28 Feb 2019 | Desmond Astley-Cooper

“Escape of Water” (EoW) is widely acknowledged to be a major problem for the insurance industry. Burst pipes and their consequences are estimated to cost insurers at least £1.8m in claims every day and last winter’s “Beast from the East” cost them £194m in one quarter alone according to the Insurance Times. Whereas older properties are at risk from rusting pipework and general decay, modern ones can have different problems. Recessed and hidden pipes, the use of PVC instead of metal and the proliferation of plumbed-in appliances all contribute to leaks that can go undetected until the plaster starts falling off the ceiling or you wake up one morning to standing water in the kitchen.

Fortunately, a range of companies are responding by coming up with practical solutions designed to work under real world conditions. These range from complex pieces of kit like that made by the German plumbers Grohe to cheaper devices such as Leakbot from Homeserve Labs which are easy to install but only notify the householder of the problem and have no automatic water shut-off. This can be a bit inconvenient if you receive a text message while driving down the M25 in heavy traffic on a bank holiday weekend.

One of the most expensive on the market is from Buoy Labs of Santa Cruz, USA and costs $299 upfront plus $17.99 a month thereafter. It functions almost as a “water disaggregation” device, analysing the amount of water used by your WC, shower, sink, washing machine, sprinkler etc. While this kind of functionality is no doubt interesting if you’re living in the Mojave Desert where every drop of water counts, it’s less important in a temperate country like the UK with an adequate amount, or in some parts a super abundance, of rainfall.

When it comes to solving EoW, it’s probably not necessary to have water disaggregation. Instead what you really need is the reliable detection of the risk of a leak, or if you’re unlucky, of the actual event itself and an automatic way of shutting off the mains before too much damage is done. Anyone who has experienced a flood will know that drying out a house and repairing the affected areas are only part of the story. Finding somewhere else to live in the meantime is arguably the greatest inconvenience!

Waterlock, a new EoW device developed by smart home products company Geo (https://www.geotogether.com/waterlock/) and marketed jointly with property underwriting agency inet3 can provide this protection by detecting standing water, excess humidity and freezing pipes. It automatically shuts off water supplies when triggered. After the problem is solved, or in the event of a false alarm, the water can then be turned on again remotely or manually with ease which means that the householder doesn’t have to locate and wrestle with a rusting stopcock. Waterlock was recently premiered on the underwriting floor of Lloyd’s insurance market as part of their innovation showcase, where it attracted considerable interest.

Turquoise acts as fund manager of the Low Carbon Innovation Fund, a shareholder in Geo.

Desmond Astley-Cooper



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