Striving for the Ultimate “Smart” Home Using the Latest Tech! Part 2
My Quest to Increase My Home’s Intelligence
When we moved to the new home, I needed to bring over certain functions and features we had become accustomed to at our old house. One such feature was a Smart Sprinkler Controller. This was one of my later purchases for our previous home, but I could get quite a bit of use out of it throughout the late Spring and Summer of 2020. Through my experience, I found a Smart Sprinkler Controller much easier to use than the old analog Rainbird controller previously installed. Working within a phone application was much simpler, with many more options for water control.
Orbit B-Hyve was my original controller of choice. In this case, I was directly influenced by the price. I am confident it was available to me online for well under the $99.00 mark. It had everything I needed at the time, with the ability to control more than the eight zones we currently had. It worked with Alexa and promised to save up to 50% off our watering bill. Keep in mind; it is so hard to gauge any of these water-saving claims without intense measuring devices. I certainly don’t have time to substantiate many of these claims. Owning a system like this provides ease of programming; the unit will take data it gathers from being smart such as weather reports, and will not water if rain is forecast. Quite simply, it is like having a person at the helm of the unit at all times. In essence, you will save water by not running it all of the time. How many times have you seen sprinklers running when there was also a torrential downpour of rain? These units will eliminate this, at least on your own property.
What is the main purpose of having a water controller? We want to keep our lawns looking green. Will these units help you do this? Certainly, but I have also learned quite a bit of this depends on how your lawn is set up and situated on your property. Our previous lawn was subject to the direct sun the entire day. The house was situated facing east and west. Tree coverage was very little, and no matter how much we watered the lawn, we were starting to see our lawn begin to brown by mid-summer. The amount of clay within our lawn certainly did not help the cause. Our area within the neighborhood was famous for having an abundance of clay within the soil. I had spent much time bringing in extra topsoil, aerating, and weeding to get the lawn into fighting shape.
What I liked about the Orbit unit was the ease of hook-up? I recommend taking the existing unit and revealing the hook-up of the wires. In my case, the original Rain Bird wires were color-coded for each zone and situated in a specific order. Take a picture of this; it will be a good reference point should you have to fall back on this. Such is the case with any new controllers; they will be connected in the same way. Depending on how many zones you have, you will have to connect many wires to the new controller. I was happy with the Orbit controller, but I opted to change things around and upgrade when we moved.
Rachio makes several units, and I opted to go with the Rachio 3 model. Much like the Orbit model, Rachio does the same thing with more bells and whistles. In both cases, you can set up a watering schedule to water when and where you water. You can run individual zones as many times or as few as you would like. I specifically like to take pictures of the zones so you know which zone is where and can easily water it when required. During setup, you enable zone 1 and allow it to run for a certain amount of time. This will allow you to locate the watering heads, take a picture of the zone and store it for future reference. The Rachio will work with Alexa, Apple’s Homekit, Google, Nest, and the list goes on. I am more of an application person, and while I have Apple’s Homekit and Alexa within the house, we are not entirely sold on the voice controls….yet.
How intuitive is the application? On the welcome screen, it will give you a few weeks’ projected weather forecast. Today will be hot, with Friday and Saturday seeing over 90% chance of rain. The unit will tell you the last time the system has run and the next scheduled time. You have a running tally of watering time based on the month you are in. Currently, I have a couple of hours of watering time in June. I had customized a few zones to water daily on certain areas I patched with new seed. These needed extra care and watering. Another nice feature is Weather Intelligence Skips. It rained on Monday, so the unit skipped watering that day, and it made a note of the missed event. You will see a graph showing scheduled watering vs. actual watering.
Such is the case with the Rachio; you are getting the ability to customize your water scheduling on a more tailored schedule. The tailoring I am referring to is the data you input based on flowerbed locations, soil quality, the amount of sun certain areas are exposed to. The more information you share with the application, the more effective the watering cycle can be.
In most communities, watering is based on the even/odd rule. On even days you can water, and the odd days are considered off days. You can set up the Rachio or Orbit controller to run on these scheduled times and however long required. Based on the weather reports, the system will bypass the day’s schedule if the weather is too windy or rain is on the horizon.
Again, will you save 50% off your bill? It will depend on how much watering you normally provide to your lawn. Depending on how much shade your lawn has, you could potentially never have to run your system. You could save 100%. We have specific zones we will be running more often than others. Our back yard backs up to a mature forest, and the amount of shade in the back yard allows our lawn to retain moisture. I envision us not having to water this nearly as much as the less shade-covered front lawn. In essence, we will save 50% if we don’t have to run the back zones.
In closing, the Rachio is a great system overall. Was it miles apart from the Orbit model? Not really, as both units function well and do the job intended. I truly do not know all of the capabilities available with the Rachio, as I seem to find something new every day. You can go further by using the application journal for your lawn, and I am certain there are those green thumb buffs who will take advantage of this. I can tell you there is no shortage of features with the Rachio. To be honest, I have customized some but not to the extent the application recommends. I am also pretty early into the process, only having moved in just over a month ago. Will I get further into it? Time will tell, but it is nice to know I have the option. Part 3