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Don't let costly water leaks ruin your home
As anyone knows, water leaks can cause huge disasters in your home. One way to help prevent a catastrophe is to use a smart water leak detector. It can save you a lot of money in the long run by mitigating the amount of damage when a leak occurs. Plus, some detectors can even help you keep track of your water use. “Smart water detectors generally work by using sensors to detect the presence of moisture,” says Nathaly Vieira, founder of InspireClean. “These sensors can be placed in areas that are prone to water leakage or intrusion, such as underneath sinks, around windows and doors, and near water heaters. When a leak is detected, the detector will notify the homeowner via an alarm.”
Vieria also notes that smart leak detectors can include, “Wi-Fi connectivity, which allows the homeowner to monitor their home’s water usage in real-time.” These monitors can save you money by helping you identify instances of excessive water use and ongoing issues like leaky faucets and toilet flapper valves that you might not otherwise notice.
To identify the best smart water leak detectors, we examined dozens of different solutions, including moisture sensors, flow and ultrasonic sensors, and magnetic sensors. We also focused on smart home compatibility, app features, and ease of use and installation to find smart leak detectors that are best capable of protecting your home from water damage.
What to Know Before You Get Started
There are three basic types of smart water leak detectors, and each is installed in a different way.
Moisture detectors: These leak detectors work by sensing the presence of water where it doesn’t belong. Most of these detectors run off battery power, but some are designed to plug directly into an electrical outlet. Installation is very easy, because all you need to do is insert the batteries or plug the unit in, then place it on the floor near a potential leak source. The catch is that you’ll need a separate detector for each area that you want to monitor.
Magnetic sensors: These pressure monitors work by reading the magnetic fluctuation of your water meter. They are battery powered and easy to install, although you will need to locate your water meter. They won’t work with some water meters, and you’ll likely run into connectivity issues if you have a metal water meter cover.
In-line sensors: These sensors are installed in-line with your water supply line, so most people will need to pay a plumber to perform the installation. You can do it yourself if you’re familiar with basic plumbing, but an improper installation can lead to leaks and other issues. These sensors are capable of monitoring the flow of water in real time, and many of them provide you with detailed water usage data.
There are a few kinds of smart water leak sensors that detect leaks in different ways. The two broad categories are sensors that detect the presence of water after it has started leaking and sensors that monitor the flow of water through pipes.
Sensors that detect the presence of water: These typically use two probes. When water touches both probes simultaneously, that closes a circuit and triggers an alert. The probes may be built into the bottom of the device, or into an extension wire that’s capable of slipping into tight spaces. These sensors need to be placed in locations around your home where leaks are likely to occur. This doesn’t provide water use monitoring, but it is typically the most affordable option.
Sensors that monitor the flow of water in your home: It's important to know these type of sensors come in two varieties. The most common type is installed in-line with your water supply and measures the flow of water directly. Leaks are detected via changes in water pressure. The benefit of these systems is that they can typically also monitor your water usage, and some also include an automatic or manual shutoff valve. The other type of smart water leak sensor measures the flow of water indirectly, based on magnetic fluctuations in your water meter. The benefit of this type of sensor is that it’s easy to install and doesn’t require any plumbing or electrical work.
Best Overall: Moen 920-005 Flo Smart Leak Detector
What We Like
Extension cable for tight spaces
Works with Moen shutoff valve
Includes three sensors
Long battery life
What We Don’t Like
Audible alarm isn’t very loud
No HomeKit support
The Moen Flo Smart Leak Detector is a water security system that’s made up of small moisture sensors that you can place around your home in areas of concern. The sensors are small, battery powered, include built-in alarms, and work with a number of smart home systems, which is why this is our best overall smart water leak detector.
This kit includes three sensors, but you can also buy additional sensors to expand your leak detection capabilities. The sensors are small, so they'll fit into tight spaces with ease. Each sensor also includes a remote sensor wire that’s 48 inches long, which lets you extend the sensing range into even tighter spaces under cabinets, behind toilets, and beneath or behind appliances. They’re also battery powered, with an exceptionally long battery life.
Smart home connectivity is provided via built-in Wi-Fi. Each sensor connects directly to your Wi-Fi network, without the need for a hub. From there, data is sent to the Flo app on your phone, where you can monitor the operation of the sensors and set up alerts. In addition to leak alerts, the Flo app supports alerts that let you know when the temperature and humidity are especially high or low, and when the batteries get low.
Each sensor is equipped with an LED light and a speaker. When the sensor detects water, it flashes and sounds an alarm. The alarm isn’t especially loud, but the sensor also sends an alert to the Flo app, so you’ll see an alert on your phone as well. If you have a Flo Smart Water Monitor and Shutoff Valve, the Flo app also provides you with the option to automatically shut off the water supply the moment any of the sensors detect water.
