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Avoiding the problems of a pipe burst.

Avoiding the flood

This starts with a story about a neighbor in Lake Charleston who went on a holiday to Norway. While away a small plastic nut, that secures his water feed to his toilet tank, cracked and split. Water squirted up to the ceiling with substantial pressure, and flooded the bathroom. After several hours a friend (the author of this article) called to check the house and found water running out from under the garage doors and down the street. He quickly turned off the water at the valve by the garage door amid sounds of falling water inside the house. Entering the house he found ceilings falling down and water falling from upstairs down into all rooms below.

After contacting the insurance company, the loss adjuster estimated the damage to be $9,000. After a year of putting the house back together and the family living elsewhere while the work was being done, the final bill paid out by the insurance company was $78,000. All because of a cracked plastic nut, that had probably been over tightened when the toilet was installed.

So although an insurance company can cover the cost, maybe after a battle, the cost of the stress and chaos in the family could not be calculated.

So the Trick is how to avoid it happening in the first place.

Much is being said and has recently been seen about gadgets in the home that are linked to smart phones and hubs and 'the cloud', such as the doorbell/camera called 'Ring' that we see advertised on the TV. The use of these electronic gadgets can be a little scary if you are not familiar with technology. But it can be very simple, with a little thought and maybe a little help.

There is a group of little devices sold at Home Depot and Lowe's that detects a leak and automatically switches off your water supply to the house within 10 seconds. Here's how it works:

At each place in your home where there is a water pipe and a joint of a kind, such as a valve (under your toilet, under your sink or washing machine, or in the cupboard where you have your water heater) you place on the floor a small sensor (see photo below) that is powered by two small AAA batteries - nothing else. Somewhere else in your home, maybe on the top of a cabinet, is an unobtrusive little box called a Hub. And just inside the house wall where the water supply enters the home, an electric shut-off valve is installed (preferably by a plumber).


What happens is quite simple. If a leak occurs anywhere near any one of the sensors, a signal is sent to the 'hub' and the 'hub' in turn sends a signal to the shut-off valve, which turns a valve inside its body and shuts off the supply. We have checked this out in our home, and although the advertising says it will shut off in five seconds, we have timed it at ten seconds. Ten seconds is enough time to wet the floor, but that's all. It's not enough time to cause significant damage.....just a mopping up.

So where do you get them and how much does it all cost ?

Although there are different makes around, the one we tested and have installed, is called 'leakSMART' and is available at Lowe's. These are the Sensors and the Shut-off Valve. The Hub is from Home Depot and is called 'Wink'. Now 'Wink' is a communication system that works with many products like the 'Ring' doorbell and others, and is a good choice for a hub. The hub collects the signal from a sensor and sends the instruction to the valve, telling it to shut the water off. All three can be seen for sale on Amazon.


                  LeakSMART shut-off valve is $229

                  LeakSMART sensors is $60 (you may need 4 of these) so budget for $240

                  Wink Hub is $99

                  Plumber fitting the valve can be $250

                         Total cost is $820.

So the question is whether this is worth peace of mind. Compare with the cost of the insurance premium for several years, the cost attributed to chaos and stress etc.

But questions to ask yourself are - what happens if it fails? It relies on an internet connection, and electrical power to the home. If the internet goes down, it won't work, but when the internet is restored the communication will reconnect itself and the system will be working again. If the electrical power goes off, it won't work but it will when the electrical power comes back on. So weigh up the chances of having a pipe burst in the period that either the internet and/or the electrical power fails.

And finally, if you go away at any time and decide you should have turned of your water supply just in case something bad happens, with an application on your phone, you can shut-off your water from anywhere in the world !!

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