As a homeowner, one of the more expensive repair bills you can face is water damage from leaking appliances or pipes. There are quite a few commercial automated shut off options but many of them are very expensive and commonly require installing them directly into your plumbing system. This is commonly done by licensed plumbers.
Some of the largest water leak disasters happen when you’re not home and the water is allowed to run for hours or days before shutting off the water. I personally know people that had a brand new home with a new LG top load washer and dryer. The washer’s overfill sensor failed and ruined their brand new wood flooring. After repairing the washer under warranty, it proceeded to flood the laundry room a 2nd time right after they replaced the first floor’s damage. Other people we have known had a leaky hose on their dishwasher that ruined their entire kitchen floor. If you have a basement, you may be concerned about sump pumps, water heaters, or other appliances causing massive leaks.
After looking through all the options below, I believe I’ve found the most cost-efficient, flexible, and DIY friendly solution. This includes homes that have water supplies from either municipal water or private wells.
Commercial Automated Water Shut off Valves
These types of systems can get expensive fast and they typically are propriety so that they only communicate or can be upgraded from that company. They may include limited smart home integrations. For example, while one system may work with Amazon Alexa, it may not be compatible with Google Assistant if that is your current setup. They either only monitor water usage, install directly into your existing pipes as a main shut off, or clamp on top of quarter-turn ball valves to turn off your water main.
One of the most popular systems is the Moen Flo Smart Water shut off system is manufactured by the well-known plumbing fixture company Moen. Their system installs by cutting into your main water line so it can stop the flow of water. Your typical flow rate is monitored and it tries to turn off the water when it detects an abnormal flow (ex: small drip). Moen also make sensors that you can place in high risk areas such as a laundry room that will trigger the water to shut off.
Other common automated water shut off systems that install directly into your plumbing include Phyn or Leaksmart. It also requires being installed directly into your pipes, thus either the DIY skills or a plumber.
Other options that do not include plumber installation will attach to your existing main water shut off it is a quarter-turn ball valve. A company that make these types of sensors are Elexa Guardian.
While on the surface these types of systems sound great, they have significant drawbacks:
- They are expensive: typically costing anywhere from $500-1,500 depending on pipe sizing and number of sensors. It is also common to have monthly subscription fees to access all the features.
- They are proprietary: How do you know it won’t be discontinued, parts will be available, or that you must rely on their cloud software that could be shut down?
- They are installed permanently: Getting a plumber involved can greatly increase your base cost of the system. How easy is it to fix when something small or large breaks in the valve? What about future updates or improvements in technology?
DIY Home Automation Leak Detection and Water Shut Off
This is the route I chose as it provides most the features of commercial systems, but allows you to customize based on your home needs. This method requires a smart hub to control all the needed sensors and motor. I recommend the Hubitat smart hub as it includes large universal wireless technologies, does NOT require a working connection to the internet, and has a very large support community.
The beauty of a system like this is that you can upgrade parts of your system automatically and program actions based on conditions. For example, you could place leak sensors in areas with fridges, washers, dishwashers, sinks, water heaters, sump pumps, or anywhere you have a concern. You could also integrate additional sensor types like smoke detectors or freeze sensors. An added benefit is that you can turn your water off manually without accessing your water main shut off. This is beneficial if it is in a hard to get to location.
Municipal Water Shut Off Leak Detection
In order for you to shut off your water, you need a valve that can be easily turned off, a power source (typically an outlet) nearby, and a home automation hub like the Hubitat.
Water Main Shut Off Valve
Depending on your house’s construction date, you may need to upgrade your home’s water shut off valve to a quarter-turn ball valve like this. The reason you need a valve like this is that you need to attach a motor above the valve that turns the handle in a short motion. There are other valves that have the motor built into the valve directly (like the ~$80 Frankever DN20), but I would be hesitant to install a valve that could not be operated manually. A regular cheap quarter-turn ball valve is future proof as you are able to replace faulty motors and upgrade equipment in the future.
