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How to Use Water Leak Detectors and Alarms to Protect Your Home

Nolen is a home handyman who has installed several types of water leak detectors and alarms in homes for his clients.


What Are Water Leak Alarms?

Undetected water leaks make up a large portion of the more than $20 billion in water damage damage that's caused to homes in the U.S. each year. A water leak detector or water alarm can help avoid costly damage to your home by alerting you to new leaks before they have a chance to do any harm.

What Are Water Leak Alarms and Detectors?

Water leak alarms and detectors are small, battery-powered devices which sense the presence of water and either sound an alarm at the unit, or communicate wireless with a home alarm system or your smartphone. These devices are often placed in areas prone to accidental leaks, such as under kitchen sinks, in water heater closets or laundry rooms.

Some types of water leak alarms are even capable of notifying you of a leak when you're away from home. When these devices are combined with a smart electronic water supply valve, you may even be able to remotely shut off your home's water before the leak causes any real damage.

A very basic water leak alarm, the Basement Watchdog.

A very basic water leak alarm, the Basement Watchdog.

Stand Alone Water Alarms

There are basically three main types of water leak alarms and leak detectors. These are stand alone water alarms, smart water alarms, and smart water detectors that are part of an overall home alarm system. Water leak detectors often don't include an audible alarm inside the unit, whereas stand alone water leak alarms may include this feature.

Stand Alone Water Alarms

Basic stand alone water leak alarms are all-in-one devices which you place in areas where leaks or rising water may occur, such as in a basement. This type of leak detector has a sensor with contacts that you place wherever you want the device to detect leaking water, such as above a basement sump pump intake or on the floor next to a washing machine. These alarms also feature a built in audible alarm which sounds when water is present.

We've installed these simple detectors in our own home and for clients. Our favorite, simple stand alone water leak detector is the Basement Watchdog, which currently sells for around $15. This compact water alarm can be mounted anywhere and comes with a wired sensor than you can place up to 6 feet away.

The Basement Watchdog runs off of a 9 volt battery, which you can replace with a battery eliminator for long term reliability. We've even spliced the wires on these for some installations, placing the sensor up to 20' away from the main unit. A loud, 110 dB alarm will sound if the any water comes between the two sensor contacts.

A Ring alarm system water detector, placed in the drip pan of a water heater.

A Ring alarm system water detector, placed in the drip pan of a water heater.

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Alarm System Water Detectors

The second type of device are water leak detectors, which are sold as add-on''s to a smart home alarm system, such as SimpliSafe or Ring. This is the preferred type of leak detector to use if you're frequently away from home.

In our own home we use a Ring alarm system, which includes door and motion sensors, as well as small "puck type" water detectors, which we place in areas where leaks may occur, such as next to our washing machine, as seen in the photo above.

Ring water leak detectors are battery operated and can be placed up to one hundred feet away from the alarm control module. For distances greater than 100', Ring signal boosters are available. If water is detected, the alarm module in your home will issue a beeping tone and you'll receive a message on your smartphone via the Ring app.

The cost of a Ring home alarm system with two water detectors is approximately $300, so this option may be a bit costly for some homeowners, especially when compared to the low cost of the stand-alone water alarm made by Basement Watchdog.

Another excellent do-it-yourself smart home alarm system, which you can add water leak detectors to, is made by SimpliSafe. They offer an entry level home alarm system for around $230, with add-on water leak detectors costing just under $20. Commercial alarm systems, such as those installed by ADT, can also be equipped with water leak detecting sensors.

Smart Water Alarms

The third kind of water leak detectors are smart water alarms. These are not part of a greater alarm system and are designed to alert you via smartphone about water leaks only. There are many brands of smart water leak alarms available, from manufacturers such as Govee, Ecoey, YoLink and Moen.

The Ecoey smart water alarm costs around $20 for each unit, while the Govee system—which includes three detectors—costs just under $60. These stand alone systems are a great option, however aren't expandable to include home alarm features such as window and door sensors.

Which Kind of Water Leak Alarm Is Right For You?

Ultimately, which kind of water leak alarm or detector you choose to purchase depends on your own individual needs and budget.

If you frequently travel away from home, a smart water leak alarm, such as the Govee or YoLink models may work perfectly. If you already have a Ring or SimpliSafe home alarm system, or are planning to get one, adding water leak detectors to one of these systems is a much better way to go for the sake of overall simplicity and convenience.

If you're on a budget and can't afford either of those more expensive options, a simple stand alone water leak monitor, such as the Basement Watchdog may be the best choice.

Water leaks in your home can cost thousands of dollars and result in higher insurance bills for years following a major claim. For under $20, you can help avoid what could be a major disaster to both your home and your finances.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Nolen Hart

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