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Are Water Sensor Alarms Worth the Expense?

Aug 31, 2016 | Plumbing Advice, San Francisco Plumbing

A customer recently asked me if I thought it would be ”excessive” to install a water sensor alarm to protect her home from damage caused by water leaks and floods. My first thought was this might be a bit much, but I wanted to take a look at what was at stake, so I visited her home.

Backing up for a moment, my reason for following up on her request was based on an annoying — and expensive — problem I experienced here at O’Grady Plumbing. You see, we’ve got these automatic rollup doors for the service entrance to our building that I’ve spent over $20,000 to repair in the last 10 years alone. That’s because our plumbers in San Francisco, CA continually allowed the doors to hit their trucks when they rolled in and out of our service bays.

Like many businesses do, we had our doors set up on a timer in order to prevent theft of equipment. Well, it seems the timer, not our plumbers, was the culprit. It finally dawned on me to go out and purchase an in-ground sensor to determine when a vehicle had passed through the doors. As you can imagine, I could have saved a lot of money in repairs if the garage door company had suggested a sensor. But a decade ago, I would have been called “excessive” for suggesting such a thing. Excessive maybe, but I would have saved a ton of money in van repairs.

So today when someone asks if a particular task is excessive, I follow up on the request. In the case of the customer asking about the water sensor — let’s call her Mrs. Jones — I arranged for her to take me on a full tour of her historic Victorian home and all the locations that may have issues. Everything in the house was made of expensive wood and there’s even crown molding and original wallpaper and wood paneling throughout the residence.

After the walkthrough, I was convinced a water disaster would not be a good thing and agreed with Mrs. Jones that measures should be taken to curtail damage from a busted pipe.

I told her my objective was to minimize the risk of damage and hopefully save her from a potential disaster. After much research, the decision was made to do it right and go with a whole house shut off system with additional sensors to cover several key locations in the home.

Bottom line: I wish I had the foresight Mrs. Jones had had to take such preventative measures, but that’s water under the bridge — or in my case, trucks under the garage door.

About a year ago, I took a call from a woman who was interested in having us replace a washing machine hose on the third floor of her Victorian home. And while we were at it, she asked, could we conduct a house-wide plumbing inspection with the emphasis on replacing old flexible supply lines?

It took me a minute to realize I had Mrs. Jones on the line, and I asked her how the sensor system I installed 10 years before was doing. She laughed and told me the system was a home saver after a recent trip to Hawaii. She said she thought the water department had turned off the water before her trip, only to discover later that her husband had turned on the water at the garden hose — the only unprotected piece of pipe on the property.

However, the damage would have been much more extensive without the sensor system. So there you have it. A pint of prevention is worth 2,000 gallons of cure.

It’s been a good while since I’ve installed a water sensor alarm, so I can’t claim to be an authority. However, I did some research and have a liking Base Products Corp.’s line of flood prevention solutions. Their product was reliable when I used it — and it finally paid off in spades by saving this old Victorian, proving to be money well spent for the Jones family.

About The Author: Paul O’Grady is the founder and general manager of O’Grady Plumbing — San Francisco’s multi-generational residential and commercial plumbing company. O’Grady grew up in the plumbing business and his company is backed by three generations of plumbers. At O’Grady Plumbing, Paul manages a team of master plumbers who build, repair, maintain and retrofit plumbing systems and equipment throughout San Francisco and San Mateo.

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