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Maybe you’ve heard this no-big statistic before: 1 trillion gallons of clean water are wasted in the U.S. each year. This number, not to mention the millions of dollars homeowners can save, is what Uponor had in mind when it formed Phyn back in 2016.
Phyn is the joint venture between Uponor, supplier of plumbing for residential and commercial spaces worldwide, and Belkin International, American manufacturer of consumer electronics that specializes in connectivity devices.
Phyn Plus will help homeowners gain control over their water leakages by leveraging smart water technology. The water monitoring system automatically measures minuscule water changes in water pressure, identifies any source of leakage and notifies the homeowner the moment leakage is detected. This system mitigates any costly damage through automatic shutoff and diagnosis.
Once installed, Phyn Plus will learn the home’s water usage, make note of abnormalities and send alerts to the homeowner through Phyn’s mobile app. In the event of a leak or pipe burst, this app will allow homeowners to turn off water automatically with a built-in shutoff valve.
Phyn Plus will be available in spring 2018. It will start off in 30 key markets with the highest prevalence of leaks, water usage and aggressive water, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas/Fort Worth, San Francisco, Washington D.C, Houston, Atlanta, Phoenix, Toronto, Minneapolis and more.
To install Phyn Plus, the homeowner will look to their Pro Squad member, who will serve as the bridge between the home and Phyn Plus technology. Pro Squad is an exclusive network of top-notch plumbers and water specialists who will promote, sell, install and service Phyn Plus.
To help give us a better understanding of the installation process and Phyn beginnings, PHC News talked with Dave Thomas, Uponor Pro Squad Member, who has recently gone through the pilot program. Thomas is a master plumber from the Twin Cities who has 30 years of experience in the residential and commercial plumbing arenas.
Sarah Cimarusti (SC): How were you approached to be included for the Phyn program?
Dave Thomas (DT): A little over a year ago, I was approached by an Uponor sales rep. I've been helping with different products, and Uponor has bounced some things off me. Uponor is located about 20 miles south of where we are located in Mendota Heights, Minnesota. I've been working with Uponor’s PEX pipe for over 20 years, and they always seem to be on the top of innovation — bettering themselves and bringing more products to the marketplace.
SC: What made you agree to take part in this program? What was the selling point for you?
DT: I wanted to keep on top of products and innovation, too. An example is when the residential sprinkler system came into town. Uponor established itself as one of the first PEX companies to take on sprinkler piping. I thought, this was a great experience, so why not try their Phyn product? Because it’s going to help us in the long run with damage claims and things that are out of our control.
SC: What has your experience with Phyn been so far? What do you like about it?
DT: At first I was a little skeptical because it was still a beta program, and Uponor was trying to learn it themselves. Belkin has its algorithms, and Uponor translates the plumbing side of that. So far, it’s been a great experience. What I like about the Phyn Plus unit is that it gives you peace of mind, especially in watching the progression of the system being built.
SC: Take us through the installation process. What kinds of updates and status reports do you receive?
DT: We started by calibrating the beta units and hooking them up to the router. As the project progressed, we were supplied with bits and pieces, like the phone app, which gave us more of a feel about what this will all look like. It’s been a neat experience to be a part of since the beginning.
Installation has progressed since day one. You can see the step-by-step process of the Phyn unit learning your water usage in your home and giving you alerts. At first, the system didn’t know that the water softener was regenerating at 2:30 to 3:30 in the morning. The system still issues out alerts, but now that’s all taken care of. It’s a learning experience — in learning the Phyn unit and, in turn, it learning about the water usage of your own home.
SC: What are some obstacles you’re running into, and what improvements and adjustments are being made along the way?
DT: Actually, there weren’t very many obstacles. During the beta testing, there were some connectivity issues due to homeowner error in not being able to connect, or even installer error. I had a few issues with my own router, and I would get alerts that my connection was lost. But they’ve really updated the system, and it’s flawless right now.
The only other obstacle I can think of is simply not knowing the product. In the beginning, the homeowners had a lot of questions, and it’s tough to answer about something you’re learning yourself.
As far as future obstacles, I think it’s going to be about getting the word out that this product is available. It is one of the better products on the market for leak detection.
SC: Who are some of the homeowners you are working with? What were their demographics?
DT: All types. I worked with anyone from the millennial, techie type to those who are in their forties, fifties and sixties, who have these million-dollar houses and want to protect their investments.
SC: What feedback have you received from homeowners so far?
DT: There hasn’t been too much feedback other than, “Hey, this is pretty cool. I can’t wait for the new Phyn Plus unit.” They’re excited about it, so that’s good.
SC: How has this training added to your overall skillset?
DT: It made me learn more about the technology side of plumbing. Everyone works with their phone and with things like Alexa, but to bring it into the plumbing arena is something new. I believe this technology will become an everyday thing for us. I’ve learned that this is the wave of the future. I’m in that age bracket where you’re either in it or you don’t want any part of it.
SC: How do you record your work? Do you get to interact with other Pro Squad members?
DT: We record our work with an internal software system. We take down addresses and note where these units were installed and when.
I don’t have any interaction with any of the other Pro Squad members at this time, but in the beginning of the pilot program I connected with a plumber in our area, and he gave me some knowledge of other competitors of this system. I truly like the Phyn system compared to some of the other things people are bringing to the marketplace because it gives you control of the water main, and you’re able to shut it off with an app.
SC: What are the overall benefits, and how do you see it expanding?
DT: Peace of mind is the biggest benefit. Knowing that somebody’s watching your water, especially in areas like Minnesota and Chicago that have frozen pipes. This would take care of a lot of damage. Washing machine hoses, icemaker lines and dishwashers often have things that go wrong that you can’t see until it’s too late. With the Phyn system, you get notified immediately. It keeps damage to a minimum.
I think Phyn will expand once the word gets out on the street that it’s pretty affordable to take care of and will address any issues in your water piping.
And not only are we saving homeowners costly damage to their homes, but we’re helping with waste. We waste 1 trillion gallons with things like dripping faucets and longer showers. This product is good for society.