Tech Talk: Just Add Water for More RMR

You have done your job and provided your customer with burglary and fire detection with 24-hour monitoring. However, you may have overlooked another valuable service you could be providing. Did you know that home water damage claims are nearly three times the frequency of home fire claims? Does your sales presentation provide equipment and monitoring services for the detection of water leaks? Just a few strategically placed sensors and controls could save the day with your customer when, not if, a water leak happens in their home or business.

[IMAGE]11940[/IMAGE]This month we take a look at some water leak detection equipment and strategies to apply this technology that you may want to consider.

Numbers Make Need Apparent
Water leak damage does happen, and more often than most may think. In fact, as I was writing this article a TV news show mentioned how a local couple was on a trip and the neighbor contacted them when he noticed “water streaming out of the couple’s front door.” In this case it was a busted second-floor toilet plastic pipe fitting. The damage was extensive and the family will be doing repair work for four to six months.

Consider these compelling water damage statistics:

  • $500+ million to buildings
  • $150 million from washing machine hoses alone
  • $50+ million from leaking hot water tanks
  • 250,000 families with ruined homes in the United States
  • One broken pipe can deliver a flood in excess of 5,000 gallons in just an eight-hour period
  • One broken ice maker tube can cause many thousands of dollars in damage
  • Homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flood damage, or it is very limited
  • Water damage is the single most costly insurance claim made by home­owners
  • The number of water damage claims continues to climb exponentially each year

Most of us know that the technology for detecting or sensing water is, for the most part, pretty basic. You have an open circuit sensor that will sound an alarm or send a signal when water on the floor completes that open circuit.

If the concept is so simple, then why aren’t your salespeople selling this service? After all, it doesn’t hurt to ask your customers or prospects, as in some cases you are sure to hit a hot button. You will find some have already had to go through, or know someone who has gone through, the lengthy and costly repair process from water damage.

Many Methods to Detect Leaks

Water leak detection (WLD) systems come in several configurations. Some vendors offer all devices in a turnkey package, while others offer separate build-your-own components. Let’s take a look at some of the choices.

The first, and most obvious, configuration is a WLD system that includes an electrically operated control valve actuator on the incoming water supply and multiple wired or wireless WLD sensors. Make sure the installation of the control valve meets local code. Remember, it should NOT be installed in front of pipelines that provide water to critical systems such as fire sprinklers.

Some WLD manufacturers provide electrically operated valves that incrementally close and avoid a dangerous hydraulic condition called “water hammering” that can damage the water pipe system. You may also want to consider battery backup for the control valve unit.
There is at least one manufacturer that has a control valve unit that also does the sensing of overall water flow to the home or business. This unit has an away and home setting. In the home mode the unit will allow 30 minutes of water flow for daily activity, from dish and clothes washers or showers. In the away mode the control valve will cut off the water supply after detecting only 30 seconds of water flow.

While WLD sensors come in many different flavors, the concept is similar. They are placed in strategic locations such as near hot water tanks, washing machines, toilets and at the lowest level in a dwelling. They are spot detectors and have probe tips that when shunted by water will complete a sensor or alarm circuit.
One manufacturer even offers an alarm that alerts if sensors are accidentally turned upside down. Another provides a sensor that works on both top and bottom sides. Every effort should be made to mount sensors so that they cannot be accidentally moved or flipped over and then would not sense the leaking water. Sensors come in both wireless and wired configurations. There is another vendor that makes a rope-type sensor that can be strapped directly to pipes or placed on the floor.

Interfacing with alarm systems is a big plus. This can be both input and output from your system. In the WLD systems that have home and away modes you can tie them into a home and away output function of the alarm system, thereby making it more natural to operate this feature. You can also provide at least one alarm zone for alarm feedback from the WLD systems. At the bare minimum you could offer the monitoring of a simple single station WLD sensor as a sales closing option or additional recurring monthly revenue (RMR) for WLD services.

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About the Author


Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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