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There have been a number of threads that have been posted here over the years that have dealt with potential or actual water damage from leaking appliances, leaking/bursting water heaters located in vulnerable places, burst pipes, etc... Hence, I thought I would start a thread to see what automatic leak detection/water shutoff devices people have installed and their experiences with them.

Since water damage is one of the top causes of large homeowners' insurance claims, most if not all insurance companies provide discounts and premium credits on various water leak detection/shut off devices, many of which tie into your security system. Have any of you tried any of these devices?

Just to clarify, I am not talking about the $10 local water leak alarms that simply sound a siren when they detect a leak. I am talking about the ones that tie into you water line and shut off the water to the specific device or to the entire house when they detect a leak, which devices are also the ones that generally qualify for insurance discounts.

For those not entirely clear on what I am talking about, here's an example:  https://www.amazon.com/Floodstop-Auto-Shutoff-FS3-4NPT-v4/dp/B00EA426X6/ Insurance Companies generally provide up front and premium discounts on more comprehensive solutions, such as this: http://leakdefensesystem.com/  Just to clarify, I have no affiliation or experience with either of these products and am just linking them for illustrative purposes.

Moderator Comment: Edited to clean link. — May. 24, 2017 @ 11:57am
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Timely thread for me.

Our condo association is considering requiring automatic shutoff valves on all water heaters. Water... (more)

johnm4 (Jun. 03, 2017 @ 6:55a) |

I have heard good things about WaterCop, which is supposed to be a nice, heavy duty device. The manufacturer has told me... (more)

geo123 (Jun. 06, 2017 @ 2:56p) |

When I lived in CA my insurance company gave me free replacements.  According to the agent, burst washing machine lines ... (more)

drodge (Jun. 07, 2017 @ 8:43a) |

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fwiw, some newer digital meters have a feature that will flash a water drop icon if it detects a leak

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rufflesinc said:   fwiw, some newer digital meters have a feature that will flash a water drop icon if it detects a leak
When you say "detect a leak," are you just saying that they show that the meter is detecting water usage? The meters themselves have no way of knowing whether the water flow is caused by a leak or not, right?

Regardless, simple $10 water alarms that are sold everywhere do a fine job with leak detection, but they won't do you any good if you aren't home when they go off. Hence, the purpose of this thread is to see if various water shutoff devices (the ones that shut off the water when they detect a leak) are worth the money after accounting for the potential insurance discounts, etc...

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geo123 said:   
rufflesinc said:   fwiw, some newer digital meters have a feature that will flash a water drop icon if it detects a leak
When you say "detect a leak," are you just saying that they show that the meter is detecting water usage? The meters themselves have no way of knowing whether the water flow is caused by a leak or not, right?

 

  no, actual leak. presumably same method as the product u linked

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Someone could design a unit that sits on top of a ball valve. Then you can have all the electronic notifications you want.

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rufflesinc said:   no, actual leak. presumably same method as the product u linked
I don't understand this. Conceptually, there are two types of water shutoff products on the market: the first one has water sensors placed in vulnerable spots. When the sensors detect water, the system shuts off the water supply either to that particular device/appliance or to the entire house. The second type of product is water flow based: basically, if you are away and it detects water flow for more than 2-3 minutes (this is customizable), it shuts off the water to the entire house. The 2-3 minute interval is the amount of time that it used by most dishwashers/ice makers/washing machines. If you are home, it allows continuous water flow for 10-30 minutes (this is also customizable and depends on your household) before it shuts it off.

You can generally get insurance discounts with the latter. With the former, it depends on the specific device and the way that it is installed. For instance, just a hot water heater shutoff device similar to the one that I linked in the OP won't qualify for an insurance discount, as it still leaves your other devices and appliances unprotected.

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I have leak sensors hooked up to my home automation hub. They are placed by my water heater and washing machine in the basement. I've considered placing one next to my dishwasher, but there's no obvious place to put one that isn't out in the open.

They also make shutoff valves that connect to home automation hubs, so it would be easy enough to have the shutoff valve turn off when one of the leak sensors detected water.

