High-tech Ways to Detect Plumbing Leaks and Minimize Water Damage

Barry Davis

Most homeowners think of fire as the main threat of damage to their home. But did you know that there are nearly five times as many insurance claims for water damage versus fire?1

Plumbing leaks are a major cause of water damage, and second homes, where a leak may go undetected for long periods of time, are especially vulnerable. Water damage can harm a home’s structure, finished materials and contents, and also lead to mold growth. While homeowners insurance may cover the cost of repairs, the remediation process can be disruptive, and some damaged items may be irreplaceable.

Fortunately there is a preventative measure that can minimize the impact of plumbing leaks. “Leak detection” systems can alert a homeowner or alarm monitoring company of a plumbing leak in the same way smoke detectors warn of a fire. Some systems can even turn off the main water supply automatically if a leak occurs.

There are two main types of leak detection systems, each offering different features:

  1. water leakPoint of Leak Detection System
    Point of leak systems include moisture sensors or “bugs” that are placed in areas with high risk of leaks, such as under appliances and fixtures. When a sensor detects moisture, response options may include setting off an alarm, communicating with an existing monitored burglar alarm system, sending a message to a smartphone, or sending a signal to a main valve to shut off the home’s water supply. These systems can be installed by the homeowner, or they can be professionally installed. Systems with an automatic shut-off valve must be installed by a licensed plumber. One drawback of this type of system is that it can only detect water in locations where sensors have been placed. If a pipe leaks or bursts within a wall or slab, it will not be detected by a point of leak system.
  2. Flow Sensor System
    Flow sensor systems include a sophisticated flow rate sensor that is installed at the home’s water main and programmed to allow the home’s normal water usage patterns. If the sensor detects an abnormally high flow, such as from a burst pipe, a valve in the system will automatically turn off the water supply. Some flow sensors will also detect a small sustained flow, such as a slow leak, and activate the shut-off valve. These systems can be connected to alarms or smartphone applications to notify homeowners. Although professional installation is required, flow sensor systems offer the advantage of being able to detect leaks anywhere in the plumbing system including pipes inside walls or slabs.

Although neither type of system can prevent leaks, insurance claims data strongly indicates that when a leak detection system is installed, damage is far less than without one. Additionally, homeowners who have a qualifying system may be able to save money on their homeowners insurance premium.

Barry Davis is the Process Optimization Manager for Chubb Personal Risk Services’ Risk Consulting Group.

1Source: Insurance Information Institute

 

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