Price at time of publish: $129
Power: Battery | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Alexa, Google Assistant | Alarm: Yes | Automatic controls: No
Best Value: Kidde WiFi Water Leak Detector & Freeze Alarm
What We Like
Add as many sensors as you need
No hub required
Smart features are optional
What We Don’t Like
Can’t disable alarm remotely
Battery panel is screwed on
Some connectivity issues
The Kidde Wi-Fi Water Leak Detector and Freeze Alarm is a feature-rich leak detection system that includes a lot of capabilities that are typically found in much more expensive devices. Each sensor works on its own, without the need for a separate hub, which represents a big savings over systems that require a hub. These sensors are also battery-operated, which simplifies installation. They connect to your smart home via Wi-Fi, and they work with the Kidde app, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant. HomeKit isn’t supported, but the sensors do work with iOS through the Kidde app.
These sensors detect moisture from leaks, and they also monitor the ambient temperature. Each unit includes a built-in alarm that sounds whenever the sensor detects water or freezing temperatures, in addition to sending an alert to your phone. The sensors are nicely compact, and you can add up to 20, so they’re good for both tight spaces and large homes. Connectivity does depend on a Wi-Fi connection though, so make sure that your network signal is strong in each area that requires a leak detector. The sensors also need to be connected to the same network that you use with your other smart home devices and your phone, as there’s no way to disable an alarm remotely. To use the function in the Kidde app that allows you to switch off an alarm, your phone needs to be on the same Wi-Fi network as the sensor.
Price at time of publish: $45
Power: Battery | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Alexa, Google Assistant, app | Alarm: Yes | Automatic controls: No
Best with Shutoff: Moen 900-001 Flo Smart Water Monitor and Shutoff
What We Like
Tracks water usage
What We Don’t Like
Installation requires plumbing
False detection during tests
The Moen Flo Smart Water Monitor and Shutoff is an inline water security system that monitors water use by directly measuring the flow of water into your home. This allows it to shut your water off when it detects a leak, but it also means you may need to enlist the assistance of a plumber to install the unit. It’s battery powered, so there’s no electrical work involved, and smart home connectivity is simplified by a direct Wi-Fi connection that doesn’t require a hub. It works with both Alexa and Google Assistant, along with the Moen app on your phone, but there isn’t any support for Apple HomeKit.
With Flo installed in your home, you can view live water use in the app, including details about flow rate, pressure, and even water temperature. If your water pressure is dangerously high, the system will even let you know that you should install a pressure regulator. If it detects a leak, it sends an alert to your phone. The Flo itself also has a built-in alarm, but it’s a bit on the quiet side.
In the case of a catastrophic leak that could cause substantial damage, the Flo is capable of switching the water supply off automatically. That represents an improvement over older versions of the hardware and software that required a monthly subscription to the FloProtect service to access that functionality. The subscription is still available, but it provides an extended warranty and other benefits instead of gatekeeping the automatic shutoff feature.
Price at time of publish: $500
Power: Outlet | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Alexa, Google Assistant | Alarm: No | Automatic controls: Yes
Best for Small Spaces: Aqara Water Leak Sensor
What We Like
Compact form factor
Long battery life
What We Don’t Like
Doesn’t work without a hub
Alarm comes from the hub instead of the sensor
The Aqara Water Leak Sensor is perfect for both small homes and tight spaces. These sensors are quite small, which lets you slide them into tight spaces like under your washing machine or behind a fridge. They do require a hub, but that additional cost is offset somewhat by the low price of each individual sensor. The hub supports the Zigbee 3.0 protocol and works with a wide variety of devices like door and window sensors, temperature and humidity sensors, and light switches. It does have somewhat limited range though, which is why this system is better for small spaces than large spaces.
These sensors are battery powered, and the batteries can last up to two years. This simplifies installation, because you don’t need to worry about a power supply, but you do still need to stay within range of the hub. Audible alerts are provided through the hub instead of the sensor, but you can also receive alerts and manage the sensors through an app on your phone. The hub works with HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Alexa, but HomeKit provides the most robust support.
Price at time of publish: $19
Power: Battery | Connectivity: HomeKit, Google Assistant, Alexa, IFTTT, app | Alarm: Yes (hub) | Automatic controls: No
Best Splurge: Phyn Plus Smart Water Assistant + Shutoff
What We Like
Detailed water use tracking
What We Don’t Like
May require a pressure regulating valve
Uses lots of data
The second generation Phyn Smart Home Water Monitor detects leaks, monitors ongoing water usage, and automatically switches your water supply off whenever a leak is detected. It installs in-line with your water supply, which requires the assistance of a plumber if you aren’t proficient in such tasks yourself. The in-line installation allows it to track your water usage with a high degree of accuracy though, and it’s capable of detecting minor pinhole leaks, dripping faucets, and catastrophic pipe failures.
