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.
|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||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||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|
|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||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|
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!