Preventing flood damage in basements is a hot topic as we are regularly seeing the effects of climate change in the form of extreme weather events and unpredictable weather patterns. Snow melt combined with torrential spring rains can lead to very high water tables and consequently, sewage backflow is an increasing danger to homes and the health of occupants.
According to the Régie du bâtiment du Québec (RBQ), sewer backups and basement water damage are among the most common home insurance claims.
A lower-maintenance and more reliable solution than a check valve has been developed by a Quebec company called Inflotrolix, with two products we'd like to share - the Aqua-Protec® for preventing sewage backups, and the NOWA® that stops leaks from appliances. These are both automated systems with their own battery backups, so they continue to operate in the event of a power failure.
1. A fully automatic sewer backflow prevention system:
To counter sewer back-ups, Inflotrolix has developed an intelligent pneumatic flood prevention system. The device has an inflatable probe balloon equipped with sophisticated sensors that is installed directly into the sewer pipe, and when a discharge is detected, a signal is sent that swells the balloon.
According to the manufacturer, the sewer drain becomes perfectly watertight in less than 15 seconds.
As long as there is water on the sewer side of the balloon it will remain inflated, and as soon as the pipe is clear, the balloon deflates to its original size without obstructing the pipes. The whole action is carried out probably without you knowing, and certainly without you needing to find your rubber boots.
How does this differ from a conventional check valve?
A check valve will protect buildings from sewage backflow, but debris can accumulate in those systems that prevent a perfectly tight seal in case of backflow. Check valves have a removable top that can be removed to clear debris, but have you ever done that yourself, or heard of someone who has?
It is best to clean them annually, which comes at an approximate cost of $200 for a plumber to do it if it isn't the kind of thing you feel like doing yourself.
Sewage check valves started showing up in homes about 40 years ago; if your home is older than that it may not have one - and it really should. The cost for installing a check valve can vary quite a bit, depending on ease of access, whether or not you need to remove and replace existing flooring, or if you have to jackhammer out a section of your concrete slab. With easy access (like in a crawlspace) it can be pretty affordable, or might go as high as $2,000 if it includes replacing finished flooring. However, that still leaves you needing to clean the valve fairly regularly either by yourself or at a cost.
Other advantages of the Aqua-Protec®
• The system sends a signal when there is backflow
• Detectors may detect problems with blocked lines
• Auto-tests are performed weekly
• A back-up battery provides more than a week of power
• Maintenance is minimal
• It is approved by the Régie du bâtiment as an alternative to the conventional non-return valve
• A 5-year warranty is offered on the probe
• Some insurers will offer discounts if you've had one installed
Cost: A complete system installed will set you back approximately $1,500.
2. Receive notification of leaks and damage prevention on your devices:
Inflotrolix has another flood-prevention product called the NOWA 360® that detects flooding from appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers and water heaters.
As soon as a water leak occurs, the detector relays the signal to the control unit, and in less than one second, the control unit triggers the closing of an electronic valve installed on the water source.
An intelligent system:
The base package includes five detectors, the control panel and the electric valve, installed for about $1,000. Some insurance companies offer rebates that can help offset the cost.
Ecohome receives notice of fancy gadgets quite regularly, some are better than others, this one merited passing on we thought.
These products are a little pricey but can have considerable environmental, financial and health benefits by preventing mold, a dumpster of wet junk heading for a landfill and an otherwise unwarranted and costly basement renovation.