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Choosing a Flood Prevention System

Exploring different flood prevention devices and systems to help you choose the best one for your needs

When you think about floods, what comes to mind? Torrential rains? Levees breaking? Sandbags? What about washing machine hoses? A failed pump? Sewer backups? We tend to underestimate the potential for disaster that exists in our homes, and those not living in a flood zone may think themselves fairly safe from the massive damage that just a few inches of water can produce. This is not even true when it comes to natural floods (they can happen anywhere), and such a mind set leaves a homeowner unprepared and vulnerable.

Every home is plumbed with a network of pipes that connect to a water supply, and any one of the fittings, tubes, fixtures, or appliances found within it or connected to it are susceptible to damage or failure. If they do fail, that water has nowhere to go but out of the damaged area and throughout your home - damaging almost everything in its path, including floors, furniture, and belongings, some of which may be irreplaceable or of significant sentimental or monetary value. There's little that can be done to prevent these types of accidents - man-made machines fail and leaks happen - but there are plenty of relatively inexpensive ways to prevent or mitigate the damage unchecked water flow can cause when these incidents occur.


Natural Floods

If natural flooding is a major concern or frequent occurrence in your area (i.e., you live in a flood zone), we strongly recommend as much preventative maintenance as possible. For example, performing regular gutter cleaning, installing backwater valves on your sewer lines and floor drains in your basement or low-lying areas, keeping appliances like washers and water heaters above the base flood elevation, and making sure you have a good sump pump system installed and regularly maintain it.

To prevent sewage flowing back into your home through the over-worked or clogged municipal sewer lines during rainy seasons, you can easily and economically install backwater valves on your drainage pipes. When reversal of flow occurs, the backwater valve closes and cuts off the flow so that wastewater and raw sewage cannot get into your home.

Having floor drains is a good way to mitigate water damage from flooding caused by burst pipes or faulty appliances, but these drains are susceptible to backing up during a natural flood and allowing sewage or other wastewater into your home. To help prevent this, we suggest installing a Flood-Guard on all basement or low-lying floor drains. Flood-Guards use check valve technology to seal off the drain opening. If sewer water begins to backup, it will push up the float inside the Flood-Guard until the float seals off the opening. Once the sewage begins to flow back down the drain again, the float will lower and the drain will operate effectively again.

It is important to note, however, that Flood-Guards can become blocked by debris, which could allow wastewater to back up into your home. Additionally, water may not drain as quickly through a drain with a Flood-Guard installed and (although it is unlikely) could be a problem for homeowners whose primarily flooding concern is from above rather than below.


Pump Problems

Another fairly common cause of flood damage in many homes (especially for those who live in flood-prone areas), is failure of their sump pump or float switch, improper installation, or an incorrectly sized sump pump. If you don't know if your existing pump is up to the job, or you don't know how to size a new sump pump, we suggest having a licensed plumber take a look to make sure your system is in good working order and capable of handling the potential workload common to your area.

If/when everything is properly installed, sized, and functioning, it's time to start thinking about flood prevention. Even the very best pumps are man-made and will eventually fail. Since most primary pump systems are run off electricity, there is also the potential for a power outage. Usually these happen right when you need your pump the most, such as during big storms or other natural phenomenon.

One of the best methods for helping to prevent flooding from sump pump failure is to install a secondary or backup sump pump. While you can choose an electrical pump as your backup, it is possible a power outage could affect that pump too in an emergency. Thus, we recommend using a water-powered backup sump pump or a battery powered emergency sump pump system. If your water is provided by a well and you experience a power outage then a battery powered backup sump pump will work when water is not available. Neither the water-powered backup up pump or the battery powered backup pumps will be as efficient as your primary electrical pump, but they will keep things flowing in the right direction until the power comes back on or you can repair/replace your primary pump

Having a backup sump pump system can save you thousands of dollars and hours of headache related to water damage - but if the backup pump is working how will you know the primary pump failed? Well, luckily there are a number of pump shut-off switches and alarms that can help you prevent or identify problems with your pump early.

