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House Water Leak Detector and Auto Shutoff?

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by velvetfoot, Oct 14, 2009.

  1. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Does anyone know anything about this subject?
    I'm thinking wireless detectors sprinkled around the house shutting off the house water if there is a leak.
    Not sure if there is such a thing, and if so, what's best.

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  2. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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  3. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

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    I think Taco sells a non electric water shut off valve for hot water heaters that could probably be used. Its a normally open valve with a insert that swells when its is immersed in water. Once its swells the valve is shut. The valve would need to be on the main line in a low spot on the floor. I looked several years ago for a sensor for an industrial application and the majority of the sensors required a sensor mounted in a low point to detect liquid water.
  4. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    I don't have anything that shuts off the water but I do have a Zircon Leak Alert. It stands vigil by my water heater. I soldered a RJ11 phone jack to it and wired it into probes in my sump pit. It has saved me grief several times now with a couple of sump pump failures and a water heater leak.

    http://www.zircon.com/products/more_leak_alert.html
    [​IMG]
  5. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I have seen a variety of special purpose valves of this sort, but nothing that would do a whole house...

    I've seen a valve that is supposed to be put in the catch pan of your water heater, and will shut off the water to the heater, as well as the gas (if it's a gas unit) - but it was very expensive, and was a "one shot" unit, if it gets wet, it trips and you need to replace the valve - IMHO not an acceptable alternative, as I think it's the kind of thing that should be testable, and or resettable in case you have one of "those" :red: moments that results in a spill or minor leak.

    I've also seen a unit that was supposed to go on the shutoff valves for your clothes washer, again, very expensive, but at least this one appeared to be resettable.

    I would think that it should be possible to rig up something that would work - put a normally closed "automag" style solenoid valve on the house water line, and figure out a relay that would cut power to the valve if any sensors (wired as you choose) said you had a flood...

    I would say that if I were a code official type, I would probably look rather unfavorably at such a setup if it were such that it would cut off flow to a fire sprinkler system, but wouldn't have a problem with cutting off the general flow to the rest of the house...

    Gooserider
  6. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    I've seen those too. They monitor the current draw on the wash machine along with the water flow. If there is water flow without current draw, it assumes a burst pipe and shuts off the water.
  7. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Here is another whole house model that measures water usage trends and activates when it detects an abnormal pattern.
    http://www.h2obreaker.com/
  8. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    That is a cool sounding bit of technology, and while it is steep, the price doesn't sound unreasonable...

    LL, that also sounds like a neat technology for the washer valve, and it sounds different from the one I've seen - the one I saw appeared to be a water detector alarm hooked to a set of solenoid shutoff valves on the washer connection - both techniques would probably work, with possibly a slight advantage to the water detector, as it could shut off flow to a machine that was apparently working properly, but had a leak in the tub or a plugged drain line that was causing the machine to overflow... OTOH the current & flow model might operate faster, especially if the failure was such as to direct the water away from the flood sensor.

    Just goes to show that in order to have the perfect failure response, you have to know exactly what the failure will be...

    Gooserider
  9. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Would shutdown of water to a normally operating water heater, in my case a tank on a separate zone off an oil boiler, potentially cause a problem?
  10. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Some of our experts will hopefully pick up on it if I'm wrong, but I wouldn't expect it to... In theory, if a tank was to fire without water, you could damage it - especially you might burn out the elements in an electric heater, but simply shutting off the water into the system shouldn't empty the tank as there would then be no pressure to cause the tank to drain.... The water in the tank would warm up, and the heater would turn off just like it would when the faucets are off.

    Now if you had a plumbing break below the level of the tank, then shutting off the water supply might allow the tank to drain, but in that case I suspect that damage to the tank would be the least of your worries....

    Gooserider
  11. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    I had an idea.
    A cheap way to do it could be to attach a timer like this, http://www.aubetech.com/products/produitsDetails.php?noProduit=76&noLangue=2 , to the well pump relay.
    It could be set like a programmable thermostat for when you aren't usually home. You can operate the switch manually. I'm not sure if it tells you whether it's in the on or off position. Plus, it's meant to work with 115 volts.
    Edit: I just looked. There's no relay at the tank.
    Hey, it's an idea.
  12. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    If I'm getting what you were suggesting, your idea was to shut off the well pump when you didn't think anyone would be home? If so, that is certainly a legitimate option, and it might be an approach that would be easier to implement with water detectors and the like than shutting off the actual water supply like those of us on municipal systems would have to do...