That said, I've had 2 or 3 false alarms (and no actual leaks) of the leak sensors over the last 2 years or so.

ETA: Here's an example of a Z-wave shut off valve on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/Wireless-Z-Wave-Water-Valve-inch/dp/B006K...

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Elk M1 has water sensors and a water shutoff valve that works on sort of if then logic. But it's very do it yourself

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BostonOne said:   I have leak sensors hooked up to my home automation hub. They are placed by my water heater and washing machine in the basement. I've considered placing one next to my dishwasher, but there's no obvious place to put one that isn't out in the open.

They also make shutoff valves that connect to home automation hubs, so it would be easy enough to have the shutoff valve turn off when one of the leak sensors detected water.

That said, I've had 2 or 3 false alarms (and no actual leaks) of the leak sensors over the last 2 years or so.

ETA: Here's an example of a Z-wave shut off valve on Amazon :
https://www.amazon.com/Wireless-Z-Wave-Water-Valve-inch/dp/B006KU10ZI

  I have a similar setup and it works great.  Samsung SmartThings, FWIW.

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geo123 said:   
rufflesinc said:   no, actual leak. presumably same method as the product u linked
I don't understand this. Conceptually, there are two types of water shutoff products on the market: the first one has water sensors placed in vulnerable spots. When the sensors detect water, the system shuts off the water supply either to that particular device/appliance or to the entire house. The second type of product is water flow based: basically, if you are away and it detects water flow for more than 2-3 minutes (this is customizable), it shuts off the water to the entire house. 

  Yes, that same technology is in the smart water meter, minus the shut off mechanism

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BostonOne said:   I have leak sensors hooked up to my home automation hub. They are placed by my water heater and washing machine in the basement. I've considered placing one next to my dishwasher, but there's no obvious place to put one that isn't out in the open.Why not also under every faucet and next to the each toilet tank (for the water line)? Anything can start leaking, right?

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I use a leak frog: https://www.amazon.com/Leak-Frog-LF001-Water-Alarm/dp/B000WMSTUO

High pitch alarm if these things encounter water.

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scripta said:   
BostonOne said:   I have leak sensors hooked up to my home automation hub. They are placed by my water heater and washing machine in the basement. I've considered placing one next to my dishwasher, but there's no obvious place to put one that isn't out in the open.
Why not also under every faucet and next to the each toilet tank (for the water line)? Anything can start leaking, right?

 This is exactly right, and is the downside of all the sensor based systems, not to mention various hidden leaks that you can have. Flow based systems eliminate this concern, but they aren't cheap, as all in they're about $2,500-$3,000.

One of the considerations with all the water shutoff devices, both sensor and flow based, is whether they affect water pressure.

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rsuaver said:   Someone could design a unit that sits on top of a ball valve.
 

  
Let's leave fasttimes's Mom out of this, ball relief valve.

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scripta said:   
BostonOne said:   I have leak sensors hooked up to my home automation hub. They are placed by my water heater and washing machine in the basement. I've considered placing one next to my dishwasher, but there's no obvious place to put one that isn't out in the open.
Why not also under every faucet and next to the each toilet tank (for the water line)? Anything can start leaking, right?

A combination of likelihood and aesthetics. Wouldn't like sensors all over the living area of the house. Also, since those are in the basement, it's possible that a leak happens there and we don't notice it for a while. If it's one of the sinks or toilets, we'd notice it pretty quickly unless we're away.

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I must be ignorant. I keep my valuables in a safe and lif the unforeseen happens... that's what insurance is for. Please correct me if I'm doing something wrong.

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steveoreno said:   I must be ignorant. I keep my valuables in a safe and lif the unforeseen happens... that's what insurance is for. Please correct me if I'm doing something wrong.
Ask people who've had washing machine hoses rupture or hot water tanks located in vulnerable spots burst and they'll tell you that while having insurance saved them from devastating financial hits, the experience was nevertheless traumatic. These tend to be major claims, so you typically have to move out of your house for many months, waste hours upon hours upon hours dealing with insurance, contractors and mortgage lender, pay your homeowner's deductible and then face increased insurance premiums for many years. Hence, it makes all the sense in the world to explore cost effective ways to mitigate against these types of risks.

