Flood and water damage can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare. Burst or leaky pipes can be costly: It costs an average of $20,000 to repair water leaks from plumbing failures, according to the ACE Private Risk Services. The same 2011 study found that 93 percent of the damage could have been avoided if leak detection had been in place.
The latest weapon in the war against flood damage is the HomeKit Fibaro Flood Sensor. Manufactured by the “home intelligence” company Fibaro, which specializes in “smart” home products such as motion, window and door sensors, it alerts homeowners to the presence of unwanted water by sending a text or email, or – if the homeowner doesn’t have a phone or laptop handy – by activating a siren. In smart homes, LED lights placed around the house can change color to indicate a leak or flooding.
“I’ve had that happen, where I was working in my office and it was storming,” Rich Bira, Fibaro’s managing director, said. “The LED lights around my TV turned blue, meaning that the water was coming up in my sump pump. I had a few minutes to go and pick everything up so that I could save what I could, and, sure enough, the water came in and there was about an inch on the ground.”
The sensor, which can fit in the palm of a hand, must come into direct contact with water to be activated — but homeowners can run wires out of it from a “sensing pad.” To make sure a refrigerator isn’t leaking, you could place the sensor next to it and run wires the length of the appliance to cover the area. The number of sensors you need depends on how many locations in your home — sinks, toilets, the dishwasher, the hot water heater — you want to monitor for potential flooding.
Unlike other sensors on the market, the Fibaro also measures a room’s ambient temperature and floor temperature. This can help save a pipe from freezing, which, according to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, can cost more than $5,000 in water damage.
“Say, for example, that you set it where your hot water tank is, and it’s a vacation home and all of a sudden the heat stops working,” Bira said. “The sensor will alert you ahead of time [so you can] make sure your pipes don’t freeze, which is a very common problem.”
The sensor itself is a corrosion-resistant white disc with gold telescoping feet that always make contact on an uneven surface. It also floats, so it can’t get submerged and malfunction.
But its best feature may be its easy setup. There are no Stephen King novel–length instructions.
“With HomeKit, setup is extremely easy for homeowners,” Bira said. “Once a user has unpacked the sensor and activated the battery, they just need to open the Apple Home app or Fibaro app on their smartphone or tablet and select ‘add device’ and scan the code, and it is immediately added.”