes Hyperlocal AccuracyNo
Physical Interface on ControllerNoNoYesYes
Leak Detection and Blockage AlertsNoNoYesNo
Vortex TechnologyNoNoYesNo
Emergency Zone Shut-offNoNoYesNo
Rachio Wireless Flow MeterNot CompatibleNot CompatibleCompatibleNot Compatible
Precise Water Usage MonitoringNoNoYesNo

There are many features on every generation of Rachio Sprinkler Systems, and the additional features increase exponentially, especially with the Rachio Gen 3.

The Rachio Iro and Rachio Gen 2 are still produced and available, despite succeeding generations. The Rachio 3e is the latest and lite version of the Rachio Gen 3.

Which Rachio Generation is Right for Me?

The Rachio generation that is right for you depends on the level of autonomy that you want. Technically, all four generations can be micromanaged, and all four are self-sustaining—past a certain level of setup and configuration.

All Rachio Sprinkler systems are some of the smartest devices around, and that’s reflected in their price packages. The greatest factor of separation is the addition of the Weather Intelligence Plus in the Rachio 3.

If you prefer a massive aggregate of weather, satellite, and radar information, then your choice is clear. That doesn’t mean that 270,000 local and national weather stations are more accurate than one local weather station. If you’re more open to simplicity and hands-on tasks, then your options are broader.

The Rachio 3e is the only Rachio product that doesn’t offer a 16-zone version. If you have more than 8 zones—even if you have only 9—a 16-zone controller is the only choice.

Regardless of what you choose, all four Rachio Systems are top brand products, so no choice is legitimately the wrong one.

How Do You Install a Rachio Sprinkler System?

Begin installing your Rachio Sprinkler System by documenting zones, corresponding wire color, locating the master pump wire—labeled M or P—and locating the power wire. Once you’ve determined these, it’s a matter of removing the old and replacing the new while matching the zones you documented with their color-coded wires.

The instructions that come with the Rachio system have a layout for placing drywall anchors that match the mounting screws when you install the Rachio controller. Take pictures of the original wire layout and test each one to see which color wire corresponds to each zone. When you mount the new Rachio system, simply insert the wires into the terminals as you documented in each zone.

The only wires that won’t insert into a “C” terminal are the master pump, which will go to the “M” terminal, and the power terminal. The instruction manual will walk you through each terminal, but if you document your zones and take pictures of the original setup, it’s just a matter of matching the wires for the new controller.

When all of the wires are correctly inserted into their respective terminals, plug in the power. The controller will display a white light, followed by an amber light. When you see the amber light, the controller is ready to pair with the Rachio app. The app is available on both Android and iOS and is required for the setup process and interaction with the controller. When you open the app, it will automatically run you through the pairing process.

Will the Rachio Sprinkler System Work with an Existing Flow Meter?

Every Rachio generation is compatible with almost every sprinkler system, including their flow meters. The Rachio utilizes the flow meter to control water outflow, leak detection, emergency shut-offs, and conservation.

The Rachio 3 is the only generation compatible with the Wireless Flow Meter. However, the Rachio Flow Meter has been discontinued due to a complex installation process that caused several customer complaints. Marketed as a system that is easy to install, Rachio decided that the wireless flow meter did not stand up to customer expectations and company goals.

How Do I Set Up a Rachio Watering Schedule?

To set up a watering schedule on your Rachio:

  1. Open the Rachio app.
  2. From the bottom navigation bar, select Irrigation.
  3. Select Schedules > Add Schedules.

From there, you can choose from three different types of schedules and select the zones and days/times you want your sprinklers to run.

When you begin the process to set up your watering schedule, Rachio will prompt you to select a “schedule type.” 

  • Flex Monthly
  • Flex Daily
  • Fixed Schedule

Next, you’ll be able to choose the zones you would like to follow the schedule, then name your new schedule. Afterward, you’ll be prompted to select the frequency you want your sprinklers to water your chosen zones, as well as when you want your schedule to run. Finally, you’ll be able to choose when you want your new schedule to start and end.

What’s the Difference Between Rachio’s Weather Intelligence Standard and Plus?

Weather Intelligence is a feature available for all Rachio generations, while Weather Intelligence Plus is exclusive to Rachio Gen 3. The standard version of Weather Intelligence utilizes a single national or personal weather service station to modify its routines. Weather Intelligence Plus combines personal and national weather station info with satellite and radar data to adjust.

Weather Intelligence Plus is a far more precise and data-intensive feature than its standard predecessor. The Gen 3 version gathers all of the data from an immense array of sources to make smart choices through a feature called Flex Daily. Other generations of Rachio, including 3e, use the standard version and lack the Flex Daily feature, adjusting for an entire week or month instead.

The many features of Weather Intelligence Plus include:

  • Freeze Skip: Rachio will skip watering your lawn if the temperatures are scheduled to drop too low.
  • Wind Skip: Rachio will skip watering your lawn if the wind is measured at a level that will affect adequate water spread.
  • Saturation and Rain Skip: Rachio avoids watering if soil moisture is too high or rain is projected during regular scheduling.
  • Seasonal Shift: Rachio will modify watering based on seasonal changes and the weather patterns that come with it.

