There are a number of gadgets and devices available that can help reduce the chance of water damage in your home.
Some gadgets lessen the likelihood of a water problem from developing to begin with. Other gadgets quickly alert you to a problem which can help to lessen its severity. This is not an exhaustive list of what's available but just a few ideas to get you started.
Talk to your plumber, local plumbing supply, hardware or home improvement store for information about these systems and other tips.
A washing machine does not have to be in operation to leak or have a hose burst. Most of the worst washer-related home damage happens when hoses break. It's important to regularly inspect both the hot and cold water supply hoses for kinks, cracks, blisters or bulging and to replace them when they show any signs of wear.
For both washing machines and dishwashers, consider using hoses that are reinforced with stainless steel braiding or mesh, rather than the rubber or plastic hoses that come from the manufacturer. The reinforced hoses only cost a few dollars more. It’s a small price to pay for more peace of mind.
Hoses, whether rubber or reinforced, won't last indefinitely and should be replaced every few years.
One of the major causes of leaks and burst pipes in a home is stress and strain from water pressure that is set too high. When this is the case, hoses, pipes and water lines can crack under pressure and create leaks or gushes that could cause thousands of dollars in damage.
At most hardware or home improvement stores you can find a simple and inexpensive device called a water pressure gauge. Simply attach it to an outdoor faucet, and then turn the faucet on full force. The gauge will give a reading of your home's water pressure. If it is above the recommended psi, it will need to be reset by installing a pressure reducing valve, also available at hardware, plumbing supply or home improvement stores. Measuring your home water pressure and installing a pressure reducing valve is a quick do-it-yourself project that can add years of life to your home plumbing.
Most water sensors are inexpensive. Battery-powered sensors can be placed on sump pumps. Floor sensors can be placed near plumbing or appliances that may leak. You don't need any tools, and installation is often simple.
Check batteries and power sources regularly, just as you do for smoke detectors.
Water shut-off valves are available as manual, automatic or a combination of both.
Installing a manual shut-off valve on the water supply to your washing machine is inexpensive insurance. It's about as basic as can be: a valve, lever or handle that lets you shut off the water to your washer when it's not in use. This reduces continuous pressure on washer hoses that over time could cause them to burst. Try to make it a habit to shut off the water to your washer any time you're not using it. And always shut it off when you leave for a weekend or longer so a hose burst does not go undetected for days or weeks.
More sophisticated and costly water-sensor systems automatically shut off the water supply to a specific appliance or to the entire house when a leak is detected. The price and installation of these electronic systems can vary. Some are easy to install yourself; for others, a plumber must install the special valves and an electrician must wire the sensors. Keep in mind these costs are in addition to the price of the hardware.
Some of these systems are available only through professional installers, others at plumbing supply stores, online retailers and a few at hardware or home improvement stores. Here are just a few online retailers. Safeco does not specifically recommend or endorse their products but provides information to give you an idea of what's available.