Leak-sensing AquaTrip system allows plumber’s customers to rest easy, and enhances company’s image as a technology leader.
Sometimes embracing new plumbing technology doesn’t result in a significant bump in revenue or productivity. Instead, it might lead to things less tangible but equally important: Giving customers peace of mind and enhancing your company’s image as a progressive, high-tech outfit.
That’s what master plumber Dave Smythe experienced after he decided, about two years ago, to offer customers AquaTrip water-leak detection technology, made by AquaTrip Australia Pty. Ltd. It’s distributed in the U.S. by Golden State Flow Measurement and by DC Pro in Canada. Smythe is the owner of DS Plumbing in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, in the province of Ontario.
“The AquaTrip isn’t the biggest moneymaker for us,” says Smythe, whose company — established in 2004 — primarily focuses on residential service plumbing in the metro Ottawa area. “But it gives our clients a little extra peace of mind. It also enhances our reputation as a good, solid company that can provide advanced solutions that work and serves the best interests of customers. We try to be at the forefront of technology and this is one avenue that allows us to do that.”
The AquaTrip device is essentially a programmable shut-off valve that’s installed on the water main, just downstream from the water meter. In rural areas, it would be located downstream from devices such as iron filters or water softeners. The device features wireless programming, and serves as a water trip switch that monitors all water pipes, fittings and water-using appliances. If it detects water flow that exceeds normal usage patterns, it automatically shuts off the water supply. A remote control allows homeowners to easily restore water supply and reset the valve with the touch of a button, Smythe explains.
“It will sense everything from a dripping faucet to a pinhole-size leak in a pipe, to a hose that’s accidentally left on in your garden,” Smythe says. “It’s a smart device in the sense that it can be programmed to be sensitive (to excess water flow) during certain times of day or even during vacations. It actually detects abnormal water flow, unlike other devices that purely detect wetness in an area.”
To avoid unnecessary and annoying water shutdowns, homeowners can program the device to suit their lifestyles, including settings for daily peak flow, standard flow or even exclusion periods in which unlimited water use is required. If most family members shower in the morning, for instance, the device can be programmed to accept that as normal and not shut the water off. The device also offers a self-learning feature, similar to thermostats that “learn” a homeowner’s daily heating and cooling preferences over time. Moreover, a one-button override function allows homeowners to shut the device off if needed.
Installation usually takes anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. First, the water system must be drained completely. After that, plumbers must cut out about a 6-inch-long section of the water main, then place connectors on each end of the valve body and install it in the vacated section of pipe. The last step: Screw a sensor head into the valve body, then turn the water back on and run a test to be sure the device works properly.
The device can be installed horizontally or vertically. If installed vertically, it requires a special elbow fitting because the sensor head will work only in a vertical position, Smythe says.
Testing the system and fixing any existing plumbing leaks is essential to ensure proper operation and avoid nuisance shut-offs. For example, a bad toilet flapper will trigger continual water shut-offs. On the other hand, repeated shut-offs that occur after installation are a good indicator of a plumbing leak that might otherwise go undetected, another valuable service for customers, he notes.
The AquaTrip unit costs about $300 in Canadian currency (that’s about $230 in U.S. dollars, according to the current conversion rate). Some insurance companies will pay for installation, while others will offer customers that use the technology a discounted annual premium. Why? Paying claims for damage from water leaks is much more expensive for insurance companies than paying for the device.
Smythe says DS Plumbing technicians are trained to listen carefully to customers to see if they need a leak-detection system, as opposed to always trying to upsell the product. “Educating customers is a big part of our service calls,” he points out. “If a conversation with a customer reveals past flooding issues or that the client travels a lot, then we see if there’s any interest in the AquaTrip technology. Every service call presents an opportunity, for sure, but we’re not pushy about it. … If our technicians listen to customers properly, we can provide them with good solutions to problems.
“When our technicians tell customers about the product, many of them want to find out more about it,” he adds. “Most people say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know there was a device that can do that.’ It’s just another great solution we can offer our clients and ensure they’re getting the level of service they need.”