I hate, hate, hate to be superstitious but at times it really does seem like bad things do come in groups – I'd have said threes but there have been four occurrences. The house I'm living in now, the one where I talked recently about Debugging Christmas Light Wiring, is one that I arrived in after my wife, kids and I were flooded out of our previous residence back in 2015. Long story and the only relevant part about it is water. So we recover from the flood, buy this house and move in. And then probably less than a month later, we find water pouring out of our basement furnace area due to a sump pump failure (see Tip 1). About six months after that one of first floor toilets was clogged and we found water pouring thru the basement ceiling due to a broken wax gasket at the toilet base and an improperly plumbed run of line to the main waste feed. And last Sunday we heard a noise behind our fridge when we got ice that turned out to be a pin hole leak in the water line feeding the fridge. And, of course, it had been going on for some time so now we have a ruined piece of cabinetry.
Enough I say! Enough! If water is going to apparently be the death of my home then it is time to at least try and prevent it.
Sidebar: I've been a home owner most of my adult life and I grew up working in an old school hardware store so there isn't much in terms of home repair that I haven't done, sold or worked with. I've seen first hand the damage that water does to a home. I'm taking a break from my normal tech blogging because preventing this type of damage from happening is trivially easy with this approach.
My Solution The Glentronics Basement Watchdog Water Sensor and Alarm
I started thinking about this as something I could build but it occurred to me that I cannot be the only angry home owner with this kind of problem so I hit Amazon and found this solution:
This is a tiny plastic box with a base with two metal plates exposed. Here's an Amazon link if you want to purchase. If water bridges the two contacts then a connection is established and it goes off at 110 db – loud enough that you should be able to hear it and take action. Will it text me? Nope. Will it email me? Nope. But it costs about $12 on Amazon and has a battery rated for 5 years. Additionally the base plate pulls out if you need to place it somewhere but you can't fit it. And, because of those wires, if your fridge is very tall, like mine, you can extend the wires and locate it in a cabinet over the fridge like I did here:
The arrow is pointing to the sensor box. The long wiring harness is behind the fridge thru a 1/4" hole I drilled in the cabinet. If I had tried to drop this device behind the fridge itself it would have push the fridge out by about 1" to 1 1/2".
I've now ordered enough of these to place under every sink and near every single toilet in my house. Because we have a fully functional basement with a sink that gets little use it would be ridiculously easy for a water leak to get noticed after say 24 hours – at which point massive damage has been done.
Tip 1: Where to Place Your Water Detectors
I've chosen to place one of these under every sink, behind every toilet, behind the washing machine and in the furnace room where the water heater is located. If you have kids then it isn't uncommon for a toilet to overflow and kids don't always want to fess up so better to be safe than sorry.
Tip 2: Set A Calendar Reminder to Change All Your 9 Volt Batteries in the Water Detectors
These water detectors all have a 9 volt battery in them – note that it isn't included so order them from Amazon if you don't have any. The batteries are supposed to last for 5 years but after what I've been through, I'm choosing to set an annual calendar reminder so that every January 10th or so I'll be reminded.
Tip 3: Add a Calendar Reminder to Your Spouse's Calendar Also
If you have a spouse then you might want to go full belt and suspenders on this and add a calendar reminder to their calendar as well just to be sure. Again make this an annual reminder.
Tip 4: Have You Checked Your Sump Pump Lately?
Apparently sump pumps are only rated for 10 years according the a plumber that I actually do trust. I sold sump pumps for years in the hardware store and I don't think I ever actually knew that. Given that I have seen them fail myself, I can attest that it is actually true. If you have a sump pump then you might want to check the installation date. Often times the person who installs it will note it on the pump itself. Or there may be a manufacturing date on the pump which can be used as a proxy for installation time.