(Source: Rachio)

Why is My Rachio Controller Offline?

The Rachio controller may go offline if there is no or a poor Wi-Fi connection. To restore the Wi-Fi connection with Rachio, try these troubleshooting steps:

  1. Restart your router.
  2. Check your Wi-Fi signal strength.
  3. Extend the range of your Wi-Fi.

If your Rachio controller is not connected to Wi-Fi, the Rachio app will display an “offline” status. To troubleshoot, you can reset your Rachio controller, reset your router, check the signal strength of the controller, update your router firmware, or consider purchasing a Wi-Fi extender.

  • You can install the Rachio Sprinkler System outside—provided you purchase an outdoor enclosure since the controller isn’t waterproof—but you may run into Wi-Fi interference as a result.
  • Wi-Fi doesn’t like brick, concrete, metal, or other electrical devices. So if you install the controller outside, consider purchasing a Wi-Fi extender. 
  • Rachio recommends a minimum of two bars of signal strength at the controller’s location. You can check this by opening the app and standing next to the controller. The controller’s signal strength will be displayed on your smartphone. If the signal is too weak, try using a Wi-Fi extender.
  • If all else fails, consider power cycling or resetting your Rachio controller to reset the device’s Wi-Fi connection.

How Do I Reset My Rachio?

To reset any generation of Rachio, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Rachio app.
  2. Select More from the Home screen.
  3. Tap Controller Settings > Remove Controller.
  4. You’ll see a warning message appear. Tap Remove.

There are a few reasons why you may need to reset your Rachio controller:

  • You need to change or reset your Wi-Fi network.
  • You are transferring Rachio to a new owner or are moving.

There are two ways you may need to reset Rachio: via the Rachio app and/or through the controller. To reset Rachio through the app, follow the steps above.

If your controller is offline, you may need to reset it through the device itself in addition to the app. To do this:

  1. Unplug the controller for 30 seconds, then plug it back in.
  2. After the device reboots, hold down the Stop button until the light bar lights up.
  3. The controller will have a blue flashing light when the reset is successful. It will be ready to reconnect to Wi-Fi once the device has a blinking amber light. 

For older Rachio gens (gen 2 and earlier), you will need to follow these steps to reset via the controller:

  1. Unplug the controller.
  2. Press and hold both the up arrow and Select button.
  3. While holding the buttons down, plug the controller back in.
  4. Keep holding the buttons down until the LED light turns on before releasing.

Note: If you choose to reset the device through the controller (any gen), you will still need to follow the steps above to delete it from the Rachio app to complete the reset.

Are Rachio Sprinkler Systems Compatible with Digital Assistants?

All generations or Rachio Sprinkler Systems work with most digital assistants, though Apple HomeKit is an addition only in recent updates to later generations.

Digital assistants, such as Alexa, allow you to control when and how your Rachio waters your lawn. You can control specific zones, shut down the system altogether, set routines and schedules, or use IFTTT to craft specific tasks for specific times and purposes.

Rachio devices were also designed to integrate with other smart home systems, such as Nest. They also work with Control4, Nexia, and SmartThings, all of which allow you to create different routines and schedules.

Will the Rachio Sprinkler System Save On My Water Bill?

Users can save up to 50% on water usage by using the Rachio Sprinkler System. Customer experiences vary but generally average around 30%.

Rachio Sprinkler Systems were designed with micromanagement in mind. The systems are uniquely tailored by the customer down to the smallest detail. With the inclusion of weather intelligence features, the water savings are discernible before the bill arrives in the mail.

Zone control is also a factor, giving you improved control over which zone waters what and when. Instead of all the sprinklers switching on at certain times, only the necessary ones activate instead.

How Does the Rachio App Work?

Besides helping you set up and install a Rachio controller, the Rachio app controls every aspect of lawn care via the controller. That is, unless you cede some control aspects to a digital assistant.

The Rachio app is a part of the Rachio system from the beginning as the software comes with a complete, step-by-step guide through setup, pairing, and installation. After installation, the app is your primary means of managing your Rachio system.

The controller makes it smart; the app gives you control. The Rachio was designed to take all of the frustrating guesswork of lawn maintenance and reconstitute it into a smart system that you can micromanage. With the app, you’ll have control of every routine, every schedule, zone activation times, alerts, and so much more.

Alternatively, once you’ve configured the system to your liking—and combined with Weather Intelligence—you can let the Rachio take the lead. Its intuitive software allows it to make decisions on its own, with the app as the go-between for information and if you ever decide to make changes.

What is Rachio Lawn Champion?

Updated: Rachio has decided to discontinue Lawn Champion and focus on hardware and software products.

Lawn Champion is a soil treatment produced by Rachio to improve soil and root health conditions. It works hand-in-hand with water savings by reducing the soil’s need for saturation.

Lawn Champion isn’t marketed as a fertilizer treatment. Rachio goes out of their way to hammer that point home. It is marketed as an eco-friendly material that improves soil conditions, strengthens root growth, and eliminates the necessity of aerating your lawn.

Rather than use heavy chemicals—which creates runoff into spillways and eventually makes its way into rivers and streams—Lawn Champion is primarily microalgae, which is not harmful to the environment and is advertised as an essential tool for restoring your lawn’s health.