Full House and other Flood Prevention Shut-Offs?

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by pwjone1, Jul 17, 2010.

  1. pwjone1

    pwjone1 Engineer

    Messages:
    22
    Location:
    Poughkeepsie, NY
    I was wondering if anyone had much experience with Full House Flood prevention devices, could offer up some do's and don'ts.

    A few years back, we had a water heater blow up, luckily we were home and were able to get the water shut off relatively quickly (and that my wife was sharp enough to know there shouldn't have been running water, asking me what's going on). At the time, we just replaced the heater and things were busy, so I pretty much left it at that. More recently, had a toilet leak, no big deal there again, but could have been much worse if we weren't around, so it's got me thinking again. It would be nice to have some sort of system or whatever to shut down the water supply if something went wrong.

    I see from the forums that people don't think much of the Watts Floodsafe supply shut-offs:

    http://www.terrylove.com/forums/showthread.php?26673-Watts-Floodsafe-Not-Very!-part1&highlight=flooding

    http://www.terrylove.com/forums/showthread.php?8640-Watts-Flood-safe-review-Good-or-Bad&highlight=floodsafe

    Shame really, looked like a nice/simple solution for where the water lines are most likely to fail. I have not seen a similar/competitive product, or indication that Watts has redesigned and fixed the parts.

    But I guess really a Whole-House solution, if they worked, might be a bit better. Sort of a circuit-breaker for plumbing. Easier to deal with 50 gallon spills as opposed to 5000+. And obviously flooding damages can get very expensive. I did find this web-site, listing off a number of options:

    http://www.statefarm.com/learning/loss_prevent/learning_loss_water_leak_det_system.asp

    and they seem to fall into a couple of categories:

    • Whole-house Flood Sensor/Wireless trip shut-off
    • Flow Sensing Shut-off (timed or rate variations)
    • Electronic Shutoffs at Washing Machine, Water Heater...


    I was wondering if anyone had experience with these, real-life or installation wise, that they could share here.

    Thanks!
  2. pwjone1

    pwjone1 Engineer

    Messages:
    22
    Location:
    Poughkeepsie, NY
    I guess I should note, as someone is doubtless going to mention it, but I did get a battery powered leak detector/alarm, and put that down by the water heater, against future blow-outs there. I'll probably go tankless, next time around, anyway, just like the way that works better, but I suppose with the higher thermal change cycles, those might not be any less prone to water leaks or even blow-outs, over the long run. But still, that would also back up the need for something of a point solution there, or something whole-house, in terms of shut-offs.
  3. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,680
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    ANY flood protection, unless it is triggered by sensors inside the house will only respond to a flow GREATER than any that would be normal for a faucet, so small leaks would still cause damage. The problem with the Floodsafe devices is that occassionally, turning the faucet on quickly WILL look like a broken pipe to them and they shut off. Then they have to be disconnected to reset them.
  4. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    Nice links there. I was recently looking at a townhouse to possibly purchase. They are in groups of three, apparently each 3 on a common meter. Apparently, they had had some flood issues, because there is some kind of flow monitor/shut off installed. Notes posted on the bulletin board warned that occasional false shut-off would occur, and please call managment to turn back on. Your water may be off for several hours! So I didn't buy that one! But it points out the pitfall of flow monitors, mainly false trips and false misses . I don't have personal experience with one, but I would want a lot of literature, and I would want it to be from a company with a track record. For example, a couple of the sites on the link are actively seeking distributors....often means startup....and/or their website has references to 2008....are they still in business. One of them, a zip code search offered that the distributor in my are is "american entertainment company" ????? Go figure!

    I am not sure if the flood-stop faucet supply lines are a solution in search of a problem. I guess broken lines are possible, but the ONLY supply line I ever saw have a catastrophic failure was the old pvc lines which had PLASTIC inserts. The inserts snapped. And of course the corrugated copper lines. And finally, the FLOOD STOP lines themselves experienced some early catastrophic failures, although that is probably fixed.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2010
  5. Doherty Plumbing

    Doherty Plumbing Journeyman & Gas Fitter

    Messages:
    810
    Location:
    Penticton, BC
    Hmmm these devices are a grey area for me because they are good and bad. I would hate to recommend to someone to get one only to have the thing not actually do what it's supposed to do when it's supposed to do it.

    The ones with the sensors are basically useless UNLESS the sensors get wet and the others (or combos) that work on flow rates can cause other issues like the others have noted as well.

