By Matt Hunter
There are two basic categories of water shut-off systems: whole-house systems and point-of-use systems. While both can prevent water damage, generally only a whole-house system qualifies for a premium credit on your homeowner insurance.
WHOLE-HOUSE AUTOMATIC SHUT-OFF SYSTEMS
Whole-house automatic water shut-off systems that detect or prevent water damage from internal plumbing leaks usually are either time/flow-based or sensor-based. Each uses a different technology to detect leaks, and each can be tailored to match the needs, lifestyle and usage patterns of any homeowner. Note that whichever system is used, installation should be completed by a licensed plumber.
Time/flow-based systems constantly monitor water flow through the pressurized plumbing lines of a home. Some use machine learning to establish typical usage patterns. In most systems, settings can be adjusted to accommodate user and appliance water use habits. Settings can be based on a continuous length of time or on maximum continuous gallons needed for daily activities.
They are installed downstream of irrigation systems and fire sprinkler supply lines
Water sensors or freeze/low-temperature sensors can be added to some systems to increase the level of protection.
Valve sizes vary by manufacturer
Systems that can be installed on a small home or very large home because they operate based on time and flow, irrespective of the size of the home.
Typically, time/flow systems feature “home” and “away” settings that are especially useful in secondary or vacation homes or for residents who travel frequently. When a home is not occupied, the “away” setting can be engaged, reducing the amount of water allowed to flow into the home and providing a higher level of protection. Other typical features of time/flow systems include:
Ability to interface with a central station alarm system
Some brands that make time/flow systems are Leak Defense, Flo-Logic and FLO.
Sensor-based systems detect leaks where they happen. When the water reaches a sensor, the device sends a wireless signal to the shut-off valve installed on the water main, shutting off the water to the home. Correct placement of sensors and the use of a sufficient number of sensors are key for sensor-based systems to be effective. Every potential source of water must have a sensor protecting it.
Areas, where sensors should be placed, include: under sinks, toilets or wet bars; in water heater drip pans; in laundry rooms; and in the condensate pans of HVAC units.
Point-of-use systems are designed to monitor and shut off the water to a single water source such as a toilet, a sink, an appliance or an HVAC unit. Premium credits are not usually available for these kinds of systems.
Almost every home can benefit from the installation of an automatic water shut-off device. It may be especially cost-effective and less disruptive to add a system if your home is under construction or renovation because work is already being done.
If you are building or renovating a home, be sure to speak with your independent insurance agent about risk management steps, including automatic water shut-off systems. You may be eligible for a premium credit or a policy benefit to cover some or all the cost of installation.
Blog post: Why is water damage such a big deal?
Blog post: When water is not your friend
This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. Contact your local, independent insurance agent for coverage advice and policy service. The selection of a particular product vendor is the independent choice of the policyholder. Product vendors are not affiliated with The Cincinnati Insurance Companies. Cincinnati and its employees make no warranties and assume no liability for services, products or loss control measures provided by product vendors.
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