This detector works in concert with the Phyn app on your iPhone or Android device to provide leak alerts and track water usage. It uses a lot of data though, which can be an issue if your internet connection isn’t up to the task. Phyn reports that it uploads about 200 Megabytes of data per day, or 6 Gigabytes per month, and you may experience issues if your data upload speed is lower than 5 Mbps. If your internet connection can handle that, the detailed water usage data you receive in the app is well worth it.
The other potential issue with the Phyn Plus is that it may provide inaccurate information if your home doesn’t have a pressure regulating valve. That isn’t an issue if your water is provided by a private well, but you may experience issues if you don’t have a pressure regulating valve and you’re on a municipal water source.
Price at time of publish: $540
Power: Outlet | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, Phyn app | Alarm: No | Automatic controls: Yes
Best for Water Usage Monitoring: Flume 2 Smart Home Water Monitor
What We Like
Accurate whole-home protection
Detailed usage graphs
What We Don’t Like
Requires a compatible water meter
Proprietary battery casing
The Flume 2 provides accurate whole-house leak detection and water monitoring, with a robust app that provides detailed insights on water usage. It’s easier to install than most leak detectors that include water monitoring, because there’s no plumbing or wiring involved. Data is sent from the sensor to a base station that you install in your home, and you can see both real-time and historic water use in the app. The app is quite robust, with useful graphs that help you keep on top of your water use, in addition to providing alerts whenever a leak is detected.
The best thing about this detector is that instead of installing it in-line with your water supply, you strap it to the water meter that your utility company uses to keep track of your water usage. It works by sensing magnetic fluctuations in the meter, and it’s sensitive enough to identify anything from a leaky faucet to a burst pipe, and sound the alarm so that you can do something about it. The downside is that it requires a compatible meter, but Flume claims that about 95 percent of residential meters work with this system.
Price at time of publish: $249
Power: Battery | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Flume app | Alarm: No | Automatic controls: No
Best for Whole Home Monitoring: D-Link Whole Home Smart Wi-Fi Water Leak Sensor Kit
What We Like
Excellent water detection
Option to add more sensors
What We Don’t Like
Doesn’t tell you the location of the leak
Can’t turn off the alarm
The D-Link Whole Home Smart Wi-Fi Water Leak Sensor Kit includes a hub and a remote sensor. The hub doubles as a water sensor as well, so you can monitor two locations right out of the box. If you have a larger home, the system is capable of handling up to 16 remote sensors. The hub uses sub-GHz transmission technology that allows remote sensors to connect from over 300 feet away indoors, or 1,000 feet away if there aren’t any obstructions, which makes it ideal for whole-house coverage even in very large homes.
Setup is easy and uses the company's app on your phone. The hub unit plugs directly into an outlet and includes a sensor probe that you can extend with a standard phone cord, while the remote unit is battery-powered and can be set on the floor wherever you’re worried about flooding. When one of the sensors detects water, the system sends a notification to your phone and also sounds an audible alarm. The app doesn’t tell you which sensor detected a leak, and there’s no way to switch off the alarm once it has started without unplugging the unit or removing the batteries, so you need to locate the source of the audible alarm to determine the location of the leak and turn off the alarm. The system is accurate and fast though, so those are fairly minor concerns.
Price at time of publish: $80
Power: Outlet (hub), Batteries (sensors) | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Mydlink app | Alarm: Yes | Automatic controls: No
Commerce - Final Verdict
The Moen 920-005 Flo Smart Leak Detector is our best overall recommendation, because it provides fast and accurate leak detection in a compact form factor, lets you add additional sensors as needed, and can work in concert with a Moen smart shutoff valve for even better protection. Our best value pick is the Kidde WiFi Water Leak Detector & Freeze Alarm works great in tight spaces, doesn’t require a hub, and can help protect against frozen pipes in addition to detecting water leaks.
What to Look for in a Smart Water Leak Detector
The one thing that all smart water detectors have in common is that you need to connect them to your Wi-Fi network as part of the installation process. This is usually a fairly straightforward process if you’re familiar with adding devices to your network, but some water detectors have an easier setup procedure than others. For example, the D-Link CDH-S1621KT, our option for best for whole-home monitoring, is easy to install, as the sensors are battery-powered and the included phone app simplifies the setup process.
Alarms and Monitoring
Smart water detectors can provide alerts in a number of ways, including audible alarms, flashing lights, and alerts that are sent through your smart home system or directly through an app on your phone.
