What is Smart Cycle?
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 to prevent runoff and increase plant health. 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.
What does Smart Cycle do?
Smart Cycle automates the cycle and soak process and removes the guesswork of how long to cycle and soak. It intelligently breaks up run times to maximize your watering capabilities. Smart Cycle is recommended, and enabled automatically on all schedules, but can be edited by clicking on the "Schedule" tab, selecting a particular schedule, selecting "Cycle and Soak," and then toggling on your preference. (Want to try Manual Cycle and Soak? There's an option for that as well under the same setting).
How does Smart Cycle affect my watering times?
With Smart Cycle activated, watering times may seem longer on the surface. But don't worry - your schedules are not applying more water, just watering more efficiently. Watering less frequently for longer is usually the best long-term thing to do for your lawn.
Smart Cycle has been enhanced and is now smarter than ever! Due to these changes, you may notice that Smart Cycle is working differently on your schedules, specifically schedules that include drip zones and turf zones. Previously, if there were any drip zones in a schedule, Smart Cycle would not be applied to any zones in the schedule (even turf zones), even if it was enabled. Now, Smart Cycle can be applied to just the turf zones in a schedule, even if there are also drip zones in the same schedule. This means that you may begin to see Smart Cycle applied to your schedules when it wasn't previously.
Why is Smart Cycle important?
Go to nearly any suburban neighborhood, especially one in an areas with lots of clay in the soil, and you'll likely see at least a few streams of runoff water coming off of the lawns, gushing right down 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 (further polluting our water system).
Can the wait time between cycles be reduced to less than 30?
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 continue 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:
|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 22 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
- 5:15 - water zone 2 for 22 minutes - same as Zone 1
- 5:30 - water zone 3 for 22 minutes
- 5:45 - water zone 4 for 22 minutes
- 6:00 - water zone 1 for 8 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!