Flo by Moen
As soon as the smart home water monitor and leak detector from Flo by Moen was released, I quickly moved to install one.
Several months have passed, and I often think about how life could've been if I didn't get this smart gadget.
As for water leak detection and notification, that's for sure.
It will even shut your water supply main, but it's capable of way more advanced functions.
Why is it a necessity?
In the last two months, I've had three customers whose properties were flooded as a result of plumbing issues.
Overall, the cost of cleaning, repairs, and refurbishment was well over $4,000.
However, all three cases could've been avoided if they had installed the Flo by Moen which costs $500.
That alone could be enough reason to get the Flo by Moen.
But then it also checks for leaks, and for a little monthly charge, identifies the fixtures and appliances in your home that uses water.
With this, you are always aware of your water usage.
Also, the effects of water conservation on the environment need not be undervalued.
A small, durable box, Flo by Moen is made up of inlet and outlet connections to the main water supply line.
Although it may not be too difficult to install if you're handy, I still recommend you hire a plumber.
Flo by Moen requires power from an outlet, as it isn't battery-powered.
You should also ensure the signal of your Wi-Fi router is strong enough to reach the device installation location.
Once connected to power, you'll use the app to get your device connected to Wi-Fi.
Then, the app will require you to answer some questions like location and number of people living in it.
These things enable the device to monitor your home's water usage and upload the data to the cloud.
What does Flo do?
Flo collects some basic data in the course of its operation over the first few days.
This data includes the daily water consumption, the typical flow rate, and the average water temperature and pressure.
It will also commence tests for leaks at nights by temporarily shutting the water supply to detect changes in pressure.
Having knowledge of the normal in your home gives the Flo the ability to identify what isn't.
If it detects excess water consumption, it will notify you via email, phone call, and/or text message.
If the notification isn't responded to, Flo will take preventive action by shutting the water supply to avoid catastrophic damages.
Flo by Moen also detects low water pressure to determine possible problems with the water inflow.
Excessively low temperatures may freeze the pipes, and excessively high pressures, on the other hand, could be indicative of many problems (including pipes that are already frozen). If you're out on a vacation or for extended periods, Flo offers an "away" mode which hastens its reaction to alert signals.
How it really works
All the features discussed so far are automated, but you'll also need to help the Flo to get the best out of it.
Yes, regardless of its smartness, it still needs to learn what actually happens in your home.
For instance, it was quite confusing for the Flo to understand me watering the garden. I was a bit startled to find that over 5 gallons of water was passing through some soaker hoses per minute.
But, most importantly, the Flo had not seen my home's water usage rate – not for a long time at least.
In addition to providing the needed protection for my home, Flo is keeping me from overspending.
This kept on happening severally, but unknown to me that whenever I asked the Flo app not to keep watering, it was increasing the limit for a shutoff occurrence. I was concerned initially, thinking it just might set the limit so high as to be unproductive in the case of a real issue.
As it turned out, I didn't need to worry at all.
Besides learning real-time usage patterns, the Flo system offers users the ability to match usage events with particular usage.
With this, you can specify that water consumption from which Flo will learn to adequately attribute the water usage.
This was particularly useful to me, as I could basically tell the device which water usage was for irrigation.
Presently, I have to consume as much as 57 gallons of water in 11 minutes before the Flo notifies me.
Here, my home isn't just protected from likely damage, but I myself am protected from overwatering.
Similar to most dashboards, the Flo by Moen app can motivate a lot.
Setting water consumption targets and seeing status reports helps you adjust your habits (and also those around you).
Also, knowing the amount of water used for clothes washing compared to taking showers could be quite revealing.
There's no way we're dumping that much down the sinks, I yelled in shock upon seeing my first monthly report.
Alas, the major culprits for consumption were our faucets.
And they still are, but only now much less since I've had water-saving aerators installed.
We can't deny the money-saving advantages, but what's more important is the positive impact of water conservation.
Unknown to me, my kids were not turning off the faucets as they brushed their teeth, and, honestly, I was also using a huge amount of water whenever I cleaned the dishes. Take the Flo by Moen application as some form of game, and let conservation be a contest to determine how save the most water.
As a result of its high saving potential for a valuable and occasionally scarce resource, I chose to bestow the Flo by Moen with a Tech for Change award from Digital Trends.
What's the catch?
Many of the benefits of the Flo are only accessible by FloProtect subscribers, and this is the downside.
The subscription costs a monthly fee of $5 or an annual fee of $60.
The subscription comes with a reimbursement up to $2,500 for any losses due to water damage under Flo's watch.
Although this seems nice, I would prefer this support was available in the $500 purchase price of the device.
What we think
I appreciate the Flo by Moen being a part of my ever smarter home.
It not only feels like I have added protection, but its well-structured dashboard gives me all the data I need.
You need to be a bit patient with it in the beginning, but you'll get an instinctive smart water-system.
Is there a better option?
At $200, the Stream Labs Smart Home Water Monitor provides a cheaper alternative and doesn't need any cutting of pipes like the Flo by Moen, but can't guarantee its accuracy. Costlier options are also available, such as the Phyn Plus at $700, but the advantages in value at an increased price is unclear, if any.
Does it last very long?
The Flo by Moen shows good signs of lasting long, as it is weatherproof and has a rugged build.
However, its realistic lifespan is yet unknown since this product category is new.
Also, because most of the analytics and computing goes on in the cloud, there's a decent chance that the technology won't fade anytime soon.
Should you purchase it?
Yes. Its performance is great and it offers you solid protection, as well as extensive accurate data.