Hot water heaters are a masterpiece of designed obsolescence. They have a fiberglass tube that corrodes from being in boiling water all the time. It has been tested to last a certain number of years. Every hot water heater comes with a warranty. If the warranty is for six years, the tube is designed to last six years and three weeks. If it has a twelve year warranty, twelve years and three weeks.

Hot water heaters have a nasty habit of spilling tens of gallons of water on the floor as a final farewell. It is rare that you are lucky enough to see it trickle before it splits its guts open all over the room it’s in. If your heater lives in the basement, its passing is unfortunate. If your hot water heater is upstairs, it’ll spill  tens of gallons onto the second floor, then through the ceiling onto the first floor.

If hot water heaters don’t last, and they make a mess, should I not buy a condo with the hot water heater in the closet?

If your hot water heater is in the basement, like mine, it is a nuisance, but not a crisis that the floor gets wet every time you install a new hot water heater. If I lived in a place that had the hot water heater in a finished area, or over a finished area, I would purchase one of these valves. If I lived in a condo building where every unit has a hot water heater that could rain on the condo below it, I would lobby to get the condo association require these valves.

WAGS® prevents floods and damage to your property, and avoids costly insurance claims. The WAGS® Valve is designed to shut off the water supply (plus gas supply for gas-fired heaters) in the event of a water leak from a hot water heater. It runs without battery or electric hookup, so it will work, even if the power is out.

Here’s how it works:

“If a leak occurs, an internal water-soluble fiber element dissolves, releasing a powerful, spring-loaded piston that shuts down water flow to the tank. With the addition of a wiring harness for gas heaters, triggering the valve also breaks a fuse to shut off the water heater’s gas supply. The valve’s action is based on fiber element technology developed for the British Royal Air Force to inflate life jackets automatically. Once activated, the valve shuts off the water and the gas supply and the device causes a red pop-up tab to emerge, indicating it has activated (and thus needs to be replaced).” Source

For more information, go to the manufacturer’s website.