Product Review: Phyn Plus Smart water assistant + shutoff

Summary Rating:  Half Full Bucket- not ready for prime time.

This review is based on a one-year use of the Phyn Plus Smart water assistant + shutoff system.  According to the manufacture “Phyn Plus uses patented, high-definition pressure wave analysis to alert you the second a leak is detected, mitigate costly damage through automatic water shutoff and teach you about your water use.”[1]

A little over a year ago, our water authority had put out a brochure describing several whole house water leak detectors, and the logic for installing one.  Based on my research on the related technology used by the proffered leak detection units, I chose the Phyn.

Specifically, “Phyn Plus is the only connected water monitor to offer an ultrasonic flow sensor, exclusively built by Badger Meter, with no moving parts, ensuring accuracy and durability over the long haul. Other water monitors use turbine flow sensors with rotating discs that are less accurate, and often degrade over time or can get stuck by debris or buildup.[2]

My primary interest in the unit was two-fold: avoid an expensive water leak and resultant property damage, and monitor water usage and issues while not home.

Installation and start-up:

I decided to go with a Phyn certified installer because I was going to need to have some re-piping done to take full advantage of the Phyn unit, and, using their certified installer extended the warranty by one year.

When my home was built in 2005, the feed from the city water pipe where it entered the house, was split with one part going to a pressure reduction valve (PRV) and then on to the house, and the other side of the split bypassing the PRV and going to the inground watering system.  Phyn requires that any water it monitors must first go through the PRV, so I had to have the inground rerouted to follow the PRV.

Here you can see the original piping, where the house water (“A”) goes through the PRV and the inground water (“B”) bypasses it.

Here is the revised piping, where all the water from the city pipe goes first through the PRV, flows (“1”) to a tee, feeding the house (“2”) and the inground (“3”).  The original pipe to the inground from the city feed was cut and capped (circle “4”).

At the time of the re-piping I had the plumber replace the original PRV with a beefier industrial version.

Once the installation was completed, the Phyn unit was plugged in and linked to the WiFi.  Using the free app from Phyn, it walks you through the set up which includes describing type and number of appliances using water in you home.  Next it monitors water use, but does not automatically shut off the water until after the learning/training period has elapsed.

The training was pretty straight forward.  The system virtually, instantly shows when water is being used, for example, turning on a sink faucet or flushing a toilet.  After the learning period is complete, through the app, it will show you lots of useful information including current water pressure, water events by category (sink, shower, outside faucet, etc.) along with total water usage by day.  When you open the app, it shows you the current water temperature, current pressure, and flow (if any) in gpm.  If water is being used, it will show a flowing stream representation behind the information.  From that screen you can run a plumbing check, see water use by date, by event, etc.

You can also use the app to turn off all the water, electronically through the Phyn unit.

Actual Day to Day Use:

The information can tell you pretty accurately how much water each of your appliances uses, for example, when you shower, flush a toilet, run the washing machine, etc.

For the first couple of months, the unit seemed to work pretty well, with a few hic-ups.  Several times it shut the water off while one of us was showing, because it thought it was a leak.  These were pretty much eliminated after continue (re)training or correcting the apps query or mis-categorization.

During this period, I also found Customer Service/Technical Support to be responsive, though not necessarily problem resolving.  For example, there appears to be an issue I can only describe as a software problem, where the AI they use doesn’t seem to be able to learn atypical water use.  Specifically, we have an auto-fill system on my pool that uses a float valve similar to a toilet valve, and when the water drops below a preset level, opens the valve to allow water replacement.  During low or no wind days, this tends to be recognized by Phyn’s AI algorithm and doesn’t cause any issues.  But on windy days, the pool water surface undulates causing the float to bob and erratically open and close the valve.   Phyn’s AI algorithm almost never recognizes this and as a result, labels it a leak.

I contacted and explained this to Customer Service/Technical Support several times before they finally understood the issue.  They told me the system would need more time to learn it.  It is now a year, and it still hasn’t learned it.

Another problem that started recently, is the system has forgotten event characteristics it previously knew.  For example, we have a whole house water conditioning system that does a reverse flush every fourteen days, in two steps, one hour apart.  By design, this reverse flush occurs during the late-night early morning hours.  Originally Phyn once trained on this, had no issues with it.  However, during the past few months, it only tends to get one of the two steps properly recognized, and either turns off the water to the house during the second step or mis-labels it as an amazingly long shower, for example.  No changes were done to the whole house water conditioning system which might explain Phyn’s lack of ability to remember what it previously knew.

Similar issues have been occurring with the inground watering system.  It runs on a specified schedule for a fixed amount of time.  Originally Phyn learned and recognized it.  Over the past few months, it now frequently gets ‘confused’ and combines the inground event with other water usage events in the house.  This results either in mis-categorization, warning messages from the app, or large amounts of water usage un-classified.  Again, there have been no changes done to the inground system which might explain Phyn’s lack of ability to remember what it previously knew.

