Monday, January 19, 2015

Water Alarms

On January 2, 2015 we had an unfortunate incident with our oil burner.  Late that night the pressure relief valve failed and water started leaking out of the system.  The system continued working, choosing to just refill itself as water continued to leak out.  Due to the slope of the floor, all of the water headed in the opposite direction of our sump pump.  In the morning I went down to the basement for whatever reason and stepped on to soaking wet carpet.  Awesome.

On January 3, I was able to get our plumber/electrician there quickly to shut off the relief valve.  He also angled the drain pipe in such a way so I could cram a bucket under it in case it leaked again.  He had to go to another emergency call and sent another one of his guys over a few hours later to fix things up.  We got a new relief valve installed and a pipe extension and elbow joint so it's easier to keep an emergency relief bucket in place under the emergency relief valve.

Over the course of the next week, I had RestorePro work on the damage repair.  The drywall was wet and baseboard ruined and carpet soaked.  RestorePro did a great job removing water and setting up everything to dry out.  About a week after everything dried out, they came back to install new baseboard and fix up the flooring and stuff (patch holes and so on).  It looks like it did before the flood, which is nice.

We have not even been in this house a year and we've had two floods in the basement.  A suggestion from RestorePro and my plumber was to get a few water alarms and install them in various places in the basement.  Water alarm?

It's similar to a smoke alarm or a carbon monoxide alarm, except the warning is for unexpected or unwanted water.  The device is really simple.  There are two sensors and when water makes contact with both, the alarm sounds.  These devices come in various shapes and sizes.  I found these:


From Glentronics. The Basement Watchdog has sort of a silly name, but it does the trick. The alarm is very loud, so if you have it in your basement and you sleep two floors above that, you can hopefully hear it if it goes off.

I bought three Basement Watchdog alarms, but I also bought two LeakFrog alarms.  These are much quieter and a good option for under sinks or behind a washing machine.  The LeakFrog feels like a less reliable or quality product, but from a decorative standpoint it is not as utilitarian as the Basement Watchdog.  I put the LeakFrog alarms under sinks.

I think combined I spent about $50 on water alarms.  What does this get me?  My objective is early detection of water leaks.  A Basement Watchdog next to the relief valve of the oil burner should give me enough time to get down to the basement and shut off the system before the bucket fills up (oh, I also put a bucket there just in case).  The alarms do not protect you from damage, but they alert you to take action before too much damage occurs.  $50 is a very small price to pay for this piece of mind.  Considering I just spent $2256 and change to repair water damage in the basement and another $856 to fix the damaged walls and baseboard and flooring, I think this is a reasonable addition to our early warning system at home.

Now, an important thing to note about the water alarms.  You need to put the sensor where water will collect or pass under it early in the leak.  For our recent incident, I know the direction the water travels.  For the sinks, I was just guessing.  There are other types of alarms that include a long wire you can cover a large area with and if water hits it anywhere, the alarm goes off.  I have not used this type of alarm.

Both the Basement Watchdog and the LeakFrog run on batteries.  The Basement Watchdog uses a single 9V and the LeakFrog uses 3 AA batteries.  The alarms should be tested annually and batteries changed annually.  Use new high quality batteries.  IKEA batteries do not last that long.  You have been warned.

But what if the alarm goes off and I'm not at home?

Yeah, that could happen.  Unfortunately, there's nothing you can do if you are not home.  But the same is true if your smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector goes off.  If you are regularly dealing with floods and water leaks, consider a water dialer.  Here is one from Home Depot.  This is a step up from the type of alarm that just makes a loud sound.  If it detects water, it makes a phone call.  If you are going out of town, I'd advise setting this to a number of someone who can get to your house quickly.  Otherwise the water dialer would just let the house keep calling you to tell you it's flooding.

I prefer the simple approach.  There are a lot of things that could go wrong with a water dialer.  If you use one, I think I'd also keep a Basement Watchdog installed too.  And a much cheaper solution may be to get a friend to housesit or at least come over daily to check for water.

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