While the fire is a homeowner’s worst fear, any insurance provider can inform you that water is the much more common cause of property damage, even if you don’t live in a flood-prone region. A leaking water heater, a burst pipe, a broken supply line under your sink, a clogged toilet, or even a split hose attached to your washing machine are all possible causes.
Installing leak detectors in places where water damage could start, such as the laundry room, water heater closet, bathroom, under your kitchen sink, and so on, is just as important as having smoke detectors in each of your home’s bedrooms and common areas.
Leak notifications are probably less relevant for tenants, but it’s something landlords should think about—though how the sensors will relate to the internet is a question. I’ll get to that later.
If you believe your home needs a leak sensor, here are our top recommendations. Scroll down if you want more details and to read more reviews on this subject.
Best smart water leak detector
The Flo by Moen Smart Water Detector is extremely successful at alerting you to water leakage, allowing you to take action to avoid potentially serious damage to your house.
The Flo by Moen Smart Water Detector detects water in places it shouldn’t be (from a leaky supply line, appliance, or drain pipe), tracks ambient temperatures and can alert you of freezing conditions that could lead to a burst water pipe, and records ambient humidity and raises an alarm if the air becomes too moist to support mold development.
Best whole-home water leak detection system
Even after a recent $200 price cut, the Phyn Plus smart water valve is pricey, but this type of system will avoid costly water damage to your home and help you use a valuable resource more wisely. The fact that there are no recurring subscription fees is a huge plus.
This form of the product takes a more comprehensive approach to prevent water leaks. Rather than positioning sensors near potentially leaking appliances, faucets, and fixtures, the items in this category examine the water system at the main supply line into your home for anomalies. They will turn off the water supply if they suspect a leak to avoid catastrophic damage.
This is a very small category right now, with only two consumer-facing players: Phyn and its Phyn Plus device ($699), and Flo Technologies and its Flo by Moen device ($499). Both products are pricey, but Flo has an optional payment package that adds $60 to the cost of the product per year. One of the reasons we choose the Phyn Plus is because of this.
Flo by Moen Smart Water Shutoff
Flo guards your home against water damage caused by both slow leaks and catastrophic failures, as well as water pollution. However, it is costly, and it will not alert you if water collects in areas where it shouldn’t.
We prefer some features of Flo Technologies’ Flo by Moen smart valve over the Phyn Plus, such as its ability to make robocalls alert you of possible water-supply system problems before shutting it off, but we considered the Phyn Plus to be a little more sophisticated. Although the Phyn Plus is more expensive, Phyn does not charge a monthly fee to get the most out of its offering.
Best DIY whole-home leak detection system
Flume 2 is a perfect way to learn about your home’s water use, and recent wireless infrastructure upgrades have improved its stability.
This second-generation Flume can’t switch off your water supply if it detects a leak, but it’s hundreds less expensive than devices that can, and it doesn’t require cutting through your water pipe or hiring a plumber to mount. The Flume 2 is an even better product than the first-generation model, and it’s a great deal at $199.
We put each sensor on a bathroom tile and poured enough water to cover the tile’s surface to test its effectiveness. The Honeywell Lyric, on the other hand, had a habit of delaying its warning by about 30 seconds, which we noted in our full analysis.
We used the Decibel 10th app on an iPhone 6 Plus to calculate alarm volume from six inches away, with the microphone pointing toward the sensor. Regardless of empirical research, the Honeywell Lyric’s volume was much louder than the other sensors.
We didn’t test integrations with other smart home devices directly, but we did look at each companion app and the online service IFTTT to see what features were available. For battery life estimates and unit measurements, we looked to manuals and product lists.
What to look for when shopping
The various approaches to what appears to be a simple task: detecting the presence of water where it shouldn’t be, can surprise you. Some communicate through Wi-Fi, while others involve the use of a hub. Others are powered by an AC socket, while others are powered by a battery. Others have external sensor cables and can be mounted on the wall, while others are flat on the floor. Onboard sirens are used on most, though not all, aircraft.
If the suggestions above don’t fit your needs, here are the specifications and features to look for while shopping for a smart home water leak detector.
Both the Honeywell Lyric and the D-Link sensor function with Wi-Fi, so they don’t need any external hardware. Other products, such as the Fibaro Flood Sensor and the Insteon Water Leak Sensor, necessitate the use of a hub to link to the internet and your phone’s apps.
If you already have a hub, make sure the sensor uses a compatible protocol. Fibaro, for example, makes use of Z-Wave, which is compatible with SmartThings and Wink hubs. Only Insteon hubs (one of which is compatible with Apple’s HomeKit technology) work with Insteon sensors. You’ll probably see the names Wink, SmartThings, or Iris by Lowe’s on the sensor’s box if you have one of those hubs.
When a leak occurs, some hubs, such as Wink, SmartThings, and Insteon, allow you to automate behaviour on other devices. You may use this method to switch on lights, cameras, or sound an alarm. (This is also supported by Iris by Lowe’s, but only for a $10 monthly subscription.) IFTTT, a service that lets you automate tasks between connected devices and services, is also supported by Wink, SmartThings, and D-Link. To stop a leak, sensors that interact with water valves will switch off your main water supply.
Size and extendability
Where do you want to mount your leak detector? If there isn’t enough room, make sure the sensor is small enough to fit or has a sensor cable to extend its scope.
It’s useful to have a siren on board unless you intend to position the sensor far away from where you’d usually hear it. And if the internet is down, you’ll still be notified at home.
Additional onboard sensors
Other environmental conditions that can cause problems at their extremes, such as temperature (a frozen pipe can burst and cause disastrous water damage) and humidity, can be measured by certain leak sensors (excess moisture in the air can allow mold to grow).
The majority of leak sensors are operated by batteries, but some, including D-Wi-Fi Link’s Water Sensor, need AC power. In the event of a blackout, an outlet-powered sensor with battery backup would be ideal; sadly, these are uncommon.