How to select a leak detection system for your home to prevent insurance claims and costly damage and repairs.
One of the most costly repairs a homeowner can incur is related to water damage. Preventing water damage, or responding quickly when leaks occur, can help minimize the cost and inconvenience of cleanup and repairs. There are several systems on the market that notify you when a water loss has occurred.
Almost every home insurance policy will offer a rebate or reduction in the policy premium when an approved leak detection system in installed. Check your home owner’s policy or the company’s website for a list of approved systems.
Some leak detectors produce an audible alarm when water is sensed, which is only useful when someone is home to hear it. These systems are typically the least expensive. Other systems can send an email, text message, or phone call when activated. This type of system requires a phone line and a dialer. A system of this type can also be tied into a security system that is monitored. Another system type is one that can activate a shutoff valve to the appliance it is connected to or the entire house water supply. You will need to determine how much you are willing to spend and the level of risk you are willing to accept.
What are your Risks?
While no two homes are alike, most leak detection systems are designed to be used in single-story or two-story homes, with or without basements, and for various appliances. Create a list of fixtures and appliances in your home that are connected to the water supply and determine where the greatest risks are.
Hot Water Heater
If you have a hot water heater located on a ground floor, there is a potential for substantial damage if the hot water heater (HWH) fails. While most HWH have a drain pan installed beneath the unit, they are not always connected to a reliable drainage source. Also, the drain line is typically ¾ inch PVC and may not be able to handle a ruptured pipe or safety valve releasing water at 50 to 70 PSI.
Leak detection sensors should be placed inside the drain pan and a qualified plumber can install a motorized valve on the cold water supply that will shut off the water to the heater when water is sensed.
One of the worst offenders for water damage are washing machines, in particular the hot and cold water supply hoses. Several manufacturers make systems that will shut the water off at the supply connection. A low cost way to avoid problems would be to manually shut off the valve when you are not using the washing machine, but this is not always possible if the valve is not readily accessible.
Watts IntelliFlow™ Automatic Washing Machine Water Shutoff Valves
While toilets are not a major source of water damage claims, overflows are common and can create a mess. If you have a location that is above a finished space where a water leak will cause considerable damage, you may want to consider installing a leak detection sensor or automatic shutoff.
Whole House Solutions
The most complete way to prevent water damage from accidental leaks is to install a whole house solution. Several manufactures have developed models that are piped into the main water supply line and can be set up to have remote wireless leak detection sensors that send a signal to the valve to shutoff or will sense any water flow through the supply line and shut off the water to the house. This type of system also comes with a keypad similar to a security system where you can arm and disarm the sensor or program the shutoff valve to automatically activate it at a certain time. The downfall with this type of system is that you can’t activate the sensor when you have a water softener, lawn irrigation system, or dishwasher set to run at a certain time. Even an ice maker will cause it to shut off unless you increase the minimum flow allowed through the valve. Some systems will allow 30 minutes of water flow when people are home and 30 seconds when people are away. These settings can be changed to suit your individual usage requirements.
A typical Whole-House Automatic Shutoff Valve
You can place a leak detector wherever water is used in the home, but this may not be practical. Ice makers, water dispensers, dishwashers, under-sink filters, and instant hot water heaters are other areas that could become a potential problem.
Considerations when choosing a Leak Detection System
? How does the system detect a leak? Spot sensors, monitoring of the water meter, etc.
? What is the sensitivity of the sensors? How much water is needed before the alarm is sounded?
? Is the sensors wireless or wired; battery operated or electrical?
? If sensors are wireless, what is the range and is it acceptable for your use?
? If the sensors are battery operated, how are you notified when the battery is low?
? If the sensors require electrical power, do you have an outlet in the location where you want the sensors to be?
? How easy is it to install the system? Does it require a contractor or is it something you can do yourself?
? How are you notified of a water loss? Is an alarm sounded? What happens if you are away from your home? Will the alarm notify you via cell, pager, e-mail, etc?
? Does the alarm system shut the water off or does it simply notify you if there is a loss? This becomes important if you are away from your home when the loss occurs.
? If the alarm does shut the water off, does it shut the water off at the source of the loss or does it shut the water off at the water main.
? If water is shut off at the water main only, there is still a lot of water in the pipes that can contribute to a loss, especially if you are not home when the loss occurs.
DynaQuip Controls - WaterCop
FirstSmart Sensor Corp
Give Systems Inc.
OnSite PRO Inc.