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leak alert

A friend of mine had a leaky upstairs toilet, and he didn’t find the problem until it had caused $40,000 in damage to his home. The water destroyed flooring, sheet-rock, and some framing. Zircon’s Leak Alert electronic water detector could’ve saved my friend some grief — you simply place it near sinks, toilets, sump pumps, fish tanks, water heaters, or any other appliances that use water, and the Leak Alert does the rest.

Just like a smoke detector warns you of a fire, the Leak Alert sounds a very loud alarm when it gets wet. It’ll keep the 95dB alarm blaring for up to 72 hours, and it even floats — so if you leave for work or even the weekend, the alarm will still be sounding when you return. It runs on a 9V battery and will beep periodically when the battery gets low.

Zircon, the maker of the original stud finder, has done it again with another problem-solving tool. You can find the Leak Alert at many hardware and big box stores for around $12 — very reasonable considering the alternative.

Leak Alert [Zircon]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]


18 Responses to Catch Water Leaks Before It’s Too Late

  1. I sure hope your friend’s insurance company paid for the damage…Ouch! That said, did he have a Monet hanging on wall downstairs under the toilet? Not that I don’t believe you, but that’s gotta be some worst case scenario situation.

    I’m going to have to look for one of these, shows like Ask This Old House make me afraid to ever leave my house again in case the washer hose blows out, or the bottom falls out of the water heater. It’d be cool if it would SMS me too, but then it probably would be $12.

  2. Brad Justinen says:

    Yeah, the water ran at full speed for 24 hours. He came home but didn’t realize what was happening until about 8 hours later when he went to the stairs and found they were sopping wet. Insurance did pay, but it was so expensive because there were at least four companies involved – cleanup, framing and sheet rock, electrical, and flooring.

  3. rmd says:

    seconding the man in black’s suggestion of the leakfrog. (hello tmib!)

    woot.com has them for sale startlingly often.

    i’ve got a couple of them in my basement, and they’ve absolutely paid for themselves.

  4. Brian says:

    I worked for a restoration company for four years and I would say 90% of our work came from water damages… and 99% of that work was paid for by insurance companies. I’ve seen damages that only cost $500 to fix and ones that cost over $100,000!

    The worst I experienced was a vacation home that had a blown toilet supply on a second floor and it ran for a week. It also had some of the worst mold damage caused by all that water. We had to pull the whole interior down to studs and it still took a week to dry the structure with our equipment.

    The demo and dry-out bill for that house was over $50,000. We didn’t bid on the repair work but my guess it would have cost over $100,000 to fix the house. And yes the insurance company paid for everything including the mold problem!

  5. John says:

    Thirding the leakfrog and seconding the woot! 🙂

    as soon as i saw the title i thought this was going to be a leakfrog post!

  6. Zathrus says:

    Fourthing the leakfrog/woot suggestion. And if you don’t want to wait for Woot to sell them again (they’ve already appeared this WootOff, and are unlikely to appear again until the next one), just buy ’em retail. Same price, but cuter.

    Of course, it’s notable that all this will do is alert you to a leak. If you’re not there, then it won’t help you prevent the damage. If you need that, you’ll be shelling out a lot more than $12 (more like 10x that), but if you’re away a lot then it might be worth it.

  7. Chris says:

    I saw some supply hoses at Lowe’s a while back that had a built-in (mechanical) leak detector and shut-off valve that would trigger if the flow rate through the hose got too high. Anyone used one of those (or have a link to them; I can’t find them on Lowe’s site or anywhere else at the moment)?


  8. Mel says:

    http://www.watercop.com distributes thru plumbing supply houses, but not big-box stores as far as I can find

  9. Chris says:

    @Mel: Thanks, but the ones I saw had the shutoff valve integrated into the hose and didn’t require any electrical hookup. The Water Cop looks a lot like the similar FloodStop system:


    Aha! Here’s what I was looking for. Made by Watts, called the FloodSafe:


    Wonder how those compare…they’re certainly a lot cheaper ($5-20 depending on hose fittings and length) and less work to install (just replace the existing supply hose, no electrical connections required). Of course, if the failure is upstream of the hose shutoff, they’re not going to help.


  10. Fred says:

    What’s wrong with shutting off the ball valves or gate valves that supply your washer – when your away on vacation? This won’t solve every worry – but one potential failure point will be eliminated. We’ve had a few customers ask for a different solution that turns the water on – only when the washer is running. Watts (the steam valve guys) make an Intelliflow valve that ties solenoid valves into the hot/cold water lines ahead of the hoses. The washer is plugged into the Watts contraption and the valves open when the washer draws power. I think this is overkill – but who knows – I had one customer ask if we could get him some milspec braided hose.
    We replace lots of water heaters too – usually recommending that we install pans under them (some customers opt out of this thinking we’re just trying to pad the job). The pan gives you a place to spot the telltale signs of impending disaster and call us.
    We also put in lots of automatic sump pumps – but they typically are there to cope with water generated from the outside – not inside of the house. In a few cases we’ve installed evactors driven by city water pressure to drain sumps in the event of a power outage/flood combination

  11. Chris says:

    @Fred: “What’s wrong with shutting off the ball valves or gate valves that supply your washer – when your away on vacation?”

