In this weekly column, hosts Brandon Doyle, Doyle Real Estate Team with RE/MAX Results, and Colton Pratt, project manager, walk through smart-home products and showcase their capabilities while reviewing pros and cons. 

Flood sensors will alert you to the presence of water in places it shouldn’t be, such as in your basement or underneath the sink. The sensors can be paired with a EcoNet water valve via a Home Automation Hub to shut off the water and prevent further damage to the property. This is a great option for second homes or properties that will be left vacant for a period of time. 

“Leak detection and prevention systems are an important part of smart home security,” Blake Allen of Unique Home Automation Devices & Solutions told me.

“Home water damage is a big issue for insurance companies and homeowners. Insurance companies want to reduce the risk of expensive claims related to water damage, and they are just starting to get their heads around smart home technology and how it can be used to reduce the risk of water damage.”

Allen continued: “Be sure that automation routines that shut off the water, in the case of a leak, should run locally and not rely on an internet connection or a connection to the ‘cloud.’ The system should be tested on a regular basis. The homeowner and other family members should be trained/instructed how to use the water shut-off in the case of an emergency. Many homeowners do not know where to find their water shut-off.”

EcoNet’s Bulldog Valve Robot when used in combination with leak sensors, can greatly reduce the risk of water damage. A reliable leak detection and prevention solution is not all about the technology. Human behavior is an important factor to consider in implementing a successful leak prevention solution.

Best practices for smart home leak detection and prevention solutions include the following:

  • Leak sensors should be labeled “Leak Sensor – Do not move.” If there is a chance of a leak sensor being moved or tampered with, there is a good chance it will happen. You need to consider children, renters, pets, etc., when positioning the leak sensors. If a cleaning person has no idea what the leak sensor is and moves it from behind the toilet to the window shelf, they make the device ineffective.
  • Leak sensor batteries should be checked and replaced on a regular schedule as required.
  • Automation routines that shut off the water, in the case of a leak, should run locally and not rely on an internet connection or a connection to the cloud.
  • The system should be tested on a regular basis. You can test a it by getting the leak sensor wet and making sure that the water shuts off and that leak alerts are sent and received.
  • Leak alerts should be set to send to two or more people (the homeowner and a neighbor, homeowner and renter, etc.)
  • If the home is empty for an extended period, the water should be shut off, ideally automatically by the smart-home system. If not automatically, by the homeowner.
  • Add battery backup where practical to parts of the solution that rely on standard AC home power.
  • The homeowner and other family members should be trained and instructed how to use the water shut-off in the case of an emergency. Many homeowners do not know where to find their water shut-off.
  • In the case of a leak in a laundry room, automation should be setup to shut off both the water main and the power to the washing machine. A washing machine could empty its tank through a bad hose, and shutting off the water main would not stop this water pouring through the ceiling into the room below.

In this episode of “Smart-home tech for agents,” we compare five sensors available on the market right now to help your clients decide which is best for their home:

  • EcoNet Bulldog Valve Controller  
  • SmartThings: Zigbee, works on SmartThings and Hubitat
  • EcoNet: Z-Wave Plus, works on SmartThings, couldn’t get to work on Hubitat and tamper not supported on Abode
  • HomeSeer: Z-Wave Plus, works on Hubitat, should also work on SmartThings
  • FIBARO: Z-Wave Pus, works on SmartThings, Hubitat and Abode

Brandon Doyle is a Realtor at Doyle Real Estate Team — Re/Max Results in Minneapolis and co-author of  Mindset, Methods & Metrics – Winning as a Modern Real Estate Agent. You can follow him on Twitter.

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