The day I had Sonic installed…

13 November 2022 | Smart Saving Water

I’ve recently had a Sonic installed.  For those of you who think this is something to do with a character in a video game, let me explain, because it’s far more impressive than a blue hedgehog…

Did you know that water leaks waste over three billion litres of water a day in the UK alone? No, I didn’t either.  Having looked further into this, it’s apparent that leaks are costly in repair terms, disruptive for those experiencing them AND a disaster for the environment. 

Just look at what was being discussed at COP27 this month and how many hosepipe bans there were in the UK alone this year because of the excessive heat we were experiencing.

Sonic is described as the only smart leak defence system on the market that identifies leaks, warns users, shuts off water supplies to prevent further damage AND also makes people immediately aware of their water consumption. 

So far, so good.  Anything that helps us use less water is a move in the right direction.

I was therefore delighted to be offered the opportunity to have a Sonic installed at home.  Admittedly I was also a little apprehensive – what happens if a massive leak was detected or I became addicted to monitoring the water usage of my family?  (Spoiler alert: neither of these things happened, although I do now regularly chastise my daughter for filling up the bath to the very top and it’s become a challenge to see who can have the quickest shower in the morning!)

A Sonic kit arrived very quickly after I gave my details to the nice people at Hero Labs (the company that manufactures Sonic).  It contained Sonic (obviously), instructions on how to book an approved plumber, instructions for that plumber, some lithium ion batteries (nice touch, we never have any suitable batteries for anything in my house) and a Hero Signal which is a small plug-in bridge that communicates with Sonic and then the network using Wi-Fi.

I went online to book the installation, answered a series of questions so the plumber would know what he was up against.  These ranged from whether we knew where the stop tap was, if it was accessible, whether there was enough room to fit Sonic, the type of pipework past the stop tap and other similar queries.  I also had to send a photo of the area/pipework and specify what day/time would be best for installation.

Within a few days, I got a message saying I’d been booked in and a plumber would arrive at the allocated time. 

Sure enough, an installer named Joel turned up as expected. It took him about an hour to get Sonic up and running and attached to my water inlet pipe – this was probably a bit longer than normal as I had to have a few extra plumbing things done to make sure it fitted in the tight space under my utility sink. 

Joel was great, he explained everything to me – including:

  • How to download the handy companion app (which asks how many water-using ‘devices’ (ie toilets, taps, baths, washing machines, dishwashers etc are in the property) and fill in the necessary details
  • How to connect it to Wi-Fi
  • How it works either via the mains with battery backup or just with batteries on their own
  • What it detects (all types of leaks, from the largest down to pin-hole ones, all via a single easy-to-fit sensor which will warn you about them and shut down my water automatically, to prevent further damage)
  • What to do if a leak is detected

At the risk of sounding more intelligent than I actually am – I discovered Sonic is called Sonic because it analyses ultrasonic vibrations/waves in the water flow – and identifies the signatures of different appliances in your home.  The clever thing about it is that it will pick up leaks anywhere in your system, not just where you’ve placed a sensor.  It can also detect water flow through a system, warn about cold temperatures that could indicate the risk of a frozen pipe, and even pressure tests the system every night to find pin-hole leaks.

After the plumber departed with a wave and I was left all alone with the water robot, it was time to get better acquainted.  The app was easy to use and monitors how much water is being used every time a device runs.  This is quite eye opening – and I spent quite a bit of time identifying which toilet used most water per flush (yes, I am that sad) and how water much a family of three use every day (just under 450 litres, more at weekends!). 

I tried out the motorised value which now turns my water on and off. I can do this manually or remotely from the app ( very useful if there is ever a leak, but could also be quite funny if anyone was in the shower and I wanted them to hurry up…)

I found that a water leak warning would be trigged if:

a) there is abnormal water usage – ie someone leaves the hosepipe on overnight (obviously not during a hosepipe ban…) or there is a significant leak in a property or;

b) during a ‘check up’ pressure test which is done every night around 3am where Sonic turns off the water supply and monitor a home’s internal pressure – if this test fails it send a warning that there is a small, most likely unnoticeable, leak somewhere  

As yet, I haven’t experienced the ‘thrill’ of a big leak in my property (phew) but it’s nice to know that I’ll get an automated phone call if this happens and if I don’t respond my water will be turned off so my house doesn’t float away down the road.

I have had a couple of alerts because of failed pressure tests.  It looks like they happened because my family don’t turn taps off fully and there’s a trickle of water.  I will be educating them on an ongoing basis and doing better myself…

Having a Sonic is definitely a talking point.  My friends that know I have one ask me about it regularly.  And interestingly, according to her teacher, my daughter has been doing a project at primary school tying in with COP23 and has been talking a lot about our robot in the utility room. 

Not only is my house now protected from leaks but having Sonic clearly also makes people think about water usage more carefully -even those that don’t live with us.  Hero Labs says that Sonic users across the board are seeing a 15% reduction in consumption after three months of installation.  That has to be a good thing, right?