Flood Watch

Sometimes the biggest home security threat is already inside the home itself. And it’s not your typical intruder, either. A security sales professional can determine if home valuables face a common, yet overlooked threat — damage from a water leak or temperature condition — simply by taking a walk through a house.

Correctly identifying this problem and conveying it to customers could potentially add extra value to a system sale and increase recurring monthly revenue (RMR). 

Value-Added Monitoring

“I always ask during the qualifying stage if the homeowners have concerns with water or temperature fluctuations,” says Don Gillespie, district manager of the Michigan offices of Protection One. “After explaining to them what technology can do, they’re aware that for a small amount of money, the protection and peace of mind it offers is second to none.”

Gillespie is referring to the use of environmental sensors that can be   configured to monitor for flood conditions or temperature fluctuations within a home or business. These devices are ideally suited for a wide range of applications including bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms and basements. While this technology is effective on its own, its true value lies when integrated with a home’s or business’s overall security system.

For instance, snowbirds that leave their summer homes in the North during winter might set their thermostats to maintain inside temperatures just warm enough to keep pipes from freezing. Suppose that the thermostat or the furnace malfunctions. By simply using environmental sensors with wireless temperature detection, the home’s security system can alert the homeowner of the drop in temperature so they can respond appropriately before damage occurs. Similarly, homeowners in the South can be alerted if the temperature inside their homes reach high temperatures that can damage valuable, irreplaceable items such as paintings and photos while they’re away on vacation.  Protection One typically sees more homeowner interest in the flood detection feature since basements, water heaters and sump pumps are at high risk for leaks and damage.

The company offers Honeywell’s 5821 wireless temperature sensor and flood   detector as a way to help avert costly structural damages caused by floods. The device detects water through use of an external probe that is typically mounted where water would accumulate.

When the presence of water and/or a certain temperature is sensed, the detector initiates a chain of dealer-programmed events in response. The security system can alert the central station or, depending on the system, even call the homeowner’s cell phone.

Know the Common Threats

Potential water problems aren’t limited to massive rainfalls or failed sump pumps. Dishwashers and washing machines are common sources of ruptured hoses, seepage and other water-related catastrophes. The Insurance Research   Council estimates that more than 25 percent of property claims are water-related damage — more than fire and burglary claims combined. A majority of water damage claims are from faulty indoor appliances.

Typically, Gillespie and his crew will conduct a manual inspection of the downstairs area to look for any signs of water damage — cracked tiles, water stains, etc. — when first surveying a customer’s home. Then, it’s as simple as asking if the   homeowners have ever had any water issues. In the Midwest, a region prone to flooding during the spring thaw and heavy summer downpours, the answer is commonly “yes.”

The next step is educating the prospective customer about the device itself. The technology enables homeowners to monitor kitchens, basements, bathrooms, laundry rooms, boilers and other areas at high risk for potential water leaks. Additionally, the early warning helps alleviate potential health risks from mold due to water damage.

Target Commercial Opportunities

The technology also has great potential in the commercial market. It can allow business owners to monitor temperature-sensitive environments such as pet stores, butcher shops, commercial kitchens, flower shops and medical laboratories.

In a restaurant, for instance, these devices can be connected to a remote probe stationed inside a freezer. If the freezer were to fail overnight, the sensor could engage the security system to alert a central station or restaurant owner. The quick action could save untold sums of money by keeping perishable foods from spoiling. 

Factoring in the Basics

When selecting environmental sensors for customers, security contractors should examine several factors:

Flexibility — Versatility makes some sensors more appropriate for specific applications than others. Take for instance the wireless temperature sensor   and flood detector mentioned previously. It can simultaneously monitor for a cold temperature condition and flooding. This would be a nice application for a basement where a temperature drop increases the risk of freezing pipes and water damage.

Wired vs. wireless — Reliability is a common denominator between wired and supervised wireless solutions. Wireless, however, carries benefits for both the security contractor end user. For example, it’s difficult to get a wire under the kitchen or bathroom sink, or the laundry machine. Wireless installation makes the installer’s job easier and is often more aesthetically pleasing for the homeowner.

Battery life — It won’t do any good to leave a summer home for three to four months with a sensor that has a short battery life. A good rule of thumb is selecting a device with up to 10-year battery life for maximum reliability.

Compatibility — During a flood or thermostat/furnace malfunction, seconds can be precious when it comes to preserving valuables. Seamless compatibility with the home or building security system must be ensured to guarantee that the homeowner or business manager will be alerted to any problems in a timely manner. 

Expansion of Typical Security

Finally, many homeowners may be on the fence about purchasing a   security system. Technology such as environmental sensors illustrates how modern security systems do more than protect against intruders. Today’s security systems are increasingly becoming a part of everyday lifestyles, whether it’s in the form of brightly colored touchscreen keypads or technology that allows them to control their systems remotely.

Environmental sensors are an extension of that concept. Having a sophisticated security system that protects the customer and the home against a broader range of threats is an invaluable asset to homeowners.

Mike Garavuso is the product manager for Louisville, Ky.-based Honeywell Security. He can be reached at mike.garavuso@honeywell.com.

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