Sink leak

Detecting Under Sink Leaks

The Fixture Can Leak 400 Litres of Water an Hour

LAIIER's Solution: A flexible, accurate and easy to install sensor

Under-sink plumbing typically includes hot and cold water feeds and a drainage system. Each of these components is a source of a potential leak which can be difficult to notice as sink performance can appear unchanged despite a large leak. Additionally, items stored under the sink or fitted cabinets around sink plumbing can obscure a visual leak inspection. If ignored, these leaks can spread beyond the sink, making them especially damaging to modular fitted bathrooms and kitchens. This can create a significant cost to homeowners as insurance payouts may not cover all aspects of the damage- particularly when the inspection has been delayed. Therefore, a device that can detect leaks early on in the process and can easily be installed under the sink is needed.

Market Opportunity

  • Every day, 14,000 homeowners deal with water leak emergencies in the US [ref]. 
  • Domestic water leaks cost $17B in claims each year in the USA and the UK [ref]. 
  • The average domestic escape of water (EOW) damage claim is $6,965 [ref].
  • There are 5M sinks in multi-unit housing in the US alone.
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Flooded hallway in home

Growth in personalized kitchens and bathrooms market presents issues with concealed plumbing

Currently, domestic EOW incidents share the largest amount of claims for most insurers overtaking theft and fire claims [ref, ref, ref]. These payouts are only becoming more expensive with a reported 30% increase at the beginning of 2021 [ref]. Insurance companies are thus recognizing the importance of these risks which has led to firms adopting more data-based models and analytics into understanding their nature. For example, Hiscox, as a leading UK insurer, has provided free leak detectors to all its building insurance customers [ref]. 

Furthermore, the smart home device market is also growing strongly at a CAGR of 10.4% to reach 138.9B by 2026 [ref] which shows the demand for devices that benefit homeowners’ quality of living. Whilst smart solutions cater for home security, air quality and energy usage, this is already expanding to water leak detection considering its serious costs. 

Sinks, whether in the kitchen or bathroom are a key source of water leaks, but what adds to the cost of incidents are the surrounding furnishings. There has been a growing demand for personalized homes in the US, as shown by the growing market for modular kitchens to reach $9B by 2026 [ref] and prefabricated bathrooms at $2.95B by 2027 [ref]. These modern construction methods mean that more plumbing is concealed, obscuring the ability to notice leaks. Additionally, leaks can spread to damage adjacent units easier, and even if only a small area is damaged, replacing an individual section is much more costly with modular designs.

Bathroom sink is modern bathroom

Sinks can damage costly furnishings 

Sinks, as a fundamental unit in all kitchens and bathrooms, are a likely cause of leaks due to a range of weak points. These include corrosion on pipes and valves, fractures on plastic fittings, untreated clogs, loose P-traps and many more. Exactly what will leak is unpredictable and can be accelerated by conditions such as cold weather, high pressures and hard water. Spotting these leaks is therefore crucial but can be difficult to notice due to tight spaces, leading to water being caught behind surfaces or on stored objects rather than forming an obvious spill. Being unaware of small leaks can be catastrophic as drips can suddenly transform into burst pipes, releasing up to 400 liters an hour [ref]. EOW can cause further indirect costs as mentioned before by damaging surrounding expensive furnishings but also potentially leading to mold. 

These costs can be compensated by home insurance, however policies usually only cover accidental sudden events that exclude poor maintenance. For example, a dripping tap that eventually bursts may not be compensated for. Further conditions that exclude homeowners from sufficient payouts include not being covered for ‘trace and access’ (i.e. finding and repairing the source of the leak) or leaving premises unoccupied for a period of time. This is why so many EOW claims get rejected, leaving a huge burden on homeowners.

Insurers intentionally do not cover all costs, as they cannot predict the large costs associated with serious leaks, highlighting the need for more customer data. This is supported by research compiled by the Insurance Post where only 30% of insurers are using external measures to assess EOW by postcode [ref]. If insurers were notified as soon as a leak occurred, this could prevent leaks from worsening, reducing the potential costs and may give more confidence to insurance providers to cover more policy types.

