Dan Sterling, CEO and Founder of Water Hero talks about commercial leak detection and automatic water shutoff for nursing homes along with issues that could be involved with nursing homes and water usage.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Dan Sterling, CEO and Founder of Water Hero, a leak detection and automatic water shutoff system for homes and businesses. Today we’re talking about commercial leak detection and automatic water shutoff for nursing homes. Welcome Dan.

Dan Sterling: John, great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Leak Detection for Nursing Homes

John: Sure. So Dan, what are some of the things that are particular to nursing homes in terms of how they’re using water and some of the issues that might be involved in that?

Dan: Sure, yeah. In general, water damage for any building, any home, any facility, is the number one claim for property and casualty insurance companies. Typically, 30% of claims are water related. In a nursing home situation, those are in excess of 40%. And a couple of reasons for that. One is that you’ve got that many more water fixtures and water devices, restroom facilities, and sinks and showers and things of that nature. So the more pipes you have and the more sinks, et cetera, the more there can be a burst pipe situation. But it’s compounded by the fact that a lot of times you have elderly residents there too. Sometimes they’re forgetful.

John: Sure.

Dan: And water gets left on.

John: You might leave a sink on, something like that.

Dan: Sinks get left on, you see all sorts of things. Just things accidentally get dropped.

John: Maybe toilets get clogged.

Dan: … a toilet or a sink and things can go unnoticed too. A lot of times these folks have impaired vision, failing vision, hearing, et cetera. A lot of these facilities now, the staff there feels overwhelmed, and they’re not able to be in every room all the time monitoring these things. So you get a lot of water damage situations as well as water wastage that can give surprise water bills to the management of these facilities, as well.

Water Hero Leak Detection Mitigates Risk for Nursing Homes

John: All right, so talk about how a product like Water Hero can help to mitigate these risks and issues when it comes to leak detection and even the automatic water shutoff.

Dan: Sure, sure. Water Hero is a whole building leak detection system. It is the latest generation. It’s a step up from older systems, which were just moisture sensors. Where you had to conveniently hope that a pipe broke right next to that sensor. I’ve been on sites where there’s been $500,000 worth of damage even though they had moisture sensors.

John: Right, because the moisture sensor might be on the first floor and the leak is in the basement or vice versa, or something like that.

Dan: Right. Yeah. And the pipes, I call it the hail Mary approach where you pray that a pipe conveniently breaks right near that moisture sensor. And that’s not how it works.

John: Right.

Dan: So the insurance companies are really behind whole-building leak detection. So we basically install Water Hero right where water first comes into the building. And it’s really two main components. It’s a utility grade water meter, brass meter, robust, reliable technology, built to AWWA, American Water Works Association specs of these, so I have billing accuracy right in line with a motorized ball valve shutoff. The difference is we make that utility grade meter smart with our electronics. We put a flow sensor, and we actually have a temperature sensor. There are two for ambient temperature and freezer alerts we can provide, but we’re reading the water flow 200 times a second. That data is fed into our main controller unit that has a very powerful microprocessor. It has a rechargeable lithium power and battery.

So even if the power’s out, the internet connections are down, you’re still protected locally with the Water Hero device. And so it’s all based on time triggers, continuous flow of water. So if in my home, for example, if water runs more than 10 minutes when I’m in home mode, I get a text alert and/or email alert, and if it runs for 20 minutes, it automatically shuts the water off and sends me a text message.

Those are completely user-configurable. So from any device, desktop, laptop, tablet, my phone, any browser, you can log into your account, mywaterhero.net, and you can change it from home mode to away mode where you can set those time triggers tighter. You can change those freeze alert and the high temperature alerts, as well. You can change it from one triggered to another very quickly.

And so the nice thing is you not only can see what your real time water usage, you can check the temperature at your Water Hero device right on the dashboard, but you can also turn the water on and off remotely. And so in a nursing home, the management there can dial in the water usage numbers to whatever makes sense for the facility. But in my home, typical family of four for example, the 10 minute warning, that water’s been running 20 minutes shut off has worked really well because when things like washing machines go on, those just draw water for maybe two or three minutes and then the water’s off for five minutes, then it’s back on. Same thing for a dishwasher. So by having the user in control of those triggers, you avoid false positives.

John: Right, so now that would work well if you had a Water Hero unit installed going into each apartment, or in the case of like a nursing home, you’re going to have almost, it’s almost like an apartment building where you might have where somebody might be living and they might have their own little bathroom, like a little suite or something like that. How do you handle those types of settings in a situation where you might have several rooms running a sink all at the same time and then those ones get shut off, but then other ones get turned on. How do you try to determine when the unit would shut off water if you’re looking at a unit that’s installed going into the whole building?

