July 17, 2024


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FortrezZ Water Sensor review: This FortrezZ falls to poor performance and too few features

Flood sensors aren’t complicated devices. What distinguishes them from each other are features — and with more features come higher prices. The FortrezZ (pronounced “Fortress-Z”) Water and Temperature Sensor clocks in at about $50 (available internationally, price converts to roughly £30 and AU$65), which falls directly between the slightly pricier feature-rich Fibaro Flood Sensor and the slightly cheaper basic-but-solid SmartThings and Aeon Labs sensors. The problem is, the FortrezZ runs into major performance problems, something a security device can’t afford to do. Plus, the FortrezZ actually boasts fewer functional features than some of its more affordable competitors.

If you’re looking for a basic flood sensor, the FortrezZ is overpriced. And if you’re less concerned with price, the FortrezZ’s feature set is too sparse. The only real strength of the FortrezZ Water and Temperature is its simplicity. But bottom line, it isn’t reliable, so I can’t recommend the FortrezZ Water Sensor to anyone.

Simple setup

Setting up the FortrezZ is easy enough, although it’ll take a few minutes and a screwdriver. After installing the batteries and screwing the plastic body together, you can sync it with a Z-Wave gateway, like SmartThings or Piper, with the press of a button. In the five or six times I installed and reinstalled the FortrezZ Water and Temperature Sensor, I never ran into problems. The directions were clear and the network communication worked well.

Chris Monroe/CNET

After the Sensor is set up, you can put it anywhere at risk of flooding. The metal leads that detect water extend from the body of the FortrezZ itself, so you won’t have to do anything more than set the detector on the ground and forget about it.

Disappointingly, though, the FortrezZ Water and Temperature Sensor’s simplicity is one of its only assets.

Frustrating features

Most flood sensors have two or three metal probes, or leads, that extend from the body. When these leads contact water, they detect increased conductivity between them, and set off an alarm of some sort. It’s a simple design, and it works reliably.

The probes of competitors.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The FortrezZ Water and Temperature Sensor uses this same approach, but to poor effect. The plastic supports on the body of the device are slightly longer than the probes, so when a small amount of water is trickling underneath the leads, the sensor rarely detects it. That’s right: The FortrezZ only detects water when it has pooled high enough to contact the probes. This is a major design flaw. A representative from FortrezZ explained that the probes are recessed to avoid false alarms that could be caused by damp basement floors or metal surfaces like A/C drip pans. But even when I tested the sensor in a few millimeters of water, when the water was barely contacting the probes, the alarm would only sometimes activate.

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