Water damage can occur almost anywhere in your house. Water-using appliances and fixtures, such as refrigerators with icemakers, dishwashers, washing machines, toilets and water heaters are common locations of leaks.
Unfortunately, slow leaks at these appliances and fixtures are often times impossible to see until it is too late. If it goes undetected, a slow leak can lead to rotting house framing and subfloors, and can be a precursor to a catastrophic leak that can release several gallons of water per minute.
A water leak detection system may help prevent these problems.
There are two types of water leak detection systems: passive and active.
Passive leak detections systems are intended to alert you of a leak. They generally sound an audible alarm tone and some may also feature a flashing light.
Passive systems are frequently battery-operated, stand-alone units. They are inexpensive and easy to install. Some simply sit on the floor while others may be wall mounted. A moisture sensor is located on the floor and activates the alarm when it becomes wet. Passive leak detection systems are especially useful in locations where it is easy for someone to hear the alarm such as near refrigerators, dishwashers or toilets.
Active leak detection systems usually generate some type of alarm, but also perform a function that will stop the water flow. They feature a shut-off valve and some means to determine that a leak is occurring. Most devices use moisture sensors to detect a leak. Other systems use a flow sensor and a timer to determine that something is leaking and the water needs to be turned off.
An individual appliance system, which costs $50 to $150, detects a leak from a specific appliance, such as a washing machine or water heater and shuts off the water supply to that appliance only. You can often install these systems without the use of special tools.
A whole house system, which costs $500 to $1,500, sends an alarm when a leak is detected and automatically shuts off the main water service. Some models can also be integrated with a local or central station security system.
Contact a local contractor, building official or hardware store for more information about water leak detection systems.