Kudos: Simple install*; relatively inexpensive; terrific peace of mind
Concerns: *Might require a plumber depending on existing valve; notifications could be better
True story: My wife and I were up late one night watching a movie when I went into the kitchen to make myself (another) drink. While I was going through the martini-making ritual, I heard this “ssssssss” sound coming from the back hallway near my daughter’s room. Curious, I headed back towards her room and the hissing sound got louder. When I got near her door, I stepped in water. What in the actual…?!?
The main water supply valve to her toilet had spontaneously blown off the wall and water was gushing out of the broken joint with shocking volume. “OH MY GOD!” I yelled to my wife. “HELP! THERE’S WATER EVERYWHERE!”
I scrambled around like a maniac trying to remember where our home’s water shutoff valve was located (in the garage behind a bunch of boxes), while my wife started throwing towels on the floor like a Vegas dealer tossing out cards.
I was incredibly fortunate that I happened to be home, awake, and close enough to hear the leak in order to react in time to prevent a massive flooding issue. (Never let it be said that no good came from drinking!) Another time we discovered a slow leak under our kitchen sink that had been happening for who knows how long, that slowly rotted out the base cabinetry.
And if you think I’m alone with these water mishaps, and that it won’t happen to you or your clients, think again.
Fact is, water leaks are one of the largest causes of home damage each year. According to Water Damage Defense 14,000 people in the U.S. experience a water emergency at home or work each day, and 37 percent of U.S. homeowners claim to have suffered some losses from water damage. The annual cost of a residential water damage insurance claim is just under $7k, with insurance companies forking over $2.5 BILLION each year for water and mold damage.
While a lot of security and automation systems offer leak detection sensors, just sensing a leak is only half the solution. Being notified in the middle of the night about a leak happening hundreds of miles away just makes for an awful night’s sleep. For clients with multiple houses, the solution is something that not only detects a leak, but responds and stops it like LeakSmart’s new Snap-on valve controller. Coupled with a hub and sensors, this system not only detects leaks, but responds by cutting off the home’s water supply, avoiding costly damage until you can address the cause of the leak.
LeakSmart’s first automatic water shutoff system was a cut-in valve requiring installation by a plumber, whereas the new Snap-on connector often can be installed by anyone in a matter of moments. The Snap-on clamps onto your home’s main water line with a U-bracket accommodating pipe sizes of 3/4- and 1-inch (which LeakSmart tells me are the most common for residential), and a spring-loaded clip that attaches to either a ball or gate shutoff valve. (For larger pipe sizes, or valves located in the elements, the cut-in valve is still the right model.)
The first installation step is adding the Hub 3.0 to your WiFi network and creating a LeakSmart account. (Wink and Iris users can use their existing hub. LeakSmart is in the process of SmartThings certification, and, once completed, SmartThings owners will also not need a hub.) The benefit of the WiFi hub is being able to place it centrally where its Zigbee network can best communicate with all other LeakSmart devices. Smartly, both the Hub and Valve have battery back-up to keep the system functional even in the event of power failure, with the app alerting you when any batteries get low. And because the system communicates via Zigbee, it functions even if the Internet goes down. Take that water leaks!
Once the Hub is activated, you start pairing devices to it. I started with the four sensors LeakSmart sent, one in each of my bathrooms, one for under the kitchen sink, and one by the washing machine. The system supports up to 30 sensors. The sensors are small, palm-sized, white devices with a waterproof battery compartment that holds three AAA batteries capable of powering them for an estimated 8-12 months. Two small contacts on the bottom of the unit short when water is detected, alerting the hub, which then signals the valve to close. After each sensor is paired, you name it and test to confirm water sensing operation. Each sensor can be configured to either protect — shut-off water valve upon detection — or detect-only where it just notifies of a leak, useful for a leak up in an attic, for example, where cutting off the water valve would not fix the problem.
Last up is installing the Snap-on valve. As luck would have it, my 20+ year-old original cutoff valve wasn’t compatible, so I had a plumber come out and install a new ball valve (about $100, parts and labor). Once this was done, installing the Snap-on valve took about five minutes with no tools required. However, when activating the Snap-on valve — a process where it opens and closes the valve three times in order to calibrate — I discovered my new shut-off valve was so easy to turn, the Snap-on valve way over torqued it, practically ripping the valve and PEX tubing off the wall.
A Facetime call with LeakSmart tech support confirmed my diagnosis. However, they were already developing new firmware for the valve to start at a much lower torque setting, and slowly ramp up power as needed for more stubborn valves. They pushed the beta (now current) firmware to my valve, and I successfully calibrated the valve.
Opening the app gives you a quick snapshot of your house, showing the valve’s current state along with the battery and signal strength of each sensor. Touching a sensor displays the ambient temperature around the sensor, a nice bonus feature.
Regarding signal strength, LeakSmart claims the Hub covers an approximately 100-foot radius, with optional range extenders extending another 100 feet around each extender. My home is about 2200 square feet, and I have three sensors located within about 20 feet of an extender, and two of them frequently read only 2/5 signal strength.
Also, I had an issue with my valve falling offline once a day for roughly two weeks. Unfortunately, while the app notified me when the valve fell offline, it doesn’t tell you when it comes back online; so it could be off for a single second or many hours and you wouldn’t know. LeakSmart recommended unpairing and then re-pairing the valve to my system, and since then I haven’t experienced a single drop.
To test the system, I placed a sensor in a small bowl of water, and within about five seconds the sensor began flashing and beeping, and roughly five seconds later the valve cut off my home’s water supply exactly as intended. Since sensors are likely positioned in out-of-the-way locations, the beeping isn’t loud enough to serve as much of a notification, but the app can send push notifications, text messages, and emails to multiple contacts in the event of an alert.
Just days before turning in this review, LeakSmart received Control4 certification and I installed the driver and tested operation with my system. I’d like to give a big shout-out to Brian Carter at HTI Customs for helping troubleshoot the driver with me. It initially got tripped up by the range extender in my system, and Brian updated the app on a Saturday to function properly. The driver works great and is easy to integrate. Once in the Control4 world, you can program all kinds of variables like flash lights in the event of a leak. As an added bonus, any or all of the temperature sensors can be added to your C4 navigators, giving you a better look at your home’s temperature, and those can also be programmed to trigger alerts.
Hopefully you’ll never experience a water leak, but what LeakSmart offers is peace of mind. For clients who spend months away from their homes, this can be invaluable. Also, many insurance carriers offer policy discounts when proactive leak system are installed in a home, so it might even end up paying for itself in the long run.
855-532-5768 / LEAKSMART.com
LeakSmart has national distribution through Capitol Sales, Powerhouse Alliance and its members, and BlackWire Designs.
- Hub 3.0 connects to network via WiFi and to LeakSmart devices via Zigbee
- Includes self-charging battery for operation even during power failures and loss of Internet
- iOS and Android apps send notifications via email, text, and push notifications
- Supports one valve, two range extenders, and up to 30 sensors
- Snap valve controller works with ball or gate valves, fitting pipe sizes of 3/4- and 1-inch
- Integrates with Nest, Wink, Iris, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Control4 (SmartThings coming)
- Sensor battery life 8-12 months and includes temperature sensing
Dimensions: (Snap Valve Controller): 7.58 x 3.2 x 5.49-inches (HxWxD)