    So I generally only sell and install them at the owners request. I never push them.
  6. chris8796

    chris8796 New Member

    Messages:
    100
    Location:
    Illinois
    I installed a "watercop" after some flood problems. The main limitation is where and how many sensors you use. I also like the added benefit of having a switch to turn the water off. It is easy for the wife or kids to turn off the main in case of emergency. The ideal solution would be to have sensors incorporated at construction at each water location, have them interface with a security system which allows them to shut off the main on command. The sensors are cheap and this would make it easy to provide power to them without batteries or outlets.
  7. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    My "wish list" has always been for a smart flow detection system. But it need to be very smart. It needs to allow normal flow of a washing machine or tub, but also "learn" your house, so that it would shut off those flows after a certain number of minutes, but no nuisance shut offs. It also needs to recognize even very small flows, and also turn that off in short enough time.

    I have never been convinced about a system that has the kinks worked out or whose quality and reliability is assured, so I never bought or installed one.

    Maybe soon???!!!
  8. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,051
    Location:
    New England
    For your WH, check out www.wagsvalve.com . This will shut the water off, and the gas supply (if it is a gas WH). It is a one-time use thing, and must be replaced when tripped. You must install the WH in a drain pan to contain the water so it will get the 1/2" deep or so to trip the thing. It is entirely mechanical and relies on the same technology that inflates a lifevest as used in airplanes - a tablet that disolves when wet releasing a strong spring that closes the valve (in the lifevest, it opens the CO2 cartridge to inflate the vest). It comes with a good warranty against damages, if installed by a trained plumber.
  9. pwjone1

    pwjone1 Engineer

    Messages:
    22
    Location:
    Poughkeepsie, NY
    Thanks for the pointer. Looks like a reasonably good solution. I think I'm personally going tankless soon, for efficiency reasons mostly, but I like the way it shuts off both water and gas. Have to ponder if there's a way to make it work for that application.
  10. pwjone1

    pwjone1 Engineer

    Messages:
    22
    Location:
    Poughkeepsie, NY
    Well, here in the North East, there's a fair amount baseboard water heat, the distribution systems for those, when not insulated properly and/or the weather gets particularly cold, can freeze and break. A friend of mine coming home from a Christmas vacation, saw some ice on the road as he turned in, kind of wondered what idiot had iced it up, turned the corner to his house, and saw that the water was coming out his front door.

    Another instance was a relative, this time in a warm climate (California), had a rare hard freeze in her area (she has orange trees in her backward, you can imagine what a freeze does to those), comes home to find out some of her water lines apparently were on the wrong side of the insulation (which was minimal anyway), broke and had that actually fill in what had been a sunken living room area (boarded over when it fell out of fashion) turned into an indoor swimming pool, an overflowing one unfortunately. Took quite a bit of pumping and drying out, had to redo quite a bit of the first floor.

    A plumber I know was over at his girl friend's apartment, she tells him there's something dripping under her vanity, he goes to look, asks her where the dripping is coming from, in pointing at the supply valve she touches it, it instantly blows out, apparently had just been getting ready to go, he yells for her to put a towel over it and heads downstairs to find the shut-off, quite a bit gets out because she didn't hear him, and it took a while to locate. (And at least in this instance, someone was around to shut it off).

    And so on. You've been around long enough, you know or have seen some people that have had something blow out. I'm guessing the most frequent things are water heater and clothes washers (recent construction where I am is using by code the one-handle shut-offs, but there's tons of the old, 2-handle multi-turn shut offs, and users get lazy in any case). Probably any plumber in the business for a while has a considerable number of stories. That's why it's evolved into a 7x24 business. But if automatic shut-offs worked, it would at least shift it to more 9-5, as the main thing frequently is to get the water off. The rest, if there's no water gushing somewhere, can usually wait, nobody wants to pay double the normal rate.

    But otherwise I share the observations by a number of those above, the potential of false trips, or failures in the monitoring or shut-off equipment, kind of makes you wonder. Obviously the insurance companies would like for us to put it in, and it could be a reasonably profitable item for a plumber if they found a way to provide something reliable (at least here in the NE). And I had the same observation, some of the above web sites are a bit lame, makes you wonder just a bit (although I chalked it up more just to outfits that cut a few $s out of support during hard times, and just in general, some of the major plumbing web sites are not all that great (exception of course this web site, and Kohler and a few others, that have obviously invested some time and serious $s, there seems to be a gradual realization that a lot of sales and research is shifting to the web, particularly in the 35 and under segment that grew up with it, including the new wave of plumbers that is in that same age bracket)).

    Hence the original question, if anyone had real-world experience with these shut-offs. I pretty much steered clear from the Watts Floodsafe supply lines on a recent project, based on the input here at this web-site, looked like a very good idea, just wouldn't have known it wasn't a good solution without the appends here (and a few other sites).
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