Flume Smart Water Monitor review: Smarter than your average leak detector

Of all the connected devices and gadgets I have in my house—and that’s no small number—Flume might be the smartest. It has just one job—to monitor my home’s water use—but it does it so well, I have no problem recommending it and its $200 price tag to any homeowner with a smartphone and a Wi-Fi connection.

Granted, Flume isn’t as pretty as the Nest Learning Thermostat or anywhere near as versatile as an Amazon Echo Show, but just 24 hours after I hooked it up, it knew more about my house than any other connected device I have. After a week, it was changing my habits. I’m not even really sure how it works—it merely attaches to the outside of your main water pipe with no cutting or configuration needed—but it’s the first smart device I’ve used that actually alerted me to an issue I might not have otherwise noticed.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best water leak detectors, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.

flume strap Michael Simon/IDG

A simple rubber strap holds the Flume water monitor in place.

Around the holidays I had a few of my son’s friends over for a party overflowing with pizza and juice boxes, and inevitably several of them needed to use the bathroom. Surprisingly, at least one of them remembered to wash their hands, because later that night I got a text alert from Flume informing me that a potential leak was detected.

Even though the warning said water use was averaging 0.34 gallons per minute (which is relatively high), when I drilled down into the app’s minute-by-minute view, I saw a steady reading of only around 0.02 gallons per minute when the water should have been off. That led me to deduce that one of the kids left a trickle of water running in the downstairs bathroom, which I promptly turned off.

Now, you might think that a dripping faucet that I’d eventually notice isn’t reason enough to drop $200 on yet another smart device. But if Flume can detect a small leak from a faucet, it’ll also be able to tell you when a more dangerous problem is lurking, one that you probably wouldn’t see it until it’s too late. And even if that day never comes, there’s a good chance it will save you a few bucks over time.

Easy setup, peasy monitoring

After passing on several leak detectors that required pipe cutting, I was intrigued by Flume’s design. Instead of mounting on your main water supply, this detector attaches to your water meter—and you won’t need any tools to get that done.

Honestly, it’s not much harder to set up than a Philips Hue smart light. There’s a relatively large Wi-Fi bridge that must be plugged to an electrical outlet to communicate with the main sensor, but since your main water pipe is likely in the basement or tucked out of the way, it shouldn’t be too hard to hide it. The sensor and the bridge don’t need to be near each other either (since they communicate via radio waves), so any tucked-away outlet will do. I put mine in the basement.

flume bridge Michael Simon/IDG

The Flume Wi-Fi bridge is quite large, especially compared to Ring’s and Hue’s bridges.

Once the Flume is connected to the bridge, you’ll need to strap the Flume to your water meter. It’s a bit like putting on a face mask for scuba diving, with a rubber strap that tightly secures it to the pipe and a large curved rectangle that rests on the front. Thankfully, that doesn’t need a power source, though at some point the “long-life” batteries inside it will need to be changed. Just be warned: Some water meters might not be compatible with Flume, so check your model before you buy.