The $8 Gadget Plumbers Swear by to Prevent Water Leaks (and Pricy Repairs)

published Sep 21, 2023
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When it comes to home repairs, learning from mistakes can be extremely costly — especially with plumbing emergencies. After moving into our new house, we had a water leak that damaged our cabinets and flooring. Thankfully, insurance took care of the repairs, but the process was long and disruptive. Not only were we unable to use our kitchen for weeks, but we also had to test to see if there was mold lurking, and then for remediation. Since then, especially since this is an older home, we’ve been particularly wary of any threat of plumbing issues. And we found an incredible solution.

When my brother-in-law told me about a small device that he puts in the cabinets near every sink in his home, I knew we had to get it — and I also wondered why I’d never heard of this before! These devices are small water leak alarms that detect even tiny amounts of water, alerting you to a leak before it becomes a much bigger problem. 

The water alarms range in price, from the basic ones we snagged that cost under $8 each to more advanced ones that connect to smart home devices. But the premise is the same: They sound a very loud (but adjustable!) alarm when they detect any kind of moisture. 

Credit: Shifrah Combiths

What Do Plumbers Think of Water Detectors?

I asked a local-to-me plumber, Daniel Richardson of Tennessee Standard Plumbing, for his input on these water alarms. His immediate response when asked if he recommends them? I love them. Absolutely love them.”

Richardson said that he suggests water alarms to “every one” of his clients for anywhere water could become an issue: inside under-sink cabinets, near washing machines, and especially near a water heater, or “any place where standing water is a concern.” 

When a leak is bad, “water alarms save precious seconds,” Richardson said. Rather than coming upon already-damaged flooring and cabinets, for instance, you’ll know when the leak is still confined to the cabinet or immediate vicinity of your water-containing appliance. When the leak is slow — a culprit for mold and, potentially, health problems — you’ll be alerted before any real damage occurs. Having an alarm could potentially save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in repairs, as well as a much bigger headache. 

Another perk that Richardson notes is the benefit it will give you when filing an insurance claim. If you’re able to point out that the leak was “sudden and extreme” and you caught it early because of the alarm, he says they may be less likely to deny your claim based on a suspicion of negligence.

What’s more: “They’re fail-safe,” he added, “as long as you test the batteries, just like you would with a smoke alarm.” And the batteries can last more than six months, with a “test” button that allows you to check the battery levels. (Note: The water leak alarms I purchased came with batteries, but they were wrapped inside the unit. I had to open the unit, unwrap the batteries, and put them back in or else the alarm wouldn’t have worked. But other than that, there was virtually no setup required.) 

Such dramatic advantages make it clear that we should all put water leak alarms anywhere there’s a water source at home. As Richardson said, the “barrier for entry is so low and the potential for savings is so high.” Consider us sold. 

Buy: Water Detectors 90dB Adjustable Audio Alarm Sensor 2-Pack, $15.25