Fires can be devastating, but water damage is a far more common risk. These smart devices will alert you if your home springs a leak, so you can take action quickly.
Fire might be a homeowner’s greatest fear, but any insurance company will tell you that water is the far more common cause of property damage, even if you don’t live in an area subject to flooding. And it can come from many sources: A failing water heater, a burst pipe, a broken supply line under your sink, a clogged toilet, or even a split hose connected to your washing machine.
Just as it’s essential to have a smoke detector in each of your home’s bedrooms and common areas, you’d be wise to install leak detectors in places where water damage could start: The laundry room, water heater closet, the bathroom, under your kitchen sink, and so on. Leak alerts are arguably less important for renters, but it’s something landlords might want to consider—although that raises the issue of how the sensors would connect to the internet. More on that later.
If you think a leak sensor is something your home should have, here are our top picks. If you want more information on this topic and want to read more reviews, scroll down a bit.
Updated August 21, 2019 to add a link to our news story about the new Phyn Smart Water Assistant. This new device does everything that the more expensive Phyn Plus can do, except for turning off your water supply in an emergency. But unlike that more powerful product, you can install the Phyn SWA yourself. And with a $299 price tag, it costs $400 less than the Phyn Plus (the two products can also work together, of course, so that you can prevent water damage to your home by having the main water supply shut off in the event of an uncontrolled leak).
Best conventional water leak detector
Although it’s the most expensive sensor we tested ($80), the Honeywell Lyric Wi-Fi Water Leak and Freeze detector is the most powerful and the easiest to set up. It operates over Wi-Fi and connects directly to your router without requiring a smart-home hub. And in addition to warning you about a water leak, the Lyric can also alert you to freezing temperatures and high humidity levels that can lead to other problems.
The Lyric has one major shortcoming that could be a deal breaker for enthusiasts: It can’t be integrated into a broader smart-home system. So it can bring a water leak to your attention, but it can’t communicate with a smart water valve to shut the water off at the source. But Honeywell’s sensor can’t be beat on the basics.
This was a tough call, because the Utilitech Water Leak Detector has some major downsides. Its battery life only lasts for a year, and the sensor must be mounted on a wall or other vertical surface, making setup a hassle and limiting your placement options.
On the other hand, it costs just $30, you can deploy them in multiples, and it works with most Z-Wave smart-home hubs. Utilitech is a Lowe’s brand, so we tested with the since-discontinued Iris by Lowe’s system.
What sets the Waxman LeakSmart’s hub-based sensor apart from others is that the company also manufactures a smart water shut-off valve ($135 at Amazon), which we did not test (most people would want to have that component professionally installed). Still, it’s a huge draw over other sensors that either require more elaborate valve setups or don’t offer those controls at all.
Aside from that perk, the LeakSmart Sensor works with Wink (but not Samsung’s SmartThings). This is also is one of a few options we tested that measures temperature as well as moisture. But at $69, it’s pricey for a sensor that requires a separate hub.
Best whole-home water leak detection system
This type of product takes a more holistic approach to water leak prevention. Rather than placing sensors near appliances, faucets, and fixtures that might leak, the products in this category analyze your water system at the main supply coming into your home to look for anomalies. If they detect a leak, they can shut off the water supply to prevent catastrophic damage.
This is currently a very small category, with just two players in the consumer market that we’re aware of: Phyn and its Phyn Plus device ($699), and Flo Technologies and its Flo by Moen product ($499). Both products are expensive, but Flo has an optional subscription plan that adds $60 per year to the price of the product. That’s one of the reasons we prefer the Phyn Plus.
There are some features of Flo Technologies’ Flo by Moen smart valve that we actually prefer over the Phyn Plus—namely, its ability to make robo calls warning you of potential problems with your water-supply system before it shuts it off—but we found the Phyn Plus to be a little more sophisticated. Yes, the Phyn Plus is more expensive, but Phyn doesn’t charge a subscription fee to get the most value out of its product.
How we tested
To measure each sensor’s effectiveness, we placed it on a bathroom tile, and then poured enough water to cover the surface of that tile. Most sensors responded immediately, though the Honeywell Lyric routinely delayed its alarm by around 30 seconds, which we noted in our full review.
