A hot water heater leak detector can help you prevent mold. How does it do that? Well, a leak in an appliance such as a hot water heater frequently leads to the development of mold in the home. Continuous moisture provides an ideal spot for mold to begin to grow. The warmth promotes mold growth, as well.
While any water leak can contribute to mold growth, a leaky hot water heater is especially likely to lead to the development of mold because hot water heaters are typically located in out-of-the-way areas, such as basements or cupboards, where a leak might not be noticed for quite some time. A small leak that causes moisture to pool behind the hot water heater rather than in front of it may go undiscovered for even longer. This gives mold plenty of time to grow unchecked, and since mold generally grows and spreads rapidly, by the time you discover the problem, you may have a serious mold problem on your hands.
The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI) states that the average lifespan of a hot water heater is only 10 years, so leaks are not uncommon, especially as units age.
Using a leak detector allows you to catch problems right away, before mold has a chance to grow and damage your home and threaten your health and the health of your family. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fixing a water leak and cleaning up the water with 24 to 48 hours of the leak developing will usually prevent mold from beginning to grow. This is important, since the cost of mold remediation can exceed $10,000 and mold-related health problems can be long-lasting and, in some instances, life-threatening. Follow these links to read more about mold-related health problems and how mold can damage your home.
You could simply check daily or every other day for any water leaks, but most people don’t have time to do that and would likely forget. You may not need water leak detectors near appliances you use or at least walk by regularly, like a dishwasher, but leak detectors are especially useful for appliances like hot water heaters, where leaks can go unnoticed for long periods of time.
All water leak detectors have sensors that detect water. Some have small sensors that only detect water in one spot, but hot water heater leak detectors generally detect water over a larger area. Usually there is a cable that senses water along its entire length and you can position the cable so that it will detect a leak anywhere around the hot water heater (see picture). This sort of leak detector also works well for appliances like washing machines, while water leak detectors that only sense water in one small spot are generally used under sinks and in other small spaces.
Hot water heater leak detectors usually have audible alarms, similar to smoke detectors. However, some models include other options for notification of a leak. For instance, you can opt to be notified by text message or email if your hot water heater develops a leak. Of course, this is useful if a leak develops when you’re not home, especially if you are away on a business trip or on vacation. It’s also helpful if your hot water heater is located in the basement, where you may have trouble hearing it from other areas of the home. If you have a “smart home” system, some leak detectors can be connected to the system and the water can automatically be shut off in the event of a leak to prevent any damage. Unless you have a very large home or travel frequently, a hot water heater leak detector with a simple audible alarm will probably be sufficient to meet your needs, but other options are available if you need them.
If you’re interested in buying a leak detector for your hot water heater, there are plenty of options available to you. Our favorite one is the Honeywell RWD42, a brand known for its high quality products. We like this particular model because it has a four-foot-long cable that senses water along its entire length, giving you a wide area of coverage. It is also affordable and super easy to install. It has an audible alarm and a long-lasting battery, and it chirps to let you know when the battery is getting low (much like smoke detectors do). For more information, on our top recommend leak detector for hot water heaters, just follow the link.
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EPA: Mold, Moisture and Your Home