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“The water never came out of the drip pan,” says Sid Prothro, a homeowner in Flower Mound, Texas, who’s on his, if we’ve counted correctly, third WAGS valve from AquaGuard.
The company’s valve is designed to prevent disastrous floods, expensive damage and the hassles of filing an insurance claim by shutting off the water supply (plus gas supply for gas-fired heaters), if a water heater were to leak.
Prothro would have definitely had to contend with all three problems in particular due to an interesting architectural element of the house he’s called home for the past three decades.
The 50-gallon water heater that failed that day was above the master bedroom. Bad enough as is, certainly. But the potential would have been even worse considering the master bedroom is sunken – resting about 3 feet below the rest of the second floor.
“And it isn’t just 50 gallons that comes out,” Prothro adds. “If no one was home to shut off the water supply, well, that water would have just kept coming.”
Prothro, however, learned the value of the WAGS valve years earlier due to another water heater failure in his home, this one installed above the garage. (The home is built on a slab so there’s little place else to install the heaters.) After dealing with the mess in his garage, Prothro certainly knew he wasn’t about to face a bigger disaster with the one above that sunken bedroom. So, when he had a new tank installed above the garage, he made sure to add the WAGS valve not only to that one, but also to the existing water heater above the bedroom.
From Staten Island, New York, Elizabeth Andrie shared a similar tale. This time the water heater was situated in her laundry room on the second floor. Back in 2006, her original water heater failed and created a disaster as the water spilled into her first floor.
“There is a drain in the laundry room, but when you have that much water,” Andrie told us, “that drain could not keep up with the deluge.”
Luckily for her, she met plumber Chris Shaffer, who owns Aquatech Mechanical, also in Staten Island, at his booth at a local home show on Long Island after the mishap.
“This is one of those products,” Shaffer says of the WAGS valve, “that has been around awhile and not enough people know about it.”
Shaffer, who’s had his business for 15 years and employs 10 techs, adds that recommending the AquaGuard product is a “no brainer” to his clients since so many, like Andrie, live in townhomes or condos that commonly feature the laundry room on a second floor.
Andrie said she had Shaffer install the valve on her tank “not really confident in the hype, but what the heck.”
But this past January she learned better when after hearing a loud bang from the laundry room she discovered that the valve did the job as promised.
“It did exactly as advertised,” she adds. “In my case, it turned off the gas, stopped the intake of water and created a vacuum in the tank so that the 40 gallons stayed in there.”
After what she had been through before, Andrie says she was “amazed, elated and ecstatic” with the performance of the valve and, not surprisingly, immediately had another valve installed along with her new water heater.
“I would recommend this to every homeowner regardless of where the water heater is located,” she adds. “You will never have to clean up water or worry about water damage. The peace of mind is more than worth the price.”
How it works
First off, WAGS stands for “water and gas safety “ valve. The WAGS valve is designed to shut off the water supply (and more recently, also the gas supply for gas-fired heaters) when it detects a water leak from a water heater.
Some statistics suggest that a majority of water heaters fail within 7-10 years.
“It’s the property owner that is AquaGuard’s prime focus,” Steve Fielding, president of the company told Ruth Mitchell, editor of The Wholesaler, during one of our recent Off the Cuff interviews. “They’re the ones that have to pay the insurance bills. They’re the ones that have all the stress.”
He added that a homeowners association in multilevel condo development would be an ideal candidate.
“If you have a failed water heater,” he said, “it could affect two or three floors. We get a lot of testimonials from happy customers that have avoided those disasters.”
The valve can be installed on all styles of water heaters, and is fully mechanical and requires no external power supply. The WAGS valve sits in a drip pan under the water heater and when approximately 1 inch of water accumulates, an internal water-soluble fiber element triggers an industrial-duty, spring-loaded piston in the valve shuts off the water flow.
“We keep focusing on the fact that it’s a simple product,” Fielding said. “It doesn’t require electricity. It doesn’t need batteries. It doesn’t need a fancy wireless signal. And most importantly, there’s no maintenance involved.”
A red pop-up tab indicates activation. Another WAGS benefit, as Andrie recounts, is that the tank also typically draws a vacuum and stops the water leak. The valve is a single-use, one-time activation water flow shutoff device for gas, oil, or electric water heaters. The company likes to think of it like an airbag in a car, performs a one-time critical function.
For the professional installer, a plumber needs to connect the cold water line in and out of the WAGS valve. The company says installing the valve normally adds 15-20 minutes to a new tank installation.
AquaGuard provides the following with the order:
The company recommends these additional materials for the installation: