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It is to the advantage of water improvement professionals to source quality products at a low price. To this end, many find it difficult to choose between quality, value and cheap. This is true in almost every walk of life. We must make intelligent choices about the quality of a product based on its intended application. Let’s embark on a short journey to discover the best choice for under-the-counter point-of-use (POU) drinking water systems.
With almost any product, the ultimate purpose must be considered when deciding what quality parameters are appropriate. If you are at a discount store and find a full-suspension, 24-speed mountain bike for less than $200, you may think, “What a deal.” After checking a local bike shop, you find a middle-range mountain bike is $2,500. This disparity is a result of many factors, and only an evaluation of the intended use will determine the correct course of action. This same pricing pattern can be found in the POU drinking systems market.
It is not uncommon for dealers to assemble their own drinking water systems. Residential filtration and reverse osmosis systems are easy to assemble from the basic components. The key for the small dealer or large OEM is to identify potential weak links.
For example, aesthetic weaknesses may result in poor long-term appearance. The original finish may not last as long on a cheap faucet, but this should not lead to a significant problem. This is inherent in most low-cost systems and may be an acceptable trade-off for the end user.
Choose wisely because the drinking system you install will likely be in place for at least five years. Contrary to popular belief, your liability is not limited to the length of the warranty but rather can extend for as long as the equipment remains installed. Damage claims can become very complicated because the OEM, dealer, installer and end user will all point fingers at each other.
Mitigate these instances by working to prevent problems before they occur. Start by carefully selecting systems that are consistently and professionally assembled with quality components.
A third-party certification should add credence to quality claims. Obtaining these certifications requires the manufacturer a great deal of time, effort, expense and quality control. These factors, along with annual manufacturer audits and pride in the maintenance of the certifications will increase the likelihood of a quality system.
The installation and subsequent leak from a drinking system—sometimes costing less than $100—can damage flooring, rot cabinets and result in exasperating mold issues. This can cause insurance claims to quickly climb into the tens of thousands of dollars. You will have to sell a lot of systems to make up for just one incident which, in most cases, can be prevented. Win or lose, insurance claims will cost you time and money, so avoid them by taking proactive action.
Today’s systems typically use a quick-connect fitting to make the tubing connections. When applied properly, these fittings are reliable. There are many quick-connect fittings available on the market, so avoid untested brands. Also use the same brand throughout the system because incompatibility of one brand with another may result in a failure.
Carefully select any plastic female pipe-thread fittings because these tend to develop cracks, especially when over-tightened or installed with an excessive amount of Teflon tape. Make sure your tubing is top quality and compatible with the fittings being used. Tubing should be secured in a manner that does not put pressure on the fittings. Install systems out of the end user’s path of destruction; keeping it out of harm’s way can be an important step to limiting leak issues.
As humans age, we begin to wear out. The same goes for drinking water systems. Age leads to an increased risk of failure, so replace systems as they approach their expected lifespan. Many would disagree in both directions, but a five- to 10-year life expectancy is what I would ascribe to most POU drinking water systems.
Systems that use a manifold to limit the number of connections under the sink have been around for a long time. Installing the system in a garage or utility room will also limit the number of under-sink water connections. Enclosed cabinet-style systems often have fewer water connection points. Limiting the number of connections and quantity of tubing under the sink helps lower the probability of a leak. It only takes one failure to result in a tremendous amount of damage.
Filter housings are far less costly than they were 20 years ago, but quality is the issue. Saving a few dollars today at the greatly increased risk of future problems is simply not a good decision. Molding filter housings is a very precise process, requiring extreme quality control care. Stick with a brand that has a history of excellent performance from a respected manufacturer.
You’ve completed your homework and picked a quality system that you trust. The systems have been working well for years, and you have grown complacent since you have not suffered any significant damage claims.
Get out of the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” malaise. Look for ways to improve on your current product. For example, are you trying to save a few dollars by using a cheaper system for rental accounts? It is just as important to use quality equipment and discard older units in rental accounts.
Improve and intensify your maintenance schedules. Regular, careful service will help identify potential problems before a failure occurs. With each service, replace not only the cartridges but also all seals and o-rings. Carefully check all connections, tubing and potential leak points. Consider adding a pressure regulator device to all installations.
Even the best made system can fail, so prepare in advance to limit your exposure to costly water damage claims. By adding more weapons to your arsenal, you will combat the many forces that operate against your water system.