Water damage in homes and offices is often the result of heavy rain and melting snow and ice, but plumbing failures are another common culprit. Old or faulty pipes and fixtures, frozen pipes that suddenly burst, and leaky hot water heaters and appliances are examples of plumbing problems that can occur in new and old buildings alike. If you are looking for a way to prevent a minor plumbing failure from becoming a catastrophic flood in your house or office building, a water main shutoff system is a worthwhile investment.
What is a Water Main Shutoff System?
An automatic water main shutoff system (aka, “whole house water shutoff valve”) turns off the main water supply line regardless of where the source of the leak is. Let’s say that the washing machine hose in your second floor laundry room becomes loose and begins to gush. A water main shutoff system will detect the leak and automatically turn off the water main* (usually located in the basement or garage), thus protecting the entire house from potential water damage.
*A water main is the principal pipe supplying water to a building.
Types of Water Main Shutoff Systems
There are two basic types of water main shutoff systems – one type uses sensors and the other type uses a flow meter.
Most water main shutoff systems use water detection sensors (wired or wireless) that you place around the house where leaks are likely to occur, like next to an appliance or in the basement or attic. Floodmaster is a popular brand of a traditional wired sensor system that accepts up to 5 additional wired sensors. The Valve Screamer Whole House Kit is a combination wireless water alarm and motorized shutoff valve system that protects your entire home or business from plumbing leaks.
Key Advantages: Less expensive than a flow meter system. Optional sensors can be added as needed. Since sensors can be placed anywhere, a sensor system can be used to also monitor water leaks caused by non-plumbing leaks, like a leaky roof.
Flow Meter System
Instead of sensors, a flow meter system monitors the level of water coming into the building and shuts off the water main if the flow exceeds a preset limit. FloLogic is a leading brand of flow meter systems.
Key Advantages: Easy installation in a single location at the water main (i.e., no sensors to position or batteries to maintain). Water flow levels can be customized for “home” and “away” usage levels. Can be installed in any orientation in both indoor and outdoor environments.
How will you know if a water leak is detected and the water main has been turned off? Both types of water main shutoff systems will sound a loud, audible alarm to alert you know when there’s a problem and the system has been activated.
To receive alarm notifications for occasions when you aren’t present, most water main shutoff systems — including those by Floodmaster, FloLogic and WaterCop — can be connected to your home security system so your monitoring service will also be alerted when a leak is detected.
Special Dual Valve System for Buildings with Two Water Mains
For two-family homes, condos, apartments or offices that have two incoming water main lines in close proximity to each other, WaterCop offers an interconnected dual valve actuator that turns off both water mains simultaneously to prevent water damage in adjoining areas. The WaterCop Dual Valve system is easy to install and accepts an unlimited number of wireless sensors.
Other Ways to Protect Against Water Leaks
Installing a water main shutoff system, also called a “whole house shutoff valve,” is one of the best ways to protect your property and valuables against water damage caused by plumbing failures, particularly in high-end homes or vacation homes that are left vacant for long periods of time.
To target specific leak-prone locations in the home or office, such as in the attic or garage or next to an appliance, there are a variety of inexpensive simple water alarms you can use to monitor for drips and leaks. For more information on simple water alarms, go to “A Buyer’s Guide to Affordable Water Alarms.”