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Burst Pipe Protection With Automatic Shut Off For Commercial Buildings

What is the most likely liability to occur to a commercial business? The answer: water damage! Water damage represents over 30% of property & casualty insurance claims, being 7 times more likely than fire damage. Commercial businesses are at high risk of experiencing water damage owing to a multitude of water fixtures such as toilets, plumbing, hot water heaters and HVAC systems. These fixtures are often under intensive use, causing them to wear-out faster, thus inviting the risk of pipe leaks or bursts which have the potential to completely shut down a commercial business while lengthy repairs are being made.

The majority of water damage incidents in commercial buildings occur from within the building via leaks and burst pipes. Commercial businesses in colder climates are especially vulnerable to burst pipes. A burst pipe can be an overnight disaster, racking up massive financial costs in a short period of time. The free flowing water from a burst pipe can quickly flood your building and ruin office furniture, equipment and inventory, easily exceeding hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage costs, not to mention down-time and customer delays. Smaller leaks can also cause a great deal of damage, but over a longer period of time. In the event of a slow leak, water can seep into floorboards, behind walls, onto machinery, and other unseen places.

Commercial Water DamageWater damage can threaten a business in more ways than just the financial burden of restoration. Water can damage inventory, making it impossible to fulfill customer’s orders. Productivity can be limited or halted entirely if the business must cease operations while restoration occurs, and untold revenue could be lost. Apart from lost profit, water damage threatens commercial businesses with health hazards. Mold can grow within 24-48 hours of initial damage, and mold spores cause irritation to the eyes, nose, lungs, throat, and skin. Employees with asthma are especially vulnerable to molds, and unsanitary working conditions could create a hazardous working environment, and even potential lawsuits if the toxic conditions are unaddressed. Unfortunately, not all commercial insurance policies cover these water damage incidents the same. Slow, gradual leaks are often not covered by property policies because companies see these damages as negligence that could have been prevented with proper maintenance and due diligence to proactively search for slow leaks before they get out of hand.

Leaking CeilingFortunately for commercial businesses, Automated Shut-Off Valve Systems exist for this very reason. Internet connected, “Smart” commercial-sized leak detection systems in sizes for 1 ½” pipes (40mm metric) and 2” pipes (50mm metric) are now available. These commercial leak detection devices come with 1.5” and 2” automated shut-off valves, or ASO-Valves, and are able to detect leaks and respond accordingly. For example, if the automated shut-off system detects a leak, it will close the valve and stop the flow of water before significant damage can be done. These commercial grade automated water shut-off systems also send email or text alerts to a user’s phone to update them if a user-defined flow trigger has been breached. The app associated with this software also allows the user to remotely view real-time water flow and receive freeze alerts if temperatures drop below used-defined temperature set points (you can also set high temperature alerts). Users can set parameters that control how much water is allowed to enter the main water supply, and can also choose to be updated if water usage surpasses a designated volume. If a leak is detected, the system will automatically shut off the main water supply, preventing damage that would have occurred from the continuous flow of water through the broken pipe.

For commercial businesses, commercial grade leak detection is becoming an important part of a corporate risk mitigation program. Commercial Property and Casualty water damage claims over $1 million dollars can happen. Although a business may never encounter catastrophic water damage, the peace of mind from knowing that an automatic water shut-off system is constantly prepared and ready to defend is well worth the cost of installation.
Whole-building, flow-based Internet connected commercial size water meters without shut off (but with all the leak and temperature alerts) and real time 24/7 water usage data are also available in a wide range of sizes ranging from ¾”, 1”, 1.5”, 2”, 3”, 4”, 6”, 8” and even 10” smart meter leak detection systems.
Smart Leak Detection systems can also offer significant water savings that sometimes provide just a few months payback on the system investment. Non-damaging, but expensive water leaks can be identified in minutes, versus months later when a quarterly bill from your water utility arrives with a shockingly high bill.
Commercial applications are being seen in a variety of use cases, including:
Manufacturing facilities, Warehouses, Climate-controlled Storage Facilities, Factories, Houses of Worship, Nursery and Day Care Centers, Nursing Homes, Dentist Offices, Hotels, Schools (water damage to a flooded gym floor are $250,000 minimum), Multi-Family Housing, Office Buildings, Condos & HOA projects, trailer parks, to name a few. Basically, any facility with running water is at risk for water damage and water waste.

To recap, the driving factors for commercial, smart leak detection systems are burst pipe and water damage protection of buildings, furnishings, plant, office equipment, manufacturing equipment, and inventory. Water savings from running toilets, faucets, irrigation pipe breaks are also important considerations. New construction is also seeing an upswing in smart leak detection system installs, as burst pipes during the construction phase can be extremely costly as well. Picture a 40 story mixed-use building that is a month from completion, with all plumbing installed. Another tradesperson un-knowingly nails into a water pipe on a Friday afternoon, puncturing a pipe behind the wall. Situations like this have happened, with water running all weekend and Monday morning the crew returns to significant water damage. The project is delayed weeks to repair the damage, incurring not only clean up, remediation and repair expenses, but also penalties for not completing the project on time. A commercial-grade leak detection system could have prevented this catastrophe, and often times, insurance premium discounts of up to 10% are available from carriers, as water damage is their number one claim, at over 30% of claims. On a large project with a $400,000 or higher premium, the $40,000 premium discount pays for the commercial leak detection system. In addition, because smart, whole building leak detection systems also provide real-time and historical water usage data, the project can often save significant amounts of water, reducing their water bill. And sometimes there is water theft on construction projects, both intentional and unintentional, were another project taps into a neighboring project, stealing as much as $200,000 worth of water! A smart leak detection system can provide granular water usage reporting by month, by week, by day, by the hour, that helps spot anomalous water spikes or unusual usage patterns.

Configurations can vary, but often a combination of commercial grade leak detection devices is deployed on a project. An 8” flow-only smart meter can provide monitoring on the main pipe into a commercial building, with a variety of 1.5” and 2” smart leak detection systems with 1.5” and 2” auto shutoff valves deployed on strategic risers. In addition to deployment on commercial size potable water lines, new commercial size leak detection devices for hydronic heating are also now available. A full service commercial leak detection consultant can help architect a comprehensive solution for your project and explain the varied use cases.