SimpleSENCE Home Leak & Freeze Detector review: No hub, no frills

This $60 Wi-Fi water leak detector only does the basics, but it does them well.

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Jared Newman / IDG
At a Glance

A water leak detector, when you really get down to it, has just  one job: It should alert you when a pipe, toilet, appliance, or water heater bursts or leaks, so you can take action before serious damage occurs.

On that fundamental task, Sensentric’s awkwardly spelled SimpleSENCE water leak detector does pretty well. But it also lacks some of the features you’ll find on other water sensors, such as an extension cable for leak detection and tie-ins with more comprehensive smart home systems.

For $10 less, the Roost Smart Water Leak and Freeze Detector offers similar Wi-Fi connectivity, plus a humidity sensor, an optional ($15) four-foot extension water sensor, and IFTTT support.

No hub needed

Because SimpleSENCE connects to your phone over Wi-Fi, it doesn’t need a separate ZigBee or Z-Wave hub (e.g., a Samsung SmartThings) to send out alerts. Hub-based sensors tend to be a bit cheaper—Fibaro’s Z-Wave-based sensor, for instance, costs just $35—but if you only need one or two sensors and don’t use a hub for other smart home devices, you’ll likely come out ahead by skipping the hub.

To set up the sensor, you must download the SimpleSENCE app for Android or iOS, hold your finger over the two metal contacts on the side of the sensor, and then use the app to enter your Wi-Fi credentials.

simplesenceapp Jared Newman / IDG

SimpleSENCE’s app isn’t the prettiest smart home gadget, but it works.

This would have gone smoothly, except for one issue: I was unable to pair the sensor though the SimpleSENSE Android app without sharing my location. This raises a red flag at a time when people are paying ever-closer attention to tech privacy, but Sensentric says the location requirement is a just a bug that’s already been fixed in the iOS app, which doesn’t have the same issue.

Once you’ve set up the sensor, there’s not much else to do. You can monitor battery life (which lasts an advertised two years on AAA batteries), view the most recent water leak or freeze events, assign the sensor to a different location (so you’ll know which room is having problems), and set up alerts for additional contacts. It’d be nice if the app showed a full history of leak events, rather than just the most recent, but you can always consult email or SMS history for those details.

To test water leak events, I spilled some water on a bathroom tile until it trickled underneath the sensor. About 15 seconds later, SimpleSENCE’s siren went off, and an alert arrived on my phone via both email and text message.

simplesenceleak Jared Newman / IDG

Leak alerts via email and SMS. (Hopefully you won’t get this many.)

With a smartphone decibel measurement app about six inches away, SimpleSENCE’s siren hit 75dB, which isn’t really loud enough to hear unless you’re on the same floor. (The Honeywell Lyric’s superior siren hit 90dB in the same test.) You’ll really be relying on those SMS and email alerts in most cases, but I never had an issue receiving them, and the SimpleSENCE app also sends an alert when the sensor loses Wi-Fi connectivity for any reason.

The SimpleSENCE device is also outfitted with a temperature threshold sensor, though you can’t actually view temperature readings through the app. Instead, the device will send an alert when it detects a temperature lower than 34 degrees Fahrenheit. Throwing the SimpleSENCE in the freezer produced an alert about 15 minutes later.

What’s missing

While the SimpleSENCE performs basic water leak detection adequately, it’s also missing several features that are available with competing Wi-Fi options.

Unlike the Honeywell Lyric and Roost products, SimpleSENCE does not measure humidity levels, which can tip you off to environmental conditions that could lead to the growth of mold. It’s also not wall-mountable, and there’s no water-sensing cord to get into tight spaces (such as underneath a refrigerator or washing machine) so as to increase the area of detection.

And unlike Roost’s water leak detector, which connects with IFTTT for additional smart home automations, SimpleSENCE doesn’t work with any other smart home services. That means you can’t get a phone call, blink or change the color of your home’s smart bulbs, or sound an external siren when a leak occurs. Sencentric says it plans to integrate with other smart home platforms in the future, but it’s unclear when this might happen.

Also worth noting: SimpleSense does not connect with smart water valves to shut off the water supply in an emergency. That said, systems that do—the Flo by Moen, for example, and the Sinopé Sedna, are considerably more expensive and require professional installation if you’re not handy with a monkey wrench.

Without those extra features, SimpleSENCE’s $60 asking price is a little tough to swallow, but it’s worth keeping an eye out for discounts if all you need is something basic. At that, SimpleSENCE gets the job done.

At a Glance
  • The SimpleSENCE Wi-Fi water leak detector only does the basics, but it does them well.

    Pros

    • No smart home hub required
    • Alerts were dependable in testing
    • Email and SMS alerts help ensure you don't miss an emergency

    Cons

    • No support for water-sensing extension cable
    • Can't connect to other smart home devices or services
    • No humidity sensor
  
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