A little water never hurt anyone, right? We’ve all spilled a glass of water on the kitchen floor and hastily mopped it up with a fistful of paper towels. But a little water can hurt a home, according to the EPA, between flooding, leaks, and water damage, water can cause a great deal of damage, to your home, and to your wallet. Repairing leaks can only happen when a leak has already been detected – and by then it’s already too late. So what can be done to prevent water damage? How can it be detected? And how does it all work?

Water damage is one of the most common pitfalls that home ownership falls into. Nearly every home is either at risk or has dealt with expensive water damage. 98% of basements alone experience some form of water damage. Groundwater, flooding, burst pipes, anything can cause extensive water damage. By the time a leak or burst pipe is noticed, more often than not, the home is already filling up with water. What many homes need rather than a fix to these pipes once the leak has started is a sensor that notices when water leaks and pipes burst. To prevent, rather than repair.

How Do Leak Detectors Work?

Leak detectors, as the name implies, are able to notice when pipes are leaking and report this to the homeowner. Typically, water leak sensors will be installed throughout the home in areas where leaks are most likely to occur. Typically basements, bathrooms, laundry rooms, areas that have their share of pipes running through them that would cause fears of leaking. These detectors will connect either to a security system hub, a smart hub, or just to a mobile app, and send alerts when a leak is detected. Many of these sensors aren’t exclusive to when a pipe leaks. Toilet clogs or faucets being left running too long, these detection systems will notice and report any increased water usage.

Leak detection systems keep watch during water flow throughout the day. These take on one of two forms in the most common systems: mechanical turbine or ultrasonic. Mechanical turbines use impellers to count gallons of water passing through the unit. The blades on the impeller fan spins, recording the water used and communicating this back to the system. By physically tracking the water flow, mechanical turbines can tell when sustained water flow is taking place, rather than the typical home’s water flow being regularly interrupted and coming in intervals. When uninterrupted water flow is detected for an extended period, it will be reported.

Ultrasonic units use ultrasonic waves to record the rate of water flowing. Similar to mechanical turbine systems, the ultrasonic waves are intended record when water use rates are beyond their typical water use data. Waves are sent in both directions through the pipes in order to check the regular rate of flow to compare it to fluctuations throughout the day. When these irregular fluctuations are noticed, the system will alert the homeowner.

The Importance of Shut-Off Valves

Preventing water damage only starts with you monitoring your home water usage with one of these leak detection systems. The most important aspect of a leak detection system is the automatic shut-off valve. Knowing that water usage is above average is certainly an important aspect of a leak detection system, but if you aren’t home or don’t notice the notification right away, knowing that the flow is up won’t do any good by the time the water damage begins to set in. Automatic shut-off valves remedy this by shutting off the valve and interrupting water supply to the entire house, preventing any further leakage.

Sustained periods of flowing water will tell any system a leak is present somewhere in the plumbing, so turning off water flow to the entire house is key to stop the leak in its tracks. Users are able to track down the source of the leak without needing to worry about it being too late as it stands. Settings can be managed to serve your personal water usage needs, so these systems won’t assume extended water use such as in washing machines and extra-long showers are leaks and shut down in the middle of them.

Ultrasonic vs Turbine: Which Detector is Better?

Both detectors are commonly used in water leak systems, but this may bring about the question as to which one has the better performance. Mechanical turbine systems and Ultrasonic systems both do their jobs perfectly fine: they detect when water is being used more than expected and shuts down to prevent the leak from causing any further damage. But one shines above the other in one place: water pressure.

Because water has to flow through the blade of a turbine, the flow of water is impeded during normal use, which can result in worse water pressure for utilities such as sinks, showers, and hoses. Ultrasonic detection systems bypass this issue by being inline with the plumbing system, allowing water to pass through with no impediment. However, at lower flow rates, mechanical turbine systems, though still experiencing a dip in water pressure, are much more difficult to notice. Each system works perfectly fine, but at higher flow rates, the dip in water pressure will be a lot more noticeable from a turbine detector.

How to Install a Leak Detection System

Most leak detection systems will require a professional installation. DIY is typically not recommended as this project would require plumbing being cut, soldered, and altered in ways that are best left to the professionals. Systems that monitor water in pipes without a shut-off trigger tend to be easier installs, but do not provide all the benefits automatic shut-off valves bring to the system.

When the leak detector system is being installed, it’s best to ensure that it’s placed at the earliest point of entry into the home’s plumbing system, to ensure that everything is downstream from the detector. By installing it at the earliest possible point in the system, the leak detector system is set up properly to detect inconsistencies anywhere in the water line throughout the house.

Leak detector systems are a very important part of home security in a way many might not consider. Protecting your home isn’t just about protecting it from break-ins, but from dangers that can exist anywhere. Preventing water leaks can save homeowners thousands of dollars in repairs and wasted water and protect them from major losses. But monetary value isn’t the only thing at risk from leaks – water leaking, even small amounts, can cause mold buildups which can be hazardous to the health of those living in the home. Leak detection systems help to prevent these dangers that can occur any time. Rather than noticing the problem when it’s already too late, these systems stop the problem as soon as possible, likely saving you from taking on the costs of repairs, replacing goods, and inhaling dangerous mold.