Float switches used to control pumps really haven't changed much since their inception, but as with any kind of mechanical device with moving parts, they can and eventually will fail. Whether you're replacing a float switch that has already failed or you want to do everything you can to prevent damage from float switch failure, we have several electronic sump pump switches that can help.

The SumpWatcher and Hi-Lo pump switch both function as your pump's float switch - turning the pump on or off in a manner dependent on the type of switch. These electronic switches are plugged into the grounded outlet, and the pump is plugged into the switch. The electronic "float" is placed in the sump pit and goes to work.

When choosing an electronic switch, carefully consider the size of your sump pit, how often it runs, and what your individual water removal needs are. The SumpWatcher is suitable for the majority of homeowner needs, as it calibrates your pump's typical function and turns the pump on and off when the water in the sump pit rises or drops below a certain level.

If you desire a very precise level of control for when the pump turns on and off, the Hi-Lo pump switch is your answer. Unlike other switches, the Hi-Lo switch has two sensors that you can set to turn the pump on at a specific level and off at a specific level.

Both of these electronic switches will sound an audible alarm if:
  • the pump is not plugged in or it cannot turn on the pump
  • the pump can't keep up with the water coming in
  • the discharge plumbing is blocked
  • the motor current of the pump is too high
  • there is debris on the sensor

Whole House Protection

Most people know that the first thing you should do when you find a major leak is to shut off the water until the leak can be repaired - but what can you do if the leak or burst pipe occurs when you aren't home? Should we all just start turning off the main water supply every time we leave the house, like locking the door? That's actually not a bad idea when you consider that many of us spend an average of 8-10 hours away from home each day, or go on vacation for days or weeks at a time.

With the Flo-N-Stop wireless control system, you can conveniently place a push-button remote right next to your most used entry/exit and turn the main water supply on or off whenever you leave home for an extended time. Of course this system is totally automatic and turning your system off manually is just an option for those who like complete peace of mind. The Flo-N-Stop uses a solenoid valve that communicates with the on/off transceiver through a wireless signal. If the power goes out or the wireless signal is lost, the spring-loaded solenoid valve automatically releases the spring and turns the main water supply off. While this system will cost you a couple hundred dollars, it offers full protection from leaks or flooding anywhere in your home and the thousands of dollars of damage they can cause.

If you're more concerned with specific areas producing leaks or do not wish to turn off the main water supply every time you leave, you may want to consider the AquaGate Water Damage Prevention System. Using strategically placed sensors, this system alerts you of a leak by sounding an alarm, then turns off the main water supply to prevent further water flow. This system is great for those who regularly maintain their pipes and are primarily concerned with appliance failure. However, it can only detect leaks where they are, so if you don't have a sensor in the right place, a leak won't be detected. Up to four sensors can be attached to the valve system, so you can place them in various spots to cover a larger area.

If you're looking for a point-of-use water detection system similar to the AquaGate, we also offer a variety of FloodStop systems. These systems install directly at the fixture shut-off valve rather than at your main water supply, so they are easy for a do-it-yourselfer to install. A sensor is placed near the appliance and if water is detected, an alarm sounds and the water supply is shut off at the appliance. While these systems don't offer quite the protection of the Flo-N-Stop or AquaGate Water Damage Prevention System, they can be useful for anyone who is worried about a particular appliance or fixture. There are a myriad of connection types available for washing machines, commercial and residential water heaters, water softeners, and filters, sinks, dishwashers, toilets, and more so you can make sure every potential problem area in your home is covered.

Appliance Specific Systems

While natural floods are the most common cause of home water damage, washing machines and water heaters aren't far behind. It makes sense, if you think about it, as the sheer volume of water these appliances use on a regular basis is enough to cause plenty of damage in just minutes. We have a number of appliance specific flood prevention devices that are very effective in protecting your home from renegade machines.

