Though smart home technologies have been around for quite some time, it is only over the past five years or so that the market has really taken off. Interest in smart home and home automation products is growing by leaps and bounds every year. By 2023, the global smart home industry is projected to surpass $150 billion, according to ADT Security Services. And the U.S. leads in adoption of these technologies with more than 45 million smart home devices installed in U.S. homes, per Statista.

However, when consumers hear “smart home” they think connected thermostats, voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home, lighting control or even smart doorbell cameras. Very rarely do they think of plumbing as being smart. But over the past few years, the plumbing industry has skyrocketed with smart water leak detection and management products and systems.

I had the opportunity to sit in on Keri Waters’ breakout session on the future state of water at Service World Expo last month. Waters is vice president and general manager of water solutions at Resideo and is the co-founder of a product called Buoy. The Buoy whole home water controller attaches to a home’s main water line and sends data to the Buoy app, helping consumers self-monitor their home’s water usage.

“There are a lot of reasons why plumbing has been lacking in the smart home market, but chief among them is, up until recently, consumers weren’t really feeling the pain of managing water in their home outside of worrying about damage done by annoying leaks,” she says. “They weren’t worried about their water bill. But that is changing. We need a $1 trillion investment just in water infrastructure in this country.”

Waters predicts the infrastructure of tomorrow will look very different than in the past because it will be more distributed down to the individual neighborhood and homeowner level, therefore consumers will have to take more responsibility for the plumbing infrastructure in their homes, which ultimately means it’s going to cost them more, so they will pay more attention to it. 

Furthering this point, a 2017 Michigan State University study found that by 2024, more than 35% of U.S. homeowners will find their water bills difficult to afford.

“There’s also a generational shift,” Waters adds. “For those of us below a certain age, we grew up entirely where you couldn’t do any maintenance on your own car. We have now multiple generations of homeowners who are not adept with tools and who are not adept at fixing their own homes like they were before. And because these water systems are becoming more complex, reliance on the plumbing pro is becoming much more important.”

The combination of these factors presents an enormous opportunity for plumbing contractors. Now is the time to promote these water management and leak detection products to your customers so they can be better prepared for not only possible leaks but also a future increase in their water bills. It’s up to the plumbing contractors to educate their customers on ways to cut their water bills as well as inform them of the products to help them do so.

Many of these products not only shut off the water main when a leak occurs, but they allow the homeowner a glimpse into how their water is used. And eventually, the technology is coming where once a leak does occur, the software will reach out to the plumbing contractor who installed it, Waters notes.

It’s really a win-win for plumbing contractors. They present their customer with a whole-home solution that offers peace of mind for future disasters and increased utility rates all while adding to their bottom line.