Not only do water leaks elevate the water bill, but the damage that results can also cost thousands of dollars to repair. Water leaks are incredibly common, with over 2.5 million homeowners experiencing one every year. To avoid a similar fate, it’s wise to identify water leaks as soon as possible before they turn into a financially devastating problem.
There are several varieties of water-leak detectors on the market to serve this very purpose. In this guide, learn how leak detectors can prevent expensive water damage, explore several factors to consider as you shop, and discover the best water-leak detector for catching plumbing problems quickly in your home.
- BEST OVERALL: Resideo RCHW3610WF1001/N Wi-Fi Water Leak Detector
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: The Basement Watchdog BWD-HWA Water Alarm
- UPGRADE PICK: Moen Flo Smart Water Leak Detector
- BEST SMART: YoLink Smart Water Leak Protection System
- BEST WI-FI: Govee WiFi Water Sensor 3 Pack Adjustable Alarm
- BEST COMPACT: Masswell 120 dB Automatic Water Leakage Sensor Alarm
- BEST UNDERGROUND: PQWT Underground Water Leak Detector
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Water-Leak Detector
Water-leak detectors offer a variety of features that influence their functionality. Understanding the differences among these features is important in helping to determine the best water leak detector for a home.
Size and Location
A drop in water pressure can often indicate a leak but not where it is coming from. To pinpoint the problem, most water-leak detectors should be located next to water-supplied appliances and plumbing fixtures like toilets, sinks, refrigerators, hot water heaters, and washing machines. They can also be placed in basements, attics, crawl spaces, and any other areas prone to leaks from rain and melted snow or ice. Placing a device in the upper areas of the home can help quickly identify leaks in a roof or in ceilings.
While any size of water-leak detector is useful for larger open spaces like basements and garages, a smaller detector might be necessary to fit in more cramped and vulnerable places, like behind fridges and toilets. However, many plug-in water-leak detectors have sensor cables that are several feet long, allowing them to detect leaks a significant distance from where the base of the detector is located.
Water-leak detectors can be powered either by batteries or a home’s AC wall outlet, but battery-powered detectors are the most common. Battery-powered leak detectors can be placed in practically any location independent of an additional power source, making them ideal for locations that don’t have nearby electrical outlets.
Although battery-powered detectors are convenient, the disadvantage is that the batteries can die and leave the area in which the detector is located vulnerable to undetected leaks. Fortunately, many battery-operated detectors have indicators that signal when battery life is low. However, most leak detectors can last for several years on a single set of batteries.
Most water leak detectors have built-in alarms that emit a loud beep or ring when a leak is detected. Also called “local” alerting, these built-in alarms often have the same or greater decibel (dB) rating (85+ dB) as smoke and fire alarms (75+ dB) and will stay active for a period of several hours to a few days until they are manually silenced. Some water-leak detectors also have audible alarms that indicate low battery life.
Along with, or in place of, local alerting, some water-leak detectors are capable of integrating with smart-home technologies like Amazon Alexa, IFTTT, and other third-party services. This partnership allows users to receive alerts and notifications from their smartphone and other smart hub devices, such as an Amazon Echo.
In contrast to local alerting, these smart leak detectors are capable of sending notifications to a user’s phone, even when they’re not at home, allowing them to quickly detect leaks regardless of their location. Some smart leak detectors use the home’s Wi-Fi network connection to transmit a signal, while others use a dedicated service for a monthly fee.
Automatic Water Shutoff
Although uncommon, some water-leak detectors include an automatic water shut-off system that turns off the supply as soon as it detects a leak. These “in-line” units are installed directly onto a water supply plumbing line and continually monitor a home’s water usage to detect leaks. Once a leak is found, they function much like a manual water shut-off valve by closing off the home’s water supply.
Although commonly tied into a home’s main water line, these detectors can also be placed on a single water line, such as the hot water heater supply. However, when installed onto the main water supply line, they offer whole-house protection from leaks instead of only locally isolated detection.
Leak detectors that incorporate automatic shutoff are typically expensive—usually around several hundred dollars—but could potentially prevent thousands of dollars in water damage, making the extra expense worthwhile. These units are especially valuable for vacation homes and rental properties where the owner frequently isn’t on-site and able to monitor for leaks personally.
Some water-leak detectors can monitor temperature and humidity along with leaks. This functionality can act as an effective preventive measure against future problems, as freezing temperatures sometimes lead to frozen and broken pipes and humidity can contribute to mold and mildew growth.
Most leak detectors with additional sensors also feature smart technology, allowing users to monitor these conditions constantly from their smartphone and other devices.
Our Top Picks
Even after learning about the various features that different water-leak detectors can offer, shoppers may find that it can be hard to choose the right one for them from the plethora of available options. To begin to dispel the confusion, the top picks feature a selection of some of the best water-leak detectors on the market in several different categories for quickly catching leaks and floods before disaster strikes.
This water-leak detector from Resideo marries functionality and simplicity by incorporating several detection and monitoring functions into an easy-to-use device. The detector includes a 5-foot-long sensor cable for identifying leaks in both tight and wide-open spaces and is expandable up to another 500 feet with additional cables. It’s battery-powered, so it’s useful practically anywhere while offering a 3-year battery life.
