Now it’s water’s turn.
Homes have been getting smarter over the years, little by little, at first for the early-adopter techno geeks. But now technology is reaching another level for average consumers like you who are interested in control energy use or resources.
The earliest “smart home” products controlled lighting, for example, were costly and appealed to only to techno geeks, not average homeowners. Then consumer-friendly products began to hit the market to monitor heating and air conditioning (like Nest), advanced lighting (like Hue), and security (like the NestCam). These are things that consumers can directly feel, see, and actively use everyday.
Now, around May 2016, homeowners will be able to monitor and understand the amount of water their home is using through a device known as FLUID, the Learning Water Meter. It is expected to retail for $249 to $299.
In this post we take a look at FLUID and what it means to monitor your home’s water usage.
Let’s smart with your morning shower. That’s about 30 gallons of water used. Add in a spouse and a teenager — that’s another 30 gallons each — or up to 100 gallons total just in cleaning ourselves.
You flush the toilet a few times a day? That’s another four or five gallons, depending on the type of toilet used in the home. Run the dishwasher once a day? Run the washing machine two or three times a day? That’s even more water usage.
The average American consumes 80 to 100 gallons each during the day, or the equivalent of around 700 half-liter water bottles. And that does not include outdoor water usage for sprinklers and hoses.
For the most part, homeowners think very little about the water they use, how they consume it, how they depend on it. As consumers their relationship with water is the monthly utility bill and calling a Staten Island plumber when a repair is needed or they’re upgrading the plumbing infrastructure or doing a kitchen makeover.
Americans are become more aware of the severity of droughts throughout the United States or the plight of states like California, in which the snow accumulation levels (a major supplier of water) has plunged to a 500-year low.
Monitoring and reducing personal water usage is not sexy or an easy task. You can reduce a shower by five minutes, saving several gallons of water a day. You, sometimes with the help of your Staten Island plumber, can make modifications to the home’s plumbing ecosystem to save water, but are the savings really that significant. What about your neighbor — is he doing his bit to save water?
Say Hello to FLUID
FLUID is a smart water meter that helps homeowners understand when, where, and how much water they’re consuming in their homes on a daily, real-time basis.
FLUID launched last year in a Kickstarter campaign and has raised enough funding to anticipate its product will be available to purchase sometime in or around May 2016. It has already caught the attention of the likes of USA Today, the Huffington Post, Geek Wire, and other web sites/publications.
How FLUID Works
FLUID is a pale blue-looking box that snaps around the main water pipe in your home. It is something any consumer can install as long as he or she knows which pipe is the main water pipe. If you are unsure, ask your Staten Island plumber for assistance.
Note that Staten Island plumbers, at least for the time being, probably don’t know about FLUID or have encountered one, so they will not be able to give an opinion about accuracy.
FLUID uses ultrasonic technology — essentially sending pulses from one ultrasonic transducer to another — to measure the rate of water flow without cutting into the pipe, a critical caveat for homeowners.
Another impressive feature of FLUID is the device knows exactly where the water is coming from. Each appliance in the home, whether it is a kitchen or bathroom faucet, a toilet, or the washing machine, has a signature run rate or the duration of water flow through the pipe while running.
Unfortunately, FLUID isn’t as simple as plug ’n play and forget about it. Teaching FLUID what a particular run rate is, exactly, takes a bit of work and can be time consuming to set up.
After you snap FLUID around the main water pipe, you plug it in to a nearby electrical outlet, connect it to your WiFi and the FLUID app you’ve downloaded. The app is available for iOS (Apple products) and Android.
Once everything is working, in the app you instruct FLUID to “listen” while each appliance is run for its typical duration, whether it’s a 30-minute washing machine cycle or a quick flush of the toilet. Once FLUID captures and memorizes signatures, it’s able to differentiate between multiple appliances or fixtures running at the same time.
FLUID’s founders want people to “have a much more direct relationship with their water consumption,” with an end result of “using less water” and “spending less money on water” by identifying “how, where and when they’re using water.”
One example is leaving a faucet running while teeth brushing, which wastes gallons for water for no other reason than being too lazy to turn off the water. Others are the impact of taking long showers or running the dishwasher or clothes washer with half-empty loads.
Another interesting aspect of FLUID is leak detection. FLUID alerts homeowners of leaky faucets and running toilets to basement floods and significant water bill spikes. These are things DIY-minded homeowners can proactively take care of or call a Staten Island plumber for quick assistance.
Future plans call for FLUID to integrate with existing smart home hubs such as Nest or SmartThings and to provide an API (geek talk for software code) for third-party developers use to to build their own integrations into FLUID.
The hope is once people become aware of how much water they are using, they will be able to save water easier and more conveniently, sparking them to want to save even more and become more creative how they do that. It’s not unlike the behavior of people who own Nest thermostats, wanting to control their home environments in real time to save more money off their monthly bill and at the same time conserving energy.
Will It Work? Do People Care?
One biggest obstacle to the success of FLUID is there isn’t any solid evidence that consumer awareness of utility usage leads to significantly reduced consumption.
In the late 2000s, utilities began installing “smart meters” in homes throughout the U.S. These were like FLUID, except they monitored energy instead of water. The results have been disappointing.
However, those “smart meters” were not devices that let consumers directly learn about their energy usage, what it means, and how they can make changes and see results in real time.
FLUID, like Nest and other consumer-friendly awareness devices, is just a start for the water resource.