A lot of us already do this by having monitored and unmonitored water leak detectors. As I mentioned above, however, the obvious weakness of those is the fact that they don't help you if you're not there to shut off the water, so that is where these automatic water leak detection/water shutoff devices come in. This thread is dedicated to a discussion of practical and financial considerations associated with these types of devices, which can save money and a lot of hassle down the road.

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I kinda wish I had something like this for the guest bathroom which sees almost no use most weeks. I went in there to discover some overflow issues that leaked down the mail level floor and into the basement. I ended up cutting off the water supply to that toilet and then going in once in a while to be sure it still had water to prevent sewer gas issues.

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geo123 said:   
steveoreno said:   I must be ignorant. I keep my valuables in a safe and lif the unforeseen happens... that's what insurance is for. Please correct me if I'm doing something wrong.
Ask people who've had washing machine hoses rupture or hot water tanks located in vulnerable spots burst...

Good thread, but don't overlook the obvious - put vulnerable components like hot water heaters in basements or utility areas where damage can be contained, install battery back-ups on sump pumps, turn off washer supply lines when away from home, etc.  I HAVE had significant insurance claims due to water issues, so I understand everything Geo is talking about, but first steps first.

I am most intrigued by the discussion of devices that are triggered based on prolonged or unusual changes in the water flow since a burst pipe could occur in any area of the home, thus exposing the most risk of significant damage.  Very interesting.   

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geo123 said:   
steveoreno said:   I must be ignorant. I keep my valuables in a safe and lif the unforeseen happens... that's what insurance is for. Please correct me if I'm doing something wrong.
Ask people who've had washing machine hoses rupture or hot water tanks located in vulnerable spots burst and they'll tell you that while having insurance saved them from devastating financial hits, the experience was nevertheless traumatic. These tend to be major claims, so you typically have to move out of your house for many months, waste hours upon hours upon hours dealing with insurance, contractors and mortgage lender, pay your homeowner's deductible and then face increased insurance premiums for many years. Hence, it makes all the sense in the world to explore cost effective ways to mitigate against these types of risks.

A lot of us already do this by having monitored and unmonitored water leak detectors. As I mentioned above, however, the obvious weakness of those is the fact that they don't help you if you're not there to shut off the water, so that is where these automatic water leak detection/water shutoff devices come in. This thread is dedicated to a discussion of practical and financial considerations associated with these types of devices, which can save money and a lot of hassle down the road.

Exactly the reason I invested in my system.  Was out of town for a couple days, only to come back to an inch of water covering the entire 1st floor of my house.  Cause was a cracked elbow joint on the supply to my downstairs toilet.  Could happen to anyone, really.  And kind of spooky to think that all that stands between you and such a disaster is a $0.39 piece of plastic.

Insurance covered it after waging a small war, but we ended up having to replace all the flooring, all the kitchen cabinets, and redoing most of the drywall downstairs.  We were without a kitchen (and a downstairs, but the kitchen was much more of an issue) for about 3-4 months.  The size and water-based nature of the claim made it almost impossible to find coverage after my insurer inevitably dumped me at the first chance they got.

I spent the next few months compulsively checking any and all water supplies under sinks, toilets, showers until I decided to just install these sensors.
So yeah, if you have insurance you're covered... but it's not an experience I'd ever want to repeat.

edit: the easiest fix, and really the only one that gives me true peace of mind now is to shut off the main water valve anytime I'm gone for more than a day.

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dcwilbur said:   
geo123 said:   
steveoreno said:   I must be ignorant. I keep my valuables in a safe and lif the unforeseen happens... that's what insurance is for. Please correct me if I'm doing something wrong.
Ask people who've had washing machine hoses rupture or hot water tanks located in vulnerable spots burst...

Good thread, but don't overlook the obvious - put vulnerable components like hot water heaters in basements or utility areas where damage can be contained

  don't forget clothes washers, though a lot of people like the "convenience" of having them on the second floor . If you have to have them on the first or second floor, install a floor drain, a pan just doesnt cut it when the water line bursts.

