What is Smart Cycle?

Smart Cycle and Scheduling

Smart Cycle is disabled on a schedule if there are ANY bubbler, emitter, or mister nozzles in the schedule. Why? Most drip zones are either watering flowers with short run times to begin with, or shrubs/trees which require deep root watering. For the best result, we recommend grouping watering times by vegetation or nozzle type.

Smart Cycle is Rachio's implementation of the "cycle and soak" technique. Basically, "cycle and soak" splits watering durations into two or three shorter durations; for example, a 14-minute run time may be irrigated for 7 minutes, turned off while the controller advances to irrigate another zone, then irrigated for the remaining 7 minutes to achieve the total 14-minute run time. Smart Cycle automates the process and removes the guess work of how long to cycle and soak. Simply enable this feature on the watering time menu, and Rachio handles the rest; irrigating, shutting off the zone to allow water to soak in, then irrigating the remainder of the required time.

Why is it important?

Go to nearly any suburban neighborhood, especially one in an ares with lots of clay in the soil, and you'll likely see at least a few streams coming off of the lawns, gushing down right into the storm drain. Besides being a huge waste of water (and money!), runoff erodes topsoil, and washes harmful chemicals like pesticides into our lakes and rivers.

It seems like Smart Cycle takes a long time to complete

It can take some time, but Rachio does all the work, and we recommend watering well before your family wakes up anyway. If you still need the total watering duration to be lower, consider splitting your watering times into more frequent cycles (if your watering restrictions allow it). Keep in mind, however, watering less frequently for longer is usually the best long-term thing to do for your lawn.

Can the wait time between cycles be reduced to less than 30?

The experts agree that a cycle time of at least 30 minutes is important to get water into your soil, instead of on the street.

How long can a zone's watering duration get before it needs to get cycle soaked?

The following table shows the relationship between soil type (precipitation intake rate) and slope. Notice that clay which does not have a very high intake rate is allowed much smaller surface accumulation than either loam (top soil) or sand.

The Maximum Runtime allowable before runoff occurs will be calculated from the following formula:
Rt (max) = 60 (ASA)/(PR – IR), minutes
ASA = Allowable Surface Accumulation
PR = Precipitation Rate. The amount of irrigation water applied per unit of time.
IR = Soil intake rate
The following are the maximum allowable watering minutes without cycling for different types of soils, slopes, and nozzles 
Nozzle In/hr Soil Slope Maximum runtime minutes
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Clay Flat 8.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Clay Slight 6.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Clay Moderate 4.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Clay Steep 4.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Silty Clay Flat 10.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Silty Clay Slight 8.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Silty Clay Moderate 7.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Silty Clay Steep 5.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Clay Loam Flat 12.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Clay Loam Slight 10.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Clay Loam Moderate 8.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Clay Loam Steep 6.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Loam Flat 15.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Loam Slight 13.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Loam Moderate 10.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Loam Steep 8.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Sandy Loam Flat 18.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Sandy Loam Slight 15.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Sandy Loam Moderate 13.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Sandy Loam Steep 10.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Loamy Sand Flat 21.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Loamy Sand Slight 18.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Loamy Sand Moderate 15.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Loamy Sand Steep 13.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Sand Flat 26.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Sand Slight 23.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Sand Moderate 20.0
Fixed Spray Head 1.5 Sand Steep 16.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Clay Flat 13.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Clay Slight 10.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Clay Moderate 6.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Clay Steep 6.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Silty Clay Flat 16.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Silty Clay Slight 13.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Silty Clay Moderate 11.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Silty Clay Steep 9.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Clay Loam Flat 19.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Clay Loam Slight 16.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Clay Loam Moderate 13.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Clay Loam Steep 11.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Loam Flat 27.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Loam Slight 23.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Loam Moderate 19.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Loam Steep 15.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Sandy Loam Flat 33.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Sandy Loam Slight 29.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Sandy Loam Moderate 24.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Sandy Loam Steep 20.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Loamy Sand Flat 43.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Loamy Sand Slight 36.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Loamy Sand Moderate 31.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Loamy Sand Steep 26.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Sand Flat 60.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Sand Slight 52.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Sand Moderate 45.0
Rotor Head 1.0 Sand Steep 37.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Clay Flat 20.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Clay Slight 15.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Clay Moderate 10.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Clay Steep 10.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Silty Clay Flat 25.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Silty Clay Slight 20.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Silty Clay Moderate 17.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Silty Clay Steep 14.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Clay Loam Flat 31.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Clay Loam Slight 26.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Clay Loam Moderate 21.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Clay Loam Steep 18.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Loam Flat 51.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Loam Slight 42.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Loam Moderate 36.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Loam Steep 29.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Sandy Loam Flat 66.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Sandy Loam Slight 58.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Sandy Loam Moderate 48.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Sandy Loam Steep 40.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Loamy Sand Flat 108.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Loamy Sand Slight 90.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Loamy Sand Moderate 78.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Loamy Sand Steep 66.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Sand Flat 240.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Sand Slight 210.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Sand Moderate 180.0
Rotary Nozzle 0.7 Sand Steep 150.0