    Nothing, until the valve fails full open in the middle of the night when there’s no faucet hooked up to the line and the open end of the supply hose is pointing into a two-gallon dishpan under the kitchen sink 😉

    Yes, that did actually happen at my grandma’s place. Fortunately, she has a one-story house and most of the water was confined to the linoleum flooring in the kitchen, though enough of it got into the living room carpet that it ruined a bookshelf. Lesson learned: always use teflon ball valves, which don’t fail open like that due to bad valve seats and crud in the pipes. And something like the Watts FloodSafe device in the supply hose would have been really useful there.


  12. Kurt Greiner says:

    No Monet’s at my house, but if I was going to be gone for an exended period, I would turn the water off at the valve outside. At my business (a car wash), I turn the water off every night.

    Two of the riskier appliances in my home are out in the garage – heater, washing machine, where if they leak little harm will be done. If I had to have them inside, I would have them in a tray with a drain for sure, or perhaps have one of those automatic cut off valves – I think I saw one on This Old House several seasons back for a homeowner that had an upstairs (!) laundry.

    That still leaves the sinks, toilets, dish washer and refrigerator at risk, but I check the hoses once a year and replace them every 5 years or so. Not a bad idea to write the installation date on the hose by use a bit of masking tape and a pen.

  13. Fred says:

    I can’t say that bad stuff doesn’t happen – and leaking plumbing has been part of my business over the years. Of course if a valve is frozen open and the stem breaks off you can have a problem.
    We never plumb up a commode or bidet with hose.
    We try not to use hose on sinks if we can make a solid connection. Refigerators need to be moved – so hose (high quality braided preferred) is necessary.
    I never saw a decently made gate valve fail to seat on a water line from crud in the seat- different story for large gates on lines that carry solids in suspension.
    We also will not knowingly do a half-measure job – leaving a mix and match with old galvanized pipe and rust/scale in the house to cause future problems. We do not like call backs. So if we don’t think that we can do a good job – well tell the customer to try someone else.
    I don’t buy my supplies from Home Depot or Lowes or other mass-market suppliers – they may carry high quality fittings but I’m not sure about this topic in general.
    What I can say is that we like the Hoke brand for ball valves and compression fittings – but there are probably other good manufacturers out there.

  14. Chris says:

    Ahem. It appears a post I made earlier in response to Mel’s post was summarily deleted without any notification whatsoever.

    I find this practise to be reprehensible, considering that it’s blindingly obvious from my posting history that I am not a spammer. Furthermore, the post contained some very useful information, namely a link to and description of the device for which I had been searching!

    The Watts FloodSafe supply hoses are what I was thinking of:


    I’d be curious to hear anyone’s experiences with these.


  15. Zathrus says:

    I’ve got some of the floodsafe hoses on toilets; usually they work fine, but sometimes the safety valve will kick in for no reason at all (it may be a slightly faulty hose, as only one does this repeatedly). Disconnect it, jiggle it, blow on it, and reconnect and it’s fine for some random period of time.

    And Chris, I’ve never known any posts here to be deleted, even spam ones (sadly). You’d have to email the admins to find out for sure, but I’ve noticed time lags and occasional lost posts before.

  16. Chris says:

    It seems my comment is “awaiting moderation”, though I have yet to see any notification of such, and it didn’t appear until after I had used the contact form to notify the admins of the issue.

    @Zathrus: I think they need to institute automatic moderation after a one-week period of inactivity on a post. I subscribe to the comments RSS feed and there is a LOT of comment spam on older posts (> six months).

    Thanks for the feedback on the FloodSafe hoses. False triggers are one thing I was mildly worried about.

    @Fred: You mentioned that you rarely plumb immobile fixtures with hoses, preferring to use tubing instead. Why is that? Simply because hoses can burst, or is there more to it than that? What diameter tubing would you normally use for a toilet? How about a faucet?


  17. Fred says:

    Re; Chris

    For exposed services like toilets – we use chrome-plated brass tubing. We just think that it looks neater and more professional than braided hose and is not subject to bursting. Size will depend on how high-end the job is. Some clients want antique looking (e.g. Rohl angle stops – which are plumbed 1/2-1/2 – or we might use a a more conventional 1/2-3/8). I did have one call back with a Rohl stop – the customer’s 3 year old thought that the handle was just right for turning – the callback was sort of like the old joke about the TV repairmain – who siad that most calls were for TV’s that were unplugged.

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