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geo123 said:   
rufflesinc said:   fwiw, some newer digital meters have a feature that will flash a water drop icon if it detects a leak
When you say "detect a leak," are you just saying that they show that the meter is detecting water usage? The meters themselves have no way of knowing whether the water flow is caused by a leak or not, right?


 

  
Does nobody make a flow sensor that measures incoming flow against outgoing flow? More than a tub full difference and there's likely a problem - shut off the water. You'd have deactivate it when using a hose outside. 

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If I leave the house for more than one night I turn off the main valve. And make sure you have a working floor drain in the laundry room. The one in mine was covered over with floor tile.

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I have the Leaksmart Whole House Shut-off Valve connected to Smarthings. It's installed at the main input from the well. and I use water sensors at all of the likely leak spots throughout the house. If water is detected anywhere in the system, the valve cuts off the main water supply. I also have a rule that shuts off the valve if the house temperature reaches a minimum threshold. I considered forgoing the valve and using a smart relay to cut power to the well pump, but I ended up finding the valve on clearance at Home Depot for $13.

My coworker had multiple leaks within about a year and his insurance company (USAA) was going to cancel his policy. He implemented the same system and sent them documentation. Not only did they not cancel, they gave him a discount based on lowered risk.

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A floor drain is great for small leaks, but, if your hot water tank or a washing machine hose bursts, it won't keep up with the flow. It will help to somewhat reduce the damage, but you're still looking at a major catastrophe.

Shutting off the water to the house when you're away from it is certainly worthwhile (if you do that, make sure that you drain the residual water from the pipes; keep in mind that unless you turn off the hot water heater and drain it as well, you'll still have a lot of water sitting in it. Do not drain your hot water heater without shutting it off), but it doesn't take all that long for a substantial water leak to cause a ton of damage. Just an hour or two of water gushing out will result in rather catastrophic damage.

We already do all of the above (although we do not drain our hot water heaters, as it's a bit of a hassle), and also have both monitored (monitored through the security system) and unmonitored water leak sensors, but do not have any automatic shut off devices. I'm considering getting one, as we have a number of friends and acquaintances who've experienced burst pipes/burst washing machine hoses/burst water heaters and, although insurance paid for the damage, they absolutely hated the experience. Aside from the up front cost, I am trying to figure out how reliable these devices are, as it'd be a huge hassle to replace one down the road. I am also trying to determine if there are any other issues with any of them. For instance, some of them may reduce water pressure, while others are not supposed to affect it in any way. From what I have read, whenever a shutoff valve is installed, it is a good idea to also install a manual bypass around it. This way, if the shutoff valve ever malfunctions, shuts off the water to the house and cannot be reopened, you can open up the manual bypass to channel water around the valve. With this setup, you'd still have water while the shutoff valve is serviced/replaced.

These are the types of things that are worthwhile discussing, together with some practical experiences with these devices, as well as with insurance/financial considerations.

rated:
This thread is very timely. I'm in a condo and don't have my own water heater, but I've been looking into automatic water shut-offs for my washing machine. I have the added complication of not having an extra power receptacle where the washer is located.

The Watts IntelliFlow seems built for this situation, but has poor reviews. Does anyone have any other recommendations?

https://www.amazon.com/Watts-IntelliFlow-Automatic-Washing-Machi...

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ganda said:   Does nobody make a flow sensor that measures incoming flow against outgoing flow? More than a tub full difference and there's likely a problem - shut off the water. You'd have deactivate it when using a hose outside. That's an excellent question. I am not aware of any such device out there.
  

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I installed the valve myself in about 10 minutes. It's as simple as cutting the line, attaching 2 threaded connectors and screwing on the valve. You also need power. You can remove the cover and manually turn the valve with a wrench if it ever failed closed, so I don't see the value in plumbing in a bypass loop. There's nothing magic about the device, it's the same simple 1/4 turn shutoff ball valve used in millions of other applications with an electric servo instead of a manual lever. The electronics could potentially fail, but I can't see how the mechanics are any more prone to failure than any other valve.