How does it work?

When running a watering schedule with Smart Cycle turned on, Rachio software divides the total watering time for each zone into a number of cycles. For each cycle, a zone is watered for a period of time short enough so that the water will not immediately run off. The next zone is then watered for its period of time, etc. until all of the zones have had their "cycle". During this process, it's important that the soil in each zone gets enough time to absorb the water. Specifically, Rachio guarantees that each zone will get at least 30 minutes between the end of one cycle and the beginning of the next. 

Let's look at an example: imagine that we had 4 zones, all grass with normal topsoil, all with popup sprinklers. The recommended watering time for each zone for this time of year is 30 minutes twice a week (must be August!), starting at 5AM. With Smart Cycle, the watering schedule would look something like this:

  • 5:00 - water zone 1 for 15 minutes - the maximum recommended watering cycle time for popup sprinklers on topsoil is about 22 minutes (see below). Since our watering time of 30 minutes exceeds that, Rachio will break it up into 2 cycles of 15 minutes each
  • 5:15 - water zone 2 for 15 minutes - same as Zone 1
  • 5:30 - water zone 3 for 15 minutes
  • 5:45 - water zone 4 for 15 minutes
  • 6:00 - water zone 1 for 15 minutes - it's been at least 30 minutes since zone 1 finished its first cycle, so it's OK to water it again.
  • And so on, for zones 2-4

But what if one of the zones was different--say, a tree that needs only 20 minutes of water in zone 4? The number of cycles is determined by the maximum number of cycles needed among the zones, so each zone will still run 2 cycles, with zones 1-3 running for 15 minutes per cycle and zone 4 running for 10 minutes per cycle.

What are Cycle Times / Wait Times in Smart Cycle?

Sometimes, it's not possible to schedule a cycle such that the watering times of all of the other zones gives us our 30 minutes between cycles. If that's the case, the controller will "cycle" or wait, for as many minutes as it takes to make sure that all zones get the soaking time they need before getting more water.

Here's an example: Imagine a watering time with 4 zones that need to be watered for 30 minutes each, all with grass, popup sprinklers, and clay soil. The recommended maximum watering time per cycle for this situation is only 5 minutes (see below), so the controller will break the schedule up into 6 cycles of 5 minutes apiece. The schedule for this would be:

  • 5:00 - 5:20: Water zones 1- 4 for 5 minutes each
  • 5:20: Cycling phase 1 of 6 begins - zone 1 finished watering at 5:05, and it's 5:20 now, so the water hasn't had enough time to soak in. To solve this, Rachio will simply wait for 15 minutes, to give zone 1 enough time (cycling takes 30 minutes per zone)
  • 5:35: 5:55 - zone 1 has had 30 minutes to cycle and let the water soak in. Watering resumes, followed by the rest of the zones, for another 5 minutes
  • 5:55: Cycling phase 2 of 6. Wait for 15 minutes, etc. until all zones have had 30 minutes to soak.
  • 8:30: We're done!

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