Water leaks often do thousands of dollars in damage – but a new mobile solution can detect and stop them quickly
About half of homeowners know someone who has experienced a water leak in the past two years, or experienced one themselves. And they regularly underestimate how frequent—and how costly—these incidents are.
With the average claim for water damage at more than $5,000 and a substantial number of those claims exceeding $20,000, it’s critical to have a way to spot hidden leaks and turn off your water supply at a moment’s notice. In this article, we’ll detail what happens when water events catch homeowners off guard and take a look at a new solution: a smart water-shutoff tool called Water Hero.
Two expensive loads of laundry and a defective water softener
With her new washing machine installed, Wadsworth, IL homeowner Lona Massong ran her first load of laundry. It worked perfectly.
But by the end of her second load, the washing machine’s drain hose had dislodged, flooding her laundry room and destroying the ceiling and the carpet in her finished basement. The damage was roughly $6,000.
Whippany, NJ resident Ro Dobkin purchased a new water softener for $325 from a local Lowe’s store and it also worked fine – at first.
"I discovered water in my basement coming from a stainless steel corrugated connector attached to my not yet one-year-old water softener," according to Dobkin.
After water flooded her finished basement and caused $9,443 in damage, Dobkin was out a $1,000 deductible plus the headache of a huge restoration project and a fight to recover money from Lowe’s.
Water damage and freezing are the third-most-costly sources of insurance claims and the second-most frequent. And even with insurance, homeowners suffering from water damage often aren’t made whole, given deductibles, rejected claims, and gaps in coverage. What’s more, water-damage claims can make homes difficult or more expensive to insure.
“Be careful with a water claim,” says finance columnist Liz Weston at Bankrate. “Insurance companies aren’t as paranoid as they used to be, but many have begun to exclude mold coverage from their policies.”
Costs after the incident can add up. Mold remediation, which often isn’t covered, carries an average cost of anywhere from $500 to $6,000. And most of today’s insurance claims are added to nationwide underwriting databases, which, like credit checks, provide background information on your home to insurance agencies.
After water damage, coverage may vary
“Virtually all home insurance policies today cover plumbing leaks that are sudden and accidental,” says Jack Hungelmann, author of Insurance for Dummies. “In other words, you’re covered for a pipe that abruptly springs a leak, as opposed to one than trickles out water over months or years.” But what’s “gradual” to insurers can be very sudden to those paying for insurance.
A woman named Margaret asked Hungelmann for advice on how to deal with an insurance dispute. She had paid her premium for fifteen years without making a claim. One day, Margaret discovered that a leak from her dishwasher had been slowly destroying the basement ceiling – but only when the ceiling began bulging. Her insurer refused to pay for damage caused by a gradual leak.
Even when a policy covers water damage, insurers may not be willing to pay the cost of repairing or replacing lost furniture, electronics, or even structural damage. Instead, they’ll cover only the depreciated value – what your carpet or your computer is worth at the time of loss – leaving you holding the bag on a new replacement.
Leaks flush money down the toilet
While most homeowners list their water heaters and washing machines as the most likely source of water damage, plumbing supply systems and failing toilets are far and away the greatest source of water-related losses.
The cost of a malfunctioning toilet can be surprisingly high. Toilet use, and not shower use, makes up the largest share of household water. When a toilet won’t stop flushing, it wastes as much as 200 gallons a day – more than twice the average household water use (and, for those with leaky toilets, twice the bill). That water use can add up, as it did for a Virginia man who found that his water bill increased drastically … after his cat learned to flush the toilet:
Nevertheless, it’s problems with home plumbing systems that cause the most trouble for homeowners. Freezing weather is a big factor, as the water lines running throughout your house are sensitive to changes in temperature. If pipe grows too cold, the water in it expands, creating pressure that can lead to slow leaks or sudden floods. This can result in damage that’s roughly twice as costly as damage sustained in other plumbing-related incidents.
Corrosion, aging, and poor installation can also lead to problems. While a fixer-upper may be a smart buy, homes that are more than 16 years old are at significantly greater risk of these kinds of events.
Stopping leaks at the source
Preventive maintenance is key. Anything can leak, from the plumbing in your crawlspace to the icemaker in your fridge. But if there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s that damaging water events are costly, all too common, and can happen in unexpected places. Quickly detecting and stopping leaks keeps your home and your insurance rates in shape.
The most affordable leak detection devices simply detect localized moisture, such as a puddle of water at the base of your water heater. These sensors have drawbacks: They only shut off one appliance at a time, so you’ll need one anywhere you have a potential leak. They can’t detect a burst pipe, a running toilet, or the other plumbing malfunctions that are the most expensive sources of water damage.
Some whole-home systems are on the market, but they often cost $1,500 or more before installation and must be monitored and controlled at your home.
A Boston-area startup aims to offer a better solution. The Water Hero P-100 is a smart-home device that sends mobile alerts about unusual water flows, and, if needed, closes off the supply of water to your home.
Installation takes about an hour for a professional plumber to solder Water Hero to a water supply. After that, you can view real-time water usage and shut down your water supply from your phone. Water Hero is installed near your water meter, giving it the ability to instantly stop a leak from any appliance or any pipe in your home. The device also monitors the home’s temperature and warns you if temperatures near the pipe drop too low.
Some insurance carriers are even willing to discount insurance rates – as much as $250-$400 per year –making it a device that can potentially save money even if nothing goes wrong.
If you have any questions about how this device works or what’s required for installation, add a comment below, give us a call at 888.361.6662, or fill out our contact form and we’d be happy to assist.