As part of the recent remodel of our bathroom — the first significant renovation since we moved in last year — I decided to try and make my bathroom smarter and more luxurious.
As part of my research, I came across the U by Moen Smart Shower, which launched way back in 2017… without HomeKit support. However, in January 2021, an update was announced with support for Apple HomeKit and Siri. 1For newer models, they will show the HomeKit logo on the box, but you may need to update the firmware for it actually to work.
The U by Moen Smart Shower is actually comprised of several parts:
- Smart Valves — a shower valve unit with two or four shower outlets that can be controlled remotely. Each outlet can be controlled independently and provide water to at least one shower head per outlet.
- A corresponding two or four outlet control panel. The control panel will need to match the number of outlets on the digital valve and is available in brushed nickel or matte black color.
- Optionally, a battery backup to ensure you can shower when the power is out.
- The actual shower heads the device will send water to.
For our needs, we went with the two-outlet system in brushed nickel. Unfortunately, the control panel's brushed nickel color doesn't color match any other Moen products, which means it doesn't exactly match our showerheads or fixtures despite them all being Moen branded.
I am far from able to re-plumb my bathroom, so I had the professionals install the shower system as part of the remodel. We were fortunate that there was a random cavity in the wall (a triangular-shaped cavity about two feet on each side) right behind where we wanted to mount the control panel that also had power readily available, so we decided to put the valve inside the cavity and run pipes to the other end of the shower for the showerheads. The other reason for putting it in the cavity is that you must have an access panel to the valve for maintenance (and battery replacement). The cavity means there is a reasonable amount of space to do that.
Installation was not as straightforward as one would hope, though, because a licensed plumber will rarely be a licensed electrician and vice-versa, meaning two different trades-people had to co-ordinate to get the outlet and the plumbing installed. Ultimately, I plugged the thing in once all the pieces were mounted.
One thing to be aware of with this unit is that if for any reason you need to reset the power, you must unplug the valves for at least five minutes, or the control panel will refuse to turn on. This caused numerous headaches because power was being turned on and off multiple times during the rest of the renovation, causing the shower to be non-functional.
Once the unit has power, you must use the U by Moen app to add it to HomeKit. This is where the "fun" starts. The U by Moen app shows its age, and pairing the device has been a nightmare. It takes upwards of 45 minutes to pair — if it pairs at all.
If you have the first-generation U by Moen shower or haven't updated your second-generation unit with HomeKit support, you will see a 4 or 6 digit pin on the screen for pairing. Otherwise, you will be asked to choose whether you are pairing the device with an Android or iOS device on the control panel itself. Once you've made your selection of iOS, you might be greeted by a screen telling you to connect to the U by Moen ad-hoc WiFi network, or you might be greeted with a screen asking you to choose which HomeKit home to add the device to.
The ad-hoc WiFi network instructions are outdated and will not work with the latest iOS releases (iOS 15.3 at the time of writing).
If you are fortunate enough to get the HomeKit screen, you will choose which home to add it to; likely you only have one, so you'll select "Primary," and then you'll see the standard "Add Device to HomeKit" popup where you can scan the HomeKit code which will now be showing on the control panel.
Then you wait. As you can see in the final screenshot above, the U by Moen app reports an error "Operation in progress" while trying to add to HomeKit.
While I originally had a few issues setting up the shower back in December, I was ultimately successful after just a few tries, but that doesn't appear to be the case today — I am currently writing this on the bench in my shower as I try to complete pairing once again.
I was able to add the Shower directly through HomeKit, but unless you can register the device with Moen, and more specifically, with the U by Moen app, the shower is ultimately very dumb…which neatly brings us to:
This device is — frankly — weird. Because it is seen as a "faucet," HomeKit does not allow you to automate it in the usual way. You can control it manually via the UI in the HomeKit app, with on/off, individual outlet (showerhead) control, and temperature — but you cannot automate or ask Siri to turn on or off any of these controls.
What you can do is add presets to the shower in the U by Moen app, and these show up as HomeKit Scenes in the room to which the shower is assigned that you can customize to add other devices to turn on or off with the scene. Turning on these scenes should turn the shower to the select preset. I say should, because after just a week or so of "Hey Siri, Make it Rain," turning on my shower to my personal preset, setting the HomePod mini to play some shower-karaoke music, and turning the Hue bulbs to a nice calm teal color… the shower itself stopped responding, even though the rest of the scene worked just fine.
This is ultimately what led me to re-pair the shower, and well… here we are. If I try to pair via the U by Moen app, it ultimately fails to pair successfully and leaves me on a "connecting server" screen like so:
Alternatively, if I try to add using the new "Set up new device" option in WiFi settings (shown below), it will add to HomeKit. I can control the shower manually, but the shower shows as "Unregistered" and fails to show up in the U by Moen app, which means I cannot set up the preset/scenes automations.
The U by Moen Smart Shower is not cheap, but you can save a ton depending on what deals you can find. Shop around for each part separately, and as a set, I got the control panel individually, but the digital valve and battery backup as a set, saving several hundred dollars over a single bundle, or all three separately. Prices range from around $700 to $2000, depending on two or four-valve and what deals you can find.
- 1For newer models, they will show the HomeKit logo on the box, but you may need to update the firmware for it actually to work
- Two or four outlet systems
- Control panel is attractive and functional
- System keeps water temperature consistent
- Control panel doesn't color match Moens other products
- Pairing process is extremely difficult
- HomeKit integration is limited and failed after less than two weeks
- HomeKit treats the shower as a "valve", shows up as a faucet
- U by Moen app feels outdated
Of all the smart home tech I've purchased, this is the most expensive outside of a major appliance; and I want to love it — however, it's plagued by poor HomeKit support and an extremely poor pairing experience, making it a total disappointment. Unfortunately, it's not the kind of thing you can easily replace: there are no other smart shower options, and removing it could require taking down the drywall and costly renovations. The only saving grace is that it's pretty nice for a dumb shower.