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geo123 said:   
ganda said:   Does nobody make a flow sensor that measures incoming flow against outgoing flow? More than a tub full difference and there's likely a problem - shut off the water. You'd have deactivate it when using a hose outside. 
That's an excellent question. I am not aware of any such device out there.
  

  what is "outgoing flow" measured at? You'd have to measure it at every plumbing fixture 

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drodge said:   I have the https://www.lowes.com/pd/LeakSmart-Rough-Brass-Quarter-Turn-Straight-Valve/999912511 connected to Smarthings. It's installed at the main input from the well. and I use water sensors at all of the likely leak spots throughout the house. If water is detected anywhere in the system, the valve cuts off the main water supply. I also have a rule that shuts off the valve if the house temperature reaches a minimum threshold. I considered forgoing the valve and using a smart relay to cut power to the well pump, but I ended up finding the valve on clearance at Home Depot for $13.

My coworker had multiple leaks within about a year and his insurance company (USAA ) was going to cancel his policy. He implemented the same system and sent them documentation. Not only did they not cancel, they gave him a discount based on lowered risk.

There are several of the 3/4" LeakSmart kit with a sensor on sale on eBay for $105-$120 with free shipping at the moment and code P20MEMDAY will knock 20% off the price.  Unfortunately, I need the 1" model.  Sears also sells it and is eligible for SYWR points back and the use of coupons.  I've recently replaced the valve stems on most of the angle stops (I have 20+), or replaced the old angle stops with 1/4 turn washerless valves throughout my house.  Some of my 20 yr old valve stems started to leak

How much of an insurance discount are you guys seeing with the installation of one of these type of devices? 

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drodge said:   I installed the valve myself in about 10 minutes.
I am not familiar with this particular one, but the ones that I've looked at, which are the ones recommended by some of the major insurance companies (they accept some sensor based ones, but all strongly recommend water flow based ones, as they provide greater protection), require professional installation for warranty purposes.

Does yours affect water pressure in any way? Is it tied to your security system? Did it qualify for an insurance discount and, if so, what's the percentage?

The electronics could potentially fail, but I can't see how the mechanics are any more prone to failure than any other valve.I think that this is exactly what the concern is, which is that the electronics could fail and cause the valve to close and not reopen. At that point, without a manual bypass, you'd be completely out of water and forced to relocate until it was fixed.

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momoman said:   How much of an insurance discount are you guys seeing with the installation of one of these type of devices? 
I'm sure it'll vary depending on the insurance company and the state, but the ones that I've seen have been in the 2%-3% range for the ones that do not tie into your security system, and 7%-10% for the ones that do tie into your security system. The latter are obviously the preferred solution (at least for the water flow based ones), not just because of the increased discounts, but because this way the shutoff valve knows when you're home and when you're away, so you don't have to worry about arming and disarming a separate device.

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geo123 said:   
drodge said:   I installed the valve myself in about 10 minutes.
I am not familiar with this particular one, but the ones that I've looked at, which are the ones recommended by some of the major insurance companies (they accept some sensor based ones, but all strongly recommend water flow based ones, as they provide greater protection), require professional installation for warranty purposes.

Does yours affect water pressure in any way? Is it tied to your security system? Did it qualify for an insurance discount and, if so, what's the percentage?

  Mine is tied into my exiting home automation system via Smarthings.  I have water sensors at each fixture.  When a sensor is triggered and the valve turns off and I get a text.    I can also turn off the valve remotely from my phone for whatever reason.   I monitor my own security system, so it's tied in there, but not monitored by an outside company.    I haven't seen any difference in water pressure.  I didn't change any piping size and there was already a cutoff valve there, so I didn't substantially change anything that would affect the pressure.  

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momoman said:   
drodge said:   I have the https://www.lowes.com/pd/LeakSmart-Rough-Brass-Quarter-Turn-Straight-Valve/999912511 connected to Smarthings. It's installed at the main input from the well. and I use water sensors at all of the likely leak spots throughout the house. If water is detected anywhere in the system, the valve cuts off the main water supply. I also have a rule that shuts off the valve if the house temperature reaches a minimum threshold. I considered forgoing the valve and using a smart relay to cut power to the well pump, but I ended up finding the valve on clearance at Home Depot for $13.

