DEAR BARRY: I’ve heard of a device that automatically turns off your water main if there is a leak in your home. What can you tell me about this device? Is it really worthwhile? –Terry

DEAR TERRY: The product you have heard about is called the "Leak Defense System" manufactured by Sentinel Hydrosolutions. It consists of an automatic control valve that is installed in your water main and connected to an electronic control module in your home. This system electronically monitors water flow through the main line. If there is a slow, continuous flow for an extended period of time, or if there is a sudden, major flow all at once, the system automatically turns off the water supply to your home.

DEAR BARRY: I’ve heard of a device that automatically turns off your water main if there is a leak in your home. What can you tell me about this device? Is it really worthwhile? –Terry

DEAR TERRY: The product you have heard about is called the "Leak Defense System" manufactured by Sentinel Hydrosolutions. It consists of an automatic control valve that is installed in your water main and connected to an electronic control module in your home. This system electronically monitors water flow through the main line. If there is a slow, continuous flow for an extended period of time, or if there is a sudden, major flow all at once, the system automatically turns off the water supply to your home.

Some might regard this as an unnecessary defense against a highly unlikely occurrence. But far more homes are damaged by water leaks than by fires. A fire, of course, is far more damaging than a water leak, but the costs and consequences of leakage can be serious enough.

Slow water leaks happen in the majority of homes and often go unnoticed. Even when detected, they are often ignored rather than repaired. Examples include dripping faucets, a leaking flapper in a toilet tank, or a poorly soldered pipe fitting. Some leaks might not damage your home, but they definitely inflate monthly water bills. Slow leaks that occur inside walls or in other concealed locations can cause dryrot and mold within the structure.

Worst-case plumbing leaks, such as broken water lines, are much more dramatic and can flood an entire home. Common causes include ruptured supply hoses on washing machines and detached connectors under toilets or in dishwashers. Besides major damage to walls, floors, furnishings and personal effects, mold contamination can also occur.

A device that will turn off the water supply when a leak is detected is a practical approach to all of these scenarios. If the Leak Defense System works as well as promised by the manufacturer, installation would be a wise choice for homeowners. And homeowner insurance companies, the ones who pay for water damage repairs, should actively promote the installation of such devices.

DEAR BARRY: I bought my home about five years ago and hired a home inspector prior to purchase. Recently, my contractor replaced some exterior siding. When the old boards were removed, he found rotted beams inside the walls. Is this something the home inspector should have found five years ago, and do I have any recourse? –Kate

DEAR KATE: A home inspection is specifically defined as a "visual inspection of conditions that are exposed and accessible at the time of the inspection." No home inspector can determine conditions that are hidden within finished walls. If rotted wood was discovered by removing the siding, that could not have been found by your home inspector unless he had also removed the siding. Keep in mind also that five years have passed since your home was inspected. Wood that is currently rotted may have been intact at that time. But that could only have been determined by opening the walls, and investigations of that kind are beyond the scope of a home inspection.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

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