At a time of unprecedented drought in large parts of the U.S., it's surprising how much water we still waste. The Environmental Protection Agency says the average home loses 10,000 gallons per year and that 10% of homes lose 90 gallons a day, or more than 30,000 gallons a year.
Most people have little idea how much water their home uses and how that compares with their neighbors, because that's not something we talk about much.
Water Hero, a new smartphone-controlled device, aims to give people more insight into their water use. Place the device directly on your municipal water meter to get a detailed picture of flow rates. If it detects an unusually high volume of water, the Water Hero can even shut down the system.
"People haven't had information on their water usage," says Dan Sterling, the lead developer behind the device. "They get a bill once a quarter and it will say you've used 100 cubic foot units. For the average home-owner, that means nothing."
The device works by detecting magnetic pulses from the municipal meter (representing 1/100th of a gallon). It takes this information and sends to your phone via a Spark Core Wi-Fi connection. An app then makes sense of the data in graphical form.
Water Hero was born at a Massachusetts Cleanweb Hackathon and is now looking for $54,000 on Kickstarter. The money will go towards tooling and production costs, with shipment set for the summer of 2015.
Sterling was motivated to develop the device after experiencing a damaging water leak in his own home. One of the features of Water Hero is that you can set it to "away" mode. So, if you're leaving the house unattended, it will shut down the system if the flow rate exceeds, say, a gallon a day. That could be especially useful for people going on vacation, or leaving second homes for long periods.
There are already leak detection solutions on the market, but Sterling argues they're expensive. Leak Defense System, for example, costs around $2,000 including installation. Water Hero, by contrast, is priced at just $199, and it's something you can put in yourself.
When the final product is on the market, Sterling hopes the app will allow customers to compare their water usage against average and similar homes in their area. That should help people diagnose problems and run repairs if necessary.