Home insurance

Water sensors can prevent huge claims

Thursday, June 29, 2017by  Jon Osterberg

hardwood floor ruined by burst water pipeLike the typical homeowner, I'm experienced at coping with water losses (unfortunately). They can, and have, led to costly insurance claims.

Years ago one of our washing machine hoses blew out, and my wife discovered the flood after only 10 minutes had passed. Still, it soaked and warped our new oak floor, which had to be stripped and refinished.

Another time the main water line leading to our house failed while we were vacationing in San Diego. The neighbors discovered it after it had been gushing for hours.

I've not had a water heater burst, which happens to some aging tanks. But we had one start leaking when the bottom rusted out after nearly 20 years.

In all of those cases, we could have limited our water-damage grief had we installed water sensors.

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​​The concept is simple: You buy a wireless, battery-operated sensor and place it near water sources. When there's a leak, it sounds the alarm to jolt you into action.

Ideally, place a set of sensors around high-risk areas like your water heater, dishwasher, refrigerator, and toilets. Some sensors emit a local alarm sound and sends a notification to your emergency contacts via text, email or phone call.

Other sensors even connect to an automatic water shutoff valve and can immediately turn off your water supply if a leak is detected, preventing a small leak from causing greater damage. ​​

Your home has many places that could be prone to water leaks. Put your water sensor where water could pool, near or beneath:

  • the hot water tank

  • washing machine hoses

  • ice-maker water line behind refrigerators

  • kitchen or bathroom sinks

  • toilets

  • dishwasher (if there's access)

  • crawl spaces (where your water lines travel).

burst rusty water pipe floods home

Another vulnerable location is vacation homes. If you have a weekend retreat, you'll gain peace of mind with a water sensor that sends an alert to your smartphone.

Of course, you can eliminate most water-loss risk simply by doing what we do. Whenever you leave a dwelling for an extended time, turn off your main water valve.

You might consider turning off your water heater, too, when you leave for an extended time. It's likely not prudent to turn off gas heaters, but the water heater at our cabin is electric, so we simply flip the switch in the breaker box to turn it off each time we end our visit. That way, if the tank bursts, the heating element won't remain on and become a fire risk.

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