(KPIX 5) — California’s drought has created a booming new market for high-tech water-saving gadgets. Not surprisingly, insurance companies are starting to give policy holders discounts when they install water leak detection systems.

Gary Heidenreich checks his alarm every day. But this alarm is not designed to detect break-ins or even a fire. It is part of a water leak detection designed by Sentinel Hydrosolutions, one of many new devices marketed towards homeowners who are looking to save water and money.

The average cost of damage caused by a burst water pipe inside a home is about $15,000, a big and all too common claim most insurers would rather not have to pay out.

“You have got a lot of pipe running through the house,” said Heidenreich. “And any of those at any point in time can have a problem.”

Little leaks from sources like faucets, toilets and washing machines…all appliances that use water in spurts…can be difficult to spot. And in the past homeowners were likely to use water leak detection sensors near such appliances.

But Sentinel’s device is a water cop of sorts. Using heat sensitive probes placed inside the home’s main water pipe, the device monitors temperature change, If the pipe cools, that is an indication that water is flowing into the home from the associated municipal water source line.

The homeowner set’s  a pre-determined limit of time the water should be allowed to flow, usually between  20 and 30 minutes. Remember most water using appliances run in spurts, not continuously so continuous flow can be a red flag.

If the heat sensitive probes detect the water is flowing longer and alarm will sound alerting the homeowner. The system will also shut down all water flow into the home.

Scott Pallais, the Chairman Sentinel Hydrosolutions maintains that up to 20 percent of all water flowing into a home is wasted by leaks. He also asserts that water damage is a real risk that most homeowners don’t think about until it happens to them

“That is what the consumer doesn’t realize. Oh it’s just a little leak,” said Pallais. “Well, a small leak over a long period of time is a flood whether it’s down the drain or in the living room.”

Heidenreich says a family member had a flood upstairs bathroom while on vacation. The total repair costs amounted to $350,000.

Fear of home interior water damage was part of the reason why Heidenreich says he invested in the $2,500 leak detection system. A discount on his homeowners insurance policy didn’t hurt, either. He says saving water bill costs is great, but the detection system can save a lot more than that If it saves a homeowner from a flood.

“It can save things that you can’t replace,” said Heidenreich. “Heirlooms and things like that.”




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