Drip, Drip, Drip

We have a leak in the downstairs bathroom -  again!

This leak has been with us, off and on, over the course of 4 years. First, a little background.

Our home is constructed such that the upstairs bathroom is located directly above the downstairs bathroom.  Plumbers and builders love this because it enables them to minimize plumbing distances and reduce material costs.  Great in theory.  In real world, not so much.

The problem is that the upstairs bathtub lies directly over the downstairs bathroom ceiling. In the upstairs bathtub there exists silicone caulk at multiple joints in the tub.  No rocket science!

The same scenario occurs.  I purchase the best silicone caulk from GE at Home Depot.  You know the tube with the 30 year guarantee.  Interesting guarantee.  It states the the caulk will not:

  • shrink
  • crack
  • break down 
  • wash away

What is not guaranteed is that the caulk will  adhere to the wall.  So after 3 or 4 months, the caulk fails, the leak reappears downstairs, I recaulk and the problem stops (temporarily).

It's embarrassing when an ME can't fix a leak, but I have designed several unique features that help minimize the problem.

First, drywall has been replaced with a removable wood access panel.  Second the access panel's interior is coated with a water resistant tape used in roofing applications.  The leak is detected when water is noted dripping from the edge of the access panel.

After fixing the leak again, I decided to be a bit more proactive about my leak detection system and automate my early warning system.  Typical engineer, my mind began to consider the internet of things (IOT) and how I could incorporate this technology into leak detection.  

Which system to choose? Smart Things? Spark? Raspberry Pi? There are already a great number of very capable methods to detect and alert the homeowner to water leaks.

The problem is competing hardware. There is still a great deal of learning on the part of these new upstart IOT home automation systems.  Unfortunately, that learning is being played out by early adopters of the systems.

The reviews on some of these systems are not exactly stellar. 

Please see reviews for SmartThings hub on Amazon

Ease of adding components, interoperablity are questions and concerns with picking a home automation system.  Does anyone remember VHS versus Betamax?

I've decided to wait awhile before committing to a particular standard.  I also consider the question, "Do I really need to know that the upstairs tub has a slow leak from across town?"   Despite being a fan of new technology, the fundamental question to ask is " Just because it's newer - Is it better?"

I opted to go with an old school Honeywell sensor with a slightly unique twist.  The sensor has a 4 feet long cable that senses water along its entire length. When moisture contacts the cable, an alarm sounds.  Please see the "final" solution photo above.