The BEST $12 We Ever Spent

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Have you ever heard of a water alarm? See how a small $12 purchase saved this blogger a TON of money!

I get really upset when I spend money needlessly — paying a fine for missing a bill, not returning something to a store on time and ending up with store credit or worse, wasting food….

But then there are those times when I buy something that turns out to be worth way more than I paid for it.

This post is about one of those times.

The simple, inexpensive, invaluable purchase?

A simple water alarm.

Here’s the story.  It’s pretty unbelievable.

I have told you all numerous times over the past months that I have been just inundated with so many things, and that I would update you all later on what they were.

Well, I’ll go into more detail in the future, but the catalyst for all of this was our decision to do a local move.

It came about quite suddenly–and we ended up doing it at just about the busiest time of my husband’s career (which I do NOT recommend), and then other things started happening that made it, well — let’s say an incredibly stressful time for us.

I’ll fill you in on the reasons for the move, and many of the other details down the road, but I really wanted to tell you all this story so that you all might benefit from what I learned.

During the inspection of the new home, we learned that the water heater at the new home was quite old — 14 years old, to be exact.  Our home inspector strongly recommended that we replace it as soon as possible in order to avoid leakage into the mostly finished basement.

And seeing as I have a big problem with mold, I didn’t want any water problems.

While approaching the date of possession, we had a plumber give us estimates on replacing the heater, which turned out to be a little complicated.  See, the water heater was in a pretty tight space, and we wanted a pan under it, with a hose leading from the heater to a floor drain.

In case you already didn’t know, those things are really important.

Have you ever heard of a water alarm? See how a small $12 purchase saved this blogger a TON of money! Protect your home and family from water damage and mold with this small but invaluable purchase.
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Helpful Water Heater Leak Information

1.  How Leaks Happen

When a water heater leaks, it typically does so at the seam on the bottom of the heater breaking.  So water drips out of the bottom.  Of course it’s possible for there to be an explosion, but there are ways to prevent that.

2.  The Pan

Anyhow, if the water starts leaking out and you don’t notice it (and how often are you standing next to your water heater, especially if you’re not home or it’s the middle of the night), then you really want something under the heater to catch the water as it’s coming out.  A plumber can install a pan for you that will catch the water as it leaves the water heater.

However, if there is more than just a little water in your heater (which is more likely than not), you need more than just the pan to catch the water

3.  Hose

Ideally, you want a hose connected from the bottom of the water heater to a drain.

Back to Our Story

For several reasons, the hot water heater didn’t get installed prior to us moving in.

I was concerned.  The house was ours, but we weren’t moving in for awhile.

The water heater was old and I don’t get along with mold well.

But the plumber was a bit hard to schedule, and then with the homeowner needing to get packed and get the house cleaned for our upcoming move date, they didn’t want us having the plumber in while they were doing preparation.

The plumber assured me that the heater should be okay since the homeowner had apparently drained the heater a number of times over the 14 year period, and that apparently extends the life of the heater.

So we waited.

I wasn’t thrilled (because I am pretty paranoid about water being in places where it shouldn’t be) but tried to be patient.

On February 13 we moved into the home–sort of.

We moved in with our “essentials” and a few mattresses, a table and chairs, and that’s about it.  We were very excited to be in our new home and wanted to be in, even though many of our things would come later.

I contacted the plumber and he wasn’t that responsive.  Something about his SD card getting damaged.

Feb 22, 2015:  This is where the fun begins.

It was Sunday.

We decided to go to our church’s evening service.

We were about to head out the door when we heard a strange beeping.

I stood there with my shoes half-on, wondering where the noise was coming from.

Then I figured it out.  It was the BASEMENT!

I ran.

Something I’d pretty much forgotten about was beeping — and it was loud.

The Water Alarm

The little box sitting at the bottom of the water heater.

water alarm
Here’s the alarm sitting in the pan of our new water heater. The water heater will soon be hooked up to a hose, but I want to know if something happens regardless.

Water was leaking out of the water heater onto the floor – and had hit the wall next to the finished area of the basement.  (The previous homeowner didn’t have a pan nor a hose for their water heater.  This is a photo of what we have now.)

I yelled to my husband and sons asking them to get towels.  And we didn’t have many since we’d just moved a few things in.

I basically used every towel and rag we had.

I messaged the plumber about the water leak and called another plumber we’d been talking to. Thankfully, the second plumber answered and walked me through what to do.

He said to get a garden hose, connect it to the water heater and run it to a drain and shut off the water to the heater.

