We all realize that water is a precious resource that we should not waste, but one of the most disastrous ways to waste water in the home is through water leaks. These can happen any time, most often due to freeze-ups (winter only) or failure of hot water heaters (anytime). A water leak in your home, if undetected for hours or days, can cause many thousands of dollars of damage, a lengthy cleanup, and potential loss of use of the home during the cleanup/repair effort.
Fortunately, there are many devices available to help inform you about a water leak, or even to automatically stop the flow of water before it causes any damage. Each type of system has its strengths and weaknesses, as well as widely different price points. We will discuss four systems here in order of complexity, but there are many other similar types.
- On the low price end, there are simple water detectors that look like small pucks, are battery operated, and rest on the ground. The inexpensive ones, like the HEIMAN WiFi Water Leak Detector, are typically stand-alone devices that sound an alarm if they detect water, and can ping your smartphone with a message if you connect them to your WiFi network. Since they are so inexpensive, you can buy multiple devices and place them at strategic locations throughout the home like under the sink, under the washing machine, and near the hot water tank. The main drawback here is that they cannot alert you during a power failure, and if you are away from home, you may or may not see the message, and even if you see it, you would have no way to stop the leak unless you notify a neighbor with access to your home to shut off the water supply. Installation consists only of pairing the unit with your WiFi.
- A more comprehensive solution is the MarCell system, which has a much more robust alerting system. It can be purchased as a kit with 3 water sensors and a main unit. It also monitors for temperature, humidity and power failures. This device has cell phone communications built in, so it does not use your local WiFi for alert communications; it uses the 4G cell network to get alerts to you quickly if water is detected. Hence, even in a power failure, it will phone you, text you, and send an email to your specified phone and computer. Many people use these for second homes or rental properties which may not have active WiFi. Still, it will not shut off the water leak; it will only inform you that one exists. The wireless water detectors can be placed at strategic points around the property. This device runs about $250 and with a $99 per year service fee for the notification cell service. Installation is quick and easy. You can use up to 4 wireless water sensors (SPUCKs).
- Automatic shutoff systems, not only detect water, but they can shut off the water to remove the source of the leak. This simple kit is a motor-driven device which is user installable and is motor driven to shut the cold water inlet valve to your water heater. If water is detected, it will alarm, ping your cell phone, and shut off the cold water inlet valve to your water heater. It is easily customer installable in under an hour. A Smart Hot Water Heater Shutoff System by RCA is under $50. Installation is under 1 hour and no plumber is required.
- At the higher end of complexity, there are systems that must be installed by a plumber to detect and shut off water to the house if unusual water patterns are detected. These devices often learn your normal water usage pattern and can trigger a shutoff if an anomaly is detected. An example is the Mo Flo by Moen. This system can automatically shut off the water source to your house to stop a water leak before it causes damage. This must be installed by a plumber. The system is around $450 plus installation costs.