Leak detection and insurance (smart home series)

Elliott Fienberg
by Elliott Fienberg September 20, 2019 / No Comments

Smoke detectors are common in homes to prevent fires. But, water damage can be just as costly for homeowners and their respective insurance rates. Without leak detection, water can wreak havoc when it’s unleashed into a home unfettered. 

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), a flooded basement costs an average of $43,000 in repairs. In fact, basement flooding claims are now estimated to be of the magnitude of $143 million per year. Now, with advancements in technology, it’s possible to minimize the amount of damage flooding can cause to your home. 

You may not have heard about options for detecting water leaks, but there are many available on the market.

A water leak detection system involves using smart home sensors to monitor the state of your plumbing, and either alert you of an incident or shut off the water valve if anything goes wrong. We’re going to take a closer look at exactly how this works, some considerations, and finally, we’ll show you how you can save money on home insurance.

What is a Water Leak Detection System?

The first type of water leak detector is basic, such as the Honeywell Lyric Wi-Fi Water Leak and Freeze Detector. It works by placing the device near a potential flood point like the basin of your sink or water heater, and if it detects the presence of water it sends a notification to your phone to address the situation. But, while it works fine for a slow-moving issue such as a basic leak, when real disaster strikes, a notification might be too little too late.

The next type of water leak detector is more advanced. A “flow interrupter” is a device you place on your main water supply (which comes in from the street).  Using the same basic water sensors as above, this system has the ability to shut off the water if a leak springs or a pipe bursts. This could be the difference between an inch or a foot of water accumulating in your basement.

A flow interrupter system can also measure water pressure at the point of entry into the house. If it detects anything suspicious it shuts off the system. It can detect a leaky faucet or a bathtub left to overflow. But it needs to be set up properly because if you have something like an irrigation (sprinkler) system, it needs to be able to know that the water use is intentional and not shut off in these cases.

Of course, the more advanced the system, the more expensive it will be. However, even a basic alerting tool such as the Honeywell Lyric, if you can afford it, is worth the cost. Any system to prevent flooding is better than nothing.  

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Flow Interrupting Systems to Consider

Aquatrip401

This is a Deluxe Hard Wired Leak Detection System.  It means it uses power to shut off the valve (with a battery back-up). It also has a wall-mounted control panel to do things like turn the water back on after an incident.

Floodstop

Floodstop makes flow interrupter systems that work with water sensors to shut off supply once it’s detected. They also make systems that are specific to various appliances such as water heaters and washing machines.

Reliance Detection

These systems makes the Floodmaster line of products, including the RS-080 general shut-off unit. This one uses hockey puck sized sensors to detect the presence of water. They can shut off the system as needed.

Triple+

These guys make a combination of products such as the CLM Water Flow Sensor, CLM Water Flood Detector, and the CLM Hub.  Add them up to provide a rock-solid water leak detection system that is controllable with your smartphone.

The general price range for these systems is around $500-$1,000 depending on your desired features  and the complexity of the plumbing in your home.

Flow interrupter systems are sold by specialty stores who may only supply to plumbers. However, many do sell to the general public if you believe you have the skills to install one. If you’re at all unsure about how to install one of these systems, we recommend getting a quote from a professional.

Home Depot and Best Buy only sell the basic water leak detection systems. Much less can go wrong with the installation of these systems as they don’t deal with the main water line.

How Water Leak Detection Can Help You Save on Home Insurance

Water leak detection systems are fairly new, so there is no definitive answer regarding its impact on your home insurance quotes. According to brokers we contacted, companies such as Allstate, Aviva, Intact and Royal Sun Alliance are offering slightly lower rates if you have a flow interrupting system in your home.

Desjardins has the Discover Alert program. They give their customers a free water leak and freeze sensor similar to the Honeywell Lyric. You can add more sensors to the system at preferred rates. It’s not a flow interrupter, but it could signal a new trend for the home insurance industry. 

Whether or not your plan offers discounts for water leak detection, you should want to prevent serious water damage. Avoiding submitting claims is a significant factor in keeping your premiums low. In the event of water damage, you may have a host of problems such as structural damage and mould. You may also have to pay for accommodation while your home is being repaired. Also, you may want to consider how water damage incidents can ruin sentimental items such as photos or heirlooms, which aren’t recoverable by insurance.

The Bottom Line

Ask your insurance provider if they offer any incentive to install a water leak detection system. But the bottom line is that any tool that can prevent damage to your home is good for both you and your insurance provider.

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