It doesn't take much imagination to understand the catastrophic damage a major water leak could have on your property — especially if the leak occurs while you are away and unable to stop it.
But this fear, of property damage and the loss of cherished possessions, can be significantly reduced by the installation of a smart water flow monitor.
Generally speaking, you have two options here. One is a device that connects to your water pipe and can shut off the flow if a leak is detected. Some of these require professional installation, and in some cases a subscription is required to unlock every available feature.
The other option is a leak detector which sits on the floor (under the sink, for example) and alerts you when moisture is detected. These are much cheaper, but cannot monitor water flow or shut off the system in an emergency.
Here are some smart, connected water flow monitors, shut-off systems and leak detectors for you to consider for your home:
Phyn - $699 plus installation
Announced at the CES technology show in January 2018, the Phyn comes from a division of Belkin, the technology and smartphone accessory company recently acquired by iPhone manufacturer Foxconn.
Phyn claims to measure the pressure of your water 240 times every second and use this data to create a unique 'fingerprint' of your water system. This, the manufacturer says, helps Phyn to understand the difference between regular changes in pressure - when you run the shower, for example — and a burst pipe.
Read More - Phyn Plus review
As well as serious damage to your pipes, Phyn also detects leaks due to frozen pipes and pinhole leaks, and will alert you when it thinks you have left a tap on, potentially resulting in an overflowing bath. Phyn connects directly to your Wi-Fi router (instead of ito its own hub) and comes with a smartphone app for iOS and Android to alert you to potential leaks.
Alerts from the app include messages like: "Your water has been flowing since 9:30 this morning. Do you know what this is?" You can then answer yes or no, see further details, and shut off the water remotely if necessary. If the rise in water flow is particularly high, Phyn can automatically shut off the supply.
Phyn is intended for single family homes and cannot currently be installed if you live in an apartment building. If Wi-Fi signal at your water pipe is weak, an external antenna can be fitted to Phyn to improve reception. Unfortunately, Phyn works alone and does not yet offer connectivity with other smart home devices or services, so there is no Alexa, Google Assistant or IFTTT support for now. (The GearBrain: see what other connected devices work with Google Home or Amazon Alexa enabled device.)
Buoy - $799 (includes installation)
Buoy takes a similar approach to Phyn in that it measures water flow from the pipe entering your home. The device can be plugged into a wall outlet or run from a rechargeable battery if plugging in is inconvenient.
The makers of Buoy claim it shows your real time water use in its companion smartphone app, measuring the gallons used for your shower, toilet, sink and appliances like washing machines and dishwashers. It does this by uploading data to Buoy Labs' server, which uses machine learning to work out what is causing the water usage. Buoy even claims to know how water is being used when, for example, a shower, faucet and washing machine are all running at the same time.
If the worst should happen, Buoy will alert you to a potential leak and give you the option to remotely shut off your water supply until the problem can be checked out by a plumber.
Flo by Moen Smart Water Shutoff - $499
Flo by Moen is another option which connects to your pipe and constantly monitors the pressure, temperature and flow rate of your water supply. Its makers, Flo Technologies, claim the system can detect the smallest of flow irregularities, like the small dripping leak of a single faulty connection, and alert you via the smartphone app, From there, you can switch the water off and call a plumber.
The Flo by Moen Smart Water Shutoff device keeps a track of your daily, weekly and monthly water usage to spot trends and evidence of any water loss due to leaks. The makers of Flo claim that, on average, 13 percent of a home's total water is lost due to leaks, and that a single leaking toilet can waste over 3,000 gallons of water per day. The average cost of an insurance claim to fix water damage in the US is $8,800, it claims.
Phyn Smart Water Assistant - $300
Belkin's DIY Phyn option costs $300Belkin
The entry-level Phyn Smart Water Assistant is a DIY option that can be fitted to the pipes under your sink. There, it gives insight to your water usage, which is all presented in Phyn's smartphone app, helping you understand how much water is used throughout the home, and what it's costing you. The device can alert you to leaks anywhere in the home.
It cannot shut off the water supply, like the more expensive Phyn Plus can, mentioned above, but this option is also markedly cheaper and can be installed without help from a professional.
Insteon Water Sensor - $35
Devices which can shut off your water supply of course have their use — and could well justify their relatively high cost in an emergency — but there are simpler and more affordable ways to detect leaks around the home. These can also be installed in apartments, where you might not have access to the pipe.
Products like the Insteon Water Sensor can't shut off the supply, but they are inexpensive and immediately alert you when they come into contact with water. As such, this is like the sensors used by the LeakSmart system, but without a way of shutting off the water.
These sensors are wireless and are intended to be placed where leaks might occur, such as behind the toilet, under an air conditioning unit, or next to your washing machine. They do need the Insteon Hub in order to get alerts on your smartphone or by email.
Very similar to the Insteon above, is the Flood Sensor by Fibaro. This device alerts you to the presence of water and Fibaro sells two versions, one for using with Apple HomeKit and the other for hooking up to Z-Wave smart home hubs.
As well as detecting water (and floating if the leak gets that bad), the Fibaro also has a temperature sensor and a tamper sensor which alerts you if it has been moved from where you intended it to be.
Although we liked the Fibaro's ease-of-use, we found that placing it on an aluminum surface would cause it to go haywire, and although the tamper alert works if the device is tilted, it can be slid across the floor (and potentially away from where a flood might occur) without the alert going off.
Fibaro FGFS-101 ZW5 FGFS101ZW5 Flood Sensor, Z-Wave Plus Water Leak Detector-FGFS-101, White
Honeywell Lyric Wi-Fi Water Leak Detector - $79
This leak detector offers easy setup without the need for a professional and control via a smartphone app. It connects to your Wi-Fi router, so you don't need to worry about a separate smart home hub or bridge. The Honeywell alerts you via the app, but also by sounding an alarm from the device itself.
As well as alerting you when a leak is detected, the device also serves up temperature and humidity readings, and it comes with an optional cord sensor attachment which expands the leak detection area to 150 feet.
Honeywell Wi-Fi Water Leak & Freeze Detector
Samsung SmartThings Water Leak Sensor - $20
Samsung SmartThings Water Leak SensorSamsung
This could be a good option for anyone already invested in the Samsung SmartThings ecosystem, as it hooks up to the phone app just like the other sensors and devices you already own.
The device sends alerts to the SmartThings app on your phone when it detects moisture, but unlike most other leak detectors it doesn't have an alarm of its own, so if your phone is out of earshot you won't know about the leak. One thing to note is that you need a third-generation SmartThings hub installed in your home to get this sensor to work.
As well as alerting you to a leak, the sensor send reports on the ambient temperature to the SmartThings app, along with its location, battery life, and a history of when it has been activated by moisture.
Samsung GP-U999SJVLCAA Smart Things Water Leak Sensor - Automate Lights and Siren For Alert – ZigBee Accessory to Smart Things Hub White