Leak sensors may not be on the wishlist for renters, but they are arguably something every property owner and operator should consider installing. A quick search reveals that non weather-related water incidents are 7 times more likely to happen than fire and 5 times more likely than theft. The average cost to fix water damage is just under $3,000 and if the leak goes undetected for a few hours, the costs can quickly multiply. Multi-family properties have even more potential for consequences because multiple units can be affected, even when there’s just one leak. When leaks occur, water can permanently damage flooring, paint, carpets, and ceilings in one or even multiple units.

The best thing you can do to avoid all of this is to catch and stop the leak as quickly as possible—and smart technology can help. Installing smart water leak sensors can save you the countless troubles that water in the wrong places can cause.

How does a water leak sensor work?

There are different types of water leak sensors, however the most common type for multi-family residences are spot leak sensors due to their easy non-invasive installation, longevity, and bang for your buck. A less popular, but still helpful option are water main sensors. These sensors require a bit more upfront time, effort and money for installation. 

Either way, you’ll want to look for a system that detects water leaks and is connected to your smart home system.

Spot leak sensors work by doing what the name implies, detecting leaks in a specific location where the risk of dripping or pooling water is high. These can be mounted onto surfaces near or under sinks in bathrooms or kitchens, in laundry rooms, behind refrigerators or even in boiler rooms. Once a leak is detected traditional sensors will trigger an alarm, similar to a fire alarm or carbon monoxide detector, that can last up to 2-3 days. Smart sensors will send alerts to a smartphone, email or app. Both sensors will alert users of a leak within seconds of it happening. 

Less popular, but equally as helpful, water sensors are Water main sensors. These are installed on water mains that supply the unit or building and monitor the flow rate and pressure of water using abnormal changes in either to determine if there is a leak in the system. These sensors require a plumber for proper placement and installation, making them a pricey option. 

Your property’s needs

If leak sensors are on your list of devices to install in your apartment units, there are a few things that should be kept in mind while making your choice. To find the right leak sensor, you’ll need to start by identifying your property’s needs and priorities.  How you want to receive alerts, your target budget, the number of units in the complex, and your team’s maintenance capacity can all affect your buying decision.

Features you should look for in a Leak Sensor

Every leak sensor will detect and warn you of a potential leak. There are a few additional features that make the sensor more effective and worth the extra cost. You may not need all of the bells and whistles, but smart home integration and temperature monitoring features can save you time and money in the long run. 

Leak Sensor Integrations 

Whether you have smart home devices or not, we recommend finding a sensor connected to a platform that has an alert and is able to send you notifications via email or text. Deciding between a stand alone leak sensor or one that integrates with your current smart home setup is a personal choice with no right or wrong answer, both are effective and come with their own list of pros and cons. 

Sensors that integrate with current smart home setups require a hub. This integration allows the hub to send alerts directly to your smart device, email or Property Dashboard (if you’re using IOTAS devices) allowing the leak to be stopped within a timely manner, avoiding unnecessary damage. 

Smart stand alone sensors have a variety of attention grabbing ways to notify users of leaks ranging from LED lights to alarms and even stand alone apps that will send you push notifications. Keep in mind that oftentimes, subscriptions are needed to get the full experience and features of the stand alone app.

Installation type

Sensors that are easy to mount by property maintenance teams also save lots of money in the long run. These peel and stick or mount to studs using screws 

The majority of these sensors run on batteries that last 2-10 years, depending on their features, allowing them to be placed without wall outlets or electrical wiring. Meaning that in the event of a power outage they will continue to work. Replacement of these sensors and quick, easy and relatively inexpensive.

If you currently have smart home devices, ask your provider if they offer smart leak sensors. If you don’t have a dedicated property management team that can install them, oftentimes your smart home provider may be able to do so for you (at an additional cost) or point you in the right direction of a company that can do the installation. 

Leak Sensor Monitoring and Management 

It’s important to keep in mind what type of information you’d like to have collected and how the system is going to be monitored. You will also need to be aware of how the notifications work, how to integrate them into your systems, and ensure the right people are receiving them. It’s important to know what happens when a leak is detected. Does the sensor have a built-in alarm? Or will you be notified through an app? You’ll also need a plan of action when there is a leak detected. 

Final thoughts

Water leak detectors are an investment that every multi-family housing owner or operator should consider. You’re never expecting your units to flood with water, but it’s a fact that leaks happen regardless of the building’s age, and the repair bills are never cheap. 

A smart leak sensor is the perfect safety net and assures you that you’ll be notified quickly if there is ever a problem. Investing in devices that conserve energy is becoming the standard for apartments across the country and an investment that can save you significant time and money.