What is the cycle and soak technique, and how does Smart Cycle use it to improve my yard?
Cycle and soak is a proven landscaping and irrigation technique that splits up watering durations into multiple, short watering durations. This method prevents wasteful and harmful water runoff, while increasing plant health by encouraging deeper root growth. By including Smart Cycle or manual cycle and soak in your watering schedules, you can prevent soil erosion, stop harmful lawn chemicals from washing into fragile rivers and streams, and even save money on your water bill!
With Rachio, you can choose how to apply this technique to you watering schedule. You can select:
- Rachio's Smart Cycle feature, which uses your unique zone settings in order to automatically apply cycle and soak technology to your schedule if needed.
- Manual cycle and soak, which allows you to determine the soak and cycle times.
- No cycle and soak
What is Smart Cycle?
Smart Cycle is Rachio’s implementation of the “cycle and soak” technique. It 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 (see below for instructions).
The duration of the cycle and the soak times for each zone is calculated automatically by the Rachio, utilizing the zones unique zone settings. For example, a zone with a 14-minute run time may be irrigated for 7 minutes, and then turned off while the controller advances to irrigate another zone. While the second zone is being watered, the original zone has time to soak up all the water into its soil, thus preventing water runoff. Then, after the second zone cycle is complete, the original zone is then irrigated for the remaining 7 minutes to achieve the total 14-minute run time. This 14-minute run time may also be irrigated for 2 minutes, turned off while the controller advances to irrigate another zone, then irrigated 2 more minutes, continuing this pattern until 14 minutes is achieved.
What is manual cycle and soak?
The manual Cycle and Soak feature allows you to do the same thing as Smart Cycle (split up watering durations into multiple shorter watering durations), except that you define the parameters instead of Rachio doing this for you. Unlike Smart Cycle, applying a manual cycle and soak to your schedules takes some work and configuration to implement.
How can I use Smart Cycle, manual cycle and soak, or edit my selection?
You can make your cycle and soak selection during the schedule creation process. Want to edit cycle and soak or add Smart Cycle to a schedule?
Select the "Schedules" tab.
Tap the schedule you would like to edit, then scroll down and tap "Cycle and soak."
Tap the option you would like to apply to your schedule (Smart Cycle will automatically apply to your schedule, unless you make a different selection). Want to try manual cycle and soak instead? After making your selection, use the plus and minus buttons to adjust length of "cycle" (minutes of active watering) and length of "soak" (minutes of delay between watering repeats).
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!
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.
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|
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 even cycles of 15 minutes
- 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 different for each zone, so zone 4 will only water once for 20 minutes in the first cycle, the second cycle will only have zones 1-3.
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!