Smart showers, smart toilets and smart sinks: Should you put your plumbing online?

Chris Monroe / CNET

There are now networked products for almost every corner of your smart home. Security, lighting, cooking, cleaning, and entertainment are all voice-activated when you’re ready to spend the money and swap out your stupid systems. Smart plumbing is no different.

There is a steady stream of products designed to improve your water supply from all angles, but which ones are worth it? Are these all luxury add-ons or ways to really improve the efficiency and comfort of your home? It can depend on the category. Let’s take a look at where smart plumbing products could be in your home and what they offer.

kitchen

Smart water in the kitchen is centered on the kitchen sink. Kohler and Delta both offer smart faucets that connect to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for voice commands. Kohlers Sensate faucet comes with voice commands and Delta’s VoiceIQ module makes compatible Touch2O faucets smarter.

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Chris Monroe / CNET

For example, you can ask your faucet to dispense a certain amount of water or turn the faucet on or off. Both models require that the power supply is always on and you will need to move the handle to the “on” position and then turn off the water with motion detection to activate voice commands. Both models are also expensive.

After you’ve installed your faucet and connected it to your voice assistant, there are some handy features available to you. You can ask for 12 ounces of water, ask your voice assistant to turn the tap on, or in the case of Delta, ask them to heat your water.

However, these faucets are not perfect. You have to use a clunky command like, “Hey Google, ask Kohler to pour out 8 ounces of water,” and the custom commands for things like “fill spaghetti pot” can be tricky to get just right. However, if you’re already in the market for a high-end Delta or Kohler faucet, getting a model with these Smarts isn’t going to cost much, if any, additional expense.

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Phyn’s intelligent water assistant is attached to the water pipes under your sink.

Phyn

There are other ways to monitor the water in your kitchen. Phyn’s newest water monitor, the $ 299 Phyn Smart Water Assistant, attaches to the hot / cold water pipes under your sink and does not require professional installation.

It can let you know when your pipes are starting to freeze, monitor your home’s water pressure, and view your water usage through the Phyn app on your mobile device. We haven’t tested this system yet, but it appears to be in line between the leak detector and the whole house water monitor.

bathroom

Brightening up the water in your bathroom can take several forms. Let’s start with shower systems. A smart shower can mean an entire system or just an attached shower head. Prices range from less than $ 100 to several thousand dollars.

the U by Moen Smart shower system has an MSRP of $ 1,225 and can profile people in your household with specific temperature information. It can warm up your shower and then stop the flow of water until you are ready to enter. This is one way to potentially reduce your water usage, but it does require a professional to install and this high price does not include any special shower heads or premium hardware, just the thermostatic digital shower valve and control panel.

Continue reading: Best shower head for 2021

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Chris Monroe / CNET

Kohler has a similar DTV + shower system that works with the Kohler Konnect app. You can create presets for sound, water, steam and special lighting if you have them installed. Smart commands with Kohler’s shower also work with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Smart showers like this one are for the most part luxurious and not geared towards conserving water. While there are some economics, you mainly pay for the convenience of having your shower run with the sound of your voice.

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The Hydrao shower heads from the French company Smart and Blue are equipped with LED lights, the color of which changes from green to blue to purple to red, depending on how long you have showered.

Of course, there are more affordable ways to spruce up your shower, like Kickstarter’s Livin shower head, a device that monitors water usage and allows you to press a button that stops the flow of water.

This one isn’t commercially available yet, but you can purchase models under $ 70 from WaterHawk and DreamSpa with built-in LEDs that change color based on temperature. the Hydrao Smart shower system is fully powered by the water flowing through it and lights up in different colors to show how much water you have used. These easy-to-install, affordable alternatives are a great introduction to smart showering.

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The Kohler Numi Smart toilet works with the Kohler Konnect app.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Then there are toilets. Yes, smart toilets are one thing. In addition to making a smart toilet, Kohler has several versions. There’s a $ 9,000 mega-toilet that can play music, heat the seat, heat the floor underneath, put on a light show, raise and lower the lid, and of course, automatically flush. It can save presets for up to six people for custom experiences.

We’ve had the Numi Smart Toilet in the CNET Smart Home for a while, and while it can do a lot, I never felt like I had a $ 9,000 experience. Numi also doesn’t do anything to conserve water beyond the 1.28 gallon-per-flush rate. So if water saving technology is your goal, this toilet is not going to make a big difference.

Leak detector

Of all the smart water products, leak detectors are the cheapest and most portable. Put them anywhere you are worried about leaks.

They are ideal for basements, under kitchen or wash basins or behind toilets. These battery-powered little devices connect to a mobile app via a smart home hub or Wi-Fi to alert you when water hits the sensor. You will receive push notifications directly on your phone.

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You have many options when it comes to these handy water guards. SmartThings, iHome, Honeywell, Fibaro and Roost all make a version of a water sensor.

These are great for monitoring water-polluted locations, but they can’t tell you much about what’s going on in your pipes. To take a closer look at the temperatures, pressures, and flows in your home’s water supply, you need a whole-home system.

Water monitoring systems for the whole house

There are systems out there that can monitor the water supply to your entire home. Some can even turn off the water in the event of a catastrophic failure. These are usually installed on your water meter or the main water supply of your house and require a WiFi connection and an app.

Some can be DIY, but most recommend at least professional advice. With these systems you can see all kinds of statistics, from your daily, weekly and monthly consumption to water pressure, temperature and flow rate.

Moen recently partnered with Flo, a whole-house startup that does just that. You can install Flo yourself, but it is recommended that a Flo professional come to your home. If you want to install this expensive system yourself, you need to be fairly familiar with working with your own plumbing.

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Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Once installed, Flo can monitor water pressure and flow throughout your home. It can also remotely turn off your water if something goes wrong. Of course, you will receive notifications of everything Flo is doing, as well as the ability to run health tests on your system.

For most people, expensive systems like this are overkill, but if you live in an area prone to pipe freezing or if you are trying to keep an eye on an unreliable plumbing system, house whole systems could save you from a lot of damage. When it comes to smart water, these are probably the most practical and data-driven devices.

Is it worth it?

Monitoring your water isn’t the most luxurious smart home feature. It’s not that cool, connected thing that you are going to show your friends when they come over. However, if you are constantly struggling with leaks in your home or are frequently on the go, at least a leak detector can be a great deal of security.

The smart water value really depends on the category. Sensors, especially the more affordable and portable options, are a worthwhile return on investment for a relatively small investment. But a $ 9,000 toilet or a $ 1,200 shower system? These are luxuries, and they are obviously not for everyone. The concept behind smart kitchen faucets is fascinating and useful in some cases, but not yet perfected and still expensive.

That doesn’t mean the average consumer is forever locked out of smart water. This corner of smart home technology continues to expand and appears to be working towards real innovation and usefulness. It has the potential to make our homes more efficient and solve problems before they start, so it’s worth keeping an eye on.

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