My family and I realized we needed a new kitchen when, at the start of the pandemic, the lever of our pull-out faucet snapped. Although we scrambled together a temporary replacement, our 1980s-built kitchen continued to crumble around us. Now, a few months into our DIY smart home renovation, we’ve come full circle: I just splurged on one of the smartest, most feature-packed sink faucets money can buy.
Moen has always been known for faucets, but its U by Moen sub-brand has grown into a key player for plumbing system-based smart home devices. Not only do the company’s smart faucets help regulate water flow to kitchens and bathroom sinks, but they pack motion sensors and pair with Alexa or Google Assistant so you can control them with your voice, too.
While motion-sensing has become a popular faucet feature, letting you turn the water on and off with a wave of your palm, it doesn’t let you change the temperature hands-free. That’s where my new U by Moen faucet lives up to its steep $450 price tag.
Through our nearby Amazon Echo (4th Gen) smart speaker, I can ask Alexa to make the water flowing from the faucet warmer or cooler. I can even ask my assistant to set a specific water temperature, as long as that value falls within my plumbing’s capabilities.
The party tricks don’t stop there. When asked, Alexa can dispense exact water quantities, from one tablespoon to one cup. In the companion app, I can also combine the temperature and quantities under custom presets, which has already come in handy for filling up my 32-ounce water bottle.
For this feature, Alexa will start running the water and tell me to wait for it to stop. When the indicator light on the spout is solid, that means the water is the requested temperature, and I can wave my hard over the sensor for the requested amount to trickle out.
Setting up my U by Moen smart faucet
Of course, these clever abilities don’t work out of the box. Like any regular faucet, my smart one from U by Moen came disassembled. Luckily, we had some basic plumbing knowledge, and were able to install the hardware ourselves in about 30 minutes.
The only physical set-up difference between a dumb faucet and a smart faucet is the smart one requires a battery pack, which you’re encouraged to mount in your under-sink cabinet.
Since you can’t hardwire it, Moen considerately provided the six necessary D batteries, which the manual said should last two years as long as there’s a strong 2.4GHz Wi-Fi signal at your sink’s location.
You can always hire a plumber to install your smart faucet, too. Even if you skip on using the smart features, the faucet works like a normal faucet with manual controls for adjusting the temperature and switching between stream to spray.
In fact, we waited a few weeks to turn on the U by Moen faucet’s intelligence. When we were ready, connecting the faucet to my Wi-Fi and enabling my Moen account in the Alexa app took a matter of minutes. I think it’s reasonable to say it’s one of the easiest smart home devices I’ve ever set up, from a software perspective. This earned the faucet major points in my book.
Why a smart faucet is a smart investment
If you’ve been following along this series, you’ll know that I otherwise skipped on smart kitchen appliances. You’ll also know that I settled on a smart thermostat under $100, and preached about how taking the DIY route can save you thousands when designing your smart home system. So what am I doing with a $450 smart faucet?
For one, a faucet is something we use all the time. We make food, care for plants, keep ourselves (and our dog) hydrated and wash our hands with water from our kitchen sink. We were prepared to loosen the purse strings for the sanitary benefits of a motion sensor faucet, considering how much we handle raw meat for the barbecue. But when I came across a voice-activated one, offering conveniences that suited our lifestyle, I felt like it fulfilled my dreams of a smart home fit for the 21st century.
You definitely don’t need a pricey faucet. Despite the smart features, we still use the manual controls out of habit, and appreciate how when guests come over, they don’t struggle to access running water. Yet in the moments when our hands are full, or we just want an automated experience, having the motion sensor and voice control options are a game-changer.
And more than that, after the fiasco with our old faucet’s snapped lever, we thought a smart faucet was a smart investment. When used properly, the faucet’s hardware should suffer less wear-and-tear, since you’re pulling at the different parts less often. It could also lower your water bill, so long as you take advantage of its precise water dispensing feature.
Are you sold on smart faucets? Let me know why (or why not) in the comments. Be sure to check out my guides to the best smart home devices and best cheap smart home devices) for more gadget recommendations. And as always, email me at [email protected] with anything you’d like to see me cover in the connected space — I might just address it in a future installment.