TECH
09/18/2015 10:32 am ET

This Device Will Make You Feel Guilty Every Time You Flush, And That's A Good Thing

You probably have no idea how much water you're using each day. The Fluid device makes it easy to see.
A user attaches the Fluid water meter onto a water pipe.
Credit: Fluid Water Meter
A user attaches the Fluid water meter onto a water pipe.

Do you think you could estimate how many gallons of water you use in a month? Do you know if your usage spikes on certain days of the week? How many times did you flush the toilet yesterday? A new device could collect all that information for you, eliminating the guesswork. 

On Monday, Minneapolis-based startup Fluid launched a Kickstarter campaign for a gadget that attaches to your house's water main and listens for water flowing into your home and household appliances. Unlike other usage-estimating services, the Fluid device is designed to send real-time usage updates directly to your smartphone, educating you about your consumption patterns and encouraging you to conserve. It might even help you save on your water bill.

"The big thing for us, more than anything, is to get consumers more in touch with how they use water and just, hopefully, help people change their behavior once they really start to understand how much they use so we can all conserve water and save money," Fluid's founder, Colin Hirdman, told The Huffington Post on Wednesday.

The product comes at a time of increasingly greater need for water conservation. The average American uses between 80 and 100 gallons per day via fixtures like showers and toilets, as well as appliances like dishwashers and laundry machines. Household leaks also account for 1 trillion wasted gallons a year -- enough to fill 40 million swimming pools.

Fluid uses ultrasonic technology to track the speed and velocity at which water flows into each fixture and appliance in your house. After you attach the gadget to your water main, you plug it into a power outlet and connect it to WiFi to get it ready for use. Then, before you take a shower or run the dishwasher, you tell the Fluid app which appliance or fixture you're about to use, and the water-monitoring device will analyze the water flow to that part of the house.

Over time, Fluid is supposed to learn about your habits and create breakdowns based on those data. The app lets you see the amount of water consumed in different parts of your home, fluctuations in usage throughout the day or week and more. It will also alert you when it thinks you've sprung a leak.

Credit: Fluid Water Meter

 Here, Fluid's app offers an overview of a household's water consumption (left) and identifies a possible leak.

However, because Fluid is tracking the speed and velocity of the water flowing into all your household appliances through the same pipe, its data might not be accurate if you have tons of appliances on at the same time -- like if you're taking a shower while running the dishwasher, for example.

"If you turn on everything in your house at the same time, it's going to have a much harder time telling what's what, versus when you're running one thing at a time," Hirdman said. "The more things you run at once, the more difficult it is."

Its leak detector might not be the most accurate, either. 

"If somebody's water is running for an hour and a half straight or hours straight, we would notify them that they may have a leak on their property based on the constant flow of water," Hirdman said.

(Then again, if you're purposely running water for hours on end, then you might need a wake-up call anyway.)

Currently, there are online tools like Home Water Works' water calculator and Grace Communications Foundation's water footprint calculator that estimate your daily water usage based on your living habits. Fluid, however, listens to water physically flowing into your house and uses that to create data for you to examine.

As of Friday morning, Fluid's Kickstarter campaign had raised more than $55,000 -- over half the $95,000 goal the company hopes to reach by Oct. 14. If the funding is successful, a Fluid device will cost $209 and will ship next May.

In the meantime, here are some quick tips on how you can conserve your water usage.

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