Leak detection sensors have been around for years, but most have limited sensing capability. If the sensor isn’t where the puddle is, the leak goes undetected. Some leak sensors have tried to address this with corded “tails” that extend beyond the sensor but can also detect water. I like those better, but the best leak detection isn’t a smattering of sensors. Instead, it’s a smarter water meter.
With that in mind, several companies have formed to try to help consumers and insurers avoid one of the costliest aspects of home ownership — undetected leaks. At CES next week, several startups will launch or show off new products aimed at the DIY homeowner that are worth a look.
All of them allow for remote shut off of the water valve if a leak is detected. Some even do that automatically. Most offer algorithmic leak detection, which means that water doesn’t have to hit a sensor for a leak to be detected. Instead these systems monitor the water usage of the home looking for anomalies or above average water usage by specific devices. Toilets are a big culprit.
Toilets that run all the time can waste hundreds of gallons of water each day in a home, which adds up over time. For example Phyn, one of the startups in this space, determined during a beta test that just over half of leaks are caused by toilets that run constantly. Other common culprits are sprinkler heads and faucets.
Phyn is probably the most well known of these startups to this newsletter’s readers because I covered the creation of the company in 2016. Phyn is a joint venture between Belkin and Uponor. Uponor makes plumbing and heating supplies. Phyn’s product uses Wi-Fi and sensors that determine how water flows throughout the home and when those flows deviate from the norm. It has been in beta in a few hundred homes for over a year, and will sell for $849 plus installation.
Flo is another startup in this space, offering a $500 device that will ship in February. The Flo device screws onto the home’s main water line and tracks the water flowing through the pipes. It also sends out proactive tests to try to detect slow leaks, something that Phyn says it can also detect.
The Guardian by Elexa is a bit different because for $400 you get a motor that screws onto your water shut off valve to turn it if a problem is detected. Also included are sensors that you scatter around the home to monitor for overflows or moisture. This is not my favorite approach since sensor placement will determine if your leak gets detected or not. Of course, even the best algorithmic leak detection sensors won’t help in the case of roof leaks or some of the other ways water can destroy a home.
Finally, there’s Buoy, which is $800. Buoy also installs on the main water line and uses algorithms to determine what’s using water in your home and what’s normal. On its website, the company also gives the example of a running toilet wasting water.
All of these startups are hoping consumer panic about leaks helps drive sales, but the real test will be insurance providers. Already insurers are testing these devices and we’ll likely see discounts if a consumer installs one of these in her home, or even certain policies that might cut premiums but force such a device on the user. If it can detect a slow leak, I’d be all in. Those are expensive!