Each of these issues have been provided in detail to Customer Service/Technical Support along with supporting screen shots of the data.  Unfortunately for the past several months, even though I have documentation showing the emails were received and opened at Phyn (both to specific individuals I sent them to, as well as Phyn’s CEO), no one at Phyn has had the courtesy to get back to me. 

This is inexcusable.   I would have expected them to want to take advantage of the specific data of these anomalies and improve their AI algorithm.  Clearly there are other customers who might be interested in their leak detection system who also have pools, whole house water conditioner systems, and inground watering equipment.

In Summary

The concept is excellent.  The quality of the Phyn Plus unit build appears top notch.  The unfortunate short fall is that the unit has failed to learn unchanging water usage after a year in service, and that Customer Service/Technical Support is nonchalant and non-responsive about it.  Because of this, it is extremely hard to have any confidence the unit will in fact detect a true leak and perform properly, if and when that occurs.

Note: If Phyn does get back to me and resolve these issues, I will update this review and rating appropriately.  Until that point, caveat emptor for anyone considering a purchase of the Phyn Plus unit.

Update: July 2020 Unfortunately no one at Phyn has responded to my customer service requests (sent both on their web site and by email directly to them). The software has been updated a number of times, yet the same issues continue. There are definitely ‘learning’ issues that are not corrected even after repeated use of their app to change a mis-categorization to reflect the correct source of water use.

Further, I completed an honest product review (much like this write-up) of the Phyn Plus unit on their own web site, using their form, as a verified purchaser of the unit, and they acknowledged receiving the review, but did not publish the review. Clearly an attempt to mislead individuals who look at their published reviews.

As a result of this article, I have received several contacts from other purchasers of the Phyn Plus unit, who also have experienced similar problems including the lack of any customer support.

It is unfortunate that Phyn management believe this is the way to treat customers, rather than to try and resolve the real field documented issues with their product, and ultimately improve it.


[1] Manufacturer’s website https://www.phyn.com/plus-smart-water-assistant/ May 30, 2020

[2] Manufacturer’s website op. cit.

Figuratively capturing an animal

Capturing the essence of an animal in their natural habitat is a unique and time sensitive challenge.  You typically don’t have control over the lighting, the conditions and certainly, rarely the animal itself.  More than not the opportunity is a chance encounter.

Oh but the results can be so satisfying.

isafjordur-30-of-36

With a bit of luck (and imagination) you get to soar

p1030713

Observe a Mother teaching her son the art of hunting

p1050479

a Father and son playing

p1030618

A rare black rhino foraging

p1010409

An odd ‘couple’ out for a stroll

p1030117

Mother and child (look under her) enjoying the day

p1010585

Sharing an intimate moment

the-catch-2

Capturing lunch on the go

p1030298

Providing lunch on the go

p1030092

The pause that refreshes

Image vs equipment and software

When I started in professional photography my equipment consisted of Nikon Fs (F, F3, Photomic, etc.).

Here is a comparison of my first professional camera in the center, with my first digital with a Leica lens on the right, and my latest digital Nikon on the left.

untitled-1

Evolution (or Nikon on steroids).

I tend to add new equipment when I feel the technology offers a significant improvement.  For example, the small Leica was my initial move into the world of digital.  It was considerably smaller than my film cameras, and offered the ability to immediately confirm I captured what I wanted.  It also allowed me to learn how to shoot in digital since, in my experience, it required somewhat different skills than film cameras.  Framing and composition were still the same, but how digital captured light has subtle but important differences to my eye as compared to film. [ Much like digital audio equipment sounds different when compared to tube based equipment. ]

While I still occasionally shoot with negative professional film using my older Nikon equipment, nearly all of my images today are shot with my full frame Nikon digital cameras.

From my earliest days as a photographer, my approach was to capture what interested me just exactly as I saw it in my ‘mind’s eye,’ so to speak.

Initially all of my work was done on black and white professional negative film, that I developed in my lab.  Developing of film was done by the ‘book’ without enhancing the image.  Slowly I experimented with color negative film but my concern was that it was too easy to get an interesting picture simply because of the colors as compared to black and white.  For example, this shot of spices from India is really only interesting to me because of the colors as compared to shooting it in black and white.

This approach still reflects my technique today, except I normally only shoot with an eye to the colors and how they interact with the composition.

And certainly, many images rely totally on color for dramatic impact:

I trust my ability to see and capture what I want without coming back and spending time using readily available software (today’s equivalent of chemicals in the lab and development times when I started) to modify the image.  I don’t think there is anything wrong enhancing images using post shooting software, but believe it reflects more of a philosophical difference.  I consider myself a ‘naturalist’ photographer verses an artist/photographer producing a final photograph with software.

When you look at photographs do you wonder if it is reflective of reality or enhanced?  Does it matter to your enjoyment of the photograph?  Look forward to hearing from you!  Please feel free to comment below.