Protecting yourself against the number one risk to your home

Ease potential water damage with these state-of-the-art devices

In our everyday lives and throughout our homes, water is essential. From the kitchen to the laundry room and the bathroom to the basement, there are a significant number of opportunities for a water-related issue—and should one occur, the impact could be big.

“Water damage can happen from something as simple as a toilet running for a long time,” says Berkley One Vice President of Risk Management Amanda McComas. “Especially if you’re not home, that can be an instance when water is then running throughout your house—and all of a sudden, you’re looking at a significant loss.”

It’s one of the reasons McComas points clients to Berkley One’s PlusOneSM Service Network, a team of contractors and service providers who can help with proactive installations or repairs—including Beagle Services, a team of professionals specializing in water damage prevention services, including the installation and monitoring of smart devices that help to do so (such as automatic water shutoff valves and point-of-leak water sensors). It’s devices and services like these, McComas notes, that can make all the difference when it comes to water-related home maintenance. McComas adds:

“Water is the leading source of homeowners insurance losses, so these installations can be incredibly beneficial. The technology is smart enough to automatically shut off water before it runs throughout your home, helping to avoid serious damage.”

Here, McComas and Beagle Services CEO Paul Vacquier shed light on the different types of water shutoff valves and smart sensors, and why every home can benefit from one.

IoT Devices for Every State—and Every Homeowner


While frozen pipes are a concern for colder months, water damage should be a year-round area of interest—especially during times of travel. Vacquier notes:

“The industry sees much higher non-weather water damage claims during times of travel, as homeowners aren’t onsite to spot a leak that will then run for several days, causing more catastrophic loss—and those times can be highest around the holidays and during summer months.”

McComas agrees, noting the benefits for every kind of homeowner—particularly those managing two or more properties. “Some may think if it’s your secondary home you may not need a sensor because you’re not there as often—but what about when you’re there and your primary home is now unoccupied?” asks McComas. “Whether it’s a primary or secondary home or cold-weather or warm-weather state, a water shutoff installation is one of the best possible decisions you can make to help protect your home from non-weather water damage.”

Machine Learning-Based vs. Threshold-Based


To better determine the best device for your home, it’s important to first understand the two primary types: machine learning-based and threshold-based. In the former, the device learns a particular property’s water usage, then references this to detect any unfamiliar water use. The device notifies the homeowner (who can then intervene if it’s a false alarm). Meanwhile, a threshold-based system can be configured by the homeowner to allow water to flow for only a set period or quantity of gallons. If the device detects water usage beyond these thresholds, it triggers a warning and automatic shutoff. Some devices, Vacquier notes, can do both.

“Certain technology allows you to set it to operate as either a threshold- or machine learning-based system, while some are capable for only one of these processes—offering options to choose from.”


Flow-Based vs. Sensor-Based


In addition to two primary types of technology, there are two installation options: flow-based or sensor-based. Largely, the team at Berkley One recommends the former. “We advise clients to install flow-based systems because they’re covering all of the pipes in your home,” says McComas.

“You could have something happening behind your walls that you have no idea about, or you could have an unusual rate of flow—and this system is smart enough to understand the difference between water usage for a shower, for example, and water usage in a leak.”

A sensor-based system, on the other hand, shuts off only when it reaches a sensor. “This approach could leave many of the pipes behind your walls vulnerable,” says McComas. “You may have something happening behind your walls that never hits a sensor, and all of a sudden you’re receiving an enormous water bill, or you’re seeing water damage somewhere.”

Though a flow-based system is the general recommendation, there are exceptions. “Not every property is compatible with installation of a flow-based automatic shutoff valve—the most common example are condos,” says Vacquier, noting that while the unique composition of these buildings may not work with shutoff valves, they still benefit from a sensor-based system’s alert of a leak occurring. “Something is better than nothing, so for those in condos, we definitely encourage sensors throughout the space—under sinks, dishwashers, and other appliances,” says McComas.

And for clients interested in and able to install a flow-based system, sensors can be an added bonus. “When a client is installing a flow-based automatic water shutoff device, we encourage them to install sensors near a sump pump—that sensor can alert you as to whether any groundwater is coming in,” says McComas. “In that way, sensors function as a complement to a flow-based system—they can work well together.”

Berkley One is a Berkley Company.