We measured alarm volume using the Decibel 10th app on an iPhone 6 Plus, with the microphone pointed toward the sensor from six inches away. Empirical testing aside, the Honeywell Lyric’s volume was subjectively much louder than the other sensors.
We didn’t directly test integrations with other smart home devices, but inspected each companion app and the online service IFTTT for available features. We consulted manuals and product listings for battery life estimates and device dimensions.
Editors’ note: This testing methodology does not apply to leak detection systems that monitor your water supply line, such as the Flo by Moen, Sinopé Sedna, and Phyn Plus.
What to look for when shopping
You might be surprised by the diverse approaches to what seems like a simple task: detecting the presence of water where it shouldn’t be. Some operate on Wi-Fi, others require a hub to communicate. Some plug into an AC outlet, others require a battery. Some come with external sensor cables and mount to the wall, others lay on the floor. Most, but not all, have onboard sirens.
If the recommendations above don’t work for you, here are the specs and features you’ll want to consider when shopping for a smart home water leak detector.
Hub requirements: Honeywell’s Lyric and D-Link’s sensor both operate on Wi-Fi, so you don’t need additional products to make them work. Other products, such as the Fibaro Flood Sensor and Insteon Water Leak Sensor, require a hub to connect to the internet and the apps on your phone.
Connection protocols: If you own a hub already, you must make sure the sensor uses a compatible connection protocol. Fibaro, for instance, uses Z-Wave, which works with SmartThings and Wink hubs. Insteon sensors only work with Insteon hubs (one of which is compatible with Apple’s HomeKit technology). If you own a well-known hub such as Wink, SmartThings, or Iris by Lowe’s, you’ll likely see those names on the sensor’s box.
Integrations: Some hubs, such as Wink, SmartThings, and Insteon, allow you automate actions on other devices when a leak occurs. That way, you can trigger lights, turn on cameras, or sound an alarm. (Iris by Lowe’s supports this as well, but only with a $10-per-month subscription.) Wink, SmartThings, and D-Link also support IFTTT, a service that lets you automate tasks between connected devices and services. Sensors that communicate with water valves can turn off your main water supply to stop a leak.
Size and extendability: Where do you plan to put your leak sensor? If it’s a tight space, make sure the sensor is either small enough to fit, or that it offers a sensor cable to extend its reach.
Built-in siren: Unless you plan to put the sensor far from where you might normally hear it, it’s helpful to have a siren onboard. That way, you’ll still get alerted at home even when the internet is down.
Additional onboard sensors: Some leak sensors can also measure other environmental conditions that can lead to problems at their extremes, such as temperature (a frozen pipe can burst and cause catastrophic water damage) and humidity (excess moisture in the air can allow mold to grow).
Power source: Most leak sensors are battery powered, but some, such as D-Link’s Wi-Fi Water Sensor, depend on AC power. An outlet-powered sensor with battery backup in the event of a blackout would be ideal; unfortunately, they are rare.
Editor’s note: Mel Nussbaum, the owner of Water Works Plumbing in Overland Park, Kansas, emailed this useful tip for preventing water damage due to frozen pipes bursting: “If you shut off your main water service valve [you’ll] never have the issue, and two minutes of your time [will] cost you nothing. By the time you’re alerted and get someone to take action you still will incur huge damages.”
Honeywell’s Lyric Water Leak and Free Detector alerts you to three conditions that can cause problems in your home: water leaks, freezing temperatures, and high humidity. It’s dead-simple to deploy, but its biggest drawback is that it can’t be integrated into any smart-home systems.
- Hassle-free setup
- Loud onboard siren
- 4-foot sensor cable can be extended (125 cables max, 500-foot range)
- Up to one-minute delay before siren sounds
- Cannot be integrated into broader smart-home systems
- Pricey, especially if you want to deploy multiples
A couple of in-the-works features could render this our top pick in water-leak sensors; it’s already an exceptionally good product.
- Detects water leaks almost instantly and sends an alert to your smartphone
- Monitors ambient temperature and humidity, and send alerts when defined ranges are exceeded
- Less-expensive than some competing products
- Doesn’t tie into other smart home systems
- Can’t be linked to a smart water-main shut-off valve
- Onboard siren doesn’t get very loud
Flo protects your home from water damage caused by both slow leaks and catastrophic failures, and it will also alert you to water waste. But it’s expensive and it won’t warn you about water collecting in places where it shouldn’t be.