Along with a loud alarm for local alerting, this leak detector can be used with Amazon Alexa and Google Home Assistant to receive alerts and notifications. It can also integrate with a home’s Wi-Fi network and features an app to send alerts directly to a smartphone. The detector is equipped with temperature and humidity sensors, both of which can be monitored via the app or connected smart devices.
- Power source: 3 AA batteries
- Alarm type: 100 dB audible, smartphone app
- Waterproof: Cable, not main body
- Multifunction monitoring
- No hub required, but can work with them
- Expandable to 500-feet perimeter
- Only covers 1 room
- Batteries not included
Get the Resideo water-leak detector on Amazon or at The Home Depot.
The Basement Watchdog water alarm is one of the most affordable water-leak sensors on the market. It is also among the easiest to set up: Insert the battery, position, and turn it on. The sensor will detect pooling water at just 1/32-inch deep, alerting homeowners with a piercing 110 dB alarm. Although called the Basement Watchdog, it is suitable for use anywhere indoors.
This is a single-room solution, supplied with 6 feet of cable between the main unit and the sensor. This can be extended to a maximum of 100 feet, though wire and connectors must be sourced separately. Battery life is excellent as power is only required in the event of an alarm.
The Basement Watchdog doesn’t benefit from any kind of Wi-Fi integration, and the unit itself is somewhat utilitarian in appearance, but it nevertheless represents excellent value for money.
- Power source: 9V battery
- Alarm type: 110 dB audible
- Waterproof: Sensor, not main body
- Very low per-unit cost
- Senses just 1/32 inch of water
- Can be extended to 100 feet (extra wire needed)
- No smart features
- Battery not included
Get the Basement Watchdog water-leak detector on Amazon or at The Home Depot.
Although a smart device can inform users of a leak regardless of where they are, it may not be practical for them to go home right away to fix it. The Moen Flo Smart Water Leak Detector solves that problem. This is a smart water sensor that doesn’t just send an alert; it also incorporates a shut-off valve. When installed correctly, it can automatically turn off the mains supply, potentially saving thousands of dollars in repairs.
The Moen Flo monitors the whole system. Microleak technology can identify pinholes at just one drop per minute. It also provides monitoring of water usage, helping homeowners to manage water consumption and save on bills. It needs just a standard Wi-Fi signal and mains electrical connection, though it can be integrated with Alexa and Google Assistant if preferred.
- Power source: 110/120 volt mains
- Alarm type: Smartphone app, automatic
- Waterproof: Not applicable
- Can automatically shut off water supply
- Proactively monitors water pressure
- No hub required, but works with Alexa and Google Assistant
- Professional fitting recommended
Get the Moen water-leak detector on Amazon.
Looking for a leak detection solution that’s capable of integrating with smart devices? This water-leak detector from YoLink can send leak alerts in the form of smartphone banner notifications, SMS text messages, and emails, and can even transmit alerts by integrating with Amazon Alexa and IFTTT-compatible smart devices.
Once the detector is integrated with a smart device, the paired app sets up monitoring routines and tracks history logs to ensure leaks are discovered and noted as soon as possible. Boasting the longest wireless range in the smart-home industry, the base can connect to individual detectors from up to 1,000 feet in the open air outdoors and up to 328 feet indoors.
As opposed to other smart-home leak detectors, this model isn’t dependent on a home’s Wi-Fi network but instead uses special radio frequencies to transmit its signals without taking up the network’s bandwidth. Although this unit doesn’t feature a built-in siren alarm, a compatible siren alarm is available for separate purchase. YoLink also offers other compatible accessories like an automatic shut-off valve for sinks.
- Power source: Corded and/or AA batteries
- Alarm type: Smartphone app
- Waterproof: Individual sensors, not hub
- Sensor range up to ¼ mile
- LoRa technology does not impact internet performance
- Auto shut-off valve available (extra cost)
- No audible alarm
- Ethernet connection recommended
Get the YoLink water-leak detector on Amazon.
This water-leak detector from Govee detects leaks and sends a notification in two ways: directly to a smartphone via a home’s Wi-Fi network and through a local alerting siren alarm. Once connected to a home’s Wi-Fi gateway, the detector sends alerts via SMS and email at all times. As a safety backup, a built-in 100 dB siren alarm will function even if the Wi-Fi connection is temporarily unavailable. This leak detector also boasts a high waterproof rating, so it won’t be damaged or destroyed during extended periods of use in high-moisture areas or even in the event of full water submersion.
- Power source: Mains plus AA batteries
- Alarm type: 100 dB audible, smartphone app
- Waterproof: Individual sensors, not hub
- Connect up to 10 sensors
- IP66 waterproof rating
- Audible alarm works without Wi-Fi
- Wi-Fi connections can be flaky
- Does not work with 5G
Get the Govee water-leak detectors on Amazon.
