Leaks are the bête noire of co-ops and condos. They pop up in odd places, and it’s often hard to locate their source(s). One solution may be Virtual Super, a relatively new-to-market product that features a smartphone app aimed at detecting minor leaks before they become major problems. The device provides water-leak detection services that report the presence of water through sensors placed in the bathroom or under the kitchen sink, where leaks are likely to occur. When water touches the two wires on the device, an alert is sent to the super or building manager.
Since water needs to make contact with it, Virtual Super is not foolproof, admits Matt Mummert, director of operations at Virtual Super. The leak may not make contact with the sensor, so the device is usually placed at the bottom of a sloping floor, where water collects. It is also difficult to position a sensor to detect leaks from the roof into walls.
Virtual Super, which runs on batteries, operates over radio waves. “They don’t interfere with the Wi-fi in the building,” says Mummert. The water sensors cost $100 each, and a typical apartment would need four of them. There is also an annual charge for residential buildings, based on the number of sensors and extras you choose (automatic water cut-off valves cost $125 to $250, depending on the configuration; building-wide cut-off valves cost $700 with all accessories). Virtual Super was created in 2015 by Joshua Smith, president of SAMCO Properties, to use in loft buildings his company owns and manages in midtown Manhattan. “We work with the super trying to diagnose potential problems,” Smith notes. “So we’re also a prevention company.”