Leaking water detector from an old smoke alarm

[Thomas Clauser] had his basement flood last year when a hurricane swept over New England. The problem with flooding or leaking water is that chances are you won’t notice until it’s too late. He decided to protect against this in the future by building his own leaking water detector. It’s a simple device that sits on the floor of his basement and triggers an audio alarm if water begins to cover the floor.

He used an old smoke detector for the build; a nice choice since it’s loud, and designed for long-term battery operation. It also has a button for testing if the detector is working. [Thomas] removed the PCB from the smoke detector case and soldered wires onto the test button contacts. He cut a sponge to squeeze it inside of a PVC pipe connector housing. That sits against the floor, with the wires for the test button contacts placed through the sponge. If water is soaked up by the sponge it completes the circuit and triggers the alarm.

A few other design features really make this a nice setup. He notched out the bottom of the PVC connector so that water can flow freely, and added a switch to one of the probe wires lets him kill the alarm when inspecting the damage.

Thwart robbers with an old smoke alarm.

[Anders] tipped us off about his hack that re-purposes a smoke alarm as a burglar alarm. Unfortunately, he came home in the middle of a burglary but wanted to be ready the next time someone tries to break in. By cleverly patching into the test button on an old smoke detector he created a circuit-trip alarm. One side of each piece of wire is secured to the frame and jam of a window. A paper clip completes the circuit by pinching the two bare conductors. If the window is opened the connection is lost and the alarm sounds.

We see a few problems with this system. First off, never hack your ONLY smoke detector, you are putting lives at risk by doing so. But [Anders] says he’ll have a replacement detector and since these things need to be replace every ten years or so, chances are you can find an old one kicking around. We’d recommend disguising the case so that people aren’t confused about it being a smoke detector. Secondly, he’s mounted the alarm right in the window frame so most likely an invader will just smash the thing to bits.

Anyway, it’s still an interesting reuse of these ubiquitous, and life-saving, devices.