Within a week of moving into our house I installed a Nest Protect on both floors, as well as a redundant Kidde carbon monoxide detector near our utility room. I figured we were pretty well covered for fire and carbon monoxide, but that was the extent of the devices that were to keep us safe and protect our investment in our home.
One omission in our safety plan was a set of alarms to alert us to unforeseen water. If the sump pump fails or our water heater explodes, we’d want to quickly shut off the main water valve to the house. In spite of those possible disasters (however unlikely), it wasn’t until this past week that I finally installed some water alarms.
Initially I wanted a “smart” water alarm, but decided against it due to the cost and/or need for a dedicated outlet. I’d rather not sink a small fortune into the alarms and I don’t have outlets everywhere I’d like to monitor for water. During much research I discovered the Leeo Smart Alert, which pairs with many “dumb” water alarms, so long as they have a continuous tone alert.
The appeal of the Leeo is that it alerts the homeowner with push notifications and automated phone calls if it detects any of the smoke, carbon monoxide, or water alarms. This marries the inexpensive utility of the basic water alarm with the smart features of more expensive alarms. Quite a cool device if you ask me!
In addition to the Leeo, I also power the sump pump through a Wemo Insight Smart Plug, which will notify me when it turns on. I also have a water alarm with a cord that dangles into the basin several inches from the bottom. That will go off only when there’s a large volume of water in and around the foundation.
The Basement Watchdog Water Alarms Permalink
The Basement Watchdog Water Alarm is one of many continuous tone alarms that are compatible with the Leeo. It detects leaks in as little as 1/32 inch of water and can be placed in a variety of locations due to the six foot sensor wire. The alarm is a loud 110 dB that can be heard throughout the house. It’s also good at startling my cat.
Recommended Locations for Monitoring Permalink
- In a sump pit
- Near water heaters
- By refrigerators
- Next to dishwashers
- Beside washing machines
- Under sinks
- Close to air conditioner drain tubes, etc.
Shoutout to AmazonBasics 9 Volt Batteries Permalink
The Basement Watchdog Water Alarms each need a 9 volt battery for power. I haven’t purchased a 9 volt battery in a long time and was unsure what they actually cost. A quick search led me to AmazonBasics 9 Volt Everyday Alkaline Batteries, which are cheaper than comparable name brand batteries. I’ve had good success with other AmazonBasic products, so I’m hopeful that these will prove just as reliable as their more expensive competitors.
The Important Parts of the Basement Watchdog Water Alarm Permalink
The Basement Watchdog Water Alarm (what a mouthful, right?) has two compartments. One holds the 9 volt battery, while the other hides the six foot sensor. The sensor can be extended to its full length, which affords a lot of flexibility in its placement.
If you choose to use the AmazonBasics know that they fit best (in my opinion) with connectors and snap inward. I had difficulty closing the compartment when the battery was in the opposite orientation. The batteries are a little longer than typical 9 volt batteries and that may account for the tight fit.
Location, Location, Location Permalink
I placed the water alarms in any water sensitive place that isn’t visible during our day-to-day living activities. In they went under sinks that have plumbing in cabinets, but not behind any of our toilets. In time I may reevaluate this plan, depending on how paranoid I feel about imminent flooding disaster!
Introducing Leeo Smart Alert Permalink
The Leeo Smart Alert bills itself as “simple, plug-in alarm monitoring” and thus far that’s what it’s been for me. I plugged it in, installed the app, added it to our WiFi network, and confirmed all three of the available alarms to monitor (smoke, carbon monoxide, and water) within ten minutes tops.
As previously noted, I have two Nest Protects, but I’m happy to have some redundancy built into the notifications for smoke and carbon monoxide.
The Leeo Smart Alert in Action Permalink
The cat may or may not be enthused about the nightlight near his litter box. You never know with him!
Water Alarm Detected! Red Alert! Permalink
A little more than a month after setting up the Leeo Smart Alert it proved its worth by alerting me to water in the basin that holds our sump pump. I was at work and received a barrage of notifications, text messages, and phone calls. Real Gospodina also received a phone call and after some short deliberation with her I left for home to investigate.
Leeo Blowing Up My Phone Permalink
My only complaint, albeit a small one, is that I wasn’t really able to dismiss the alerts from Leeo. The water sensors that Leeo listens for emit a constant tone, so after dismissing one alert it wasn’t long before a subsequent one appeared in its stead. I was en route and would have liked Leeo to pause the litany of alerts. Still, the device worked as advertised and I’d rather a false alarm than a flood of water.
Wemo Insight Smart Plug Permalink
After the sump pump incident, I purchased a Wemo Insight Smart Plug to install as my first line of defense, notification-wise. The Wemo will notify me when the sump pump kicks on and only then if there’s a deluge of water (and not a slightly wet bottom of the basin). I have now pulled back the sensor to the accompanying water alarm so it longer sits at the bottom of the basin. If the water alarm ever goes on then I’d have a serious volume of water pouring into the sump.
Big Caveat about the Wemo Insight Smart Plug Permalink
Unfortunately the Wemo Insight Smart Plug defaults to “Off” after a power outage, which in my case would prevent the sump pump from drawing any power in the event it needs to turn on. Had I known about this behavior I would not have purchased the Wemo. I’d obviously not want to be away from home in the event a big storm causes an extended power outage. If that ever were to happen I’d want to know that my sump pump were fully operational.
It’s a good thing that I’m not the only one for whom this technical decision makes no sense whatsoever, as shown by this “Set Default ON State after Power Outage” comment thread on the Wemo Community Message Board from 2014. It appears after many strongly worded comments that Belkin has decided to put this functionality on the feature roadmap for future development.
For the time being there’s a workaround that requires connecting the Wemo Insight Smart Plug to the IFTTT app (for whatever reason you cannot use the IFTTT website to do this). While there are many interesting applets available for different Wemo products, the one we’re interested in is the “Toggle Insight switch on/off with one tap” for the Insight Smart Plug.
This particular applet uses a “Button widget,” which felt more difficult to configure than it should have been. I hope that I will remember where I put the button (in my case the Today view on iOS) in the unfortunate event that I’d need to turn the Wemo Insight Smart Plug back on while I’m away.
The Verdict Permalink
Given the alternatives, I wholeheartedly recommend buying the Leeo Smart Alert and as many of the compatible water alarms (the Basement Watchdog Water Alarms work great!) as you need for your house.
If you don’t already have a smart smoke and carbon monoxide detector you could make an argument for buying less sophisticated versions of those devices too.
My endorsement of the Wemo Insight Smart Plug is lukewarm at best. If they ever improve the default functionality after a power outage I will reevaluate my opinion and update this post.