The Ultimate Way to Prevent Catastrophic Water Damage While You’re on Winter Vacay

snow falling on a Cape Code home during winter

Reading time: 5 minutes

It’s that time of the winter again. Halfway between the holidays and spring, you want to take a mid-winter break, but what happens to your house while you’re away? Cold temperatures, ice, and snow can have a devastating effect on a home without proper preparation. Jeff Hoffmann from Schaible’s Plumbing & Heating Inc. and Paul Bentivegna from StreamLabs have us covered and gave us tips to prevent water damage in the home during a winter getaway.

Preventing winter water damage

water damage on a white ceiling and wall
Prevent winter water damage from occurring in your home.

Cold weather isn’t generally a concern for your home if you keep up to date with your routine maintenance. It only becomes an issue when your home malfunctions.

“Sometimes people move or they go on vacation or they have vacation houses that they’re not monitoring,” says Hoffmann of Schaible’s Plumbing & Heating, which has been serving northern New Jersey for over 35 years. “When the furnace or boiler fails and you don’t have heat – that’s when all the pipes inside the house – even if they’re concealed and insulated properly – could absolutely burst.”

But a pipe bursting – while devastating – isn’t the only concern homeowners should have.

Beyond the pipes

Says Hoffmann, “We have a lot of customers who have vacation houses and they’re not there in the wintertime. If nobody’s monitoring or if you’re not traveling to check up on it once in a while, you could have all sorts of issues and not just related to freezing – washing machine hoses burst. Things fail all the time. Having something in place to detect a leak is a great idea.”

A leak or water damage is one of the most frequent problems a home can face. The Insurance Information Institute found that one in 50 insured homes submits a property damage claim due to water or freezing each year, compared to one in 360 insured homes submitting a fire or lightning claim.

“A lot of people don’t realize that water is the silent killer in the home,” says Bentivegna of StreamLabs, a manufacturer of smart home products. “Water is all throughout the home and in places you can’t see. It takes nothing more than a small pinhole leak to create a catastrophe.”

Beware of mold

If a leak is hidden behind a wall, it could take months before it is discovered.

“When it does show its ugly head, there will mostly likely be mold associated with it,” notes Bentivegna, “and by the time you have mold in the home, you have a real big problem on your hands.”

Mold can lead to health problems for homeowners, including respiratory diseases, as well as thousands of dollars in damage.

While not every home issue has an easy answer, this one does. Installing an automatic water shut-off valve can help mitigate this risk and keep your water flowing where it should be – in your pipes.

What is an automatic water shutoff valve?

a water main entering the home in the basement
An automatic water shut-off valve attaches to the water main.

An automatic water shut-off valve is a device that shuts off the water to your home in the event of a leak. This device generally uses sensors, which are placed around the home and detect water where it shouldn’t be.

Where to put the sensors

“We have a product made by Leak Defense where you put sensors near your water heater, your washing machine, wherever you need to,” says Hoffmann. “If the sensor picks up any moisture, it will close off the main valve coming into the house, alleviating the basement filling up with water. It also integrates with home monitoring system, like ADT, so you get a notification.”

This valve would stop the water from flowing through the house and mitigate the damage a leak presents.

“The device knows how many gallons you’re using on a daily basis,” Hoffmann explains. “If it starts to see that over the course of the last two hours, you’ve doubled the number of gallons per minute going through your home, it’ll shut it down.”

An app for this, too!

Of course, homeowners can set parameters around their water usage, “so it doesn’t shut off when you don’t want it to,” says Hoffmann,” but it will shut off when it has to.”

As homes become smarter with new technologies and added conveniences, so do their devices, including the automatic water shut-off valve.

Introducing the “smart water shut-off valve,” which has built-in sensors that monitor usage and send updates directly to your phone. (There’s an app for this, too!)

Saving your home with smart solutions

installation map of an automatic water shut off valve
Automatic water shut off-valves save your home from water damage.

Smart water devices like the Control by StreamLabs do more than just detect a leak. Through an app, you receive alerts for leaks, water pressure, low temperatures, and humidity warnings. While monitoring the amount of water running through your main into the home, the Control also calculates water usage, which can signal quite a few homeowner concerns.

Mitigating non-damage leaks

“We have a motto – keep leaks on lockdown,” says Bentivegna, who gave a “leak to drain” scenario.

A homeowner’s child left a faucet on for nine hours, while he went to school. Since the water was flowing into the pipes, it didn’t touch one of the floor sensors to trigger an alert. With a smart water device, the homeowner would have been alerted of the continuous water usage via a push notification and could have shut off the water main from a switch in the app.

This device also helps you find a leak where you might not have known there was one, including the costliest areas – toilets, broken pipes, and faucets.

“This valve is to protect, save, and control the home,” says Bentivegna. “It protects your home from leaks, saves on insurance and monthly water bills, and controls water usage and the efficiency of the home.”

Getting to know your habits

A homeowner can set up the Smart Alerts Learning Leak Detection, which learns your patterns, e.g. how long you take showers, over the course of a few days. Afterwards, you can set up parameters, so the app will send you an alert if your normal water pattern deviates – or in certain cases, automatically shut off your water.

“Do you normally take 10-minute showers?” asks Bentivegna. “If you take a 15-minute shower, you’ll just get an alert that will say, ‘Hey, this is different than the past seven days.’ This is your home, but we just want to make sure that water’s not running when you don’t intend it to.”

The proof is in the prevention

mobile dashboards with gauges to help monitor water usage in the home
Smart Alerts Learning Leak Detection keeps you informed about your water usage.

“So I’m going to end up taking shorter, shorter showers, and save money,” says our VP of Content Jeff Roos, and he’s right. The app and smart device can help homeowners maintain their water usage by fixture. That means if your toilet is running, you’ll know. However, these devices help you save money in another way – homeowners insurance.

Since a home is seven times more likely to suffer water damage than fire damage, insurance carriers and agents value a homeowner who takes initiative to keep their homes safe from water damage.

According to Hoffmann, “I know Chubb Insurance and other insurance companies have programs where they will pay up to a certain amount if you’ve had water damage, to keep it from happening again. We try to get these insurance companies involved to let them know, ‘Hey, we can install this product. It’ll protect from this. What can you do for the client if they install this in their house?'”

Insurance companies generally reward homeowners for taking steps to prevent water damage, even if they’ve never had an issue.

“We’ve seen customers save up to 15% on their homeowners insurance by having a device like this in their home,” says Bentivegna. “In a year or maybe a year and a half, you’ll have to have recouped a lot of that money back.”

Overall, this product has become essential to every home.

Bentivegna agrees. “Stay ahead of the game, stay ahead of damages, and keep your home in one piece, as it should be.”

Learn more ways to prevent your home from suffering water damage in our member-exclusive vipTIPS. Not a member? Subscribe today to get your monthly or annual membership.

Check out Quick TIPS to find out how to prevent your pipes from suffering an imminent leak and in the unfortunate event that your pipes do burst.

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