Colin Hirdman, an owner of multiple small rental properties, knew firsthand the financial hit that undetected water leaks can cause for property owners.
Without a reliable way to identify when water was being wasted, his bills sometimes skyrocketed up to four times their normal price, he says. “It was like Russian roulette; I didn’t know which property might have a leak.”
Hirdman struggled to find a cost-effective solution that would allow him to easily track water usage and detect leaks in real time. So he founded Water Meter Solutions and created one: H20 Pro, a whole-building water-monitoring system that allows property managers to view usage data in an online dashboard and take a proactive approach to leak detection and management.
“Through the dashboard, you see water use in real time,” Hirdman explains. “You can see historical use, and you can set alerts, so that if usage goes above a certain threshold, it sends an alert to the property manager.”
A simple retrofit installation, H20 Pro doesn’t require cutting into pipes and is designed to be flexible, to work with pipes of various sizes and materials. Sensors clamped onto the pipe’s exterior monitor water flow. Then, the device is plugged into AC power and uses either a Wi-Fi or cellular signal to upload data to the dashboard.
In developing H20 Pro and working with other property owners, Hirdman also discovered that toilets were by far the biggest culprits of water wastage at most communities, responsible for up to 80 percent of leaks, he says.
“These are not necessarily toilets that are overflowing, but toilets that are running that tenants don’t report,” he says. “There’s something malfunctioning in the tank, and so water just runs through the toilet at incredible rates.”
This led to the creation of Water Meter Solutions’ second product: Floo-id, a system designed specifically for toilet monitoring. Like H20 Pro, Floo-id is a retrofitted smart device that allows property managers to view usage in real time and receive notifications if any leaks are detected.
After a toilet is flushed, if water continues to run for longer than the standard mode of operation, an alert is sent to property or maintenance staff, saving water, money, and time, Hirdman explains.
“If you have a building with 200 to 250 units and you just know that toilets are leaking but you don’t necessarily know which ones, you have to try to identify it. [Floo-id] eliminates everything in regard to identifying the leak; it will tell you the exact unit that is currently in leak mode.”
Floo-id is attached to the bottom of a toilet tank and self-powered by an internal turbine that charges the battery as water flows through the device. The product is still in development, with Water Meter Solutions conducting pilot programs.
Initial response at properties with the products installed has been positive, Hirdman says—both devices have caught leaks. They’ve also helped create awareness among managers and residents, letting them see exactly how much water is being used and track their own behavior patterns, he adds.
H20 Pro is currently available for $800; final pricing has not been set for Floo-id, but Hirdman says the goal is about $50 a device. However, the utility bill savings the devices can provide help them pay for themselves, he says. “Most building owners recoup the cost [of H20 Pro] in less than 12 months.”