Well, we hadn’t brought our garden hose with us so my husband ran to the home of the only neighbor we’d met and thankfully, someone was home.

We hooked up the hose and ran the other end to a drain and let the heater drain out.

Many minutes of sopping up water ensued, followed by fans and a dehumidifier running for a few days since a little water had gotten under a piece of wood.

We were so thankful — we tested the wall next to the water heater later (using this VERY handy moisture meter) and found no signs of moisture.

I Recommend
General Tools Digital Moisture Meter

General Tools Digital Moisture Meter

This moisture meter has been so helpful to us over the years. You can use it to check the moisture levels of wood, wallboard, drywall, and masonry. It has no pins so you it doesn't damage surfaces when taking readings. Every home should have at least one of these!

This little water alarm seriously saved our basement.

I Recommend
Watchdog Water Alarm

Watchdog Water Alarm

Protect your home against dangerous water damage with this inexpensive and effective water alarm. Detects as little as 1/32 inches of water with a loud 110 decible alarm that can be heard throughout the house! Comes with a 6 foot wire for flexibility and can accommodate up to another 100 feet of wire.

We now have a water alarm in  just about every place in the house where water might leak…..

under all of our sinks
under the washing machine
under the dishwasher (just remove the kick plate and put one underneath)

–we haven’t done it, but you could even put a water alarm against the wall of a basement if you’re worried about water coming in there and you could also put one under / next to your fridge.  (The water is turned off to our fridge since we filter our water with something stronger than the fridge filters.)

About the dishwasher, just this year, 2 friends in my blogging world had their dishwashers leak and one of them had, if I remember correctly, over $70,000 in damages.  Yikes!

Of course, if you’re not home, no one can hear the alarm, so I am considering purchasing this model that contacts you if it detects water.  Before spending this much money, however, I want to make sure it will work the way I want it to so — I will report back on that when I get it done.

I Recommend
Govee WiFi Water Sensor 3 Pack

Govee WiFi Water Sensor 3 Pack

This Govee water detector is WiFi powered to send alerts to your phone whenever there's a water leak. Works for both drips and leaks and has a loud alarm backup in case WiFi is temporarily not available. 

$12 well spent.

The moral of the story?

Better safe than sorry.

Get a pan.

And a hose.

And a water alarm.  Or 2.  Or 7…..

Have you ever heard of a water alarm?
Ever had a great purchase like this?

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  1. Hi thank you for this info. I have a condo in Florida that got flooded from upstairs owners water heater, i had tons of mold n damage! She didn’t notify anyone. And i had No idea until soneone checked my apt. Major damage , had no homeowners ins either. And her insurance denied my claim. Anyway I have an old heater(over 10 yrs I think) and don’t want that to happen to me or my downstairs owner. I’m on 2nd floor. Do u suggest a new water heater or just an alarm. The pan is a great idea also. Can that still be installed on existing heater. Also if i replace it can you tell me the best brand to buy and where. Also where did you buy alarm. Thank you so much!

    1. Hello there. I’m sorry I didn’t notice your comment until now. As for what to do, I can’t really say–there are ways to prevent water leaks by maintaining the heater but no matter if a heater is new or old you should have some kind of setup to deal with a leak since water heaters can go at any time. I think you can put a pan under the heater if you empty it out but it would be difficult. I got mine at Home Depot–I have 2 links in the post–I just added one more. Hope that helps!

  2. We had an alarm on our water heater too, and it likewise caught a problem with a leak (wasn’t the water heater but a pipe nearby that was bumped too hard on the install). Then we had a problem with the alarm. It went off with no water at all and would no turn off no matter what I did. These alarms are VERY loud. Not just horn-honking or hush-I’m-on-the-phone loud. Head-is-going-to-explode loud. I finally ripped the thing out of the heater and yanked the battery out. I’d still keep one in, however, though I don’t know if it needs to be quite that loud.

    1. Was it the same brand? This one was loud but sounded more like beeping at the back door b/c our water heater is in a closet, basically.

    2. I know this is an older comment, but just had to respond: Friends TV show, the one with the fire alarm and Phoebe… hysterical!

      1. I have such mixed feelings about that show (but I did watch it daily when I was very ill when I was pregnant with our first), but I’ll have to look for that one. Gosh can you watch it anywhere? But the news about Matthew Perry – so sad!

  3. This would really have helped when I had a sump pump that was unplugged by a chimney sweep who forgot to plug it back in or tell me. The rain filled the concrete area under my house that houses the oil furnace, and the rainwater got so high that it covered the metal insulating the power cord! Lucky I was there! I went to the local hardware (over 15 miles one way), and the great employee totally built me a water pump set up so I just dropped a hose down and put the other end out the door, and pumped all the water out before it shorted my entire house out and flooded it!
    I think I’ll invest in several of these!
    Didn’t even know they existed until now!!!