- Automatically shuts down your home’s main water supply in the event of a catastrophic leak
- Proactively alerts you to potential water leaks and the overuse of water
- Alerts you to anomalies in water pressure, flow rate, and water temperature that can indicate problems with your freshwater plumbing
- No support for sensors that can detect leaks on the floor around sinks, tubs, toilets, and appliances
- Can’t pinpoint the source of a water leak
- Requires a subscription to get the full benefit of the product
It’s pricey, but the LeakSmart’s ability to integrate into broader smart-home systems and its relatively inexpensive optional water shutoff valve help this leak detector stand out.
- Can be integrated into ZigBee-based smart-home systems
- Can be paired with optional water shutoff valve
- Relatively loud onboard siren
- Water must reach the sensor itself (no extension cable)
- No battery-life reporting
- More expensive than many other water leak detectors
The lower price tag is attractive, but there are pluses and minuses to using discrete sensors versus a true smart valve to protect your home from water damage.
- Less expensive than its smarter competitors
- Sensor-based controls allow you to monitor specific locations in your home
- AC-powered valve has a battery backup option
- Doesn’t measure water flow or water pressure
- Reliance on sensors means the system can’t detect leaks unless water reaches one of the sensors
- System can’t detect water wasted by leaky faucets, toilets, etc.
The Utilitech water leak detector is very inexpensive and can be incorporated into any Z-Wave smart-home hub. But its own siren is too quiet to be of any use, and it must be mounted to a vertical surface.
- Relatively inexpensive
- Works with any Z-Wave smart-home hub, including Iris by Lowe’s
- Cord extends range (but the sensor is only at the end of cord)
- Module must be mounted to the wall
- Battery lasts only one year
- Very quiet siren
This powerful sensor has some great bells and whistles if you know how to take advantage of them.
- Can be paired with optional water shut-off valve
- Operates on either battery power or AC power with battery backup
- Telescopic sensors work on uneven floors
- Weak onboard siren
- Extra features are poorly documented
- Uses less-common CR123A battery
SmartThings’ name-brand flood detector is short on useful features, but it’s inexpensive and plays nicely with other devices and services.
- Easy to set up
- Relatively inexpensive
- Plays well with SmartThings ecosystem and IFTTT
- No onboard siren
- No temperature sensor
- No way to extend sensor into tight spots
WallyHome is a capable water leak detection system with bonus features that you may or may not use.
- Simple and reliable; one of the few smart home hubs that gave us no trouble during testing
- IFTTT support allows enthusiasts to tie WallyHome into other systems
- Lots of data collected to give homeowners more insight into the inner workings of their house
- Only one sensor included with the starter kit
- No way to set sirens for doors and windows opening
- Sensors and hub are both a bit homely
This water sensor’s use of outlet power is both a curse and a blessing.
- Connects with other devices and services via IFTTT
- 1.6-foot water-sensing cable can be extended up to 4.8 feet
- Doesn’t require a hub (just your router)
- Can be a hassle to set up
- Must be installed within 4.8 feet of an AC outlet
- Runs on AC power, but without battery backup
This flow meter monitors your sprinkler system for leaks, but only it’s compatible only with the third-generation Rachio smart sprinkler controller.
- Smooth integration with an existing Rachio 3 smart sprinkler controller
- Can reduce water waste by shutting down your sprinkler system if it detects a leak
- Most buyers will want to hire a professional to install
- Not compatible with first- and second-generation Rachio smart sprinkler controllers
Insteon is an inexpensive solution, especially if you need lots of sensors, but its leak detector doesn’t offer much in the way of features.
- Very inexpensive
- Single AA battery rated to last 10 years
- Narrow design will fit in tight spaces
- No onboard siren or sensor cable
- Insteon app is light on details
- Compatible only with Insteon hubs
This water leak detector is priced low enough, but you’ll find plenty of alternatives that are much better values.
- The second sensor expands the area that can be monitored for leaks
- Onboard alarm should alert you to leaks even if your smartphone is turned off
- Unreliable for its core application: Alerting you to water leaks
- Poor network connectivity makes for slow set-up and worse monitoring
- Problematic to set up
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