“Early detection devices feature an audible alarm, requiring you to be home to take action for a detected leak,” says Brian Custer, licensed journeyman plumber, and plumbing expert for Frontdoor. Systems that deliver an alert to your phone let you know about the leak if you aren’t around to hear the alarm, and you can then take care of the problem remotely if your system includes a Wi-Fi driven main water shut off valve with an associated smart phone app so that you can manage the home’s water system.
Some sensors include a built-in alarm that sounds whenever detecting water, and others send a signal for the associated smart hub, or your smart speakers, to emit an alarm tone. That can make it easier to hear the alarm, but it may make it more difficult to find the leak if you have multiple sensors. Detectors that sound an audible alarm, send a signal to your smart home system, and also provide an alert on your phone provide the highest level of redundancy.
Smart Home Compatibility
When deciding on a smart water detector, it’s important to consider whether or not it will work with your current smart home setup. If you don’t have any other smart home devices, then this isn’t a big concern. The smart water leak detectors we recommend all have Wi-Fi connectivity, connect to your home network directly or through a hub, and work with an app on your iPhone or Android device, so you don’t need to worry about smart home compatibility if you plan on only using your phone to interact with your sensors.
If you use a common smart home ecosystem, like Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or Apple HomeKit, then look for sensors that work with that system. For example, the Moen Flo Smart Leak Detector, our best overall pick, doesn’t work with HomeKit, but it does support both Alexa and Google Assistant. HomeKit users can still use a system like that through the phone app, but will find an option like the Aqara Water Leak Sensors (our best for small spaces) to be much more useful, since the Aqara hub works well with HomeKit.
Regardless of the type of smart home system you use, you do need a Wi-Fi network to use a smart water detector. Some detectors require a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi network in particular, so stay away from those if you have a newer router that only uses 5 GHz. You may also need to consider data transfer and bandwidth, since some sensors use quite a bit of data. Our best splurge pick, the Phyn Plus Smart Water Detector, has excellent water use monitoring, but it also eats through a lot of data.
If you plan on using a large number of water leak sensors, it’s also important to check how many devices can connect to your wireless router. For example, the Kidde WiFi Water Leak Detector & Freeze Alarm, our best value pick, lets you connect up to 20 sensors. That can be an issue if you have a lower-end router that can’t handle a lot of connections, or if you already have an especially large number of devices on your network.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where should I place water leak sensors?
Water leak sensors only trigger when they come into physical contact with water, so the best way to decide where to place them is to think about potential sources of leaks in your home, and where water would be most likely to pool. Custer advises that, “Devices should be placed where potential for water leakage is at its most common but not limited to: adjacent to water heaters, clothes washers, dishwashers, water treatment devices, under sinks and behind toilets.”
One hidden benefit of water leak sensors is that they won’t just detect leaks in your water supply. If you live in an area that’s prone to flooding, water leak sensors can also alert on water intrusion from a failing sump pump or flood water intrusion. In that case, they should be placed in low lying areas where water is most likely to enter your home. The D-Link CDH-S1621KT Sensor Kit (our best for whole-house coverage) is especially good for this as the base station includes a long sensor probe, and the additional sensors are small enough to place exactly where you need them.
How accurate are water leak detectors?
“Smart water detectors are generally quite reliable when it comes to detecting water leaks and intrusions,” says Vieria. “These detectors are designed to detect even small amounts of moisture, and many come with multiple sensors for added accuracy.”
Accuracy sometimes depends on outside factors or the configuration of the sensor. For example, some systems that measure water pressure directly can produce inaccurate results if the house doesn’t have a pressure regulating valve. The Flume 2 (best for water usage monitoring) measures water flow indirectly, but it’s accurate to within a hundredth of a gallon as long as it’s configured properly.
Are water leak sensors worth it?
Leak sensors are more worth it in some situations than others, but the benefits almost always outweigh the costs. “With the right placement and monitoring options, you can easily detect any water problems before they become an issue,” says Vieira.
Smart water leak sensors are the most useful in situations where you aren’t always present to notice leaks, like vacation homes, and other situations where a water leak might go unnoticed for an extended period of time and cause catastrophic damage. In situations like those, a system like the Moen Flo, our best overall, that includes an automatic shutoff valve can be invaluable. They’re still useful in other situations though, as individual water sensors can monitor out of the way parts of your home, and in-line pressure monitors can detect hidden leaks you might not notice otherwise, like inside your walls or foundation.
Why Trust The Spruce
This article was written by Jeremy Laukkonen, a freelance writer for The Spruce. Laukkonen has over a decade of experience writing about and reviewing smart home technology, such as smart water leak detectors, and his writing has appeared in a variety of other outlets, including Lifewire, Digital Trends, and Entertainment Weekly. In preparation for this article, Laukkonen performed in-depth research on a wide variety of water leak sensors, detectors, monitors, and shut-off valves.
Michelle Lau, editor for The Spruce
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Read the original article on The Spruce.