      1. Sorry, Adrienne, didn’t get your response until now!
        My house was built in 1945, and I’m certain that the only heat was from a fireplace. At some point, an in floor oil furnace was installed. It is a 3ft x 2ft grate in the hall. They dug a pit at least 4′ x 6′ x4′ deep and hung the furnace from the floor, leaving the pit below the level of the “crawlspace” (I put that in ” because when I bought the house, the front of the house was 3 inches from the ground to the floor, and in the back it was about 18inches). What happened was the water flooded the pit, filling it, including about 1 inch INSIDE the metal of the actual furnace, Covering the electrical wire that was covered in that ‘corrugated’ metal stuff…
        That was when I headed to the local building supply and got the pump built for me by a wonderful employee and saved my house.
        At this time, 2023, I have had NO heat in my house for almost 8 years now ad the furnace gave out and I can find no replacements as no one seems to make them anymore except maybe in the East. (I’m in Oregon). Everyone want to sell me a heat pump with those exterior vertical “gutters” but my house is not set up to accomodate the inside part. I have no outside walls without either a door/doorway, window or fireplace that will allow for placement of the actual fans. So, I live in winter with a couple of space heaters and a Mr Heater Buddy.
        Also, since just before I retired, I took my entire retirement, had the house lifted 5 feet and built a new foundation with 3 foot clearance for the crawlspace. I also had new windows installed as old ones were the 1945 originals, new hardy plank siding (old siding was plastic! YUK!!) with insulation (much of the house was not insulated), and a new metal roof installed.
        So now if I could just get heat, I’d be so happy!!!
        Sorry so long, but you did ask!!! LOL!

        1. Oh my goodness. Wow that’s crazy! My son is going in to the trades and is pretty good with inventing solutions, but I’m guessing you’ve already talked w/ a number of people? Do you react to that Heater Buddy at all? I tried one and seems it kicks off some pretty icky fumes. Thanks for the interesting explanation! Wow.

      2. Oh, yeah, to answer your actual question!
        It is a crawlspace. Most homes in Oregon don’t have actual basements. There may be a few, but not many.

        I actually live within less than a mile of a man-made reservoir, and the actual water table is pretty low. Like, dig a couple of feet and find water! My well is only 53 feet down.
        I WISH I had a basement!

        1. There were very few basements around when we lived in OK. And they needed them w/ all the tornadoes! So sorry you don’t have one. Crawlspaces aren’t great. What’s the reason for no basements there? Is it the water table issue?

  4. We have the exact same water alarms at our house! We live where our house is on a hill and needed a retaining wall. We were told when we purchased the house the problem had been fixed so no water would leak in. Wrong! But, we had purchased a water alarm just in case and so only a small area got wet. Thank you for posting this so others can be safe too!

    1. Good for you! So the retaining wall is supposed to keep the water out?

      I’m glad they worked so well for you. I even told a plumber about these and he had never heard of such a thing. I was surprised he hadn’t. I think these should be standard. They’re so inexpensive!

  5. So this is just an alarm?? If we were gone it wouldn’t matter. I came home from work one day years ago to a flooded kitchen. It had run down into the basement and the ceiling tiles were in the floor. It was a BIG mess. We had been talking about redoing our kitchen. When the insurance company came out and we got our estimate of what they would pay we decided to go ahead and redo the kitchen. We laughed and said GOD works in mysterious ways. It didn’t cover all the redo but it sure made a dent in it.

    We also had our basement partially flooded from a jacuzzi leak. My husband said if you want to wake up fast step down into a few inches of water early in the morning. Ha!!

    1. Yes, it’s an alarm. I think the one that calls you would be better so then you could have someone else with a key who could actually do something to help.

      So sorry that happened to you but glad it worked out. What happened in your kitchen?

      1. I replied back to you but it came back as a failed delivery. Crazy!! Sorry I forgot to mention that a water filter under our kitchen sink sprung a small leak. Also, our ins. com. took the filter and the filter company ended up paying all or some not sure which to our ins. co. So we didn’t have to pay the deductible. Big BLESSING!

        1. Oh no- do you have a copy of what you received back that you could forward to me, please? Thanks. Then I can try to figure out what happened. That’s wonderful!!

