Creating a smart home can mean more than just voice-controlled gadgets. From appliances to your home’s utility system—you can smarten the pieces of your home you rely on every day. Flo is a $500 smart water monitor designed to do just that. With remote access to your home’s plumbing and real-time data through the Flo app, this water watching device does more than the average leak detector. Still, at $500, it’s hard to recommend over less expensive, equally reliable leak detectors.
Flo attaches to your main water supply to monitor the flow rate, temperature and pressure of the water coming into your home. Flo weighs about 2 lbs and measures 5.9 inches tall, 5.75 inches long and 2.6 inches wide. With Flo installed and connected to your wireless network, you’ll get remote control of your water from anywhere. Flo can even shut water off on its own, if something looks really wrong.
I took a look at Flo last year and was eager to put it to the test in our CNET Reviews lab. I wasn’t able to test Flo in a residential home, but with the help of our labs manager, Steve, I installed and connected Flo to a custom wall of pipes built to simulate the water flow in a one-story home. The only quirk I experienced had to do with the learning period. Instead of the standard 7-day learning period, it took nearly two weeks for Flo to catch on to the patterns of my water usage.
The team at Flo recommend hiring a licensed plumber for installation, but you can do it yourself if you feel comfortable. Here’s what you’ll need for Flo to work correctly:
- A main water supply line above ground and accessible near or in your home
- A main water supply line with a diameter of 1 1/4 inches or smaller
- iOS or Android smartphone for the Flo app
- A 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network
- Standard 120V power outlet near main water supply line
Flo installs on your main water line, where the public water supply meets your home’s plumbing. If you have a well water system, Flo is still compatible, but you’ll need to install the device on the potable water line after the well system pump and before the tank. Flo is rated for an ambient operating temperature of 10 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If your home’s installation location for Flo consistently sees temperatures beyond that range, Flo might not perform at its best.
Flo comes with a printed installation guide with step-by-step instructions for how to connect the device to your water supply and your 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network. Also included in the box are hardware like brass tailpieces, o-rings, and spacers to connect Flo to your system and seal it well.
The Flo app
With the Flo app downloaded to your iOS or Android device, you’ll answer a set of questions to tell Flo some of the more specific features of your home. Have a pool or spa? Flo wants to know. One story or two? This also makes a difference. Once the device and the Flo app are set up, Flo spends 7 days learning the typical patterns and stats of your home’s plumbing system. During that learning period, you can see your plumbing stats in real time, but not every feature is accessible.
The Flo app offers Home, Away and Sleep modes, which won’t work until after the learning period ends. Home mode is intended for everyday use. Away mode works like a vacation mode, designed for when you’ll be gone for extended periods of time. Sleep mode functions like a do not disturb setting, so you can use extra water or do activities that might change your water’s readings without being alerted or having the water shut off automatically.
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