A water heater leak, no matter how small it is, can cost a lot of money, even if you’re home when the leak occurs. To protect against unexpected catastrophes, installing an automatic shut off valve is the easiest and most affordable approach. The Topeka Capital Journal points out that having an automatic shut off valve is imperative for any type of water-using appliance, namely water heaters but also dishwashers, washing machines, toilets, and even some refrigerators.
Purpose of an Automatic Shut Off Valve
With an automatic shut off valve, the leak is detected early and the flow is stopped. Even better, some types of automatic shut off valves include a disconnect for the power as well, which could mean the difference between repairing a leak and replacing your water heater. The idea is to have a device in place that can measure small amounts of water and turn off the flow before major damage can result.
How Does it Work?
Most automatic shut off valves work the same way, using a sensor that is able to detect the presence of a liquid. When the sensor receives a positive feedback for water or other liquids, it sends a signal to an electronic switch and the water supply is shut off. High end sensors will also turn off the power to your water heater, eliminating the problem of burnt heating elements in an empty water tank. There are even digital shut off valves that will send a signal to your cell phone and allow you take control of the situation remotely, shutting down the water, turning off the power, and finally setting up an appointment with a plumber or other professional.
What Does it Cost?
The good news is that an automatic shut off for your water heater is relatively inexpensive. Economy models start at around $60, and high end digital models will run you around $200 or less. The best bet is to look for something ranging between $100 and $150, and offering the features that are most appealing to your personal needs. And before you balk at the idea of spending more than $100 on a protective device, take into consideration that tearing out carpet alone could cost you more, and that’s before any actual repairs are made to a water damaged floor.
If we were to recommend one unit, it would have to be the FloodStop FS3/4NPT. It has a 3/4″ inlet and outlet, a good sensor which is simply placed on the floor or pan below the water heater, and simply works. It’s great insurance to have and is one of the easiest units to install (it helps when the instructions are clear and easy to follow). One thing during installation, use a thread sealant as opposed to teflon tape when making your connections. If your water heater is not on a ground floor or in the attic, the FloodStop is a must.
Installing an Automatic Shut Off Valve
Installing a shut off valve is an easy process, usually requiring a pipe wrench, a screwdriver, and not much else. Most automatic shut off valves are composed of three primary parts: The valve, the controller, and the moisture detector. Place the detector at the lowest point, generally in the drain pan of the water heater, mount the controller on a wall or other stable surface, and install the valve inline between the tank and the water inlet pipe. For additional protection, some shut off valves support multiple detectors so that you can shut down the water if leaks are detected in other locations as well.
Why Automatic Shut Off Valves Save Money
A little water on the floor is least of your worries when a leak happens. Carpet and rugs get ruined quickly, drywall absorbs water and turns into mush, wooden studs begin to decay, and that’s before you take into account the dangers of a water-logged floor– or ceiling space. Allstate Insurance reports that while home insurance may cover the cleanup after a leak happens, it will not usually pay to repair the source of the leak at all, and if the insurance company determines that the leak was due to homeowner negligence there may not be any coverage at all. When you consider the mounting costs of repair and cleanup, investing in an automatic shut off valve is a minor expense.
Very few water heater leaks become a major problem overnight, and most costly leaks can be prevented with a little maintenance. Check the lines leading to and away from your water heater quarterly or even more often, and replace or repair problems as soon as they are detected. A $20 repair today could literally save you thousands tomorrow, and putting off repairs until the last minute could easily add several hundred dollars to the repair bill. Coupled with an automatic shut off valve, regular maintenance can keep your water heater operating flawlessly for many years.