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Smarter pipes for a smarter home

I've been covering the smart home at CES for seven years now, and I've heard too many pitches for connected, tech-enabled home improvement to possibly remember them all. And yet the smart plumbing pitches have always sort of stuck with me. Maybe it's because I've lived through the hell of waking up to an apartment that flooded overnight due to a burst pipe, but adding some degree of smarts to the fixtures that move water through our homes just makes a lot of sense to me, especially since those fixtures can wreak havoc when things go wrong unchecked.

The idea of smartening up your pipes and fixtures is nothing new -- just rewind to 2015's WeMo Water, for instance -- but the concept never really took off, at least not to the same degree as connected home staples like smart speakerssmart lights and smart thermostats. That hasn't stopped manufacturers, though. In fact, we're actually seeing a rise in the number of smart plumbing pitches at CES this year. The industry still sees potential here.

Curious to see for yourself? Click through for a quick rundown of the smart plumbing pitches we've come across on the CES 2020 show floor.

Published:Caption:Photo:Tyler Lizenby/CNET
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Flo by Moen Smart Water Detector

It isn't cheap, but we liked Moen's water monitoring and shutoff system (seen on the previous slide) when we tested it out back in 2018. However, while the system's shutoff valve can detect the telltale changes in water pressure that come with a leak, it can't detect where that leak might actually be coming from.

That changed at CES 2020 with the arrival of the Flo by Moen Smart Water Detector, a 3.5-inch puck that you'll place in the basement, beneath a sink, behind the washing machine or anywhere else a leak might occur. Once it senses water or freezing temperatures, it'll push an alert to your smartphone. And, if you own that aforementioned shutoff system, it can automatically turn your water off before things get catastrophic. At $50 each, or $130 for a three-pack, it's an expensive option, but one that makes that original Flo system even better.

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Phyn XL

That WeMo Water system I mentioned from back in 2015? It's still around, and it's called Phyn now. Its latest offering is Phyn XL, which uses the company's latest machine-learning-based water sensing technology to monitor large homes and even commercial properties for leaks. It's due for release this summer.

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Phyn Smart Water Assistant

For a something a little simpler, there's the new Phyn Smart Water Assistant, available now for $299. Hook it up to your pipes, and it uses Phyn's technology to monitor each specific fixture in your home for leaks. If anything's amiss, it'll send you an alert.

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Kohler Aquifier Refine Purification System

It looks a little like a white PC that you place under your kitchen sink, but it's actually Kohler's new smart purification system. Hook it up to your pipes and the Wi-Fi-connected system will filter out things like lead, mercury, bacteria and viruses, all while monitoring for leaks, too. Kohler expects it'll sell for around $600 when it arrives this summer.  

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Kohler Setra Smart Faucet

Kohler also added several new designs to its lineup of smart faucets, including the $399 Setra, seen here. That's a lot of money, but it's still the brand's least expensive smart faucet to date.

Sink your cash into one, and you'll enjoy on and off voice controls, presets for specific things like spaghetti pots, a water usage monitor, leak detection and both manual and touchless faucet controls.

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Kohler touchless toilet

It's not just the kitchen sinks -- Kohler came to Vegas with touchless toilets, too. Mind you, there's still a physical flush handle, but you can get it to flush itself just by waving your hand near its built-in motion sensor, and there's even a built-in night light, to boot.

Maybe that sounds superfluous, but I'd take it in my toilet. I just wish it wasn't so expensive -- you'll need to spend at least $600 for a toilet that comes equipped to flush itself. Make it a $30 retrofit upgrade for existing toilets, and then let's talk. 

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Kohler DTV Mode Bath Control

Techie toilets are all well and good, but what about the tub? For that, there's Kohler's digital thermostatic valve, or DTV. Install the $825 valve in your bathroom, and you'll be able to start or schedule a bath remotely, complete with precision temperature control. For an even hoity-toitier tub, you could add in Kohler's $225 interface. Because sure, why not pay extra for dumb, manual controls of the smart water system you installed to replace the old, dumb manual controls?

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Kohler Moxie Shower Head

OK, OK, so that tub probably isn't the smartest smart plumbing pitch I've ever heard -- but what about a smarter shower head? Specifically, how about one with a built-in Alexa smart speaker, like the new Kohler Moxie?

I mean, sure, there are plenty of waterproofed Bluetooth speakers that cost a lot less than the $229 that Kohler is asking for the Moxie (or $169 if you skip the Alexa voice controls) -- but as built-in, premium upgrades go, this one feels pretty justifiable.

Then again, that tub set the bar pretty low.

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