What do mother-in-law apartments, ADUs, second homes and AirBnb have in common? They all benefit from remote leak detection and water shutoff.
A few weeks ago, I went on an extended trip, and rented out my home on AirBnb. I had installed some simple water-sensors in three locations. These sensors send an alert to my cellphone if a leak is detected.
One evening I got an alert. The bathroom had a leak. I contacted the guests immediately, and they stopped the overflowing bathtub with no damage to my floors or drywall. But what if they hadn’t been home? Or worse, what if I had no leak detection at all?
Just recently, one of the best known leak detection products added a simple but critical feature: the ability to shut off your home water supply remotely. The Flo by Moen Smart Water Shutoff is not simply a shutoff, of course. It’s a sophisticated system that detects leaks and measures all factors of a home's water health, such as flow rate, duration, pressure response and temperature gradient.
Why would a homeowner want or need all of that information? Two reasons: 1. To halt additional costly water damage in the case of an unchecked leak, and 2. To conserve huge amounts of water waste (and the requisite financial costs) incurred by leaks.
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The shutoff’s application is obvious. It buys the homeowner time to get a plumber into the building and put a major leak “on hold.” This emergency interaction has become especially relevant as the popularity of home sharing via AirBnb and other services has exploded. In addition, since the last economic downturn, an ever larger percentage of the new housing stock falls into the “second home” category, and new rules no longer classify many second homes as investment properties. This is likely to create an avalanche of new second home purchases. These properties, occupied for only part of the year, can suffer disastrous consequences if leaks go unnoticed.
Beyond the Quick Fix
If shutting water off is the quick response to a bad leak, it’s only part of the risk faced by long-distance homeowners. While many people believe their home’s water system is leak free, the average household actually leaks nearly 10,000 gallons of water every year, according to the EPA. These small, often undetected leaks can lead to dangerous black mold and catastrophic water damage.
What’s more leak detection systems can also serve unexpected purposes, such as monitoring normal water use patterns in the housing of elderly relatives, or identifying leaks in outdoor irrigation lines. For multi-family properties, they can identify which apartments tend to waste the most water on a recurring basis.