Flo Leak Detection System Protects Your Home Using Machine Learning

The I’ve seen many smart home devices, but none of them actively protect your home from danger more so than the Flo leak detection system. Flo is a security system for your home’s water system that constantly monitors to catch leaks, prevent water damage, and save you money. Flo is available for purchase at an introductory price of $499.

Flo Leak Detection System Protects Your Home Using Machine Learning

The Flo leak detection system is a Wi-Fi connected device that has is installed directly in your home’s main water line adjacent to the main water shutoff valve. It works by learning your water use behavior using machine learning and then continually monitoring your home’s water pressure, allowing it to detect abnormalities. When a significant drop in water pressure is detected, it’s usually caused by a leak…although sometimes it’ll be a false alarm. Flo posits that your home’s water pressure is akin to your blood pressure, and that’s why it needs to be actively monitored.

Flo uses a technology they call MicroLeak to run proactive tests to identify tiny leaks that you’d never notice yourself. These are leaks like small leaks behind a wall that could cause mold to grow over time and cause serious, deadly respiratory issues. Leaks as small as one drop per minute are able to be detected using Flo’s advanced technology.

Check out this great overview video from Flo, to give you a good sense of how it works:

When a leak is detected, you get an alert on your smartphone, a text, an email, or a phone call. You get to choose the type of alert. Flo will give you some time to cancel the alert, confirming it’s a false alarm. However ,if you do not cancel the alert the Flo device will automatically shut off your home’s water supply, preventing any further water damage to your home. As an example of a false alarm, there was one time during my testing where we had the washing machine running, the dishwasher running, and a hose running and Flo saw the large drop in water pressure and increase in water usage and warned us of a leak. When we turned off the hose, Flo recognized the reduction in water use and ccanceledthe alert.

Flo Leak Detection System Protects Your Home Using Machine Learning

Flo installed in our home’s water main.

Flo also turns your smartphone into command central for your home’s water system. From the Flo app, you can turn your water on or off from anywhere in the world. You can also view your water consumption patterns, view your current water pressure, water flow rate, and water temperature. You can also run a water system health test at anytime. The great thing about Flo is, even if you don’t have your phone available, Flo can automatically turn your water off if it senses a dangerous issue.

Flo Leak Detection System Protects Your Home Using Machine Learning

The water main open during installation.

The best endorsement a product like this can receive is from a trusted plumber with years of experience. After discussing Flo with the plumber who installed our review unit, here’s what he had to say:

The work is very very simple and any plumber would be able to handle the installation possibly even a homeowner…I will leave you with this and this is my opinion, I think the product’s good I think every home should have one and insurance companies should provide homeowners rebates or discounts for having such a device. I also believe the first time this device works it has paid for itself handsomely.

And he’s right; the cost of Flo, plus installation by a local plumber, will run you around $750. If you have a burst pipe or a catastrophic leak in your home, the water damage will cost you multiple times the cost of the Flo device. Flo works as an insurance plan. You may never need it, but you’ll be happy you had it if something bad happens.

Flo Leak Detection System Protects Your Home Using Machine Learning

Flo installed, full view of our water main and shutoff.

Here’s the thing with Flo: it works. While we haven’t had any serious leaks, luckily, Flo did warn us of a leak that turned out to be a running toilet. As soon as we jiggled the handle and it stopped, Flo noticed and alerted us that the issue was resolved. Although it wasn’t a major issue, this confirmed to us that Flo can sense very small issues and bring them to your attention. I do have peace of mind leaving the house for a long vacation in the winter knowing that Flo is home keeping an eye on the place.

Flo Leak Detection System Protects Your Home Using Machine Learning

The app homepage soon after installation. Flo needs about 10 days to learn your water use habits.

Nothing is without its downsides, however. While Flo absolutely does what it’s supposed to do, it has also added some minor annoyance to our daily life. Flo performs a health test of our water system once every day, which is great, but ever since it was installed it tells us that there’s a small leak. We’ve never been able to find the leak. Flo even re-hired the plumbers who originally installed the unit to come check our house for leaks, and they couldn’t find the culprit. So is there a real leak? We can’t be 100% sure, and in this case, I’d say that “ignorance is bliss” as I’d rather not see that alert once a day.

Flo Leak Detection System Protects Your Home Using Machine Learning

The Control Panel section of the Flo app.

This shortcoming did, however, highlight one of the positive points to Flo, which is their excellent customer service.  Flo’s customer service spent hours on the phone with me trying to deduce where this alert could be coming from.  They proved that Flo is truly here to help their customers, and that’s extremely valuable.

Flo Leak Detection System Protects Your Home Using Machine Learning

Flo can also tell you how many gallons of water you used in a day, week, or month so you can keep track of your water usage, helping you learn how to conserve.

One more downside was that the Flo device was incorrectly installed.  It was installed in our water line before our home’s pressure reducing valve. That means that the Flo device measures the water pressure directly from the supply and not how it’s actually experienced by the plumbing fixtures. This often causes high water pressure alerts that we can’t do anything about since our town controls the water pressure. Again, this was an installation issue, not necessarily an issue with Flo itself.  The purpose of the water pressure alerts is to protect our plumbing fixtures, but if it’s not measuring the pressure as the plumbing fixtures are experiencing it, there’s no point to it.

Check out this gallery of app setup screenshots:

Minor shortcomings aside, Flo is something that I believe should be installed in every home. If installed properly, it has the ability to prevent extensive water damage caused by leaks or burst pipes. It also has the ability to warn you of potential smaller issues like a leaky faucet, running toilet, or a small leak behind a wall, which can cause hundreds of dollars in wasted water in the best case and serious health issues in the worst case.

You can purchase Flo directly from the manufacturer at www.meetflo.com for the introductory price of $499.

Source: The Flo Leak Detection System was a manufacturer supplied review sample.  Flo also hired a licensed plumber to install the unit at their cost.

What I Like: Proactive health tests; WiFi connected; Powerful smartphone app; Monitor your water system anywhere in the world; Prevent leaks before they turn into water damage

What Needs Improvement: Prevention of false alarms

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About the Author

Perry Brauner
I'm an architect by trade, but the overarching theme of my life has always been trying to keep up with the newest, coolest technology. Ever since I picked up an NES controller, I've been hooked on the latest and greatest gadgets, gizmos, and toys. Whether it's gaming, mobile phones, and accessories, or PCs and Apple products, I'm interested. I use many Apple products in my daily life, such as the iPhone, iPad, and my MacBook Pro. I've also built a few PCs in my day, so I'd like to say that I'm a pretty well-rounded techie.