Water Leaks

5 Types of Commercial Water Damage and How They Impact Your Property

A closer look at the different types of water damage, how they affect various types of commercial properties and how IoT can help.

Water damage in commercial buildings is a common and costly issue. From water pipe leaks to appliance failures, the ways in which water damage occurs can impact your property in different ways. The extent of damage can easily grow in larger, more critical properties so it is vital that proactive measures are taken to prevent water leaks.

The advancement of the Internet of Things (IoT), especially in the water leak sensor market, means that there is already a range of high performance solutions to prevent leaks. It is, therefore, up to building owners and facility managers to make a decision.

Insurance professionals must also be familiar with water leak detection equipment. Mitigating the chances of water damage could greatly help reduce the staggering US$2.5B annual costs to insurance firms in the US.


HVAC failures

Across all the HVAC appliances, air conditioning units are one of the most common sources of water leaks. This is due to their many weak points such as clogging drains, freezing evaporator coils or malfunctioning condensate pumps.

These problems can often be attributed to a constant need to clean the dirt and debris from these units.

Hot water systems and heaters in commercial buildings predominantly use water. While they can be very efficient systems because they concentrate a lot of water in one area, the results can be catastrophic when they do fail. Underfloor heating is also booming in popularity, particularly in response to increasing environmental and energy efficiency standards for new builds.

Chubb reported an incident in a manufacturing plant, where a coupling on an HVAC unit leaked over 12,000 gallons of water. This cost the business around US$4M in lost revenue, clean-up costs, and the need for extensive regulatory approval.

The good news is that IoT systems are well-positioned to protect from these incidents. For example, leak detection sensors deployed around critical joints on HVAC units can warn you early about a leak.

Temperature sensors can also monitor the key heating and cooling mechanisms on HVAC appliances. These sensors can warn you if coils are freezing or ducts and pipes are becoming too hot because they need cleaning.

Additionally, some gas sensors have been designed to detect refrigerant gasses used in most air conditioning systems. This is especially important given how dangerous they are to people and the environment.


Plumbing leaks

Pipes, toilets, baths and sinks are under frequent use and are therefore prone to wearing out and leaking. The amount of water and damage from leaks should not be underestimated as only a small ⅛ inch crack can leak 250 gallons a day.

This is a constant issue for multi-residential buildings with stacked plumbing, as well as hotels and other hospitality accommodations. Toilets are the most common, accounting for nearly 1 in 6 events of interior water damage.

The frequency of leaks can significantly increase any business’ water bills; however, the real costs can come from the compounding repair costs. A leak in one unit can damage the walls and ceilings in all the units around it. This domino-effect can lead to business interruptions and downtime costs such as relocating residents while repairs are made.

The IoT water detection sensors we make at LAIIER were designed with this scenario in mind. We developed a sensor that can be applied like tape around pipes, joints, seals and valves, detecting as little as two drops of water.

Additionally, water flow sensors are a great complement to this kind of water detection. Flow sensors can be used to watch for things like clogs or pressure problems throughout your building’s plumbing.


Appliance leaks

Appliance leaks from washing machines, dishwashers and water heaters are mostly caused by aging parts or clogs. What makes these leaks most difficult is that they only leak when the machine is running and actively pumping water. And when this flow activates, this can rapidly flood entire rooms in minutes. For example, we cover dishwashers’ water leak risks, highlighting some key ways appliances fail.

Most appliances have a set lifespan so it is best to ensure regular maintenance and replacement is carried out to prevent leaks. While parts can fail regularly, there are still chances that parts can leak sooner.

Water leak detection sensors can thus remove the uncertainty with having to wait for major leaks.

Roof and wall leaks

Roof leaks are perhaps the most common type of water leak in commercial buildings. Some key influences that increase damage include rain, snow, wind, and poor maintenance. Commercial roofs also contain HVAC equipment, vents, and skylights, which increase the number of points where water can enter.

Flat roofs on commercial buildings also tend to pool water causing increased strain to the roofing infrastructure and membranes. These constant harsh weather and loading conditions are the reason why roofs are repaired and maintained regularly.

Like roofs, walls can be just as vulnerable as they are also exposed to the outdoor environment. Additionally, walls have many exterior features such as lights, HVAC units, window and door frames. Damage from any of these features has the chance to create an opening inside the building.

Sensors can be a valuable tool in preventing water damage from leaks in the roofs and walls:

  • Water leak detection sensors such as LAIIER’s Severn WLD can be used in layers of roofing material or around the frames of windows and doors to monitor any leaks.

  • You can mount sensors in drains and gutters to alert you if there are any blockages.

  • Structural health monitoring sensors, used for checking the levelness of walls, roofs and their structural integrity, can also be used to watch for water damage or pooling.


Flooding, groundwater & sewage

Water damage from flooding and sewage backups may be the messiest and most complex. Excessive rain and overflowing riverbanks are extremely difficult to predict: one they start, not much can prevent them.

Some IoT solutions are installed by bodies of water to detect flooding. However, there are few devices that detect flooding in buildings, though some are in early development.

Sewage blockages, on the other hand, can be guarded against with a few different tools:

  • Flow sensors can be installed by drain and sewage stack pipes to monitor if a blockage has occurred. These sensors are more common in larger-scale buildings such as multi-residential apartments and offices where water use is higher.

  • Water level sensors can also monitor the level of water in drains and sewers. These devices let the facility manager know when levels are beyond the expected level.

  • Smart valves such as an automatic shut off valve can be used to prevent further blockage and backflow.


Start increasing the protection of your buildings

The Severn Water Leak Detection (Severn WLD) sensor is ideal for protecting commercial properties from water damage. It can quickly detect as little as 2 drops of water to notify facilities managers of leaks at an early stage. Severn WLD is very easy to install and comes with a thin, flexible form factor so it can suit a wide variety of buildings.

Ffind out more about Severn WLD, or contact us today.

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