    I know the family had a summer cottage when I was growing up, and part of the ritual when coming and going was to turn off all non-essential breakers, including the pump and water heater...

    Even if you don't have a relay presently, there is nothing I know of that would prevent you from adding one of the appropriate size and rating so long as you paid proper attention to not upsetting any other controls in the system...

    Gooserider
  13. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Last time we went on vacation I turned off the water breaker as well.
    I didn't think at the time of the water still left in the well pressure tank.
    I just recently installed a shutoff valve for an icemaker and operated the main shutoff valve, and it worked, so that's a good thing.
    That's a pretty beefy line going down to deep submersible pump.
    I'll keep on looking at this stuff.

    It's not that I'm paranoid about this, it's just that in the course of replacing the icemaker hose, I've seen how flimsy the mfr's setup is, and realized how much a mess there would be if there'd be a break in any lines in the house.
  14. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Well the only way to keep the water in the well pressure tank out would be to do a shutoff on the water line... Killing the well pump power will just keep the pump from trying to refill the tank after it has drained, which is still messy but at least it gives you a limited flood - just how bad depends on how big the tank is.

    At the same time, if one wants to play the odds, it seems like we don't hear an awful lot about plumbing failure induced floods, so while it sucks if you happen to be the "lucky" person that gets one, it doesn't seem like a major problem, no matter how flimsy stuff seems to be.

    Gooserider
  15. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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  16. rowerwet

    rowerwet Minister of Fire

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    I have thought of attaching a lobster pot type of float to the arm of the ball valve that is on the supply line to my house, of course by the time it cut off the water I would have about a foot of water in the basement.
  17. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    Two common failures resulting in the most water damage are toilet tank ruptures and washer hose ruptures. Over-tightening bolts on the toilet are said to be the blame but poor quality control in manufacture is a big factor. Water hammer is a factor in hose ruptures and hammer stops go a long way to prevent damage. Steel braided hoses are good insurance against rupture.
  18. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    And yet the ends of those steel braided hoses are crimped on just like a garden hose.
  19. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    True, but I suspect if you examined the failure modes for hose ruptures, you would find that the problem was NOT with the crimped ends... If properly made, the ends are probably the strongest part of the hose. I have seen failures near the ends of a hose, especially when it gets sharply bent at that point, but the crimps themselves are really not an issue.

    Gooserider
  20. rowerwet

    rowerwet Minister of Fire

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    I wonder if pex plumbing being plastic reduces the water hammer, compared to copper. I put many vertical stubs on my copper runs to take care of water hammer, one on the hot water heater in and a couple on each cold water run.
  21. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Water hammer would be a reason to choose a ball valve over solenoid.
  22. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Not an expert, but some of the stuff I've read on PEX claims that it does help dissipate water hammer shock. Not sure it would eliminate it, but it would probably help a lot.

    Gooserider
  23. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    I have all copper lines and I used the largest stubs I could find which flare out to about an inch and are over a foot long. I put them at the end of all long runs and also at the washing machine. One place I didn't think to put them are at the iron filter and water softener, both of which have valves that slam shut and they do rattle the pipes.
  24. Vic99

    Vic99 Minister of Fire

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    Bought a water alarm that is just a box with 2 metal moisture sensitive contacts. Cost about $15 I think. Placed on the floor of my basement next to my water heater. Two months ago my water heater started leaking. Man, was that thing loud. Since I was home, probably only had 3-4 gallons to clean up before I could kill a shutoff.

    Totally worth 15 bucks.
  25. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Excellent. I'm bought 6 of them yesterday at 10 bucks each an am going to spread them around.

    I was looking at some commercial motor operated ball valves and you need a spdt switch to operate.
    I don't know if that can be found in a nice wall box mounted digital timer switch.

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