          1. When I received an email saying someone had commented about what I had said I clicked reply and that is when I received the mail failure. When you said send it to you I did the same thing again and copied and pasted it and I just got the same mail failure again. It looks like the only way I can send it is to put it here in comments. It is pretty long but I will if you want me too.

  6. Yep, we have several of these — one directly next to the washer and one directly next to the hot water heater. Another next to the fridge that leaked on the main floor and ran through the basement family room ceiling the first month we were here. 🙂 Money well spent.

    1. The fridge! I forgot that. But I do think I turned the water off to ours. I will go and put that in the post. Is yours in plain view? I think I could maybe fit one under our fridge but it might be tight.

    2. On the fridge one: I have mine tucked into the corner on the floor at the back edge, where the water would leak out. I found out the hard way that if the water filter in the fridge doesn’t get changed on time, it gets over-full and leaks. And I mean like a hose. 🙂 We had just been there a few weeks and didn’t realize the filter must have been in the fridge a while. Figured it out right quickly.

      1. Oh no!!! There was a leak from the fridge in this house that we bought — but it was a long time ago. Thanks for taking the time to share!

  7. Wow! I will definitely be getting that alarm! We are full time RV’ers and during the night the toilet kept running till it overflowed. Some carpet in the bedroom for wet, nothing towels couldn’t handle. But-water also leaked down into the storage areas below! It was a mess. We spent the entire next day unloading each bay, sucking up carpet with a wet dry vac, and wiping down everything.

    1. ICK! Water can cause so many problems. I really need to look into the other options that call when there’s an issue. Can you imagine coming home from vacation to something like that?

  8. My bf is a plumber and has all kinds of horror stories about water damage to customers’ homes that he encounters almost daily. I think putting water alarms under sinks, especially the kitchen sink and around the hot water heater are great ideas. I had damage years ago under the dishwasher when the holes got clogged up by lime from the hard well water we had before we got a water softener. I run the dishwasher at night while I sleep because it’s loud and so didn’t realize it was leaking until morning after the end cap on the base cabinet had absorbed a lot of water. For the small price of these alarms, it is worth not having the headache and unexpected cost that water damage can cause. And it doesn’t take much!

    As a side note, my bf would be unhappy with me if I didn’t tell people to please remove the bottles and other items under the leaky sink before the plumber gets there. He says this happens ALL THE TIME (who leaves their stuff sitting in water??!!) and it is really frustrating to the plumbers of the world. 🙂

    Great post!

    1. YIKES. I never like running my dishwasher at night for that reason. Ours in the new home is loud, though, so I get what you are saying.

      I guess he does get paid for his time for removing the bottles, though, right? 🙂

      Thanks for the kind words!!

      1. Well, I’m apparently a slow learner, because I still run the dishwasher at night (knock on wood, no other leaks in over 15 years now) because I just don’t like a bunch of unnecessary noise, including what sounds like a 747 taking off in the kitchen for what seems like 2 hours while I’m trying to watch tv and unwind. 😉

        And yes, my guy does get paid for his time (sorta….as it’s a service call), but he said 1) he feels awkward getting under someone’s sink and seeing/touching/removing their stuff, including personal lady type stuff (lol) and 2) it takes time away from other calls he needs to get to where people have no water, or water leaks or other emergency type issues. It just seems silly to me that people don’t just automatically remove the wet stuff, mop up the water and put a bucket or something under the leak, as they wait for the plumber to arrive, but apparently the majority (9 out of 10) don’t because he’s mentioned it a few times. I just thought I’d let others know who don’t realize those guys have other jobs to get to that are just as important, so making it so they can get in, get to and fix the leak quickly so both he and you can get on with your day just makes the whole system run that much smoother. I’m sure the next person after you is appreciative also for every less minute they have to deal with their plumbing emergency. 🙂

        1. A 747. Wow. Mine’s not quite that loud :). But after the quiet run one at our last home I am surprised each time I turn it on.

          I hear you about the plumbing emergency. Hadn’t thought about that. We had EMT’s at our home once and they shared that they’d had a lady call for toe pain when she had a history of ingrown toenails. So they were perturbed for the same reason. Of course, the chances of that being life threatening are greater than w/ the plumber (unless you’re dealing with killer mold). Thanks for sharing.

        2. I completely agree with your plumber friend! I ALWAYS remove EVERYTHING and get it as far from the area as possible…just for the reasons listed. I don’t want the person helping me out to have to mess with all of that, and I really don’t want to PAY them the time to do it when I can do it just fine!
          Pretty inconsiderate not to remove stuff, IMO

    2. I ALWAYS remove everything from under sinks or area when I call a plumber! I can’t believe no one else does!