Washing Machines

Our favorite flood prevention device for washing machines is the FloodStop. Installed directly between your washer shut-off valves and supply lines, it turns the water off whenever a leak is detected and sounds an audible alarm. The feature that gives the FloodStop an edge, however, is that it can be connected to an auto-dialer, home automation system, or home alarm system to contact you (or someone else if you are out of town) if a leak occurs. The primary downside to the FloodStop for washing machines is that it won't turn the electricity to the machine off - which is somewhat mitigated by the automatic alert system since once you're notified of the leak, you could come turn the machine off.

Similar to the FloodStop, the IntelliFlow automatic washing machine shut-off valve is designed to turn the water flow to the machine on or off whenever it senses the machine has been turned on or off. This keeps leaks related to burst supply lines or faulty valves from damaging your home when the machine is turned off. When the machine is on, the IntelliFlow will also sense leaks during the wash cycle and turn the water off. This won't turn the electricity to the machine off either, however.

WasherWatcher Shut-Off ValveWasherWatcher Shut-Off Valve

If you're looking for something that will turn your washing machine off to help prevent flooding, the WasherWatcher is an excellent solution. The WasherWatcher is plugged into your grounded electrical socket, then the washing machine is plugged into the WasherWatcher. The attached sensor is placed in your laundry tub, standpipe, or wall box. When water levels get too high, the WasherWatcher automatically cuts power to the washing machine so that no more water is pumped into or out of the machine. Once the water level goes down, the WasherWatcher automatically turns the washing machine back on. When used in conjunction with a FloodStop or the IntelliFlow, you have comprehensive flood protection from washing machine leaks.

Water Heaters

While we do offer FloodStops for both residential and commercial water heaters, we feel the FloodSafe Water Detector Shutoff is an excellent option for water heater specific flood prevention. FloodStops will turn off the water supply to your water heater when a leak is detected and notify you of the problem. However, it will not turn the power off to the unit.

The FloodSafe, on the other hand, will turn off both the water supply and the power source if a leak is detected, then generate an alarm so you know it's been activated. Different types are offered for gas and electric water heaters, and the leak sensor can detect as little as 1/16th of an inch of standing water. This system also comes with a special "water dam" that surrounds the ground below the water heater to help prevent leaks from spreading.

Other Appliances & Fixtures

For other appliances or plumbing fixtures, there are a variety of FloodStop systems available. They work just like the FloodStops for washing machines and water heaters, and are great for under sink areas, refrigerator water filters/icemakers, dishwashers, and toilets. A multi-purpose FloodStop is available for unique appliances where there is the potential for leaks.

WaterWatcher SystemWaterWatcher System

For the ultimate flood prevention with home appliances, we suggest using a WaterWatcher in conjunction with a FloodStop or Leak Controller. While the other systems will turn off the water supply (making them ideal for faucets and toilets), the WaterWatcher turns off the power to the device. Simply plug the WaterWatcher into the electrical outlet, place the sensor, and plug your appliance into the WaterWatcher - so easy almost anyone can do it.

Alarms

Sometimes you don't want or need some type of shut-off system - you just need a way to know when there is water where it shouldn't be. For example, some outdoor places like ponds, barns, sheds, or patios don't have anything to shut off, but you may still want to know if water is getting into these areas after a storm. An alarm is usually the best solution for these types of applications.

We offer a variety of high water and low water alarms, perfect for ponds, water tanks, and many other outdoor applications. If you need an alarm inside to fit behind your refrigerator, in the bathroom, by the attic swamp cooler, or near the fish tank, our portable water detection alarms are battery operated, loud enough to get your attention, and small enough to fit almost anywhere without being in the way.

We hope you never have to deal with the high costs, headache, and sometimes heartache that can accompany severe water damage, however, now that you have read this article, you have the information needed to choose the right flood prevention device or system for your home. Always remember to regularly check and maintain your home's plumbing system and any flood prevention device or system you have in place to ensure they work properly and help keep your home flood free.


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