My coworker had multiple leaks within about a year and his insurance company (USAA ) was going to cancel his policy. He implemented the same system and sent them documentation. Not only did they not cancel, they gave him a discount based on lowered risk.

There are several of the 3/4" LeakSmart kit with a sensor on sale on eBay for $105-$120 with free shipping at the moment and code P20MEMDAY will knock 20% off the price.  Unfortunately, I need the 1" model.  Sears also sells it and is eligible for SYWR points back and the use of coupons.  I've recently replaced the valve stems on most of the angle stops (I have 20+), or replaced the old angle stops with 1/4 turn washerless valves throughout my house.  Some of my 20 yr old valve stems started to leak

How much of an insurance discount are you guys seeing with the installation of one of these type of devices? 

  Home Depot had the 3/4 valves on clearance about 3-4 months ago.  They are rebranded, but the same valve as Lowes.   They cleared them out as low as $10-$20.  It's worth looking through the bargain bin at Home Depot if you're there as some people are still reporting they are finding them sporadically.  

rated:
Another inexpensive option: buy 3/4"motorized ball valve plus moisture senso r and you done. You can get it for the less then $40 

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drodge said:   I monitor my own security systemThis doesn't have anything to do with this thread, but have you looked into insurance discounts for monitored security systems? In our case, the insurance discount completely offsets the monitoring cost, and the system is monitored for burglary, smoke/fire and flood.

I haven't seen any difference in water pressure. I didn't change any piping size and there was already a cutoff valve there, so I didn't substantially change anything that would affect the pressure.  Interesting. For what it's worth, my insurance company tells me that the Leak Defense system, which I linked above, does not adversely affect water pressure, but FloLogic, which is a competing flow based system, does slightly reduce it.
  

rated:
rufflesinc said:   
geo123 said:   
ganda said:   Does nobody make a flow sensor that measures incoming flow against outgoing flow? More than a tub full difference and there's likely a problem - shut off the water. You'd have deactivate it when using a hose outside. 
That's an excellent question. I am not aware of any such device out there.
  

  what is "outgoing flow" measured at? You'd have to measure it at every plumbing fixture 

  
Your house must be different to mine, all my wastewater ultimately leaves through a single sewer pipe.

rated:
ganda said:   
rufflesinc said:   
geo123 said:   
ganda said:   Does nobody make a flow sensor that measures incoming flow against outgoing flow? More than a tub full difference and there's likely a problem - shut off the water. You'd have deactivate it when using a hose outside. 
That's an excellent question. I am not aware of any such device out there.
  

  what is "outgoing flow" measured at? You'd have to measure it at every plumbing fixture 

  
Your house must be different to mine, all my wastewater ultimately leaves through a single sewer pipe.

  You can't be serious about measuring at the main drain. How do you account for number 1 and 2, stuff from garbage disposal, other liquids poured down drain, water used for cooking and consumption, etc etc? I can't see how this idea even makes remote sense

clothes washer: a full heavy duty soak cycle can take 1-2 hours
tub/jacuzzi: you might soak for 1-2 hours


moreover, the tie-in at the single sewer pipe is buried in concrete at all my houses.

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I came across this Dome Z-Wave Plus Water Main Shut-off valve that fits on top of your existing ballcock shut-off vavle.  The reviews on Home Depot mention the motor is not strong enough.  Interesting idea but too bad it doesn't seem to be strong enough to work.  This one doesn't require any plumbing modifications and only needs a 110v outlet nearby.  The reviews also mention the unit doesn't appear to be weatherproof for outdoor use.

Skipping 40 Messages...
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wilked said:   
monarch20 said:   Thought I'd mention it cause it hasnt come up.

Flexible water hose is recommended to replace every 5 years. This would include washer and toilet hose. If its a compression fitting and flexible pipe, it does have a limited lifespan.

Source?

  What percent of households adhere to this?  <1%?

  When I lived in CA my insurance company gave me free replacements.  According to the agent, burst washing machine lines were the single largest source of claims. 
 

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