Water Main Home Automation Motorized Shut Off
Once you have a quarter-turn ball valve, you need to choose a home automation water main shut off motor that clamps onto your pipe and positioned over the valve. Pick a technology that is compatible with your home automation hub. Most common universal wireless protocols are Z-wave and Zigbee. Zigbee devices are typically cheaper as they don’t have more expensive licensing requirements like Z-wave that are added to the price of the device. A couple options are the ~$36 Smart Water Valve or the ~$ 70 Z-wave Dome water main shut off. Personally, the Dome shut off motor stopped working, and so I would look into the $180 Zooz Z-wave Plus 700 Titan Water Valve Actuator as it has clamps on both sides of the valve.
Water Leak Sensors
You need to buy a water leak sensor for each location you are worried about leaks. They come in both plug-in and battery versions. They also come as an individual sensor or will clamp into a “remote” sensor that allows you to place a smaller probe via wire into tight locations. My experience with the Dome Z-wave Plus Leak Sensor has been good, but they are out-of-stock everywhere as of today. Other highly rated sensors are made by Aeotec SmartThings, Zooz 700 Series Z-wave Plus Water Leak, or THIRDREALITY Zigbee Water Leak Sensor.
Install and Connect Sensors
Once you have installed your water main shut off valve motor and placed all your water leak sensors, you need to go into your home automation hub and pair them. Once they are all paired, you can setup a rule in your home automation hub to turn off the water main when a leak is detected. See youtube or your owner’s manual for these steps. For Hubitat, I used the Rule Machine app to do this.
Private Well Shut Off Leak Detection
If your water supply is from a private well, you may have a couple options to shut off your water. You can follow the same instructions as the Municipal Water Shut Off Leak Detection section above. Or, you can turn off your well pump if you have access to it. Here is an example of a well controller that powers your well pump.
Before you invest in going this route, you’ll want to test how long it takes for your pipes to depressurize when you turn off your well pump. In my case, I would see about a quart of water come out of a faucet when the water main valve was shut off and a little over a gallon of water come out of a faucet after the electric well controller turned off the well pump. Of course, you can also install the motor to turn off the water main valve AND turn off your well pump.
Turn Off Electric Well Pump Automatically from Water Leak
You still need all the water leak sensors as described above. This process also includes simple electrical wiring with your 120v/240v well controller. In my case, my well controller is 240v and on a 20a circuit. After turning off the circuit breaker, I located the incoming power into the well controller from the main electrical panel and disconnected the wires. Following the wiring diagram, I then wired up a Sonoff ZBMini wireless relay. It is the most cost effective wireless relay that I covered in my 3-way light switch without a traveler article. These relays work on both 120v and 240v circuits and are rated up to 10amps.
If your well controller requires more than 240v 10 amps like mine did, you can add a contactor like the CGele 2 Pole Air Conditioner 30 Amp Contactor into the circuit to overcome the load requirements. You would wire as follows (WARNING: I’m not an electrician, this is not electrical advice, follow at your own peril! Follow all local electric codes):
- Get a wall mount electrical box large enough to house the contactor and Sonoff ZBMini, like this one
- Create pigtails on neutral (2 wires, possibly 3) and one of the single hot 120V lines (2 wires)
- Connect neutral and single hot 120V line from pigtails to incoming terminals on Sonoff ZBMini
- Connect outgoing 120v power terminal from Sonoff ZBMini and one of the neutral pigtails from the electric panel to side of contactor terminals (this controls the contactor circuit for on/off)
- Connect 120v from pigtail and other unused 120v hot line to one side of large contactor terminals
- Connect the (2) 120v large terminals on the other side of the contactor to the well controller input. Connect your grounds/neutral as required.
Now that you have a wireless switch that controls your well pump controller, you can sync it with your home automation hub and create a rule that will disconnect the power if a leak sensor activates. Using this setup, I’ve already shut my water off when a hidden leak started pooling under the washing machine.