A smart shut off valve makes it possible to automatically and/or remotely turn off the water in your home or vacation property. It might be automatic, in response to a water sensor alarm. Or manually, because you are riding to the airport for a trip and want to turn off the water just in case. Some products have more features, but all will offer the ability to remotely shut off the water.
Why should you want one?
Because of all the types of property damage we insure and guard against, water damage is by far and away the most common. It’s statistically unlikely that your home will ever burned down, but over 40% of the US population will make a water related insurance claim sometime in their life. I didn’t even make it until I was 25 before I did. A catastrophic flood is 6 times more likely than a catastrophic fire. Water damage is 5 times more likely than a robbery.
It offer peace of mind when traveling, or for when you are home if it’s a vacation or rental home.
More advanced units will detect even small leaks that typically aren’t apparent until major damage has already been done.
Cut-in or cover unit?
There are two main types of shutoff valves. There are cut-in units that are meant to be part of the plumbing themselves and require professional installation, and cover units, meant to sit on top of an already installed water cutoff ball valve. The inline units are nice. They are more reliable, offer more features, but cost more and require a plumber to install.
The cover units, as I call them, get attached to the pipe and valve and just use a small DC motor to move the valve handle. They don’t require a plumber to install, but won’t give you as rich data or do any machine learning.
These are the type you need a Plumber for. While you are having the plumber out ask them to make sure there is a manual cutoff value between your smart water shutoff and your water source (municipal water). That way you have a manual Plan B that costs you a couple bucks for the valve and a few minutes of the plumber’s time.
I am a belt and suspenders type of guy. I have never heard of one failing, but I would always want that manual option that doesn’t have firmware or a circuit board. It’s cheap insurance. Most homes probably will have an appropriate cut-off valve ahead of any smart device already; Just make sure for yourself.
Uponor Phyn Plus
Coming out of the gate we have the Uponor Phyn Plus. The Phyn is a collaboration between Uponor, a major player in plumbing fittings, and Belkin, the company that bought Linksys from Cisco. It’s a handsome all in one unit, and promises the most in terms of software secret sauce.
They claim it can determine the type of water fixtures in your home and determine that maybe a sink was left on versus a running toilet. It also runs a check multiple times a day for various types of leaks, including pinhole leaks, which usually don’t announce themselves until serious property damage has been done and you notice that. Pretty nifty technology.
- Automatic & Remote Shutoff
- Realtime Leak alerts
- Consumption reporting
- Plumbing system health checks to find leaks
The only way to get the Phyn Plus is to go through the company directly, who will pass you off to a local plumber who certified with Uponor’s Pro installer program.
Flo Home Water Security System
Flo is a main contender for best choice for an cut-in system. It’s not nearly as expensive as the Phyn Plus but still has much of the same feature set, including the machine learning based analysis and leak detection. It can only tell you a leak is happening, rather than give hints like the Phyn can, but that’s a minor issue all things considered.
Flo is being positioned as a security system for your plumbing, and that really speaks to why most people are looking to buy a smart water valve in the first place. It’s insurance against leaks, even unseen small ones. You can buy flo online from the manufacturer directly and get any plumber to install it, or even do it yourself if you have the skills required.
I really like Water Hero, design wise. The actual critical parts are just plain, industry standard parts with some electronics attached to do the reading and activating the solenoid for the cut-off. The electronics are modular so if in 10 years you need a new electronic part because WiFi technology has moved on, you just swap that part out, no plumber needed.
If Water Hero was PoE compatible, it would be the only product I would ever recommend, and it would be a home run in my mind. Then barring the electronics failing, it will last for as long as those other parts because Ethernet isn’t going away any time soon.
These are the consumer friendly DIY models that typically do little more than give you a way to turn off the water by command. There are many of these cover units out there, but only a few worth talking about.
Guardian by Elexa
This is the most reputable cover unit I know of. It comes with its own water sensors you can place around the house for it’s automatic features, otherwise it’s just a remote unit you or other home automation software can trigger. It doesn’t sense flow in the pipe at all. It connects to the ball valve close to the stem and activates with a screw motion, so has lots of torque to move the cutoff valve.
Dome Z-wave valve shutoff
This is the budget option, and is little more than a remote control enabling product. At less than $100 though, it’s hard to argue. The one caveat is that it’s action actually swings the lever in a motion that doesn’t offer it’s motor much mechanical advantage. If your ball value takes too much torque to move, it might not work for you. If it does work on your valve, you can get it hooked up to your home automation hub and software of choice to control remotely, or use in conjunction with water sensors to make your own automatic shutoff setup.
This isn’t a valve at all, it’s a box that you strap to your water pipe externally, and it does all that software secret sauce flow awareness based on measuring flow with sound waves in the pipes. It’s the smarts that these cover units don’t have independently. If you add one of these into the mix with a Dome Z-wave or Guardian, you have a feature set that almost matches up with the cut-in units. It has a hard time detecting small flow rates, but it will work just fine if a pipe bursts or you leave something running. You can use it to trigger your cover shutoff unit.
If you don’t mind having a plumber come hook things up, I recommend using one of the cut-in options. It gives you more certain measurements, leak detection, and remote cut-off ability. If you don’t want to deal with having a plumber handle it, I recommend the Guardian by Elexa option, possibly combined with the Streamlabs unit to get that burst pipe detection ability for peace of mind while away. If you don’t care so much about having moisture detectors you can place around the house as well, you might try you luck with the Dome Z-wave unit. The only downside there is it might not have enough torque to get the job done for you.