Dan: Right. Great question, John. And the way facilities handle that is when they first put Water Hero in, the other nice thing of our whole building solution is you get real time water usage information, and you have historical usage. So for example, we’ll give you a 24 hour bar graph to show you hour by hour how much water usage you have. And you can actually get very granular. You can get minute by minute data if you need to, but you basically study your usage, and you dial it in for your facility.

So it could be that in a particular nursing home you have it set that after you’ve studied the data, you realize that it’s very rare the water’s ever running continuously for more than 30 minutes.

John: Okay.

Dan: And if it is, you can set a 30 minute or 31 minute trigger just to get the heads up that water has been running for 30-31 minutes, and it could turn out that it’s extremely rare that water’s running for more than 45 minutes straight. So you could set that as your shutoff level, automatic shot off level where you’d get both, again, a text and/or email alerts.

And the alerts could go to a group of people too that you dial in those numbers. So they can become very valuable in that we’ve seen situations in a nursing home where someone just plain forgets to turn the water off, and this could go unnoticed for hours and hours and hours. With Water Hero, you’re going to get that heads up wherever you’re dialed in.

John: Right, and like you said, you might have some people turning on their water and then shutting it off and then other people turning it on and shutting it off. But you study your own data for your facility, and you can see that most times you’re going to have at least some periods where the water usage drops down to zero or close to zero and then it goes back on and then shuts off. But if you have a steady flow for, like you said, a half an hour, then that would be very unusual and you could then get an alert that would trigger you to maybe go around the facility, check and see what’s going on, see if you see any leaks, et cetera. And then if it continues for 45 minutes, it’s shutting off water to the whole building.

Dan: Right, exactly. And so you have all sorts of different scenarios, but where it’s especially helpful are things like eroded toilet flappers, which is one of the number one causes of just water waste. And those can go on noticed for months at a time, and one eroded toilet flapper could cost over $1,000 a year. And in these facilities, depending on the configuration and the design of the nursing home facility, there could be multiple toilets there, and they could be running…

I mean my own personal experience was interesting when I put Water Hero in my house. I noticed when I did the 24 hour bar graph, when he studied that, I said, how come the water never shuts off? We’re using 10 gallons of water at 1:00 AM, at 2:00 AM, at 3:00 AM, at 4:00 AM, so when people are sleeping, I notice our water never flat lines. I knew instantly I had a leak somewhere in the house, and this could have been going on for years unbeknownst to me, but I picked it up the second I looked at that water usage graph.

So information is power, and getting your real time water information can help you save significant amounts on your water bills. So we’re seeing a lot of value in that scenario because again, you’ve got a lot of elderly people that have, like I mentioned earlier, have impairments, and water could be running and they don’t even know it. Or with these eroded toilet flappers, the staff won’t even know it and won’t even notice it when they come in the room.

The other thing is really interesting, John, though, is where you get situations like independent living situations. I know my parents were in an independent living situation where they basically had their own apartment, and this was a complex with probably a hundred different elderly residents, and it was great for me and my siblings. We could tell Mom and Dad were okay because the other thing when we looked at the data, we could notice, “Wow, if there’s no water usage in that unit for 18 hours’.

John: That would be very unusual.

Dan: Something’s wrong.

John: Yeah.

Dan: Yeah, something’s wrong. So it’s really interesting, and I can’t take credit. We didn’t think of that and think, oh, we’re so smart. We built that in. It’s just again, it’s a beautiful byproduct of having an internet connected device where you get real time water usage information. So it’s, it’s another nice feature though, it’s peace of mind for the families in certain situations. If you don’t have 24/7 nursing care but they’re in independent living, it gives you some real nice visibility to make sure that they’re okay.

John: Yeah, that’s interesting that you can use your leak detection system to also determine when there’s no water running at all. And that can be an equal type of problem.

Dan: Right, when you’re dealing with elderly residents it can be very important to know that.

John: And at anytime you’re dealing with a healthcare situation like that as well mold can be an issue too. So anytime you’re talking about leaks, if leaks are happening in the walls and you don’t know about it, you could have mold growth and then that can affect people’s health. And when people are older, allergies and things like that can really take a toll on an older person, as well. So I imagine that that is an issue as well, and mold growth in terms of leak detection.

Dan: Yeah, absolutely. You’re right because for older people, their immune systems aren’t as strong.

John: Right.

Dan: And so it’s another big problem.

John: All right, well that’s really great to talk to you about this, Dan. Thanks for your time.

Dan: Thank you, John.

John: And for more information, visit the Water Hero website at waterheroinc.com or call (877) 662-4496.