Placing a water-leak detector into tight spaces can be tricky, but cramped locations are where Masswell’s leak detector really shines. At only 3½ inches long, 2⅜ inches wide, and just over ½ inch tall, it can fit almost anywhere. Despite its small stature, the siren alarm—at 120 dB—is one of the loudest on the list and can be heard from up to 100 yards away. This three-pack of compact detectors is also quite cost-effective, making it an affordable option to monitor several potential leak areas such as a water heater, sump pump, and washing machine at one time.
The only downside to this Masswell leak detector is that it is not waterproof. In the event of a flood, it will often float, but if it becomes submerged, it will cease to function.
- Power source: 1.5 volt button cell batteries
- Alarm type: 120 dB audible
- Waterproof: Not fully
- Simple but effective protection
- Class-leading alarm volume
- Good value for money
- No smart features
- Inconsistent product quality
Get the Masswell water-leak detector on Amazon.
The location of an above-ground water leak usually becomes obvious fairly quickly. Underground leaks present a very different challenge, and a great deal of water can be wasted before they are identified. The usual solution is a device like the PQWT Underground Water Leak Detector that uses ultrasonic waves to “hear” the difference between damaged and undamaged pipe or changes in water-flow rate.
Everything required is included in the kit. A large, clear touch screen provides access to control functions and offers visual feedback. Headphones provide an accompanying audible signal. There are two sensitivity settings: The first locates the leak quickly and the second pinpoints the area of damage. Multiple filters compensate for plastic or metal pipes, concrete, dirt, etc.
Despite this complexity, the manufacturer claims even inexperienced users can learn basic functions in around 5 minutes. However, instructions can be difficult to understand with poor translation in places.
- Power source: Rechargeable batteries
- Alarm type: Audio and visual
- Waterproof: Not applicable
- Detects leaks at up to 6 feet 6 inches deep
- 2 sensitivity modes
- Multiple filters for increased accuracy
- Substantial investment
- Commercial rather than household use
Get the PQWT water-leak detector on Amazon.
The Resideo water-leak detector offers plug-and-go simplicity while providing multiple alerts and has the option of smart-home integration. However, equipping multiple rooms isn’t cheap. The Basement Watchdog water-leak detector is very low cost and does its job. Unfortunately, it is an unattractive little unit.
How We Chose the Best Water-Leak Detectors
The key considerations we identified above formed the basis for our selection. The team then investigated a wide range of manufacturers, different models, and the underlying technology. The aim was to offer up-to-date information and a range of solutions for different needs and budgets.
While smart water-leak detectors are increasingly common, there are plenty of low-cost alternatives that can be equally effective. Some come from less well-known brands, so checking customer feedback was important.
Leak detection can be a complex issue, so while most of our top picks are easy-to-install household devices, we have also included more advanced equipment that can cut the water supply completely to prevent damage from frozen pipes, for example, or can even find leaks underground.
Tips for Using a Water-Leak Detector
To gain the most benefit from a water-leak detector, first identify the sources of potential leaks. If shoppers are primarily concerned about plumbing fixtures, a small and compact leak detector might be required to access tight and confined spaces under sinks and next to toilets, washing machines, and dishwashers. If buyers are concerned about flooding and need to cover a large surface area of floor space, they should consider a leak detector with a long and extendable sensor cable.
If the detector relies on a built-in siren for alerts, users should ensure that they can hear it throughout the house, regardless of where the detector is located. While the sirens are usually loud enough to hear from most rooms in a home, they might not be sufficiently loud if they’re in a garage (especially a detached one) or an insulated basement. If owners can’t hear the alarm from that location, they should consider upgrading to a detector with a louder siren or one that can send alerts directly to a smartphone. Here are a few more tips for using a water-leak detector:
- Just like with a smoke alarm, routinely test a leak detector once every 1 to 2 months to verify it’s still working.
- If a battery-operated leak detector doesn’t include a battery-life indicator, replace the batteries every 1 to 2 years to ensure they’re fully charged.
- If a leak detector isn’t rated to withstand full water submersion, don’t place it in an area prone to flooding.
Water leaks caused by corroded pipes can also affect the color and taste of water. However, a number of other factors may be the cause, so it’s a good idea to check our article on common water problems.
Do you still have some lingering questions about water-leak detectors? Consider the answers to the following frequently asked questions.
Q. Where do you put a water-leak detector?
You can put a water-leak detector next to toilets, sinks, dishwashers, washing machines, and hot water heaters as well as in garages, basements, or anywhere else prone to flooding. Putting a water-leak detector in the attic can help identify problems with the roof caused by snow or storm damage.
Q. How do I find out where my water is leaking from?
If your water-leak detector features a local alerting sensor and siren, the leak will be coming from the spot in which your detector is located and the siren was triggered. If you have a WiFi-enabled or smart leak detector, your smartphone and other connected devices will identify the location of the leak.
Q. How do you install a water-leak detector system?
Set a water-leak detector directly on the ground (which doesn’t require any actual installation), or install it on the wall with double-sided tape, adhesive, or a similar mounting material.
Q. How long do water-leak detectors last?
The average lifespan of a water-leak detector will vary between manufacturers, but any given detector is likely to remain functional for several years. However, this lifespan could be reduced by total water submersion if the detector has a relatively low waterproof rating. A leak detector’s battery life can last anywhere from 1 to 10 years.