Catastrophic floods may grab all the headlines, but more common water damage from plumbing systems end up costing homeowners, renters, and landlords billions of dollars every year1. Plumbing problems (including leaking or damaged tubs, toilets showers and burst pipes), leaky roofs, washing machines, water heaters and frozen pipes result in thousands of people of water damage insurance claims annually.
Even with an annual plumbing inspection, careful routine maintenance, and emergency planning, you can't be everywhere water might make an unannounced, unwelcome—and potentially very expensive—appearance. That's one reason thousands of homeowners, renters and landlords have turned to water alarm systems of widely varying cost and complexity. These systems promise to alert you to potential water damage before it hits your wallet, but do they consistently stem disaster's tide?
Emergency Essentials: System Sensor Info
Automatic Shut-Off Systems: Serious Protection, But Not DIY
The key word for this type of shut-off system is "automatic." When a sensor, typically placed on the floor where leaks are likely to occur, detects water, it wirelessly instructs a shut-off valve mounted on your dwelling's water main to cut the water supply. There's no need for human interaction and the systems promise 24/7 vigilance, even if you're thousands of miles from home. And since they're fully automatic—first detecting the water, then shutting down the water supply without any human input—automatic water shut-off systems are potentially the most effective way to prevent expensive water losses and prevent a water damage insurance claim.
But before you hit the plumbing supply store, be aware that these fully automated systems aren't necessarily a perfect solution. For starters, they're expensive—expect prices around $1,000, not including labor and professional installation. They're not always adept at identifying the kind of slow leaks that often lead to wet rot and mold. And also consider that:
- You'll potentially need many sensors to cover all your home's leak-prone areas.
- Any water on a sensor may trigger a shut-down, whether the moisture's the result of a real emergency, a small amount of water that touches a sensor, or extreme humidity near the sensor.
- Some automatic sensor systems monitor water flow through a timer, so watering a lawn or filling a swimming pool can trigger a shut-down.
Remote Alarm Systems: 911 for Potential Water Losses?
Although remote alert systems aren't designed to "slam the door shut" like automated shut-off systems, their proactive nature can still alert you of a potential water loss when you're away from home.
Remote alert systems typically use one or more sensors to actively monitor for water, temperature fluctuations, and power outages. Once the system detects an event, it automatically dials a phone number to report the problem. It's this ability to auto-report a potential disaster—many systems support land lines or VOIP, and some work during power outages—combined with a reasonable price tag that make remote alarm systems an attractive option for some homeowners and landlords.
When considering a remote alarm system, it's important to weigh its inability to completely shut down your home's water supply system against its automatic notification capabilities. And like a automatic system, there's no guarantee that a remote alarm system will detect every water leak. But considering that remote alert systems typically cost hundreds of dollars less than automatic systems and don't usually require professional installation, many homeowners and landlords find them a viable option in the face of potential water damage.
Local Alarm Systems: Lowest Cost…But Fewer Features
These systems are the simplest, lowest-cost options for combatting potential water damage. Wireless local alarm systems often integrate into other home monitoring devices, including wireless security systems. Hard wired or battery operated local alarm systems, on the other hand, are specifically designed as a simple, inexpensive investment that won't require professional installation—place the sensors near where water damage may occur and they sound an alarm when water's detected.
But their low investment, typically under $50, may actually carry a considerable cost, since they may not catch every water leak. And since they simply "go off," much like a smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector, you won't hear a local alarm if you're not home. In addition, these lower-cost options may not be as sensitive to water's presence as more-sophisticated systems.
Water Sensor System Comparison
- Automatically shuts off water supply if sensor(s) detect leak
- Sensors monitor water and automatically notify you if problem detected
- Alarm sounds if sensors detect water
- Shuts down water supply, but won't contact you
- Automatic notification, but won't shut off water supply
- $1,000 + installation
- Complete sensor coverage is challenging. Extended lawn watering or filling a swimming pool, etc. can trigger shut-off.
- Early notification can prevent significant damage, but system won't shut down water supply. Wireless capabilities, temp & power monitoring, multiple sensor sets, etc. available at higher price levels.
- Inexpensive, but no automatic notification or water shut-off. No remote capability. Wireless, hard-wired, or battery operation available
There's No Substitute for Quality Insurance
From false-positive event alarms to an inability to detect a potentially severe leak, even the most robust and well-planned water sensor strategy isn't foolproof. But Allstate property insurance acts as part of your "emergency essentials," offering significant water loss protection for your home and savings around the clock.
We also offer Landlord Property Insurance designed to fit the specific protection needs of landlords. For more information or expert guidance, call us at 1-800-ALLSTATE (1-800-255-7828), or find an agent near you to see how Allstate Landlord Property Insurance can help.