Smart Plumbing: A Quick Overview

June 11, 2018 | Comments
Courtesy Sven Hoppe, Wikimedia Commons

Ask the average insurance adjuster to name a building’s biggest enemy. The answer won’t be fire, bugs, or structural failure.

It’s water.

And we’re not talking primarily about natural flooding, either: The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety noted that:

  • Plumbing supply system failures are the leading source of residential water losses, with 48% greater losses (in terms of total payouts) than the second leading source.
  • Plumbing supply system failures cost an average of $5,092 per incident after the deductible was paid.
  • Of the claims analyzed, 65% were caused by a failure of the plumbing supply system material, while 18% were caused by frozen pipes.

It’s an issue that smart home technology has begun to address, and two kinds of solutions are leading the charge: algorithms and sensors.

The former concept — the algorithm notion — is based on a system that “learns” water usage in an individual structure in much the same way a smart thermostat collects data on the habits of the people using a building’s HVAC system. If an anomaly in water usage is detected, the system triggers a two-step process: First, the homeowner is alerted to the issue, and if the system doesn’t get a response, an automatic shutoff process kicks in.

The sensor solution is just that: should water contact a sensor, the same notification and valve-closure progression as outlined above is set in motion.

Each system has its positives, and each has its drawbacks. The algorithm solution has been known to “glitch” on occasion, sending false positives; while the sensor system is limited to locales in a building that are accessible.

There are products based on the sensor concept currently in development that will add value to major remodeling jobs or new construction: One includes a continuous strip of material that can be placed at the perimeter of a room, even within walls, that will trigger the alarm/shutoff procedure.

 Systems usually include manual overrides and remote shutoff options that can be controlled from a user’s smartphone, and the systems themselves are available at price points that start well under $500. Ensuring that the system is installed correctly — and will "work and play well" with the rest of your home's technology — calls for a CEDIA professional.