Existing solutions

To detect leaks early, homeowners are recommended to regularly check prone-to-leak areas such as around sinks. However, this is impractical as small leaks may not be visible to the eye so require touching supply lines which may not be incentivizing to carry out in tight spaces. Furthermore, the obvious signs of a leak such as water stains, bulges and musty odors mean that a leak is quite serious and is too late for early measures.

Water leak sensors are therefore essential for proactive monitoring and can be categorized into two main devices. Firstly, flood or spot water leak detectors, as the most popular, are rigid palm-sized pucks that are placed on flat surfaces to detect water that seeps underneath them. However, these pucks may not be suited underneath sinks because of the lack of space. Also, water leaks here may not form a sufficient pool of water that these sensors depend on due to the network of pipes and other objects stored in this area.

Secondly, there are flowmeter-type sensors installed into a home’s main water supply line to detect changes in water flow rate, pressure and temperature as a method of inferring leaks. Although these can detect small leaks, these sensors do not locate the source of the leak which can be futile to know what to repair. Current sensing solutions are thus not suited for detection.

Applying LAIIER's Severn Sensor like tape

LAIIER combats these limitations with a thin, flexible sensor that can be installed like a sticker to detect the first drops of a leak. Alerting homeowners early prevents the build-up to serious events, so damage to surrounding furnishings will be mitigated. The adaptable form factor means that these sensors can be placed on a variety of surfaces such as around sink pipes or at the base of a cabinet- even with items stored on top. LAIIER’s solution also includes being able to rapidly notify homeowners of any leaks through our Surface to Cloud™ platform utilizing LoRaWAN. This innovative and power-efficient communication network means that battery life can span years minimizing maintenance. LAIIER's LoRaWAN leak detectors can therefore supply the much-needed data to insurance policymakers who can better understand risks and prevent further damage.

A droplet on LAIIER's Severn sensor

There is a demand for more accurate leak detection solutions

Insurance companies providing for single-unit households

Almost all homeowners have building insurance which may cover EOW in sudden events but not from general wear and tear. Actively monitoring potential sink leaks with a LAIIER's LoRaWAN water detectors can identify issues earlier, preventing burst pipes and damaged furnishings. This saves money for the homeowner and the insurance provider who do not have to cover the extra damage. By providing more data, insurance providers can have more confidence in covering more policies as they know which damage types can be mitigated with early detection.

Insurance companies providing for multi-unit households

Multi-unit housing such as residential flats are in further danger of leaks as a result of more bathrooms and kitchens in closer proximity. When a leak does occur, this may cause even more damage as multiple property owners can be affected. Legally this can be quite an ordeal for brokers and loss adjusters resolving insurance cases with many parties involved. Therefore early detection can prevent the chances of multi-party damage and therefore insurance companies are more in control of the risks.

Plumbing services

Homeowners may not be able to spot leaks around obscured areas like sinks. By installing LAIIER’s sensors, this can give a head start for homeowners to be notified and can then promptly alert plumbing services for assistance. This can be especially helpful for plumbing maintenance services overseeing many properties, or could also be a way of continuing brand loyalty to independent plumbing services.

LAIIER addresses the issues with current solutions with Severn

In summary, sinks are a hotspot for a range of potential leak types and do not benefit from how hidden their pipe networks are. Consequently, leak detection is usually reactive, such as after a burst pipe, rather than at the first signs. This delay can cause further damage to surrounding expensive furnishings which can explain why there are so many exclusion policies in EOW insurances to not cover these risks. Early detection and understanding of a leak are therefore key in repairing sinks earlier and preventing secondary damage. 

LAIIER addresses this need with Severn,  an ultra-thin sensor solution that can wrap around pipes or cover custom surfaces so the first signs of a leak are detected. This contrasts to current solutions that depend on guessing where to place an obtrusive puck, or requiring cutting pipes. LAIIER’s LoRaWAN water leak detector means homeowners and insurance providers can be alerted efficiently, minimizing risks and the complications of insurance claims.