Even the smallest of leaks in your home’s plumbing system can have devastating effects, as they tend to go unnoticed until the damage becomes obvious and you find yourself spending a good chunk of money repairing damaged ceilings, flooring, or walls. With the Flo by Moen ($499.99), you can test for leaks on a regular basis, view daily and weekly water usage reports, and manually shut off your water supply, all using your phone. It also has an automatic shutoff feature that kicks in when it detects an abnormally high flow rate or rise in water pressure, and it works with other smart devices via IFTTT apps. While it isn’t cheap, the cost is a drop in the bucket compared with what you can spend on water damage repairs and high water bills, and that earns the Flo our Editors’ Choice.
The Flo measures 5.9 by 5.7 by 2.6 inches (HWD) and has a dark blue enclosure. It can be ordered for 3/4-inch or 1-1/4-inch water pipes. The meter has a threaded input connector on one end and a threaded output connector on the other. There’s a green manual shutoff valve on top that requires a hex key (included) to turn the water on or off if you’ve lost connectivity with the app, and there are two status LEDS (system and valve) and a power jack. The system status LED glows green when the Flo is connected to your network, and the valve LED is green when the valve is open (water flowing), red when it is closed (shutoff mode), and white when it is in transition.
Inside is a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi radio and sensors that measure your home’s water pressure, temperature, and flow rate. The meter comes with two brass threaded connectors, two O-rings, an installation spacer, a manual shutoff hex key, and a power adapter. It also comes with an installation guide and a welcome guide. Despite supplying an installation guide, the company recommends using a professional plumber to install this device.
Here’s how it works: The Flo meter is installed on a section of your main water pipe that comes after your water meter and pressure reducing valve. It monitors water pressure in pounds per square inch (psi), water temperature in Celsius or Fahrenheit, and the flow rate in gallons per minute. As with the Pani Water Meter, the Flo meter requires a 7-10 day learning period while it tracks your household water usage and creates a water footprint. If you want to monitor usage at the fixture level (showers, toilets, etc.), you’ll have to subscribe to Flo Protect, a $5 monthly service that also gives you an extra two years of warranty (you get one year without the plan), up to $2,500 in water damage protection, access to the Water Concierge live support system, and a verification letter that may save you some money on your homeowner’s insurance policy.
If you have Flo Protect, the device will require an additional 7-14 days after the initial learning period for it to collect enough data to identify usage by each fixture, which means you can be waiting up to 21 days or more from the initial installation before you can realize the full benefits of the device. However, once the Flo has identified each fixture, it provides up-to-the-minute usage reports and lets you create goals to help conserve water.
One of the Flo’s most important features is its ability to automatically shut off water to your entire home if it detects unusually high water usage due to leaks or burst pipes or abnormally high water pressure. You’ll receive an app alert and an automated phone call before the device shuts off your water. However, there are no user settings that let you create your own thresholds that will trigger a shutdown. You can temporarily disable auto-shutoff and notifications by putting the device into Sleep mode if you’ll be using a lot of water for things like filling a pool, but it would be nice to be able to customize pressure and usage settings to avoid accidental shutoffs.
In addition to Sleep mode, there’s a Home mode designed for normal day-to-day use with auto-shutoff protection and alerts enabled, and an Away mode for when you’re away from home for an extended period of time. In Away mode the system knows no one is home and will take quicker action if it detects any abnormal events.
You can use Alexa and Google voice commands to ask the Flo if everything is OK at home, how much water you’ve used that day, week, or month, and if you have any pending alerts. Moreover, the Flo supports IFTTT applets, which means you can have it do things like trigger a Nest thermostat when the water temperature drops to a specific level, or have Philips Hue lights blink when an alert is issued. It also works with Control4-enabled devices.
The Flo can be controlled with a user-friendly mobile app (for Android or iOS) or via a web console. The app opens to a home screen that displays the name of your home(s) and has a tab for alerts and a tab for installed Flo devices (you can control multiple devices from the same app). Tap the Flo device tab to view pressure, flow rate, and water temperature gauges and to run a health test to check for things like leaks, freeze warnings, high/low pressure, and abnormally hot water. There’s also an on/off button to stop and start the flow of water throughout your house.
