Water leaks just may be a homeowner’s worst nightmare. While individual leaks may seem tiny, they can cause enormous damage. In fact, water damage and mold cost the insurance industry $2.5 billion a year, according to Water Damage Defense.
“Plumbing systems are getting to the end of their operational life, which can cause more leaks and damage,” says Dixon Thuston, vice president of StreamLabs and OEM sales, RWC. “In addition, new homes are often built with more bathrooms and more floors. As a result, the number of large losses (more than $500,000) have doubled in number over the past three years, as stated in an article on Best Reviews titled, ‘Plugging the Leaks.’ This presents a tremendous opportunity for growth in the leak detection market as homeowner behaviors and preferences evolve.”
Homeowners are realizing leak detection systems provide both security and peace of mind, notes John Holzheimer, vice president of engineering, operations and supply chain, LeakSmart.
“They are installing leak detection systems not only in their homes, but also in a second home or cabin as well as an aging parents’ home to ensure peace of mind,” he says. “Then, if LeakSmart senses a leak or burst pipe, it can be set to turn off a home’s water main and notify the homeowner, property manager or emergency contact in less than five seconds.”
Steven Fielding, president, AQUAGUARD, agrees the market for leak detection products continues to grow, being driven by an increasing amount property insurance claims.
“The percentage of homeowners filing water damage claims grew by 42% between 2005 through the 2009 period, and 2013 thru 2017 period, according to The Wall Street Journal,” Fielding notes. “The average insurance claim is $6,500, plus the property owners’ deductible, for a failed water heater claim. These costs are also rising as the multilevel condominiums and apartment market grows as baby boomers downsize and buy vacation properties. Also, newer homes have more bathrooms and water use conveniences than in the past; many more connections increases the probability of water leaks.”
Resideo is seeing more market penetration within multi-family buildings and property managers, according to Sam Raymakers, product manager for the company.
“Water claims are one of the highest insurance payouts, and with connected devices, managers can have protection and visibility across multiple areas all in one place,” he says. “Some of the key drivers are the rising water stress levels across the globe, consumer awareness on efficiencies and overall consumer adoption of smart, connected products. Aging infrastructure also has been attributed to the market growth.”
The IoT has also had a large influence in the leak detection category, Raymakers notes.
“Most new detectors are either running Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or Z-Wave, which allows them to work with internal systems or work with API partners such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Honeywell Home, Samsung Smart Things and Apple HomeKit. Connectivity and integration have been becoming more and more important than a standalone non-communicating device.”
Thuston agrees, saying the IoT has made devices easier to use and understand.
“Most homeowners don’t have an in-depth understanding of their plumbing systems,” he says. “So, with StreamLabs, we’re able to give them insights and health checks in simple terms through our app.
Today, everything is connected and provides instant feedback if a problem occurs. But, most people still get an email or paper water bill at the end of the month. That means if you have a leak, you probably won’t know until after the incident. With a StreamLabs device, homeowners know the minute there is an issue and they’re able to mitigate its impacts through their smart phone.”
Conservation is another market driver for leak detection devices. Per Water Damage Defense, water leaks from homes in the U.S. can exceed 1 trillion gallons of water in a year.
“Products, such as Protect by LeakSmart with Flow, are helping families monitor and control water usage by having the ability to set daily, weekly or monthly limits to make a household more efficient,” Holzheimer says. “And, just like smart HVAC and light bulbs can be controlled via an app on a smartphone, so can our leak detection and monitoring system.”
“There are two primary benefits of leak detection that are touted by manufacturers and which influence the homeowner: Saving water and protecting property,” adds Ian Greene, marketing director, FloLogic. “While water conservation is relevant to a portion of consumers, it’s the protection of property that is driving most of the growth in the category. The awareness is driven by the marketing and sales efforts of more leak detection brands, as well as insurers influencing and incentivizing their policy holders to install leak detection.”
Consumer awareness is also a factor, Greene notes.
“Consumer awareness grows every day — from connected refrigerators, to connected blinds and door locks — leak detection is not excluded,” he says. “Those who have experienced water leaks in the past are even more supportive of leak detection devices. Consumer awareness of the potential savings not only from a leak, but water usage, is also becoming more important.”
According to Thuston, there has been a move away from passive monitoring devices, such as water floor sensors, to active real-time monitoring devices.
“Active monitoring devices give homeowners a heightened level of protection by monitoring water flow in real-time and can protect from leaks where sensors are not located — behind walls, outside and in crawl spaces,” he says. “Also, active monitoring devices give homeowners continuing value by monitoring all water use in a house. For example, a leaking toilet may not cause damage but it will cost the homeowner additional money at the end of the month. Our technology can help catch those inconsistencies and get them stopped before it becomes a more serious issue.”
Fielding notes that most new products in the leak detection category focus on whole-house detection using electricity and a wireless alert system.
“They tend to be expensive to purchase and install, and often, they are complex for the property owner to understand and use,” Fielding says. “Many are only truly effective if the property owner is present in the home to hear an alarm and take action.
“Our product, the WAGS Valve, goes beyond detection,” he continues. “When it senses significant water in a drip pan under a Tank Water Heater (typically around 1-inch deep), it will automatically close off the cold water supply, which then creates a vacuum in the tank and stops leaking, resulting in no running hot water to the house, but also no water damage to the property. The simplicity of the device is it is fully mechanical — no batteries, electricity, wireless signal and no maintenance — providing no stress for the property owner.”
WIN-WIN FOR CONTRACTORS
Leak detection device installations are a relatively new category of installation services that will only grow, Greene notes.
“Plumbing contractors who pursue this opportunity will meet the market demands and will grow a portfolio of customers who are focused on proactively monitoring and maintaining their home plumbing,” he says.“These are the best customers a contractor could ask for.”
Thuston calls it a win-win for contractors.
“First, leak detection is a proactive solution to help protect their customers from issues,” he says. “Instead of waiting for a leak to happen and damage to occur, contractors can assist homeowners in actively preventing the issue from occurring in the first place — saving them money, inconvenience and ultimately, empowering them. Secondly, it provides a great add-on sale for the contractor and drives additional revenue for each service call.”