It's taken for granted these days that most homeowners have smoke detectors. But how many have leak detectors, also known as drip sensors?
Water can do just as much damage as fire but isn't normally top-of-mind except during harsh winter weather when homeowners worry about pipes freezing and bursting.
But in fact, it doesn't take much to have a catastrophic leak. A bad fitting, a faulty valve or some other malfunction of a $3 part can be all it takes to flood your home, ruining drywall, carpeting, furniture and anything else that's not attached to the ceiling.
It's not a rare occurrence. One in 50 homes in the U.S. file water damage claims annually, many of them in the tens of thousands. While some of these are from exterior floods, many are from leaking or burst pipes inside the home. Vacation homes and lightly occupied residences are especially high-risk.
Yahoo Finance recently recounted the experience of a Las Vegas man whose home was destroyed by a drop-by-drip leak from a bidet that went unnoticed for months. By the time a neighbor saw water leaking from the home, it was too late to prevent major damage.
The obvious answer is to turn off the water supply when leaving a home unoccupied for lengthy periods. But it only takes a few hours for a leak to flood a home and most of us aren't willing to shut the water off each time we leave home.
Fortunately, just as smoke alarms can prevent fire damage, a small device called a drip sensor can help ward off severe water damage. They are simply attached to the wall near plumbing fixtures. When they detect water, they trigger your home security system, alerting you in time to prevent major damage.
Most home security systems offer drip sensors as a low-cost add-on.
More elaborate systems can shut off the water supply when a leak is detected. These are more expensive and usually require professional help for installation.
Insurers offering discounts for drip sensors
Home insurers, who often foot the bill for plumbing-related disasters, are taking notice. Nationwide Insurance, for one, is now offering a small discount to policyholders who install the devices in their homes.
The company has teamed up with Notion, a firm affiliated with Comcast, the national TV cable and communications company. Customers who opt in to the Nationwide smart home program will receive a discount on the monitoring systems and a $50 reduction in annual premiums.
Other insurers are plunging in. Chubb said earlier this year that it had deployed sensors to more than 300 of its insured buildings, with more on the way. Homeowners can receive a 3% credit on their premiums for leak sensors and up to 8% on water-line shutoff devices.
The idea is to save thousands of dollars for insureds and insurers by stopping leaks and other problems before they can cause significant losses.
Notion has been working with Nationwide since 2020 and the number of Nationwide insured households using the Notion systems has grown by five fold in the last year or so, the companies said.