Ah, Rain Bird, I hate you
When we moved into the house in the summer of 2014, the one process that I could not figure out was the Rainbird sprinkler controller. Look at the picture at the right — this is the controller that we had in our garage. To understand and adjust the water schedule, you had to read the hieroglyphs and turn the knob X times. Honestly, I ran a few tests, and the only thing I could figure out was how to manually turn on the sprinklers using the ‘Test’ feature. After multiple failed attempts, I closed the cover, and hoped to God that the schedule was fine. Last summer, we fixed a few broken sprinkler heads and underground pipes (thanks, tree roots!), but our entire Zone 3 along the street was broken. How much to reroute? $650. We held off because of the cost, and we lost only one rose bush. Not the trade off I desired, but that’s what happened. I did want it to get fixed in 2016
Perchance to dream, last year I started researching new irrigation controller made for this century. I asked around at a few irrigation companies, but they all wanted to install more of the same confusing systems, with more dials and switches. For $300, plus $100 installation. Forget it. After much research, I had my eye on the Rachio Iro. A homeowner such as myself could use their app to set up the various watering zones and a watering schedule. Not only that, but it would use flexible watering schedule to not water on rainy days (according to the weather.) I was sold, but was waiting for the right time to make the $250 purchase.
As luck would have it. Rachio rolled out the new Generation 2 for $249, and the Gen 1 (16 zone version) dropped in price to $149. After confirming that the new Gen 2 features didn’t make me swoon, I happily purchased the Gen 1 version. Sweet!
A screenshot from the app with my various zones, names, other info
Last Thursday, a day before the irrigation company came out to charge me an arm & a leg to fix whatever else was broken this year, I took the time to note what color wires were assigned to each of the existing zones. Once I was confident, I disconnected and removed the old device. It was easy enough then to feed the irrigation wiring into the new Iro (from the bottom), and install the device into the garage drywall. I connected the wiring to the corresponding port, and easy peasy.
The following day, the irrigation guy came out to get the irrigation system up and running again. He rerouted our Zone 3 along the street with new pipes, had him fix any broken sprinkler heads, and better sprinkler heads where needed for better irrigation coverage. Overall, the Iro worked pretty well. There were a few times where I pushed the manual watering button for a particular zone, and nothing happened. No reason why that I could tell. Power cycling the Iro at least twice seemed to work.
After naming each zone (now that I know where each of them are), and taking photos of each one, I set up a flexible watering schedule based on the type of foliage, the type of sprinkler head, the degree of slope, and the type of soil. We start Tuesday morning, so this should be interesting. So far, I like the ease of use, and I have a better handle on my irrigation system.