Little Devices that Bring Piece of Mind

Tom Fletcher |

As you probably concluded from my August article about preventing a basement flood, I’ve become a little OCD about detecting the possibility of water intrusion into our home. Or at least my family thinks I am. Over the years I’ve been accumulating various types of water sensors throughout our building. For example in our basement mechanical room we have water sensors installed that link to our home alarm system. One is placed under the water heater (which experts will tell you, fail on average every 10 years or so) and another under our water main. This way if a leak should develop, at least we’d theoretically be notified one way or another if something went awry. This happened twice upon a time when sure enough our water heater sprung a substantial leak at 2am 6 or 7 years ago and most recently during the August flood. That sensor most likely saved our entire basement from submerging.

Our upstairs washing machine also has a water sensor that, when it detects water in places where it shouldn’t be, will close a valve and shut off all water inflow into the washer. Fortunately we haven’t yet had an instance when this has come in handy, but if or when it does, I’d imagine it would pay for itself handsomely.

Recently I’ve also been adding a collection of WiFi leak detectors to my arsenal. I say adding, because at $50 a pop they aren’t cheap. When I’m short on gift ideas for myself (always!) they make for great birthday, Christmas and father’s day presents. These little puppies can send a text or an email, float in a pool of water, have a pretty noticeably loud alarm and send you a status report every week or so. I’ve found the best use for them under sinks with cabinet doors such as kitchen sinks, bathroom vanities or locations you might only infrequently check a location a couple of times a year. If you have a slow leak in a place like this, you might run the real risk of a catastrophe if it ran undetected for a lengthy period of time. Right now I have five on my network with plans to deploy at least another two.

My wife thought it would never happen, but one of these paid off for me the other day. We had a dishwasher repaired that required a technician to access pipes under the kitchen sink. Everything looked great when he was done and afterwards we put all the mountains of junk back in the cabinet. Later that night when I was at a parent event at my son’s school, my phone rang with my son in a panic letting me know the kitchen sink alarm went off. Surer than Shinola, a slow leak had developed and the small pool of water triggered the alarm along with the “leak detected” email. Even though nobody wants a leak under their sink, I felt pretty proud of my leak detector for averting a certain disaster.

Now it’s maybe time to move on to a whole house automatic shut off....