Back at the home screen, you can swipe down to view a Water Usage tab that shows how many gallons of water you’ve used for the day or for the week and how that affects your daily and weekly goals. Below that is a Fixture tab with colorful graphs that show how much water each fixture has used. Tap the View More Details button to open a Usage History screen that shows minute-by-minute water usage for each fixture.
In the upper right corner of the home screen is a small drop-down button that lets you choose between Home, Away, and Sleep modes, and on the bottom edge of the screen are Home, Alerts, Help, and Settings buttons. The Home button takes you back to the home screen and Alerts button opens a screen with an activity log of events including the results of health tests, drip detections, auto-shutoff incidents, valve openings and closings, and high water usage. Use the Help button to access the Water Concierge and view help tutorials, and tap the Settings button edit your location and house name and select units of measure (Imperial or Metric).
As mentioned above, Flo recommends having the meter professionally installed by a licensed plumber and will even help you find one in your area. Expect to pay anywhere from $250 and up depending on your plumbing configuration. I used a plumber recommended by Flo and they arrived on time, were very professional, and did a fantastic job that took just over one hour.
While the Flo meter was being installed, I download the app and created an account. Once my email was verified I opened the app and tapped the plus button to add my home. Here you’ll spend a good amount of time answering questions such as the type of dwelling (single family house, condo, apartment, other) and how it is used (primary residence, vacation home, rental, other). You’ll also have to give the home a name, fill in the address and time zone information, enter the approximate size of your home and the number of floors, and how many bathrooms you have.
The app will also want to know what type of plumbing you have (copper, galvanized, CPVC, PEX, other), if you know where the shutoff valve is, and where you get your water from (city, well). Next, you’ll be asked to select which appliances and amenities you use from a list that includes things like bathtub, dishwasher, hot tub, swimming pool, tank-less water heater, and more. You’ll also be asked how many people live in your home and to set up water consumption goals for each person along with a total household consumption goal (the app suggests between 80-100 gallons per person per day). You can then enter your homeowner’s insurance info (you might be eligible for a discount for having a smart meter) and your water utility supplier, or you can leave them blank.
Once the account was created, it was time to pair the Flo meter with the app. I tapped Add Device, selected the 3/4-inch meter, and verified that the meter was plugged in. I pressed the Reset button until the Status LED began blinking and used my phone’s Wi-Fi settings to connect to the Flo SSID. I returned to the app and selected my home Wi-Fi from the list, entered my Wi-Fi password, and the meter was connected to my network within seconds.
It’s important to note that once the meter goes online, it enters a sleep mode while it learns your water usage habits. During this time you can still turn water on and off using the app and view statistics such as usage, flow rate, and water pressure, but you won’t receive alerts and the automatic shutoff feature will be disabled.
The Flo meter performed well in testing. It immediately began monitoring my water system and reporting my daily usage, and it detected a small drip during the first health check. It turns out I had a faulty toilet fill valve that was due to be replaced. It also reported a drop in water pressure when I turned off my main valve and purged the system of water while having a new water heater installed. The dashboard screen displayed my water usage chart in hourly increments and took my daily, weekly, and monthly usage numbers and calculated how close I was to the usage goals that I entered during setup.
The app-controlled shutoff button functioned without issue, and whenever I asked Alexa to tell me how much water I used on a daily and weekly basis, the response was quick and accurate. I created an IFTTT applet to have a Philips Hue light turn on when the Flo successfully completed a health check, and it too worked without a hitch.
I had to wait close to a month for the individual fixture readings to kick in, but once they did I was able to see exactly how much water each fixture was using and when.
While its $500 price and installation costs may seem exorbitant, the Flo by Moen water monitor is worth every penny compared with the costs of repairing damage from long-term leaks and busted pipes, not to mention the cost of wasted water over an extended period of time. This smart water meter will perform daily system health tests and alert you to any leaks, and it’ll let you know how much water the fixtures in your home are using to help you manage and conserve usage. Most importantly, it will track your home’s water pressure, temperature, and flow rate and automatically shutoff the water if it determines that any of these readings have reached levels that may result in serious damage. It’d be nice if the advanced water usage data that you get with Flo Protect was free, and I’d love to have more control over the high usage and high pressure thresholds that initiate an automatic shutoff, but neither gripe prevents the Flo from earning an Editors’ Choice award.